16 Surprising Things to Do to Be Smarter with Your Money

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Between happy hours after work, travel plans, manicures and new pairs of shoes, it seems as though there’s always ample opportunity to spend and spend some more. Unfortunately, giving into our spending desires too often can seriously damage our wallets and bank accounts. Thus, it’s important to take note of your finances and prioritize expenses in order to protect yourself from financial strains and unwanted stress.

When finances are a struggle, it can build a lot of tension that can seep into all aspects of one’s life and interfere with the ability to function, work and maintain healthy relationships. Plus, if you are managing finances with a spouse or partner, there’s double pressure to be responsible and make rational decisions together.

Here are 16 surprising ways to be smarter with money, feel financially balanced in the present and start saving for the future. Trust us, once you set yourself up in a way that is sustainable, you’ll feel more comfortable and happy on a daily basis.

1. Download an App.

“If you want to be smarter with your money you need to use a budgeting tool or app,” says Robbie Doull, associate at Quantitative Risk Management. “I use Mint, but there are hundreds of similar apps, and you can track things ranging from your stock investments to just what’s in your bank account,” he adds. Doull recommends getting a rough monthly spending number and to take note of where your money is going. Apps are great for laying out all of your expenses for you, as we often don’t consider our finances in the moment we are handing over a credit card.

2. Set a Budget.

“Personal finance is a pretty good subreddit devoted to personal budgets. It could be a good place to start if you are making a budget for the first time,” recommends Doull. When coming up with a budget, think about what is realistic for you (how much groceries you need based on your diet) and get rid of accessories that are not important (such as a new bag or pair of shoes). Plus, going under budget never hurts, so don’t feel pressure to meet that requirement each month or week, depending on how you space it out.

3. Grocery Shop Wisely.

Buying fruit and vegetables that are in season is a great way to save money, as prices are lower, and there are usually sales. If you want produce that is either out of season or for a smoothie, buy it frozen, as it’s less expensive and will last longer. Check in with your app to see how much you spend each month on groceries, and try and think about it while shopping. “If I know I spend an average of $150 a month on groceries, I find myself thinking about where I am on that budget when at the store,” expresses Doull.

4. Ask for Samples.

Many stores, especially Whole Foods Market, will allow you to taste the food before purchasing. Make sure that you enjoy the foods you bring home so that you don’t have to waste your money. Plus, sometimes they will give you larger pieces for free. If you ask to try a slice of bread, and you like it, they will often let you take the remainder of the loaf home free of cost. Similarly, if the store is out of a seasoning you like, you can ask someone in the fish or meat department if there is any bit of seasoning they can spare. Usually, you’ll find yourself coming home with a small container!

5. Take Advantage of Business Perks.

“If you work for a company that matches a portion of 401k deposits, it almost always makes sense to get the full matching amount, it’s basically free money that can be used for the future,” advises Doull. Saving money for the future is so important for financial freedom and retirement, as you don’t know what expenses may pop up as you age (medical bills, familial obligations, travel opportunities, etc.). “It should be clearly stated what percentage of contributions your employer will match, and then you can decide how much you want to contribute per month,” says Doull. Figure out what works for you, but start somewhere and now.

6. Set Up an IRA.

If you do not have access to a 401K, it doesn’t mean that you cannot start saving money for retirement. There are two types: Roth and Traditional. “In a Roth IRA, you are taxed before you contribute. So you would pay taxes now, and when you withdraw later in life, you don’t pay any tax. Traditional is basically the opposite, where you are not taxed now, but are taxed on withdrawal,” explains Doull. When deciding, look at your current finances and figure out what your goals are for the future regarding employment. Think about the age you’d like to retire and the type of lifestyle you want to live.

If you need help planning your retirement or have questions about investing, we encourage you to set up a no-cost consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals. Contact us at 732.312.1500, email Mary.Laferriere@cunamutual.com or stop in to see us!*

7. Cook at Home More.

All those restaurant bills certainly add up. Not only is cooking at home healthier, it also help you save money, as you have the option to buy in bulk, purchase deals and save for leftovers during the week. Stock up on meats, produce and nuts to create homemade trail mixes for snacks at work and delicious dinners that can be remodeled for lunch the next day. Buying lunch and snacks during the week can be pricey, so save some money by bringing your own.

8. Change Your Daily Coffee Order.

Do you wake up with a morning pumpkin spice latte with and extra shot, whip and vanilla syrup? Each morning? That cost definitely adds up! Think about some of your habits that are not essential for your wellbeing, energy, or time. Drinking a plain brew or even brewing your own coffee at home can be just as delicious once you adapt to the new taste, and it will give you more wiggle room in your budget for other things.

