4 Reasons You Should Live Like You’re Broke

Businessman holding empty pockets

So you can pay off debt faster.

Debt isn’t cheap. Anyone who’s ever had to throw an unexpected bill on a credit card knows this to be true. On the occasion this happens, it can sometimes feel like it takes all year to pay it off. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, this can definitely be the case. If you’re spending less, this will give you a chance to pay down that debt a little faster than you’d normally be able to.

So you can save up for awesome experiences.

We all enjoy buying “stuff.” Most the time that stuff isn’t around years later. Sometimes, we’ll remember that stuff we spent our money on years ago, and it seems ridiculous that we thought so highly of it. The things we typically remember most are people and places, and the experiences that come with it. Next time you want to splurge on an object, put that cash into savings and figure out the best way you can spend it on a memory that can last a lifetime.

So your children won’t treasure material possessions.

If you never start your child on a path of not needing to have the same things as the kid down the street, not only will they not feel like their self-worth is based on objects, but they might grow up appreciating the little things in life. They also may be a little more frugal when they’re spending their own money one day.

So you can simplify life.

Things are nice, but life can be amazing even when it’s simple. Teach your children the value of saving money for the future. Show them there’s more to living than a daily trip to Starbucks or the mall. Eat at home more. Avoid using that credit card. Old-fashioned living can be quite satisfying.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

3 Easy Ways to Make Money on the Side

Woman Taking Dog For Walk On City Street

Who doesn’t love some extra cash in their pocket, especially after the expensive holiday season? When you’re focused on your full-time job, it can be hard to find the time to search for additional sources of income.

Here are some easy examples:

Tutor. Do you have expertise in a certain subject matter that you may or may not use in your current line of work? Whether you’re looking to help out younger students or adults continuing their education, you can put your knowledge to good use. Look into working with an established company like Kaplan for SAT preparation, or get certified through the National Tutoring Association or the American Tutoring Association. Obtaining a certification may be an extra step, but in the end if you are able to show you are legitimately trained, you will stand out as a professional and generate more business and more dollars.

Drive. Even if you haven’t used Uber, you have undoubtedly heard of the transportation network company. Offering consumers a safe and convenient way to get around town, Uber is an excellent way to bring in extra money in your spare time. According to the company, depending on your location and how often you work, drivers could net on average about $25.00 an hour. Another advantage of becoming a driver is the ability to set your own schedule. Many drivers have a full-time job and drive at their discretion.

Dog sit. Do you love dogs but don’t want to commit to owning one? Becoming a dog sitter is a great way to spend time with “man’s best friend” without the long-term responsibilities that come with adding a pooch to your family. Check out Rover.com, a resource that connects pet owners with people who provide safe and loving pet care. Like Uber, Rover allows you the freedom to make money on your own schedule. According to Rover.com, depending on how often you take in an animal and for how long, you could make upwards of $1,000 a month.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

6 Ways to Tweak Your Budget This Year

Pencil on the statement of payroll details

Just because February is here doesn’t mean you should already be neglecting to improve your finances. In fact, no matter your resolutions (or if you’ve already abandoned them), it’s always a good idea to work on your finances.

If you’re looking for ways to tweak your budget to better effect this year, then here are some strategies you can follow to spend less and save more:

1. Factor in Infrequent Expenses

One of the biggest pitfalls of budgeting is forgetting about infrequent expenses. Some expenses may only be paid quarterly, or perhaps even once a year. It’s easy to forget to include them in the budget, especially if you create your budget during a month when you’re not making the payment. The fix is easy though.

As you tweak your budget this year, spend the extra bit of time to look ahead for infrequent expenses and include them. Break them down into monthly costs so that they are accounted for. Also ensure that the money is already there when they are withdrawn from your account.

2. Don’t Count on Irregular Income

Many of us like to look ahead and estimate our income. Unfortunately, we often over-estimate what is coming in. We rely on our estimates too heavily whether it’s a bonus at work, a tax refund or some other windfall. Instead of factoring future income into your budget, consider pretending it doesn’t exist. That way, when you do get a windfall, you can bank that instead of spending it. This way, you don’t end up in trouble if the extra money doesn’t appear like you thought it would.

3. Boost Your Savings

You can also use more no matter how much you’re setting aside, so look for ways to boost your savings. Even an extra $15 a week can help in the long run. Consider changing how much is taken from your paycheck and contribute it to your retirement account. You can also put more in your emergency fund. Just make a small tweak to the amount to make a difference down the road.

