11 Ways You Can Save On Your Wedding Day

If you’ve ever hosted a wedding of your own or attended a wedding, you definitely know how much it can potentially cost. From venues to flowers to photography, the expenses add up quickly. And considering that it’s actually only one day of your life, the cost of a wedding can be very daunting.

While weddings can get really expensive, there are ways to cut back without sacrificing the experience for you or your guests. Being strategic about how you stick to your budget can significantly impact your costs in a good way. Here are 11 tips to help you save on your wedding day:

Venue

1. Date: Flexibility is key when you choose the big day. Wedding season typically runs from May through October, with some venues extending peak season to November. Pricing for peak season is substantially more expensive – as much as 50% for some venues. Having your wedding outside of these months, particularly the winter, will save you quite a bit. Also, be sure to ask about July and August. Some venues will consider this off-peak because many couples prefer not to get married in the heat of summer. If you’re having your ceremony and reception indoors where there is air conditioning, outside heat won’t really matter.

You should also consider a Friday or Sunday wedding, instead of a Saturday. Many couples are also opting for weekday weddings as well, particularly a Thursday, if many of their guests are taking time off and flying to the destination anyway. Lastly, Saturday brunch weddings are becoming more and more popular. Afterwards, the bride and groom can take the after-party elsewhere while the night is still young.

2. Location: Location is also a big one. The cost of a venue can be astronomical in big metropolitan cities, but you can save a lot if you move the wedding just a few miles out of the city. This could be a great option if there is public transportation available or most of your guests are driving.

3. Guest List: Lastly, if you can’t do anything about the date or location, it’s time to cut the guest list. Think carefully about who you really want to be spending your big day with you.

Food and Drink

4. Bar: The bar is arguably the most important part of your wedding, but also one of the most expensive options. You can cut down on liquor costs by only serving a select few beverages. Many couples are also opting for beer and wine only or a cash bar these days, as mixing unlimited alcohol can get expensive and can potentially make some guests a bit too rowdy.

5. Cocktail hour & Reception: Many couples overdo it with the amount of food available at the cocktail hour and reception. You can have your cocktail hour serve only a few hor d’oeuvres, and your reception two courses instead of three (or cut down on your meal selection options – give your guests two choices instead of four). Your guests won’t even notice, and you could potentially save big bucks.

6. Cake: A cake is definitely a symbolic part of your wedding, but not everyone cares for it (or maybe they are too full to eat it after cocktail hour and dinner). To save, you can choose a smaller cake and have other desserts for your guests. Many couples are also going for cupcake towers instead, which are fun and much less costly. If you must have a large cake, minimize the decorations to save yourself some money.

Invitations and Decorations

7. Flowers: It’s crazy how much fresh flowers can cost, especially when vendors seem to automatically double the price when they know it’s for a wedding. Replace flowers with other decorations like candles or framed pictures. Also, look for flowers that are in season and limit yourself to two different types to save even more.

8. Favors: The best way to save on favors is to DIY. Gather the bridesmaids (and even groomsmen), to put together small treats for your guests. Candy is the easiest. It’s simple and something your guests will enjoy.

9. Invitations: Invitations and programs from a printer can cost several dollars each. Consider printing them yourself on nice cardstock if possible. Some couples are also going digital these days and sending invites via email.

Photography and Entertainment

10. Photography & Videography: You definitely want to remember your big day with photography and videography, but these services aren’t cheap. However, most photographers and videographers will work with you to find a package that fits your budget, so don’t hesitate to ask. Many will also give you a nice discount if you book your engagement photos, wedding photos, and videography together. Don’t be afraid to negotiate!

11. Band: Bands can really take your wedding atmosphere up a notch, but they also cost considerably more than a DJ. If you really want a band, consider looking locally. Many local up and comers would love the exposure and won’t charge as much as a typical wedding band.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun. Planning a wedding can be overwhelming and stressful – but it’s your big day! Take the time to enjoy your first day as a married couple.

Getting married in the Monmouth or Ocean County NJ area? Apply for a Financial Helper Wedding Loan from First Financial. We’ll help you cover the expense of your big day with a low interest rate!*

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rates are subject to change. Maximum loan is $25K and maximum term is 60 months. Not all applicants qualify, subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a 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. See credit union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: Connie Mei for moneyning.com

Are You Smart About Smartphone Financial Security?

All of us are creatures of convenience, and that extends to our finances. It’s not enough to access online banking, budgeting tools, and retailer websites from home — we want them on our mobile devices, too. But, just as browsing the web from home can expose our finances to ever-evolving cyber threats, using mobile apps can too. Though personal devices may seem more secure than a public computer, hackers can still find ways to get into our phones and steal sensitive financial information.

Are you smart about smartphone financial security? If not, following these tips is a good place to start.

