Tips for Improving Your Financial Literacy

April is Financial Literacy Month, so we’re sharing our top tips for improving your financial wellness. Whether you’re new to managing a budget or are looking to save for a big future purchase, these tips will help you achieve your goals while maintaining a reasonable financial balance.

What is financial literacy?

Financial literacy refers to the knowledge and use of financial management skills, including budgeting, investing, saving, etc. By having an understanding of finances, you’ll be able to make better financial decisions. Achieving financial literacy is a lifelong process that requires continuous learning and management, and we’re here to help!

Here are our best tips for improving your financial literacy.

Learn how to budget

Don’t let the idea of creating a budget scare you. If anything, successfully building and maintaining a budget can be empowering. Start by creating a list of essential expenses including housing costs, food, transportation, clothing, internet, cell phone, insurance, and more. Then, write down how much you spend on each. From there, you’ll need to add up your monthly income and deduct your expenses. The amount leftover should be used toward building your savings and/or for any less essential purchases.

Improve your credit score

Maintaining a good credit score is an important part of your financial future. Without a good score, you’ll have difficulty securing a loan or mortgage down the line. Here’s what you can do over time to better your credit:

  • Pay your bills on time
  • Pay off or pay down your credit cards
  • Don’t close any open credit cards, but slow down opening new credit card accounts
  • Contact a financial expert – like us!

Open a savings account

Whether you need an emergency fund, money for retirement, or to pay a large expense – having a savings account is essential. You can start by dedicating a certain amount of your paycheck toward your savings. While it’s recommended to keep 20% of your income for savings and debt repayment, you’ll need to evaluate what works within your budget and when you’ll need the funds. Even if you’re starting small, you’ll be surprised how quickly the account can grow!

Want to open a savings account?* We’re here for you! Contact us or stop into your local branch to speak with a representative today.

Subscribe to financial newsletters

Stopping at the library and picking up some financial literature might not be everyone’s cup of tea. So, starting with digestible, yet informative articles is ideal. That’s why we recommend subscribing to newsletters (like ours!) with timely resources that cover a wide range of financial topics. The First Financial monthly e-newsletter delivers helpful tools and financial advice right to your inbox, so you can focus on achieving your monetary goals. You can sign up at the bottom of our website homepage, by entering your name and email address.

Talk to a financial professional

If anything, it’s always helpful to speak directly with a financial expert who can give you advice based on your individual situation. Contact us to get started or stop into your local branch to speak with a representative today!


*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership before opening any other account/loan. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.

Easy Ways to Improve Your Finances this Year

Have you already forgotten about or blown all those new year’s resolutions that you set for yourself last month? If you have, don’t worry – it’s still early enough in the new year to set some additional financial goals and attain them. In the process, you may even save yourself some money! Keep reading to see how you can remain on a great financial path for 2022, even if you already took a small detour.

Refinance your mortgage. Mortgage rates are still low. Do the math, and check out your current mortgage rate. If it’s on the high side, you may want to consider refinancing to a lower rate and lower monthly payments. This will allow you some wiggle room in your budget to put in your savings account, pay toward other bills, or even apply more to your mortgage principal and pay your home loan down sooner.

Did you know First Financial has recently brought back our Dream Decade 10-Year Mortgage? If you’re considering refinancing to a shorter term, this may be the perfect solution for you!*

Pay down debt. If you racked up a lot of credit card debt recently, make this the year you vow to pay it off and finally be financially free. Getting out of debt takes a lot of discipline, but you can do it! An easy way to start is by creating a spreadsheet and listing out all your balances owed, interest rates, and minimum monthly payments. Then you’ll need to create a debt repayment plan for yourself, to decide which to tackle first (usually the one with the highest interest rate and you’ll need to make more than the minimum payment each month to get it under control). If you need some help with a debt repayment plan, check out our credit management and debt reduction guide.

Create a budget and stick to it. No matter how much you bring home, creating a spending budget can still be a challenge. However, sticking to a budget that you set for the new year can really pay off in the end. If you need help getting started, check out our useful budgeting worksheet.

Stop overspending. If you’re using the budget you created and learning to automate savings by having extra funds sent to a special savings account from your paychecks, it should be a little easier to stop overspending. Here’s an eye opening spending challenge to try: don’t spend even one penny on anything you haven’t budgeted for the week (this includes morning coffee stops, lunch out, even a lottery ticket purchase or a pack of gum). At the end of the week, see how much more is left in your bank account by not purchasing all those little extras that can really add up.

Plan ahead, but don’t forget to look back too. Do you have any big life events coming up (weddings, births, vacations, retirement) that could definitely affect your bottom line? If so, start thinking about them now and putting some money away. This is also a good time of year to review all your current accounts and ensure you have up to date beneficiaries listed. Besides planning ahead, it’s also a good idea to look back on the previous year and take note of what might have gone wrong financially. If you didn’t have enough in your emergency savings account (or if you don’t have an emergency savings at all), this should be the year you start one or add some extra funds to it.

As always, if you need help creating and sticking to a financial plan – don’t hesitate to setup an appointment at your local First Financial branch. We’re happy to help!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. 

Article Sources: