Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this October 2014

Family HalloweenOctober is a “spooktacular” month full of fall festivals, gorgeous scenery, Halloween-themed activities, and tons of places to pick pumpkins and fresh produce to enjoy this wonderful season. Enjoy the last month of outdoor activities before the winter weather rolls in, and take advantage of these free and/or inexpensive festivities that are right here in Monmouth & Ocean counties!

Saturday, October 4: Join in on “Hollowgraves Haunted Manor,” New Jersey’s spookiest attraction at Keansburg Amusement Park! Families can enjoy rides, food & drink specials, costume contests and more throughout the day. For more information, call 732-495-1400.

The feel-good spirit of Highlands’ 14th ANNUAL Oktoberfest is modeled after the traditional Munich, Germany Oktoberfest with an emphasis on eating; drinking and being merry while providing something for everyone. Authentic German food, live music, dancing and other great entertainment will be part of the Highlands’ Oktoberfest celebration taking place in Veterans Park from 2-9pm. Admission and parking is FREE - the rain date is October 5th from 12-8pm. For more information, call 732-291-4713.

Last year The New Jersey Zombie Walk proved to the world that the Jersey Shore lives, breaking a Guinness World Record for gathering 9,592 “undead” zombies! Are you ready to stumble the streets of Asbury Park in the name of a zombie’s favorite thing….BRAINS? This year it’s Zombies vs. Brain Cancer! The 2014 New Jersey Zombie Walk will kick off “GREY MATTERS,” a campaign that spreads awareness about brain cancer. For times, details, facts, and registration visit the link above. For more information, call 732-775-7676.

Friday, October 10 & Saturday, October 11: Head on down to Allaire Village (Allaire State Park, Farmingdale) from 7:30-9pm for an interactive adaptation of the classic ghost story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” with Neill Hartley. The special program will be held in the Allaire Chapel for just $15 per person. Advanced purchase recommended! For more information, call 732-919-3500.

Saturday, October 11: Ocean Grove’s Fall Festival and Craft Show is now a newly expanded, all-day street fair featuring over 180 arts and crafts vendors displaying and selling their wares just in time for the holidays. There will also be the live music of Jo Wymer from 11am-1pm and Chuck Lambert’s Blues Band from 1-4pm. The event includes FREE admission and a variety of food offerings, sidewalk sales, pumpkin painting from noon-3pm at The Starving Artist, and a close-up view of a fire truck and ambulance for the children. Come experience autumn in a small town – open to the public, rain or shine from 10am-4pm. For more information, call 732-774-1391.

Saturday, October 11 – Sunday, October 12: The 16th Annual Keyport Screamin’ Country Jamboree will turn downtown Keyport into a buzzing festival with live music, delicious food and a vast variety of vendors from 11am-6pm. With a Rockabilly twist, this street festival promises a fun and exciting shopping experience for all ages, families and friends – an event not to be missed! In its 16th year, the event is well loved and established in the Keyport community and surrounding areas, and is FREE admission to all. For more information, call 732-739-5138.

Friday, October 17-Saturday, October 18 (and Fri., 10/24 and Sat., 10/25): Get ready to scream on Allaire Village’s Haunted Hayride. Take a trip through the backwoods full of ghouls, ghosts, zombies and more. Rides start at 6pm and admission (includes Hayride and Village) is $15/Adult, $10/Children under 12 (group rates available for 25 people or over). Purchase tickets in advance by visiting the link above. For more information, call 732-919-3500.

Sunday, October 18: Monmouth County residents can go green and have the opportunity to get rid of old documents and confidential files safely at Shred Day! Stop by anytime between 9am-1:30pm at Freehold Township’s Town Hall – open to the public and FREE to enter. For more information, call 732-683-8686, ext. 6721.

Saturday, October 25: Dress up the kids for Ocean Grove’s Halloween Parade! The event is FREE to the public and children of all ages can strut their costumes to all parade-goers. Parents, don’t forget to bring your camera to capture these moments! There will be prizes for best-dressed children and pets, and the parade will be held in Firemen’s Park at noon followed by trick or treating downtown.  For more information, call 732-774-1391.

Friday, October 31: Kids can start their trick-or-treating this Halloween at the Jackson Premium Outlets! Costumed children 12 and under are invited to trick-or-treat at participating stores from 5-8pm. Visit the Information Center where they will provide candy and treats while supplies last. For more information, call 732-833-0503.

