Preparing for the Holidays Doesn’t Have to Be a Hassle

The season of holiday shopping is here, and so is the inevitable financial stress — but you don’t have to panic. We’re here to help you conquer the chaos and take control of your finances, so you can give great gifts and feel great about what you spent too.

Budget the Day Away.

The first step for tackling the holiday shopping season is setting a budget. Your budget sets the tone of your whole shopping game plan — what gifts you can buy, which deals to look for, which payment type to use, and more.

Sure, you’ve probably heard the spiel about the importance of budgeting before. It can sound a bit intimidating or overwhelming at times — but it doesn’t have to be. Check out our budgeting guidebook or ask for budgeting help from one of our representatives to make this daunting task easier. The internet is also laden with websites and programs that can do the budgeting for you. Find what works best for you, then set up a spread sheet, scrawl it out in a notebook, or iron it out online. Find your budgeting flow.

Sit down with a nice hot cup of cocoa, wrap up in a cozy blanket, and budget away. Make a night of it and feel confident in your ability to get your finances together. You’ll thank yourself in the end.

Pick Your Weapons of Choice.

There are many ways to fund your holiday shopping. Figure out how much money you have available to spend immediately and what items you will need to buy through credit cards or fund with a holiday loan.

Our advice? Put down the high-interest rate credit cards and check out ours. Our credit cards* feature interest rates significantly lower than the national average; plus, our special holiday loan** can help you to fund your shopping and pay it off responsibly. We understand that our members have a lot of holiday cheer to spread, and we want to help you make it happen.

Start Your List, Check It Twice.

Santa isn’t the only one who should have a list. Get a pen and some paper (or save a note in your phone) and jot down everyone you want to give gifts to this season. Determine how much you can spend for each person first, then brainstorm gifts for each of your names. This is the fun part! Put on Santa’s hat and think of creative ways to show some love to your favorite people.

If you find yourself spreading your budget too thin, go back and adjust the names on your list and the spending amount. Remember, not every gift needs to cost money — don’t underestimate the joy that a homemade gift or a good deed can bring to the holiday season.

Choose Wisely.

You have your gift list, now you need to perfect it. Browse the internet to get an idea of the deals that will be happening near you, either in a store or online.

Compare deals you see for the same item across stores and websites — one company may be selling the item for significantly less than another. You deserve the best deal. Put in the work to find out which stores are promoting the best sales, and make sure the item is still in budget after you factor in taxes and shipping costs.

Finalize Your Plan of Attack.

While many companies offer deals throughout the months of November and December, some are specific to days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. These two days can easily become chaotic if you don’t have a good game plan.

Research which deals are offered online and which require you to show up in person. Because of health and safety concerns this year, many stores will most likely be shifting to an online Black Friday experience, but you should still double check. Also research store hours for any place you might need to visit in person. Store hours may likely be adjusted for Black Friday and COVID-19 precautions, so keep a close eye on company websites for the latest updates.

Another shopping holiday to look out for is the lesser known but crucially important Small Business Saturday. It falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and it is more important than ever this year. With the pandemic still in effect, many small businesses are struggling. On Small Business Saturday, local businesses usually break out great deals and some even organize seasonal events for their customers. This day is a great way to give back to your community, so look into the local businesses nearest to you and see how you can support them.

Shop Responsibly.

Now that you have a budget, a list, and a plan of attack – you are all set to shop responsibly this holiday season. The holidays are a time for joy, so don’t let your finances stress you out. Instead of panic-spending and budget-breaking, take some time to prepare and research your options, like low-interest credit cards or a holiday personal loan. You’ll be happy you did, especially when those on your gift list and your wallet are thanking you.

*APR varies up to 18% for all Visa Credit Cards 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.

