How to Save for Your Summer Vacation

There’s no better time than the present to start planning your summer vacation. The sooner you get things planned and booked, the more you’ll save in the end, as prices commonly go up the closer you are to your departure date. What better way to look forward to the months ahead then to plan your vacation and turn your sunny dreams into reality?

Save weekly, not monthly.

Most of us try to put a little money away each month, but when your trip is just a couple months away, you’ll have very little time to save a sufficient amount. Instead, decide how much you need to stash away and begin saving each week to meet your goal. That way your savings plan will stay on the top of your mind weekly until your trip arrives.

Count your pennies.

Who doesn’t find random spare change in pants pockets or under couch cushions? Keep a change jar right by the door and add to it anytime you find yourself with extra change. It may seem like a small idea, but change jars can be more valuable than you think. Every little bit helps and when it’s vacation time, you’ll be happy to have even $15-20 extra spending money.

Spring clean for cash.

Spring is the perfect time to declutter your closet and make some extra cash. Go through your home and be decisive on ridding yourself of things you don’t actually need. Take part in a community yard sale (a great way to make side cash and get to know your neighbors better), or take detailed photos and post items for sale online. Check out Material World, PoshMark, and thredUP for easy and innovative ways to sell your gently used clothing.

Trim the fat.

When an extra expense like summer vacation is on the horizon, it’s time to really sit down and cut out anything unnecessary (and pricey) from your life. Do you watch programs from your streaming device and rarely watch cable? Cancel your cable television subscription if that’s the case. Do you find yourself taking walks at the park or going on a hike as opposed to running on the treadmill at the gym? If so, cancel that gym membership and stay outdoors. Take a close look at last month’s expenses and don’t hesitate to trim the fat – you’ll be glad you did when you’ve reached your savings goal and find yourself on a beach under a palm tree.

If you didn’t reach your savings goal – apply for a vacation loan from First Financial! You could get away for as little as $88 a month. Our summer personal loans also feature rates as low as 10.24% APR, flexible terms up to 60 months, and no pre-payment penalties.* Apply now!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. The $88 payment example is based on a $1,000 loan at 10.24% APR for 12 months. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness. Subject to credit approval. 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. Terms and conditions of this offer may be subject to change at any time. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

 

7 Money Saving Party Hacks

Group Of Mature Friends Enjoying Buffet At Dinner Party

Hosting a party is a fun way to express hospitality to friends and family, but the expense can also be a strain on the budget. The concern with trying to throw a party on the cheap is that it will end up looking or feeling just as cheap. So how do you pull off an amazing, classy party that’s much less expensive than it looks? are seven simple ideas for you to try next time you want to host a gathering.

1. Make your own decorations with inexpensive materials rather than purchasing them pre-made.

Decorations are one of the easiest things to get away with doing cheap without sacrificing appearance, especially if you borrow ideas from frugal decorating blogs or Pinterest. Here are a few fun ones, just at a glance:

  • Construction paper stars
  • A “chandelier” made from a spray-painted umbrella frame and a string of lights
  • Window displays made by hanging single bulbs from tension rods
  • Ribbon — cheap, plenty of variety, and it looks good everywhere

2. Go to the dollar store for disposable paper goods, but serve from real flatware.

Not everything at the dollar store is a deal, but it’s a good place to find cheap disposable paper goods and supplies, holiday decorations, and bulk party favors that make it more affordable to customize for one occasion. To avoid even this expense, make your party a little classier by serving on real dishes. That’s right – pull out that fine tableware you never use and put it to work. The savings and elegant appearance of your party will be worth the extra load of dishes later.

3. Plan your menu based on sales, make your own appetizers and dips, and opt for cheaper desserts, drinks, and cheese.

Base your menu around what’s on sale, and get creative just like every other occasion. Appetizers like dips and breads are cheaper if you make them yourself, and a DIY dish has the added effect of appearing gourmet. For dessert, a punchbowl trifle is easy to make, visually appealing, and serves a large crowd. Instead of buying expensive, aged cheeses, use cheaper varieties like ricotta and feta and add herbs, honey, or spices for extra flavor. Finally, a common recommendation for saving money on drinks is to feature just one signature cocktail.

4. Presentation is everything.

You also don’t have to serve rich foods to impress your guests. Even the cheapest appetizers and dishes can look impressive if you take the extra step to plate them appealingly in glass dishes or trays and spruce them up with garnish and added touches.

5. Go with a theme: appetizers-only, dessert-only, cheese and wine, or a cookie swap.

Choosing to elaborate on a limited category adds uniqueness to your party while cutting out the expense of a multiple course meal. Sticking with small-plate finger foods that can be carried also encourages people to walk around, mingle, and creates a livelier party.

6. Ask your guests to contribute food, but with class.

Potlucks are a cheaper way to handle gatherings with family, but you might feel awkward asking guests to bring food to your party. Instead, ask people to bring a specialty item to share, such as a batch of their favorite cookies, or make it a “bring and share your favorite wine” event. This also makes the food or drinks a focal point for conversation and a natural ice-breaker for interaction.

7. Less is more.

Finally, less is always more when it comes to throwing a classy party. Too much stuff and fuss can come across as cheap no matter how much money you spend. The fewer, tasteful decorations and key foods (in plentiful quantities), the more memorable your event will seem.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing.com

5 Ways Technology Can Save You Money

Overhead view marble counter top with male hand holding cup of coffee with computer keyboard, cell phone, reading glasses, and bagel on plate. Work at home concept.

In this world of instant gratification, technological advancements sure can make life easier. If you use technology correctly, it can also save you a lot of money. Here are some ways technology can save you more than a few bucks.

