Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this July 2015

Fourth-of-July-FamilyHappy 239th Birthday, America! As we prepare to celebrate our independence this upcoming weekend, there are so many exciting celebrations that you and your family and friends can join in on. Check out the events and activities below that are going on all month long in a town near you.

4th of July Firework Celebrations:

Sunday, July 5: This year, Monmouth Park Racetrack (Oceanport) is throwing the ultimate backyard BBQ – the Red, White & Blue Party, presented by Budweiser. Gather your friends, wear your most patriotic red, white, and blue, and come party Monmouth Park style. There will be tons of food, drink specials, live music courtesy of Rockin’ Thunder 106 and Fun 107.1, games, and so much more. Eating competitions such as whipped cream pie, watermelon, and hot dogs will also take place – plus, a spicy wing eating competition! In addition, Monmouth Park will be celebrating our armed forces and local first responders – many of whom will be on-site celebrating too. So tell all your friends that the biggest summer party is the Red, White & Blue Party – you won’t want to miss it! For more information, call 732-222-5100.

Saturday, July 11: Attention runners: Register today for Belmar’s Annual 5k Run! The race will start at Silver Lake Park at 7:00am where you can run through the beautiful streets of Belmar. You can join as an individual or a team, and there’s even an opportunity for children to join the run as well! For more information, call 732-681-3700.

Wednesday, July 15: Head on down to the sandy shores of Belmar for the 29th Annual New Jersey Sandcastle Contest! The event will be held at Belmar’s 18th Avenue Beach from 8:00 am – 12:00 pm. The competition is free and open to participants of all ages. *Rain date is July 29. For more information, call 732-681-3700 ext. 214.

Saturday, July 18: It’s the Asbury Park Blues & Brews Festival at Bradley Park. Attendees will be able to enjoy music all day long on the Main Stage, plus a biergarten, arts & crafts, food, and of course, access to the beach! This event is free of charge and will be held rain or shine. You won’t want to miss some of the very best jazz and blues music around, which has become an award-winning New Jersey tradition. For more information, call 732-933-1984.

Wednesday, July 22 – Sunday, July 26: Come one, come all to the Monmouth County Fair! The fair will be located at the East Freehold Showgrounds on Kozloski Road in Freehold. Times are as follows: Wednesday-Friday 5-11pm, Saturday 3-11pm, and Sunday, 11am-6pm. Enjoy tons of food, games, and rides as well as the 2015 Home & Garden Competition! For more information, call 732-842-4000.

Thursday, July 30 – Sunday, August 2: Head to the 21st Annual Clam Fest at Huddy Park (Highlands)! This 4-day, action packed event, features the freshest seafood, live entertainment, contests, vendors, crafters, games, rides, and the best part – free entry and parking! For more information, call 732-291-4713.

We hope you’re having a great summer!

12 Ideas to Help You Stick to Your Budget

Businessman holding a clipboard and writing signature

When cravings for pricey dinners out or new outfits hit, it can be hard to stick with your budgeting plan. Whether you’re trying to cut back on spending, or set aside major funds for a life goal like home ownership, it might be time to adopt some new money-savvy habits. These dozen ideas can help you become more disciplined about your spending.

1. Articulate your goals. 

For some people, there’s nothing more appealing than saving for a four-bedroom house with a white picket fence. Others dream of taking a trip around the world or purchasing a boat. Choosing your personal money goals makes it easier to work toward them. If you have a partner, then set aside some time to talk about your individual and joint goals to make sure you’re on the same page.

2. Create a spending plan.

Most people spend about 2/3 of their income on three essentials: food, housing, and transportation. Then there are debt payments, savings, household costs, and optional items like entertainment to consider. Create an annual budget by allocating spending goals for each category – and try to stick to it as best as you can.

3. Resist retailer advertisements.  

Stores are in the business of getting us to spend money, but if we know their tricks, we can better resist the temptation. Rewards cards, enticing smells (like cinnamon around the holidays) and short-term flash sales are a few techniques retailers use; being aware of them can make it easier to just say “no.”

4. Track your spending. ​

Keeping track of every expenditure over a two-week period can offer insight into unnecessary wastes, from restaurant meals to cab rides. You can use a pen and pencil or take advantage of free apps and online tools like Mint.com.

5. Negotiate prices. 

Prices are often a lot more negotiable than we think, even in department stores. If you’ve seen a lower price listed elsewhere, don’t hesitate to ask the store clerk if they can match it. The worst case scenario is getting a “no.”

6. Research big-ticket items online before visiting the store.

Product review sites, coupon code sites and online discount warehouses often provide information and insight into how (and where) to find the best deals. With the proliferation of free shipping codes, the lowest price is often online.