If you’re looking to get your “scare” on, click here to view a list of the best haunted and spooky activities throughout New Jersey. For other Jersey Shore fall events and activities, click here. ENJOY!

Receive 2% Cash Back When You Finance Your Auto Loan Through the End of 2014!


When you finance your Auto Loan with First Financial, you will be eligible to receive 2% cash back for a limited time!

Program details include:

  • 2% cash back in the form of a check, issued after the first auto loan payment is made.*
  • Cash back can be used to purchase gas, or use however else you wish!
  • 2% cash back minimum of $100, and maximum amount of $1,000.
  • Minimum Auto Loan amount eligible for participation is $10,000 – which can be a refinance or new Auto Loan.

 Apply online by clicking on one of the links below:

Enter promo code 2% Cash Back on your online application in the Comments section on page 3 of your online application, in the Loan Information section.

Plus – regardless of if you purchase a new or preowned vehicle, our Auto Loan rates are the same! We also invite you to check out our free online car shopping and research tool, AutoSMART and calculate your future car payments in advance using AutoCalcubot.

If you have additional questions, please stop into any one of our branches and speak to a representative or call us at 866.750.0100, Option 4 for the Loan Department.

Happy Car Shopping!

*Offer valid from 10/2/14 – 12/31/14. Cash back amount will be 2% of the approved First Financial auto loan amount, $100 minimum and $1,000 maximum, payable after the first loan payment is made and within 30 days after receiving the title with the perfected lien showing First Financial FCU as lien holder. Minimum loan amount eligible for participation is $10,000 and can be a refinance or new auto loan. All cash back checks must be picked up at the nearest First Financial branch location. This prize or a portion of this prize may be income reportable to the IRS on 1099-MISC and requires completion of a W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification form. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.


How to Build Credit if You Have a Small Income

Building and maintaining a good credit score is one of the best moves you can make for piggy bankyour financial health. It might seem intimidating at first – the credit scoring system is definitely complex – but when it comes time to apply for a mortgage or other loan, you’ll be happy you made building a solid score a priority.

How does the picture change if you make a small income? As it turns out, not much. You don’t need to be a Rockefeller to achieve good credit. Take a look at the details below to learn how to build a great score, no matter how large or small your paycheck is!

First, know what makes a good score.

Before digging into specific recommendations, it’s important to understand the factors that affect your credit score. The FICO scoring model – which is the most widely used credit scoring system in the United States today, takes a lot of variables into account to create your score. These include:

• Payment history
• Amounts owed
• Length of credit history
• Mix of credit accounts
• Recent credit inquiries

You’ll notice that income is not one of the factors used to determine your credit score. This means that earning a big salary doesn’t equate to earning a high credit score. Even if you have a small income, you can succeed at scoring high, as long as you’re using the right strategies.

Need to get your credit score in check? Try First Financial’s First Score Program, a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at or call 866.750.0100, Option 4 to get started.

Obtaining credit is an important first step.

It’s empowering to know that the steps to good credit are about financial behaviors, not the size of your bank account balance. But what exactly should you be doing to get there?

Above all, it’s important to start using a credit account responsibly as soon as you can. Proving to potential lenders that you can be trusted with borrowed money is the best way to start building your credit momentum.

One of the easiest ways to do this is with a credit card. If you’re not earning much money, you might be shying away from plastic to avoid the temptation to overspend. But this may in fact stall your efforts to build good credit.

If you’re not interested in getting a credit card, obtaining another type of loan to establish a credit history is a good idea. You might have trouble getting approved if your income falls below the lender’s requirements. In this case, offering a big down payment or securing a co-signer might help you qualify as well.

Did you know First Financial has a lower rate VISA Platinum Credit Card, great rewards, no annual fee, and no balance transfer fees? Apply today!*

Keep up with good habits.

Once you’ve gained access to credit, keeping up with good habits is essential to building your score further. Specifically, you should focus on a few important behaviors.

The two most important factors the FICO score looks at are:

  • Payment history – Are you making the minimum payment required on time every time? This accounts for 35% of the FICO Score.
  • Credit Utilization – Are you keeping the balances on revolving credit (typically credit cards) below 30 percent of your available credit? This accounts for 30% of the FICO Score.

In short, paying your bills on time and in full are the two most powerful things you can do to create and hold onto a good credit score.

And just to be clear: Neither requires a big income. Spend and borrow within your means, and it will be easy to manage your payments properly.

