4 Easy Ways to Start Building Your Emergency Fund

Things happen. And then we have to spend money. Hopefully you’ve got some money put away to help out with life’s curve balls. If you don’t, it’s time to start that emergency fund. Here are some easy, pain-free ways you can build up some extra cash.

Start with your tax return: If you’re getting money back at the beginning of next year, a great destination for that cash would be your emergency fund. Start putting a little away now, and when that refund check comes, you can be on your way to having 3 to 6 months’ living expenses saved away.

Start a small direct deposit: Hardly anyone gets a paper check anymore, so you’re probably familiar with direct deposit. Another easy way to start that emergency fund is to open up a savings account and put a small amount into your account every week. If money’s tight, and you don’t feel like you can afford to take too much out of your check each pay period, then it’s okay to start small. $10 a week won’t hurt your wallet too much, but will still help you put away almost $1,000 a year. Add that to your tax return and you’re off to a good start.

Start with coins: You probably have loose change piled up in multiple areas right now. Throw all of that change into a jar and count it up. That loose change might not seem like much, but if all your change goes into your new emergency fund, you’ll be surprised at how fast it adds up.

Start clearing out that checking account: If you’ve budgeted well you may not have much “free” money left in your checking account after the bills have been paid, the groceries have been bought, and the 401k has been stocked. If there’s a good bit still floating around, move a little into your emergency fund. In fact, any time extra money finds its way into your pocket, put it away for emergencies.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

6 Ways to Save on Groceries

Budget and stick to it.

Filet mignon is delicious, but buying too many pricy items could break the bank. There’s nothing wrong with buying what you want, but you have to make it work within a budget that’s comfortable to you. Have the filet one night, and a simple salad the next to enjoy luxuries and a healthy relationship with your money.

Shop sales wisely.

Stocking up on items is a great plan. However, stocking up on items you won’t or can’t use is a waste of money. Also, even if the sale is fabulous, it’s not to your advantage if buying that item now means you break your budget. 15 cans of creamed spinach for $2 is only a steal if you’ll actually eat it.

Switch to store brands.

The quality of store brands varies, but if you’re able to find a product that works for your family for less, you’ll save on every trip to the store. This simple trick will leave more room in your budget for splurges.

Digital coupons.

Many stores now offer savings apps or text coupons. Use them to save on your bill, but use with some caution. Sign up only for those you can regularly use or you’ll be swamped!

Store discount cards.

Discount cards mean savings on everything you buy. For example, Target’s Redcard. Cardholders save 5% on every purchase on everything from grills to electronics to toilet paper. Don’t forget about store savings cards as well – for example, your shopper’s club discount at Shoprite. Those who shop without one of these cards often can’t take advantage of the sales.

Never shop hungry.

We’ve all done it and we’ve seen the consequences to our wallet (and sometimes our waistlines). Even sardines and kale look good when you’re hungry. So instead, eat a snack before you walk down the snack aisle and buy what your brain wants, not your belly!

Check out other money saving grocery shopping tips here.

Article Source: Jennifer Reynolds for CUInsight.com

 

5 Ways to Save on Common Household Expenses

You’re probably always looking for ways to save at home, right? Sure, you can take drastic measures like living in a tiny house, but there are far easier ways to save money. Here’s a look at a few ways you can easily save a few bucks on your common household expenses.

Bundle up.

We’ve all got internet, and some of you have yet to cut the cord on cable services. If you plan on keeping it around, the least you can do is bundle up your services. If you’re paying two different companies for those services, that’s crazy! Check out allconnect.com and find a bundle package that’s available in your area.

Clip those coupons.

This doesn’t sound complicated, and for good reason. Even if your grocery bill is smaller than most, remember that you don’t have to be a family of five to save money at the checkout. Check out the weekly ads at your grocery store and keep those coupons that come with your receipt.

Cancel that gym membership.

That gym membership sounded good around New Year’s but now you’re only going a few times a month – if that. You can save that money and buy a bike and some dumbbells, or even just a new pair of running shoes. Only keep your gym membership if you’re truly committed.

Find cheap entertainment.

Sometimes local theaters have discounted movies on certain nights, or maybe your town has free movies in the park in the summertime. If you don’t have those options where you live, head to the Redbox and make it a double feature for way cheaper.

Make coffee at home.

You’ve probably heard this one before. You like your Starbucks coffee and don’t want to settle for making your own. Grab a Keurig and buy some K-Cups – you can even by Starbucks K-Cups. That 3-4 dollars per day will really add up. In fact, if you start putting that cash away every day, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see what you’ve got a year from now. Next year’s summer vacation may be paid for!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

4 Ways to Save Money on Transportation Costs this Summer

It takes money to go somewhere. Whether you drive or have someone drive you, you’re going to have to budget a portion of your income to help you get around. If you’d like to spend a few less dollars in that area, here are some tips that can help you save money while getting from Point A to Point B.

Drive better.

It takes gas to make a vehicle run, but it takes less gas when you’re driving more responsibly. We all get in a hurry from time to time, but you can improve your gas mileage if you try to speed less. Some cars have an “ECO” light that turns on when you’re cruising at an economically favorable speed. If you don’t have a similar feature, try and stay at a constant speed and not brake/accelerate so much.

Find the cheapest gas.

When you have a need, there’s usually an app for it. GasBuddy can help you find the cheapest gas around and it’s powered by users, so you get to help let others in on the discounts as well. Just try to never let your tank get too low or you won’t be getting many options on where to fill up.

Get a bike.

If you have a short commute, you can solve two problems at once. If the weather is nice and your commute is short, why not leave the keys at home and take your bike to work?

Start a carpool.

Have some coworkers who live nearby? If so, there’s no excuse for not starting a carpool. By taking turns driving each week, you’ll save a lot of gas money over the course of the year. If you like driving too much to be a rider, why not pick up that coworker everyday? They can pay you a flat fee for the ride, you’ll make a few bucks, and they’ll save the wear and tear on their vehicle. Everybody wins.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

3 Bad Habits to Break if You Want More Money in the Bank

Even if you’re doing a good job of saving money, you probably didn’t start as early as you wish you had. If you’re still overspending your budget, there are probably some bad habits you need to break. Here are a few things you should stop doing to save more money.

Waiting for a bigger paycheck before you start investing.

We’ve all probably thought about the things we would be able to do if we made more money. Some of these things make sense, but others are just plain wrong. Investing in your future is something you should never put on hold. Thanks to compound interest, you have a great way to prepare for retirement, and the earlier you start – the better.

Questions about retirement savings 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!*

Not paying attention to spending habits.

If you don’t know where your money is going, you definitely have a spending problem. You should keep track of every dime you spend, so you can find out ways to cut back on unnecessary items and save.

Dipping into savings.

Whether it’s a retirement account or an emergency fund, leave it alone. If you take money from your IRA, you’ll suffer penalties and taxes and it’ll damage the progress you’ve made with your compound interest. If you take from your emergency fund, you’ll be hurting when that emergency arises. Keep this in mind before you spend all that you’ve put away.

*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: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

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