1. Use Those Optional Security Measures Like Touch ID

Are you someone who’s been stubborn about setting up a passcode or Touch ID to open your phone? It’s a little less convenient, but the extra step is also the first line of defense for your personal information.

2. Add Extra Security Measures to Financial Apps

Besides your smartphone’s overall security, it’s important to protect access to financial information on your phone housed in banking account apps, account linked financial management apps, and digital wallets. Setting up additional features like passcodes (or Touch ID) for each financial app provides another line of defense if your phone is lost or hacked. As with all personal accounts, choose unique passwords, update them regularly, and keep them in a secure location (a.k.a., not in your phone!).

Some smartphones also allow you to at least partially block Internet access and ad tracking mechanisms on a per-app basis to protect your information from outside threats.

3. Know Your Smartphone’s Vulnerabilities

Whenever there’s a major data breach, tech companies inform the public of who could have been affected where, when, and how. There’s similar information available on which smartphone operating systems, browsers, and other tools have been (or could be) vulnerable to various types of cyber threats and attacks. You don’t have to be super tech-savvy to search for your phone’s systems and look at the risk scale and number of vulnerabilities. You can also check out consumer-focused technology blogs and news sites.

4. If You’re in the Market for a New Smartphone, Consider Security Features

The older your phone is, the less security features it’s likely to have and the more vulnerable it is to hackers. If you’re already due for a new smartphone, make security a priority. Some features will be standard, but smartphone security differs widely based on model and operating system (OS). Check for reviews and explanation of security features, and choose the level of security that best fits the way you use your smartphone.

A simple (and free) thing you can do in between upgrades is to promptly install any system updates. Some of them are just for new features or speed, but others could be correcting security vulnerabilities.

If at any time you feel any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised due to a smartphone or online vulnerability, contact our Member Relationship Center right away at 732.312.1500. If your First Financial credit or debit cards were compromised in a scam, call the 24/7 toll-free number on the back of your card to report the incident and replace your card. All important phone numbers for members can be found on our website: https://www.firstffcu.com/contact-us.htm

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

How Much Should You Tip?

Tipping. Conversation about the topic can spark lengthy debates with opinions ranging from staunch support to extreme opposition. Some consumers appreciate the opportunity to reward the service industry for a job well done. Others feel the practice places an unfair expectation on the patron, inflates the overall cost of goods or services, and leads to increased employee turnover.

Historically, the American tipping model allows wait staff at upscale restaurants to earn a comfortable living, but those working at smaller establishments often struggle to make a livable wage. The wide disparity in earning potential stems from a 1966 law that established a federal minimum wage for tipped employees. The current minimum wage for tipped employees? $2.13 an hour. If that figure sounds shocking, consider the fact that it hasn’t changed since 1991.

Should the federal minimum wage for tipped employees be raised? Perhaps. There are advocates on both sides of the issue. Are there alternate ways to create a more equitable earning system? Absolutely. Tipping is standard practice in restaurants across the country, but the service industry extends beyond the dining room walls. And while 15-20% seems to be the going rate for a restaurant tip, you may be wondering how much to tip in other areas.

Here are a few general rules, courtesy of DealNews, to help you tip with confidence:

Waiter/Waitress: 15-20% minimum
Tipping Tip: We’ve already covered this one, but here’s an additional reminder – if you use a coupon or discount promotion, be sure to tip on the original price, not the discounted total.

Food Delivery Driver: 10% (or $2 minimum)

Tipping Tip: If you live far away from the restaurant (20-30 minutes), consider adding a few dollars extra to help the driver cover the additional gas expense.

Hairstylist/Barber: 10-15% for standard service, 15-20% for exceptional service

Tipping Tip: It’s hard enough to find a hairstylist you like. When you finally do, tipping them well can not only show your appreciation –  but help establish a great relationship going forward.

Tattoo Artist: 10-20%

Tipping Tip: Like most purchases, this one can vary based on the size and detail of the tattoo you choose. As for the exact amount, if you’re pleased with the artist’s work and you have any thoughts of becoming a return customer, the goodwill you build with a solid tip is well worth it.

Bartender: $1 per drink or 15% of the bill

Tipping Tip: You can take a wait-and-see approach by tipping when you close out your tab, or you can increase your odds of getting good service by tipping ahead of time.

Car Wash Attendant: $2-3 for a basic wipe down, $5-10 for more extensive washes

Tipping Tip: If you’re going to spend money on a quality car wash, investing a few extra dollars in a tip will help you ensure your attendant pays attention to the little details that make your car shine like it should.

Uber/Lyft Driver: $2-3 for a standard trip, $5-6 for extended trips

Tipping Tip: Along with lowering their fares, most ridesharing apps have added a tip option. This should save you from navigating from the whole “So sorry…I don’t have any cash on me” conversation.