7. Don’t shy away from all debt.

While debt has earned a bad reputation in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, managing credit and even taking on some debt can be useful. Mortgages allow people to buy homes and student loans enable people to go to school. Evaluate your debt decisions by considering the pros and cons carefully.

8. Pay off high-interest rate debt quickly.

Credit card loans are among the highest interest rate debt around, averaging roughly 17%. Paying off credit cards as soon as possible can help reduce fees and interest rate charges that balloon over time.

9. Build a solid credit history. 

Lenders base their decisions on whether or not to loan consumers money, and at what rate – partially on their credit histories. That means consumers with a limited credit history (because they have few or no financial accounts) can have trouble taking on a mortgage. Pay bills on time, and be sure to have some accounts in your name.

10. Check your credit report.

Everyone is entitled to a free credit report once a year; you can get yours at annualcreditreport.com. Reviewing it gives you the chance to fix any mistakes that could be hurting your credit score.

11. Review account statements.

An unfamiliar charge on a credit card is often the first sign of identity theft. Review all mail from financial institutions carefully to make sure your accounts aren’t being misused. If you see an erroneous charge, contact your financial institution immediately.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!*

12. Choose the best credit card for you.  

Credit card benefits vary widely. If you tend to carry a balance, it pays to find the card with the lowest interest rate possible. If you’re a frequent traveler, you might want an airline card or a card that comes with travel insurance. Comparison websites such as NerdWallet.com or CreditCards.com can help you find the best card for you.

First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card has no balance transfer fees, rates are as low as 10.9% APR, and first time card approvals are eligible for 2.9% APR for the first 6 months on purchases and balance transfers!**

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

**APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is 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 Fee. 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 Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. The 2.9% promotional rate will apply to purchases and balance transfers only for six statement cycles from the new account holder’s initial balance and/or initial transfer to the First Financial VISA Platinum card. The balance transfer promotional rate does NOT apply to cash advances.

Article Source: Kimberly Palmer for Money.USNews.com –

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/06/16/12-ideas-to-help-you-stick-to-your-budget

 

3 Debt Payoff Tactics That Should Never Be Used

conceptual image of a piggy  bank with tight belt  isolated on white background

Paying off your debt is an admirable goal and a great move for your financial health. But some ways of doing it might hurt more than they would help. Withdrawing from your 401(k), draining your emergency fund, or ignoring your monthly bills in the name of paying off your credit card debt may seem like good ideas in the moment, but they can have adverse consequences in the long run.  Don’t be tempted by any of them!

Dipping Into Your 401(k) – Not a Good Idea

There are plenty of reasons not to use your 401(k) to pay off debt, but let’s start with the potential financial ramifications. If you take money out early, before age 59½ — not only will that money be taxed at your current income tax rate, but you’ll also pay a 10% penalty.

By using your retirement funds to pay off your credit card debt, you’re potentially setting a dangerous precedent. You’re making tapping into your retirement fund an option for sticky financial situations, which could help you justify withdrawals in the future, even if they aren’t absolutely necessary. Unless you’ve exhausted all other legal options, try to leave your retirement savings alone for your future.

Draining Your Emergency Fund – Also Not a Good Idea

Because of high interest rates on credit cards and lower interest on savings accounts, it isn’t wise to keep a large cash reserve while carrying credit card debt from month to month. However, it’s also not a good idea to drain your cash reserves completely to wipe out your debt. Emergencies happen, and you need to have some savings in place to deal with them because a credit card isn’t an emergency fund.

The amount of emergency savings you should keep depends on your personal situation. As a starting point, everyone should have $1,000. Some people — like small business owners, custodial parents or sole breadwinners — may need more, while a single young professional without a mortgage will probably be fine with a small fund. Any savings greater than what you need for emergencies can be put toward debt, but don’t drain your entire rainy-day fund.

Neglecting Your Current Bills – Really Not a Good Idea

When you’re anxious to get rid of your debt for good, it may be tempting to cut corners elsewhere to pay it off as soon as possible. But ignoring your monthly payment obligations to pay down debt isn’t a sound approach. You’ll likely get hit with fees, and your late payments may be reported to the credit bureaus and remain on your credit reports for seven years.

Instead, pay your bills and minimum debt payments first. Then, provided you have a small emergency fund already, put the excess toward extra debt payments.

The Bottom Line

Pay down your credit card debt aggressively, but don’t hurt yourself financially by withdrawing from your 401(k), draining your emergency fund, or ignoring your monthly bills. Instead, aim to bring down your debt by making more or spending less, and allocating the extra funds to your credit card bills.