**APR = Annual Percentage Rate. APR as low as 6.99%, terms up to 12 months, minimum loan amount is $500, and maximum loan amount is $2,400. A $2,400 loan at 6.99% APR for 12 months would have a monthly payment amount of $207.65. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. One holiday loan open per member. Refinance option for prior holiday loan is available, see credit union for details. Maximum dollar amount able to borrow is based on creditworthiness and loan term. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Personal Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

Tips for Holiday Shopping on a Budget

‘Tis the season…to avoid going broke buying presents for your loved ones. It’s easy to do, right? Sometimes we get carried away and spend more money than we intended to. You don’t want to look like a cheap gift giver, but you also don’t want to buy the whole store either. So, how do you buy awesome gifts for everyone on your list without breaking the bank? We have a few tips to help keep your wallet full this holiday season.

Make a List, Check it Twice. Hey, the process works for Santa so it can work for you too! Start with a list of people you plan to buy for, jot down the gifts you think they’ll love and then check it twice. Santa has to buy gifts for the whole world, but you don’t have to. If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, trim your list. Look at alternatives like homemade gifts or baked goods so you can spread holiday cheer without looking like a Scrooge or going broke.

Create a Budget Based on Your Finances. Your best friend started a great job a few years ago and always gets you the most amazing gifts. However, if you’re in a different place in your financial life, don’t overextend yourself to match another’s gifts. Look at your budget and see what you can do. Don’t shop based on what you think you should spend. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” really does ring true here. It’s still possible to give thoughtful gifts to your loved ones without going into debt.

Take Advantage of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Online Deals. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest shopping days of the year. And for good reason – those are the two days you can get the best deals and save the most money. Electronics and toys are usually highly desired items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so if those are on your list, don’t miss the discounts. However if you did miss these two shopping days this year, keep checking your list and retailers’ websites and promotional emails – a lot of the time they end up extending their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales or even offering new discounts in the weeks leading up to December 25th.

Keep It Local. Shopping local is a great way to save a little cash while also supporting local businesses. Because there are fewer hands involved, buying local can often save you some money. You’ll likely save by purchasing green beans from a produce stand because the farmer doesn’t have to divvy up profits the way a chain supermarket does. It’s also a great way to improve your local economy. Plus, shopping at local businesses helps to improve your town’s economy. Follow your local news and check Facebook pages in your area to see what businesses are offering locally made products.

We know that holiday shopping can be stressful. You’re paying your regular bills, taking care of your regular expenses, and planning for holiday shopping on top of that. It can be tempting to open multiple credit cards or store cards, which often come with incredibly high interest rates. Don’t get stuck paying big balances on multiple cards. We have numerous options that can help you fund your holiday shopping without breaking the bank!

Let us help. Stop by, check out our website or give us a call to see what money saving options we have to help you this holiday season.

Tips for Avoiding Impulsive Holiday Spending

It’s that time of year again. If you’re prone to swiping your credit card or blowing your budget in December, knowing a few ways to curb your impulse spending can help you get through to the New Year with your finances unharmed.

Understand why you buy. For the majority of non-essential purchases, most consumers make the decision to buy based on emotion. The product conjures up a positive feeling that is compelling enough to make you want to open your wallet. Stopping to examine the reason why you buy can help you determine if it’s a wise purchase and if it’s absolutely necessary.

Don’t shop hungry. Below normal blood sugar can impair your judgment.  Being hungry can cause you to be cranky, emotional, and more impulsive. Eat a balanced meal before leaving the house and always carry water and healthy snacks before going out shopping.

If you are easily swayed by the opinion of others, shop alone. Although, if you have little willpower when it comes to overspending, take along an accountability partner and discuss your spending limits and budget before you walk into the store.

Use a prepaid card. If you know you’re inclined to overspending, determine your budget and put the funds on a prepaid debit card allocated for holiday gift purchases. Leave your other cards at home and take only your driver’s license and enough money for gas and meals. When the prepaid card is empty, you need to be done shopping.