The takeaway: Those with small incomes have the same opportunity as their high-earning counterparts to build good credit.

Use the tips above to get started today!

*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. 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.

Article Source: Lindsay Konsko of NerdWallet

Shoppers Beware: Retail Credit Card APRs Average 23%

Open WalletBefore you take the bait from the cashier and sign up for a new store credit card, be sure to read the fine print first.

Retail credit cards boast average annual percentage rates of 23.23%, according to a analysis of cards from 36 of the nation’s biggest retailers.

That’s more than eight percentage points higher than the average credit card APR of 15.03%.

“Retailers dangle incentives like 15% off a purchase to encourage consumers to sign up for their credit cards,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at “But the much higher interest rates far outweigh the one-time discount for anyone who carries a balance.”

If you’re confident you will never miss a payment and you think the retailer’s rewards program would provide you with savings, then it could be a fine deal. But if there’s even a small chance you’ll carry a balance, you could end up paying big money in interest as a result.

Customers with a 23.23% APR credit card, for example, would be hit with $840 in interest if they carry a $1,000 balance and only make minimum monthly payments — and it would take them 73 months to repay that balance. That compares to $396 in interest for the average credit card.

Jeweler Zales’ store card topped the list, with a rate of up to 28.99%, Office Depot and Staples both offer cards with rates as high as 27.99%, and Best Buy credit cards come with rates ranging between 25.24% and 27.99% depending on your credit.

Need to transfer a high rate credit card balance without any balance transfer fees, to a lower rate card? This is possible at First Financial, where our credit card rates are as low as 10.9% APR and we have no balance transfer fees!* And for a limited time – if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.**

If you have a great deal of debt, we also have a free, anonymous online debt management tool called 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.

*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. 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.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.

Article Source: Blake Ellis for CNN Money,


IRS Warning About Phone Scams

scamThe Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) continue to hear from taxpayers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS.

Based on the 90,000 complaints that TIGTA has received through its telephone hotline, to date, TIGTA has identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams.

“There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”

Additionally, it is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS:

  • Never asks for credit card, debit card, or prepaid card information over the telephone.
  • Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations
  • Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.

Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.

Other characteristics of these scams include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.
  • You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief), that also fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to

For more information or to report a scam, go to and type “scam” in the search box. More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website,

Learn How to Put Pinterest & Instagram to Work for Your Business this October 2014

Should-My-Company-Use-Pinterest-or-InstagramAre you interested in getting your business noticed via Pinterest and Instagram? If the visual aspect is missing from your business marketing, utilizing these two top-trending social media sites will enable you to do that and for FREE! Instagram helps build engagement for business consumers while Pinterest will help drive your sales. For more tips and tactics to get you started, attend our upcoming seminar with social media consultant, Deborah Smith!

This seminar will cover the basics of:

  • Tools for creating eye catching images
  • How to optimize your boards, pins, and Instagram posts
  • Engagement tactics – building your community
  • Promoted pins and sponsored Instagram posts – what paid opportunities are coming
  • Integrating Pinterest and Instagram with your website and social channels

Participants will have plenty of time to ask questions, share experiences, and network with peers. And they’ll leave with real-world insights and knowledge that they can put to work immediately, to help their business or organization succeed.

Join us on Wednesday, October 8th at 8:30am for networking and 9:00am for our How to Put Pinterest and Instagram to Work for Your Business Seminar presented by Deborah Smith, owner of Foxtrot Media, LLC. The seminar will be held at First Financial’s Corporate Office located at 1800, Rt. 34 North, Building 3, Suite 302, Wall NJ. Space is limited – Register today! *This seminar is $10 to attend.

Register Now!

Deborah Smith is the owner of Foxtrot Media, LLC a Social Media Consulting and Management company. Deborah got her start in social media over 12 years ago when she launched an E-Commerce business which operated a network of websites serving the Nanny Industry. She began employing email groups, chat rooms and online message boards as marketing and networking tools well before the term “Social Media” was ever conceived. When the new tools like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn emerged, Deborah was an early adopter and soon mastered these tools for her own business. In 2007, she launched her first blog,, a collaborative food blog with over 35 contributors throughout the state. JerseyBites now welcomes over 25,000 visitors per month and was recently named content partner to for food news in New Jersey. Deborah was also recently named one of 100 Constant Contact local experts in the country. She is an experienced corporate trainer and social media consultant for businesses throughout the tri-state area.