4. Check into Your Subscriptions

When was the last time you reviewed your subscriptions? Look at where your money is going on a monthly basis. If you aren’t using subscriptions, change things up so you aren’t spending on what you no longer use.

5. Review Your Insurance

Every six months or before renewal, do a quick comparison of your insurance policies. Could you be saving more elsewhere? If it looks like you can get a better quote someplace else, let your insurer know and ask for a match. If you haven’t changed your insurance for a few years, you might be surprised at what’s available and how much a quick search can save you.

6. Sign Up for Cash Back Sites

If you aren’t using a cash back site, now’s a good time to do so. Sign up for Ebates and Swagbucks to get some of your purchase-price back. Between these sites, plus use of a rewards or cash back credit card to pay, you could end up with serious savings overall. Yes, you want to spend less, but you also want to get a little back for the spending you do.

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards come fully loaded with higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, rewards, and so much more!* Click here to learn about our cards and apply online today.

*APR varies from 11.40% to 18% for the Visa Platinum Card, 13.40% to 18% for the Visa Signature Card, and 13.74% to 18% for the Visa Secured Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for MoneyNing.com

5 Ways to Make Budgeting Easy Even Around the Holidays

Business man with a santa hat isolated, santa's budget

A budget is essential because having a budget is the first step to achieving financial success. “It’s the backbone of everything else that you do financially,” says David Weliver, founder of financial blog MoneyUnder30. “It all comes down to that golden rule of spending less than you earn. A budget is how you control that.” Think you can’t budget around the holidays?  Think again. You can use these helpful budgeting tips all year long!

Follow the Rules

One guideline of budgeting is the 50/30/20 rule. In the simplest terms, 50% of your income should go to your needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for savings.

What’s a need? For most people, that will include housing costs, whether that’s rent and rental insurance or mortgage payments and homeowner’s insurance. Beyond that, spending priorities can vary greatly. Essentials also might include groceries, car payments, cell phone bills, and utilities.

Wants would fit in the flexible spending category. They might include eating out, going to the movies, buying clothes, or other day-to-day expenses that can vary greatly from month to month.

Finally, the 20% you save should go to your financial goals, whether it’s short-term goals, such as saving for a vacation, or long-term goals like funding your retirement.

These guidelines can be adapted to your personal situation. “It’s okay to set your own ratios,” Weliver says. “But the goal is to try to live so that your essentials are 50 percent or less of your income, and then you have money left over.”

Organize Your Money

Once you set your budget, there’s a good chance you’ll need help tracking your progress. You may want to do so using an Excel spreadsheet, a pencil and paper or an online budgeting tool like YNAB.

You may even try the envelope method, for which you use cash that you divvy up between a number of category-labeled envelopes. Once an envelope is empty, you’re done spending for that category that month. It’s an extreme strategy, especially in today’s world of plastic and online payments, but it really works.

Mvelopes digitizes the envelope strategy. It offers a free version, as well as a premium option for $95 a year that comes with additional features, such as the ability to link more than four accounts and create more than 25 envelopes.

Weliver suggests a twist on the envelope method: Try using different bank accounts for different types of spending. One account can be reserved for your fixed essential costs, another for groceries, another for dining out and so on. Of course, you need to make sure you are using fee-free accounts.

Focus on Repaying Debt

If you’re carrying a lot of debt, it can quickly consume your budget.

The minimum amount due on any debt you have must count among your essential expenses. Ideally, you want to pay more than the minimum, even if it means socking away less in savings and investments. “Paying down debt is a form of savings,” says Weliver. The faster you pay off your debt, the more you save in interest charges.

There are two common approaches to paying off debt. With one, you tackle the balances with the highest interest rates first. This one will save you the most on interest charges in the long run. The other strategy, often called the snowball method, involves paying off the smallest debt first, which makes you feel good and encourages you to keep rolling until your debt is gone.

If you are carrying a lot of high interest debt across multiple accounts, it may make sense to consolidate or refinance those loans.

Go Digital

Mint is the reigning king of free budgeting sites and apps, but there are tons of other options that work pretty similarly.

The big idea: You connect the site to your accounts with other financial institutions. The site then tracks all of your money’s movements in one place, automatically categorizing each transaction and organizing your expenses into colorful charts and graphs to help you identify spending trends.