Shop online. Some consumers do better sticking to a budget when shopping online. Using a prepaid card or connecting through your PayPal account, you can safely do a lot of holiday shopping online. This allows you to thoroughly research products at your leisure without the pressure of other hurried shoppers, crowds, or a relentless salesperson. You also have the ability to review your shopping cart extensively and remove any unwise purchases without embarrassment before you buy. If you are shopping online, remember to research online coupon codes to get the best deals too!

Walk around the store with your items for awhile before purchasing and see if you really still want them by the time you are ready to check out.

When considering the cost of an item, think of how many hours of work it will take you to earn the full purchase price. If you would be willing to work a 40-hour work week without pay in return for receiving that item you’ve been eyeing, it may be a good purchase. Otherwise, walk away.

Freeze your credit cards for the month of December. When all else fails and you don’t want to give in to using your credit cards – put them in a cup of water and stick them in the freezer until the holiday shopping season is over. Do not defrost them before the new year.

Call your financial institution and request a lower daily spending limit on your debit or credit cards. This may be a great budgeting option if your bank or credit union offers it.

You don’t have to buy a gift for everyone you know. Be frugal with your gift list. Write down the people who you absolutely have to buy for: your kids, nieces and nephews, and so forth. Do you really need to buy individual gifts for all your co-workers? If so, try to make the spending limit minimal. Perhaps you can also suggest doing Secret Santa gifts with co-workers or if you have a large family as well. This way you only need to buy a gift for one person and there is typically a spending limit. Another idea for co-workers or a group of friends is not to exchange gifts and just all get together for a meal or night out instead.

The usual tips of don’t wait until the last minute and make a shopping list and stick to it always apply, but for many impulsive shoppers – this isn’t enough to control the spending behavior. If none of these tips will help you break your impulsive spending habit, your best solution may be to make a list and let someone else do the holiday shopping for you within the set budget and funds you provide them with.

Article Source:  Jamie Simmerman for Moneyning.com

3 Money Saving Tips for the Upcoming Holiday Season

Have you started to think about this year’s holiday shopping? Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here – along with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two of the biggest holiday shopping days of the calendar year. Even though Halloween was only a few weeks ago, this year’s holiday season will soon be in full swing, and here before you know it. If you’re in need of some extra cash for gifts this year, here are few tips to get you started.

Get ahead: If you’re buying something big and on the costly side, shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday may be your best bet. If you have a smaller list, start looking for deals as soon as possible. Take your time and don’t buy anything until you’ve done your research and found the best price. In December, you probably won’t be able to use this method. Whether you’re shopping for gifts, food, or holiday decorations – look early and find the best deals. They’re out there!

Pay in cash only: A digital wallet like Apple or Google Pay makes it easy to pay with your phone passcode when you’re in a store or even online. Venmo makes it simple to share money between friends and family. Amazon allows you to buy everything you need with the click of a button at any time. With all of this digital payment technology, even if you lock up your credit cards – your phone can still be a culprit for out-of-control spending. If you’re not usually the cash type, it’s time to become that way at least for the holiday season. Using cash is often a wake-up call for your spending habits. Set a dollar amount for your holiday budget, take out the cash, and when it’s time to spend it you will realize how strict you’ll instantly become.

Cut back everywhere: Whether it’s cutting back on going out to eat or dropping the thermostat a few degrees, having a few extra dollars to spend will be a pleasant surprise when you’re making your shopping list over the next few weeks. Maybe even think about shutting down your Hulu or Netflix accounts for a month or two while you’re shopping for the holidays and paying off holiday bills. You will be so busy you probably won’t even think about them and you’ll save money that you can use on gifts in the process.

Happy Holidays!

 Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Broke? 5 Basically Free Holiday Gift Ideas

Is your credit card maxed out and your savings account dried up? Don’t let a light (or empty) wallet have you saying bah-humbug. If anything, a shoestring budget opens up unique gift giving possibilities. Instead of searching online or fighting crowds to find just the right gift over the next few days, create your own.