9. Get Grooming Discounts.

Beauty departments often offer free makeovers, so head to a counter and ask for a “new look.” It’s a great way to save money on both expensive beauty services and daily products, allowing the latter to last way longer. Similarly, many beauty schools will offer free or discounted hairstyle appointments, as it complements the students’ training. Plus, your hair will probably look great!

10. Try New Fitness Classes.

Most studios and gyms offer complimentary classes or passes for new customers, so definitely take advantage of that perk! Varying up your workouts is also beneficial for your body, routine and mind. There might also be referral offers, where if you refer new customers, you’ll receive a discounted price, as well.

11. Go BYOB.

Book reservations at BYOB restaurants to save money when dining out. Alcohol can be extremely pricy, and it’s pretty easy to find BYOB restaurants that serve delicious food. Be wary of a corkage fee; if it exists, bring a bottle that doesn’t require an opener or see if you can bring your own. These restaurants are also really fun for both romantic date nights and larger get-togethers.

12. Share Media Streaming Accounts.

A great way to enjoy your media and still save money is to share media streaming accounts with friends and family. One person can pay for Netflix, another for HBO Go, another for Hulu, and so forth. It’s easy to hook up the streaming accounts to your devices, and with a bowl of popcorn and a soft blanket, it makes for a cozy night in.

13. Reconsider Expiration Dates.

Expiration dates usually indicate an item’s quality and freshness, rather than it’s safety. We often throw food out once it reaches the expiration date, and this can be a serious waste of money. Understanding how long past the expiration date food can last will help eliminate these extra costs.

14. Change Your Commute.

Biking or walking, instead of driving can cut gas costs and enhance your quality of life, as studies show that a long commute can negatively affect one’s wellbeing. If biking or walking isn’t an option, find a carpooling buddy (or two) and take turns to help decrease one another’s expenses. Plus, it’ll be a more pleasurable way to arrive to the office!

15. Align Spending with Your Values.

“Look at money from a ‘freedom’ standpoint and align your spending to your deepest values,” says certified healthy living coach Liz Traines over email correspondence with Bustle. “Money gives you opportunities to do whatever it is you might want to do in your lifetime AKA it provides freedom,” she continues. Think about what you value in life and the behaviors that you embody in order to make mindful decisions.

16. Use a Journal.

If apps and technological gadgets aren’t your thing, stick with a journal to keep track of your expenses, budget and spending goals. “Look back on a week of spending and see what seems unnecessary and what that amount of money could buy you over time (i.e. that one bedroom apartment that would make life so much more peaceful),” advises Traines. Seeing the numbers in print can be a great wake up call.

Being mindful of your spending habits can help you save money for the future and make better decisions in the present. It’s a great feeling to enjoy financial freedom and security, and such chronic uneasiness can be debilitating to one’s wellbeing, self-esteem, health and lifetime goals. By making smart, responsible steps, it’s easy to create a life that is in line with both desires and needs and can pave the way for an exciting future!

*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.

Original article source courtesy of Isadora Baum of Bustle.com.

5 Essential Things You Need to Know About Saving for Retirement

bigstock-Mature-Retired-Couple-Enjoying-71278750Saving for retirement is essential. The concept of retiring on the checks you get from social security has vanished in the 21st century. You have to go out of your way to gather the funds necessary to sustain a long and enjoyable retirement.

Generation X is the most vulnerable group. In the financial crisis a study revealed that they lost nearly half of their total wealth. But it’s never too early to save for a long and happy retirement, and it’s certainly never too late.

This guide is going to show you the essentials you need to know about retirement saving.

1. Look Ahead.

Don’t be blind to your financial situation. Be proactive and take notice of what your various retirement funds are going to actually give you during your twilight years. Look into your employer-sponsored retirement program and see whether it’s sufficient enough to cover your needs.

There are so many people that have yet to even think about retirement. The later you start saving for it the less you can expect to get. This can have the consequences of forcing you to continue working throughout your retirement simply to survive.

You can never save too much for retirement, so get started now.

2. Ignoring the Problem.

It’s never nice to think about your final years, and it’s certainly never nice to think about your final years if you are unsure as to whether you can afford to survive. But this is a problem that will only become more urgent the older you get.

Don’t enter a cycle of denial where you prioritize current financial issues over your retirement. Starting today is always better than starting tomorrow.

3. Make Sacrifices.

If you are starting your retirement fund later in life, you may have to consider making sacrifices. In other words, you are going to have to sacrifice some of your current quality of life in order to get the income you need when you decide to leave work.

Make some conscious trade-offs to increase saving and reduce spending. One good move is to increase contributions to your work-based retirement fund. Each time you receive a raise, you should make it your priority to increase the amount of money you are saving.

A simple change in your state of mind can have a big impact going forward.