If you find yourself in a situation other than those listed above, and you’re unsure about the standard tipping rate, it’s usually safe to assume that 18% of your total bill is a quality tip. It may not qualify you as a high roller, but you certainly won’t have to deal with dirty looks on your way out either.

3 Free Apps That Cook Up Savings

At some point, we all get tired of our go-to meals. For a family, going out to eat (or ordering in), two to three times a week can really add up.

In 2017, according to restaurant industry analyst firms Acosta and Technomic, 51.8% of U.S. food spending went toward eating out. The average amount spent on food prepared outside the home kitchen per month totaled $144. Millennials tended to spend more ($202 a month), with 42% of their total monthly food budget allocated to eating out.

Who doesn’t enjoy someone else doing the cooking and the easy clean-up? Our wallets, that’s who.

Still, gazing into your refrigerator and pantry, trying to figure out a new spin on the same old chicken, can be a real struggle.

Check out the following three free recipe apps:

SideChef: There are step-by-step voice instructions! No going back to check the next step. There are also many recipes to choose from, as well as fun food facts and videos.

Tasty: This app will help anyone believe cooking is easy and they can make anything. The short videos are fun and easy to duplicate. You can even get recipe recommendations based on the time of day, day of the week, and major holidays.

Yummly: It’s easy to tailor searches based on your specific needs whether dealing with food allergies, vegetarian dishes or kid-friendly meals. The app learns your likes and dislikes over time and it shows in the recipe recommendations.

Happy cooking (and saving money at the same time)!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

5 Things to Consider Before Signing Up for a Store Credit Card

Many times, you’re at a store paying for your items when the cashier asks, “would you like to save 20% off your purchase today by signing up for our credit card?” Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it? You’re inclined to say yes, fill out the easy application and have the instant gratification of saving on things you were willing to pay full price for. Is it too good to be true though?

Retail stores have been tempting customers for years to sign up for credit cards with discounts, free gifts, and special promotions. While it may seem like a no-brainer to sign up and get instant savings, there are longer term implications that can affect your finances for years to come.

Make sure you consider these five important things before signing up for a store credit card:

Your Credit Score May Be Impacted

Whenever you sign up for a credit card, especially one from a retail store, your credit report will most likely be pulled. While that doesn’t seem like a big deal, it might actually have a negative effect on your credit score. This is what is called a ‘hard pull’ which happens usually when a financial institution, like a credit card company, asks for your credit report. Hard pulls can decrease your credit score by a few points. While it is temporary and usually only stays on your credit report for about two years, it is something to consider, especially if you are applying for any bigger loans (like a vehicle or mortgage) in the near future.

Read and Fully Understand the Terms

When you’re signing up for a store credit card on the spot at checkout, you’re mostly likely not taking your time to read the fine print. But, make sure you fully read and understand the terms and conditions of your new card. Store credit cards are notorious for having very high interest rates and fees, so you should thoroughly consider the terms before signing your name on the dotted line. You don’t want to be stuck paying a high interest rate in the long run. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

Consider the Sign-Up Bonus

The number one reason people apply for a store credit card is because of a special sign-up bonus. Often, stores will offer you a discount on your purchase that day or for a specified period of time. They might also give you free products and other perks. While it feels great to be able to save money instantaneously, you should really consider the sign-up bonus before you commit. While saving 15% on your purchase seems like a no-brainer, is it really that much of a bonus in the long run? In the grand scheme of things, sign-up bonuses are almost insignificant when compared against drawbacks, like interest rates and fees if you are carrying a balance on that store card.

Do Competitive Shopping

Consider your options before you sign up for a store credit card. Every store has different cards and policies and you want to make sure to pick the one that is right for you. If you’re really set on opening a store credit card, look first at the retailer where you spend the most money. You’ll probably get the most return if it has a good rewards and points program. Opening a card at a store you don’t really go to often probably won’t benefit you much. And of course, compare the terms and conditions between all cards.

Take Your Time to Make a Decision

Finally but most importantly, don’t make a spur of the moment decision. Stores will often reel you in with an engaging sales pitch at the register and many customers feel almost pressured into making a decision right then and there. If you’re interested in signing up, ask how long their current promotions and sign-up bonuses are valid for. Also ask for an application to take home for when you’re ready. Many companies will also allow you to apply online. This way, you can take your time to read the fine print and make a decision that is right for you (and your credit).

Store credit cards are very enticing, but they aren’t for everyone. Make sure you understand all the ins and outs of the card before you sign up. Otherwise, you can really do some damage to your credit score and debt levels. Choose wisely!

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards offer benefits that include higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10-day grace period, rewards (cash back or on travel & retailer gift cards), an EMV security chip, and more!*

Click here to learn about our credit card options and apply online today.