Set Spending and Saving on Autopilot

Once you have your budget in place, setting up automatic contributions for your savings and automatic payments for regular bills can make it a breeze to stay on track. Some companies even provide discounts to people who sign up for automatic payments.

Two apps can help you automate your savings further:

  • Acorns rounds up to the nearest dollar on every purchase you make with a linked checking account and automatically invests the change into a diversified portfolio for you. You can customize your risk tolerance and adapt your investments based on personal preferences.
  • Digit monitors your spending habits and, when it determines you can safely afford it, transfers a small amount of money (typically between $5 to $50 every few days) from your linked checking account to a special Digit savings account.

Automating your budgeting and spending will encourage you to save more and make it easier to achieve your financial goals, even when you’re holiday shopping too!

Article Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomanderson/2016/04/05/5-ways-to-make-budgeting-easy/2/#11f576f1558c

 

4 Retail Tricks You Don’t Know You’re Falling For

Two Female Friends With Bags In Shopping Mall

The holiday shopping season is well upon us.  Don’t fall for these common retailer tricks while you are out buying gifts this year, try to keep as much of your own money in your pocket as you can!

The cold clothing store

Ever wander into a department store only to immediately notice a temperature drop? This change isn’t always made for the customer’s comfort. Often times, retailers will lower the temperature on purpose, prompting you to head to the coat section of the store. You may or may not actually purchase a jacket, but they have subconsciously made the thought cross your mind. If you don’t leave that day with new outerwear, you may be thinking now, “Do I need a new jacket? Should I come back and buy one later?”

The 10 for $10

On trips to the grocery store you may notice bins with signage shouting “10 for $10!” Before you fall for the trap, stop and think whether these items are ones you actually need. Do you really need ten boxes of cereal? Also, many customers don’t realize that even though the sign says 10, more times than not this deal often means one for $1 as well.

The “left-digit effect”

Ever wonder why something is priced one cent from the nearest dollar? This sales strategy has been proven successful according to a study by Colorado State University and Washington State University. The “left-digit effect” describes how customers overwhelmingly choose prices like $3.99 rather than $4.00 because when shoppers see the left-digit (lower) number, their brain has a stronger reaction.

The sneaky display

When you’re standing in line to check out and you see the random display of odd-and-ends (think travel coffee mugs, candles, or cookie gift bags) remember this isn’t an accident. There is plenty of room to display these items elsewhere in the store, but retailers choose to place them up front in an effort to add even more items to your purchase.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

5 Money Moves to Make Before 2017

New year is loading. Holiday concept on a blue background with snow and snowflakes. New year template vector illustration.

Here comes the end of the year. Are you ready financially?

1. Review Your Retirement Contributions

Are you putting enough away for retirement? Now is a good time to check into that. Make sure you put aside what you can for your future. A tax-advantaged retirement account is a great way to go because it increases the efficiency of your earnings, and might even get you a bit of a break on your tax bill now.

Questions about retirement contributions or investments? To set up a complimentary consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1564, email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com or stop in to see us!*

2. Spend from Your Flex Account

If you have a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), you need to use your money or you’ll lose it. This is a great benefit, and comes with a tax deduction, but if you still have money left over and don’t use it for a qualified expense within a certain amount of time, you could lose the money.

Look at your FSA and see if you can spend that money on something that qualifies, like eye exams, new glasses, some medical procedure you’ve been waiting on, or dental work.

3. Harvest Your Investment Losses

You shouldn’t sell an investment lightly. However, you can take advantage of the losses in your portfolio. Consider selling some of the losing investments and deducting the loss before year end. Your investment losses reduce your income by the amount you lose, which helps, especially if you made more money this year than last year. Just be careful to avoid getting caught in the “wash sale rule” from the IRS. If you sell a losing investment, you can’t buy it back within 30 days.

4. Donate to Charity

This is a great time of year to donate to charity. Clean out the house and donate items in good condition to a charity thrift shop. This way you can claim a deduction for charitable goods while also helping a worthy cause. You can also get a tax deduction for cash donations you make. Just be sure to get a receipt from the organization so you have it for your tax records, and be sure to itemize on Schedule A of the federal tax return.

5. Review Your Budget

Now is the time for a budget review. How are things going with your budget? Are you on the right track? What’s worked well this year? What hasn’t? Be honest about how the budget is working. You might need to tweak the specifics before the new year so that you are ready to hit the ground running in 2017.

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for Moneyning.com, http://moneyning.com/misc/5-money-moves-to-make-before-year-end/