Don’t forget about First Financial’s free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

Article Source: Erin El Issa for Nerdwallet, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/tips/debt-payoff-tactics-recommend/

“Where has your First Financial Visa Platinum Credit Card taken you?” Photo Contest

VisaCCPictureContest
We want to see where your Visa Platinum Credit Card has taken you! Share your photo with a short description of where you used your Visa Platinum Credit Card from now until July 6th, 2015 to any of our social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Please post only one photo to only one of our social media pages – multiple photos do not earn extra entries. Winner will be announced on July 7th, 2015 and will receive a $50 Visa Gift Card and soft cooler filled with travel sized items. If you don’t have a Visa Platinum Credit Card, click here to apply today!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at 866.750.0100, email us at
info@firstffcu.com, or stop into any First Financial branch!

*To be entered, follow First Financial on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Participants can post a photo on First Financial’s Facebook or Twitter page, or can post a photo on their Instagram and tag @firstfinancialnj using #MyFFVisaTravels. Posted photo should be from a trip that the participant used a First Financial Visa Platinum Credit Card on. Picture could be from a previous vacation within the last two (2) years as long as a First Financial Visa Platinum Credit Card was used during the trip. Enter on or before 7/6/15 at 11:59pm. One (1) photo will be chosen at random on or about 7/7/15 and the winner will be notified by the Marketing Department. Winner must be able to pick up their prize in a First Financial branch. No purchase necessary to enter or claim prize. You must be 18 years or old to enter. One entry per person. See credit union for details.

 

7 Benefits of a Credit Union Credit Card

FFNJ%208160%20m%20platinum%20card%20designs3-resized-600Here are seven reasons why consumers should consider using a credit union credit card:

1. You’re a member-owner. When you join a credit union you are a member-owner, not a customer, and this means you have the privilege of voting for the board of directors – volunteers who help lead the credit union.

First Financial Hosts its First LIFE™ Financial Reality Fair for Students at Lakewood HS

Press Release

LIFE Fair Housing Table and Wheel

Pictured above: Students from Lakewood HS spin the LIFE™ wheel and choose housing options.

Wall, N.J. – On May 20, 2015, First Financial Federal Credit Union held the first LIFE™ (Learning Independent Financial Education) financial reality fair event for the students at Lakewood High School. While the credit union has hosted financial reality fairs in the past, this fair has been revamped and is specifically sponsored and developed by First Financial. Approximately 160 sophomore, junior, and senior students participated in this hands-on version of the “game of life,” during which they were required to make on-the-spot financial decisions.

Dress for Success

Above: Dress for success table with career wardrobe options.

The LIFE™ Fair consists of a full day hands-on experience where students, after identifying their career choice and starting salaries, are provided a budget sheet requiring them to live within their monthly salary while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, and food. Once the students visit all the booths, they balance their budget and sit down with a financial counselor to review their expenses and get a “financial reality check.”

Getting ready for the real world - ties

Above photo: Students learn how to tie a tie, along with gaining resume writing and interviewing advice.

In regard to the school’s experience with their first ever LIFE™ Fair, Assistant Principal Major Finklin stated, “What an amazing experience for our students! The LIFE™ Fair afforded our students an opportunity to demonstrate skills they learned through our financial literacy curriculum and apply that knowledge in a fun and engaging way. We are extremely grateful to First Financial for providing financial counselors and other volunteers who helped our students better understand the real world financial concepts that they will utilize for the rest of their lives.”

LIFE Wheel

Above: The LIFE™ wheel.

While the LIFE™ Fair was certainly full of temptations, the students had to spend their money wisely while being able to save and budget themselves for the future – while also enjoying everything life has to offer. First Financial President and CEO, Issa Stephan, concluded, “Our mission for our first LIFE™ Fair was to help the students understand the value of money and how to manage their money, so as they grow as an adult they’ll become more financially responsible. Our credit union puts a high priority on financial education, after all – that’s how First Financial began 79 years ago, with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park.”

Additional photos from the event can be seen on First Financial’s Facebook page. To inquire about or set-up a LIFE™ Fair for a Monmouth or Ocean County, NJ school or business – please contact the Business Development Department at 732.312.1421, 732.312.1426, or email business@firstffcu.com.

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About First Financial Federal Credit Union:

First Financial Federal Credit Union (formerly Mon-Oc Federal Credit Union) is a not-for-profit financial cooperative whose goal is to provide the highest level of quality products and personalized services while maintaining financial integrity and stability.  Our vision is to be a long-term financial partner with our Members. While First Financial has a highly trained, professional staff using the latest technology, we also pride ourselves on our personal touch. Unlike huge banking conglomerates, policy setting and overall strategic direction of First Financial are overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of credit union members. The credit union is federally insured by the NCUA. For more information on First Financial, visit www.firstffcu.com.