4. Face Financial Reality.

If you have already reached middle age, you are about to enter your peak earning years. Many people are scared to face the financial realities of retirement. They are terrified of discovering they don’t have enough to retire at the age they wanted. But it’s vital that you know you are following a clear path.

You should have an intimate knowledge of interest rates and inflation, for a start. It may be worth contacting a financial advisor to find out about what other retirement options are open to you. You may discover that there are better choices available.

5. Consistency is the Key.

Be consistent with your savings. Make sure that you are constantly contributing to your retirement fund. The key to building up a healthy amount of money is to be automatic. Make sure that you are constantly making payments and you will be amazed at how quickly it can all add up. Setup a regular payment agreement with your bank so you don’t even need to think about making contributions.

Saving for retirement is best done as early as absolutely possible. Failing to do this will leave you in the difficult position of not having enough money to meet your basic needs. Begin saving and commit to regular payments and don’t compromise on your retirement for anything or anyone.

How will you begin preparing for your retirement today? 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 732.312.1500, or stop in to see us!*

*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.

Original article source courtesy of AJ Agrawal of the Huffington Post.

Budget Tips for Planning for Life’s Unexpected Curve Balls

couple-worry-moneyLife doesn’t always go as planned, and many of life’s major events, like getting married, having a baby and buying a home can crowd your savings capability and even throw you into a financial tailspin.

When it comes to making ends meet, retirement is often left out of the savings equation. Eighty-four percent of people say saving for retirement has been undercut by a life event, according to this year’s HSBC Future of Retirement survey of more than 15,000 people. But people react differently when in crunch mode, the survey says, and in some cases, extreme measures are required to cover budget needs. Three tactics improve cash flow in a financial crunch: increase income, decrease expenses or a combination of both.

Time to Downsize?

In reality, you have more control on your spending side, particularly with flexible expenses like travel, entertainment, gifts and food. But if your financial woes seem irreversible, you may have to take a hammer to large expenses like housing.

In fact, 21% of women surveyed say they would downsize, compared to only 14% of men. And 31% of men say they would dip into their retirement savings to cover unexpected expenses.

Though experts concede downsizing may be extremely emotional, it’s more preferable than taking a chunk out of retirement savings. Actually, 29% of respondents say the financial strain of home ownership puts a real crimp in retirement savings.

If you have any questions about the home buying process, feel free to ask us! We know it can be an intimidating process at times, and we’re here for you. To learn more about a 10, 15, or 30 year First Financial Mortgage – click here.*

Rethink Your Lifestyle.

Today’s lifestyle norms may have something to do with one-dimensional thinking. Items once seen as luxuries are now seen as necessities, says Ravi Dhar, director of the Yale Center for Customer Insights.

Plus, what people do with their money has more to do with psychological and emotional issues than it does with crunching the numbers, claims Marcee Yager, a retired certified financial planner. “It’s never just about the money.”

Because non-financial issues often dictate financial decisions and create a domino effect, consumers need to look at both quantitative (intellectual) and qualitative (emotional) issues when making life choices, says Yager. “Without shared thinking, people’s heads start spinning.”

The idea that emotional understanding must be factored into financial decisions has gained very little traction, claims Yager. “Big investment banks don’t tend to make things soft and fuzzy.”

Dhar even questions the effectiveness of some system resources like the many online investment tools available to consumers. Calculators project four, six, or eight million dollar targets for a retirement 30 years into the future. He says the timeframe seems intangible and the goals unattainable.

For consumers looking to navigate their way out or steer clear of the financial weeds, experts offer the following:

Take small steps to wealth. The only way to build up reserves is to do it gradually. Budget a realistic portion of your paycheck to start an emergency fund or return to the basics. “The best thing people raising families can do is go back to the old traditional practice of putting money in an envelope or a cookie jar,” adds Yager.

Be flexible. Think about what’s possible to mitigate a tight financial situation. Baby boomers tend to be fearful of change, particularly of moving to unknown places, says Yager. In fact, new locales both in and outside of U.S. borders can create wonderful opportunities that improve your quality of life.

Keep a minimum three-month reserve for savings. Learn to cut corners, live on less and shop in cheaper places.

Write it down. Take a financial fitness quiz then put your pencil to paper. You need to see the numbers then monitor your day-to-day situation.

First Financial also hosts free credit management and debt reduction seminars throughout the year, so be sure to check our online event calendar or subscribe to receive upcoming seminar alerts on your mobile phone by texting FFSeminar to 69302.**

Turn to professionals. Reviewing your savings situation and retirement potential with a professional financial advisor can help to ensure that all your future requirements are identified.

If you would like to set up a no-cost consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your brokerage, investments, and/or savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1500 or stop in to see us!***

Click here to view the article source, from FoxBusiness.com.

*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. A First Financial Mortgage is subject to credit approval. See Credit Union for details. **Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.***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. Nondeposit 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.

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