Smartphone apps

There are a ton of apps available that can save you money. There are apps that will help you monitor your budget, find travel discounts, find the cheapest gas prices, as well as loyalty apps that will help you earn rewards for what you spend. Do a search for these topics in your phone’s app store and start saving!

Doing everything online

All the best deals are online. If you spend time in line at the store buying birthday presents, you’re wasting time, and time is money, so you’re also wasting money. Shop online. If you’re driving to your bank to deposit a check, you’re wasting gas and gas costs money, so you’re again wasting money. Deposit that check with your mobile banking app. If you’re mailing in a check to pay a bill, you’re spending money on checks and postage and that’s also wasting money. Pay that bill online!

Get rid of that landline

We all remember that phone on the wall in the kitchen that had the super long cord that would allow you to talk and walk to the other side of the house. These days, landlines aren’t as popular. Some people like the security and reliability they provide, but they are probably few and far between. But if you’re looking to save a few bucks on something you’re probably not using as much as your cell phone, it may be time to disconnect.

Get a smart thermostat

Some of the more advanced thermostats know when the house is empty and will adjust your heating or AC accordingly. Thanks to GPS, they also can see when you’re heading home and re-adjust the temperature for your arrival. This may sound a little creepy, but it’s also super cool and cost effective.

Cut those cable cords

If you’re still paying for cable or satellite tv, you may as well go outside and light your wallet on fire. With all of the available streaming options out there these days, you can almost get the exact same channels for half the price.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

4 Ways to Curb Your Excessive Amazon Shopping Habit

amazon-logoIf you’re human you probably enjoy the benefits of an Amazon Prime membership: Free 2-day shipping on tons of products and access to free music, movies, and TV shows are great justifications for a subscription to the online giant. If this describes you and you want to curb this habit, here are few things you can do to make it harder for you to buy things you don’t really need.

Delete the app from your phone

If you have the Amazon app on your phone, you may have perused it many times out of sheer boredom. Sitting in a waiting room or a traffic jam can spur purchases that aren’t exactly wise. By taking the app off your phone or tablet, you’ll be way less likely to make that impulse purchase. If you need to look up a product from your device, use the web browser and don’t login to your account (aka: online window shopping).

Unsubscribe from mailing lists

Are you the type to see a deal you like and immediately buy it? If this is the case, make sure you unsubscribe from Amazon emails. Sometimes those $10-$20 products are too enticing to pass up. The less you see it, the more likely you’ll resist the temptation.

Delete your credit card information

If you’re reading this you’re more than likely an Amazon Prime member and that means you probably have your credit card info saved on the site. This is great for ease of use but it also makes it easier to buy items that are totally not needed. If you want to put a roadblock between you and those purchases, delete that information. Having to input that info every time you want to buy something will hopefully make you change your mind every once in a while.

Create an Amazon Wish List

Now you probably don’t think this is a very valuable bit of advice, but by putting something on a wish list, you’re delaying a purchase. A wish list can help you sort out the things you need, the things you want, and the things you think you want but don’t really care about.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

5 Ways to Stop Spending Money

Stop Me on the Open Hand on a White Background.

Give yourself a waiting period

We all make impulse purchases from time to time. One minute you’re harmlessly surfing the internet, the next minute you’re looking at a $100 pocket-size flashlight and before you know it, it’s on your doorstep two days later. The best solution for this problem is to give yourself a mandatory 24-hour waiting period. Often, the purchase won’t seem like such a great idea the next day. Use this method online and in-store. If shopping on sites like Amazon is a problem, you should definitely read this!

Eat at home

Cooking at home is probably easy for a lot of people, but some days you probably don’t feel like cooking and you may instead decide to venture out. If you feel like you’re in the same boat, just track this for one week. Start on Sunday and keep track of all your restaurant receipts for the week. The following Sunday, go to the grocery store and buy enough for a week’s worth of meals. Guaranteed you’ll see a huge difference in your bank account.

Don’t go off your list

When it comes to meals, planning ahead definitely helps when you’re trying to spend less money. Figure out what you want to eat for the week, make a list of what you need to buy, (remember you can use some ingredients for multiple meals) and don’t buy anything you haven’t planned for.

Leave your credit card at home

You may be thinking it’s not responsible to leave your house without some sort of payment, in case of emergency. You’re right, so take your debit card or cash. If you need to buy something, you can use “present money,” as opposed to using a credit card, which is “future money.” You should have a good idea about the money you have, so hopefully this will keep you from spending more than you should.

Borrow before you buy

You can’t ever go wrong with borrowing items from friends and family. Just don’t go overboard. You probably shouldn’t ask your neighbor to borrow his lawnmower every weekend, all summer long. But if your brother has those Marvel Blu-rays you’ve been wanting, watch his copies and save the money.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

3 Tips for Saving Money During Cold and Flu Season

A young woman lying on her couchEven if we wash our hands and try our hardest to stay healthy, the reality is that winter and cold and flu season are upon us and often can’t be avoided. Even if you’re not feeling well you don’t have to let your wallet feel the pain too. Here are three tips to help save a few bucks when you’re dealing with a cold.

Buy generics

You may lean toward buying the name brand, and more expensive, over-the-counter cold and flu medicines thinking they will work better. Before you do, compare the ingredients with that of the store brand products. More often than not, you will find that they are identical and the generic brand can save you a great deal.

Try home remedies

When your symptoms first show up and before you rush to the pharmacy, be patient and try the remedies you learned from mom. Sometimes a sore throat can be caused by the change in seasons so first try vitamins, hot tea with honey, or gargling with salt water. You may be able to nip it in the bud before it gets worse and you end up at the doctor.

Clip coupons

Remember the last time you checked out at the pharmacy and received a long sheet of coupons along with your receipt? It may seem annoying at the time, but hold on to them for the future. Saving even the smallest amount when you’re not feeling well can make your illness seem just a little bit better.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com