A jar of gratitude: Think of this as an anytime mood boost. The container really doesn’t matter as much as what’s inside – all the reasons you love and appreciate gift recipient. So, the next time your friend or family member feels down, they can reach in and be reminded of all the ways they are awesome. It’s the gift that keeps giving all year long!

Regifting: How many items do you have in the closet that still have tags on them or may even still be wrapped? How about those gift cards to the movies or restaurants you’ll never visit? To avoid any awkward moments, be sure you know who gave you the gift, and if going the pay-it-forward gift card route, verify the expiration date and that it has never been used.

Be a game master: Laugh and reminisce while learning more about your family and friends by creating games about moments shared together. Create your own version of Pictionary to play based on family stories of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles. Or create a family version of Would You Rather, where players guess which family member would be more likely to do something. Try playing favorite songs and guessing which friend or family member is most likely to have it on their playlist. The possibilities are endless!

Create your own coupon book: Studies show that experiences deliver more lasting happiness than material items. So, fill a homemade coupon book with meaningful experiences. For some, that might mean breakfast in bed or sleeping in, for others it could mean a day of watching sports without any complaints. Give your kids coupon books to get out of chores, extra video game time and a day of yes (with the fine print disclaimer that sets a price limit for “asks”).

Recipe book: This one is perfect for the foodies in your life. Print out or make a PDF of your favorite recipes or new recipes that your recipient will enjoy!  Include notes, photos, or specific recipes tailored to the recipient’s taste to add a personalized touch too.

Never underestimate the effectiveness of a thoughtful gesture!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

How to Actually Stick to Your Holiday Budget

It’s almost that time of the year again, and the holiday season is right around the corner. While the last few months of the year are usually all about laughter and celebration, it is also one of the most expensive times of the year as well. With traveling expenses and gifts, your budget can quickly get out of hand.

Before you get stressed out about holiday budgeting, start a plan. The earlier you begin thinking about holiday spending, the more time you’ll have to actually enjoy the season. Here are five tips to help you stick to your holiday budget:

Start Early

The early bird gets the worm! While you might think it’s too early to start planning for the holidays, think again. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself scrambling for last minute gifts. Start your planning now before you stress yourself out. Begin making your list of people you need to get gifts for and jot down ideas of what you might want to get them. Once you have your list ready, you can start hunting for steals and deals well in advance. You might even get your shopping done early!

Tackle Black Friday Deals

You either love Black Friday or you hate it. If you plan to Black Friday shop this year, then prepare yourself for the big day. Many retailers will release a list of their sales the week prior so you can start making your list ahead of time. Be sure to research when stores open as you might want to get there early in case inventory sells out. If you don’t get exactly what you want on Black Friday, there’s always Cyber Monday – when you can find plenty of deals online without the crowds.

DIY Your Gifts

Store-bought gifts aren’t always the best. Homemade items carry a lot of significant value and you can personalize them and make them exactly how you want. Consider DIY-ing your gifts if you have the talent. Not only will your friends and family appreciate the thought and effort you put into their gifts, but you’ll also save a significant amount of money.

Set Limits

It would be amazing if we could buy all our loved ones the perfect gift, but most of us can’t afford to do that. While you’re making your list and shopping, be sure to be realistic with what you can afford. Decide what your limits are for each person and stick to it. Even if you find the “perfect” gift for someone on your list, it’s not going to work if it will break your budget. It’s the thought that really counts, so don’t worry about buying the most expensive gift.

Spend on Experiences

Most of the time it’s better to gift an experience if you can’t find the perfect gift for someone. Think about what they really enjoy doing. For instance, tickets to a local play or a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant can be great ideas. Plus, you might also be able to tag along – so not only do you get to enjoy the gift, but you also get to spend time with the recipient too.

The holidays are quickly approaching. While shopping and sticking to your budget is important, also remember to take a few moments to enjoy time with family and loved ones this season.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com