 *APR varies when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are 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 Fees. 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 Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this October 2018

It’s officially fall – and October is one of the best and most beautiful weather months in New Jersey. Get the family ready for an action-packed month filled with fun fall and Halloween activities. Check out these free or inexpensive events happening in a town near you!

October 5: Scary Rotten Farms in Brick (Brick Blvd) is holding haunted tours every Friday and Saturday in October starting at 7pm. Don’t miss the carnival of chaos, haunt combo packages and more. Call 732-477-0606 for information or visit http://scaryrottenfarms.com/index.shtml to purchase tickets online.

October 6:

Allaire Village Fall Craft Market, Wall. From 10am to 4pm, artisans and crafters line the winding paths of Allaire’s historic village. Over 70 craft and art vendors, with food service (including the Allaire Bakery), general store, children’s games on the village green, and historic buildings will be open with various blacksmith, tinsmith, carpentry, leather-making, and other interactive demonstrations. $3 per adult (Children 12 and under are free), and FREE Parking! Learn more here, or call 732-919-3500.

Ocean Grove Fall Harvest Festival and Craft Show. From 10am-4pm on Main Avenue, Pilgrim Pathway, and Auditorium Square Park (rain or shine), you’ll see over 90 arts and crafts vendors, sidewalk sales, pony rides, live music, pumpkin painting, and a variety of food.  Learn more by calling 732-774-1391 or at https://www.oceangrovenj.com/

Asbury Park Zombie Walk. From 4-8pm at Convention Hall, don’t miss the largest gathering of zombies in the world! You’ll also enjoy festivities, music along the boardwalk, and a blood red fireworks show along the oceanfront. To start the festive day even earlier, participate in the zombie costume contest on the boardwalk at 3pm to win cash prizes. Learn more by clicking here.

October 7:

Belmar Octoberfest. From 11am-5pm on Main Street and 8th Avenue in Belmar, you’ll get to experience antiques and crafts for sale, performers, a pumpkin decorating contest, a local food court, pony rides, and a kid’s obstacle course and games. Learn more at http://www.visitbelmarnj.com/ or call 732-681-3700 ext. 214

Pier Fest 2018, Long Branch. From 12-5pm in Pier Village, experience live music, vendors, crafters, kids’ activities (inflatables and the fun bus), delicious food, and more. The event will be held rain or shine. See more details at http://www.pierfest.com/ or call 732-245-0412.

October 13: Matawan Day and Fall Festival. On Main Street in Matawan from 12-5pm you’ll see over 120 crafters/artisans, retailers, food vendors, and non-profit organizations. Rain date will be October 14th from 12-5pm. For more information call 732-290-1125 or visit this link.

October 19, 20, 26, 27: Haunted Allaire, Wall. From 6-9:30pm, don’t miss Haunted Allaire Village’s spooky hayrides, story telling, ghost hunting and more! Adult tickets are $15 each and kids up to age 12 are $10 each. Advanced ticket purchase is required. Buy tickets online here or call 732-919-3500 for more information.

October 20:

A Taste of Spring Lake Kitchen Tour. Don’t miss this self-guided tour experiencing the charm of Spring Lake! Sample delicious cuisine from local top chefs. Get inspired by the creative talents of interior designers and stores. The tour takes place between 10:30am-3pm, rain or shine and is a fundraiser for the HW Mountz Elementary School PTA. This event always sells out, so be sure to purchase your tickets in advance at https://www.springlakekitchentour.com/

Boo at the Boardwalk (Jenkinson’s, Pt. Pleasant) from noon to 4pm. Don’t miss trick or treating, crafts, games, a pumpkin patch, beach maze, pumpkin derby and more! Call 732-892-0600 for details or click here. *Additional dates are 10/21, 10/27, and 10/28 also from noon to 4pm.

Oktoberfest at Laurita Winery (New Egypt) from 11am-9pm. There will be food trucks galore, three bands, firepits, family activities, and fireworks at night! $8 per person admission, and under 21 are free. Purchase tickets online at www.lauritawinery.com or call 609-758-8000.

October 27:

Sandy Hook Spooky Walk from 7-9pm at Gateway National Park. Get into the Halloween spirit with a moonlight walk around Historic Fort Hancock, where ghosts have been known to linger. After the walk, participants can gather at Littoral Society headquarters for cider and fall snacks. Call 732-291-0055 for more information and to reserve a spot, or click here.

Trunk or Treat in Ocean County Park (Lakewood) begins at 7pm. Individuals, businesses and non-profit groups decorate trunks for trick or treating in the park. This is a free community event. Prizes will be awarded for the best decorated trunk and for the best costumes. Call 732-506-5122 for details or visit www.oceancountyparks.org

October 28: Long Branch Fall Festival and Pooch Parade. Don’t miss crafters, kids’ costumes and activities, bouncy rides, a costumed pooch parade and more from 11am-4pm in Pier Village. Free admission. Learn more here or call 732-222-0400.