Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this February 2023

Love is in the air – and there’s so much to love this February with a ton of fantastic events happening in a town near you. Check out the list below of free or inexpensive activities to do with your loved ones all month long.

February 2: Cupid’s Love Shop Holiday Shopping Event (Waretown) takes place from 6-9pm at Breakers Kitchen and Tap on Route 9. Proceeds will go to the local food bank. There will be vendors, a giveaway, face painting, balloon twisting, and a character visit. For every item you purchase, you will get 1 envelope for a chance to win a “love ticket” for a pick of a vendor prize. Find out more.

February 4:

Sea Girt Patriot Polar Bear Plunge will take place from 10:30am to 1pm at Sea Girt Beacon Boulevard Beach (9N Ocean Avenue). This event will benefit Jersey Shore area Veterans with home improvement and housing needs through Coastal Habitat for Humanity, and is $55 to participate. Register here.

Fire and Ice Festival (Cream Ridge) takes place from 10am-7pm at New Egypt Flea Market on Monmouth Road. There will be firepits, food trucks, wine from Cream Ridge Winery, shopping, music, character photos, fire juggling, and more. Admission is $5 per person. Learn more.

February 5: Annual Beef and Brew Fundraiser (Highlands) will take place from 3-7pm at Proving Ground Waterfront Dining on Shrewsbury Avenue. An event ticket is $40 and includes a buffet dinner and two beer tickets. There will also be a gift auction and a pipe band. All proceeds will benefit the annual St. Patrick’s Parade. Learn more and register here, or call 732-291-4713.

February 9: Wine and Bundt Cakes at Laurita Winery (New Egypt) from 7-9pm. The event is $35 per person to attend, and includes a flight of four wines paired with mini bundt cakes. Bring your valentine or enjoy a fun night out with friends, ages 21+. Register online at https://lauritawinery.com/ or call 609-752-0200.

February 10: Clue on Stage at Spring Lake Theater will take place at 2pm (matinee) and 7:30pm (evening performance), located at 300 Madison Avenue. Event tickets range from $30 to $40 per person. Don’t miss the experience of everyone’s favorite classic board game coming to life on stage, in a great evening filled with mystery, murder, and laughs. Purchase tickets online, or call 732-449-4530.

February 11:

Asbury Park Valentine’s Bazaar will take place from noon-6pm at the Asbury Hotel on 5th Avenue. Shop incredible local and regional vendors selling goods and gifts handmade with love. There will be food and libations, photo stations, a flower bar, kids activities, workshops and more. Get more details here, or call 732-774-7100.

Brick Township’s 173rd Birthday Party will take place from 3-5pm at Civic Plaza Activity Center on Chambers Bridge Road. The event celebrates the founding of the town with games, music, hand painting and cake, and is free to attend. Registration is required and can be done online here, or call 732-262-1000.

February 14: Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Company’s Valentine’s Day Fundraiser Rose Sale will take place from 10am-7pm at the fire house on Central Avenue. Rose bouquets range from $20 to $35 and will benefit the volunteer fire company. Surprise your special someone with a beautiful bouquet for a good cause! Learn more.

February 18:

Winter Beach Blast (Toms River) will take place at the Ocean County Mall from 1-3pm. Get a taste of summer at this event featuring crafts, interactive tables, dancing, games (including the world’s largest Twister game), and more – for all ages. There will also be music and entertainment from B98.5 radio. This event is free to attend. Call 732-244-8200 or click here to find out more.

Comedy Night and Gift Basket Raffle (Lincroft) will take place at St. Leo the Great Arts and Athletic Center on Hurleys Lane from 7-11pm. Back by popular demand, the Knights of Columbus are presenting an evening of comedy along with a chance to win some prizes! The show features comedian Joe Fernandes, alongside other local professional entertainment. The cost to attend is $30, and tickets can be purchased online here or call 732-908-4386.

February 19: Summer in Winter Carnival (Manahawkin) will take place from noon-4pm at Holiday Inn on Route 72. There will be skee ball, a milk can toss, food such as chicken fingers, fries, popcorn and cookies. There will also be face painters, a balloon artist, photos, a DJ, and so much more! Admission is free. Reserve your spot online.

February 25: Seaside Heights Annual Polar Bear Plunge will begin at 9am with registration at Blaine Avenue. The plunge itself is at 1pm at 500 Boardwalk (Spicy’s). This fundraiser is a great way to support the Special Olympics in New Jersey. Find out more by calling 732-830-3700 or go to https://www.plungeseaside.org/event-information/

February 26: Annual Chili Cookoff (Highlands) will take place from 3-7pm at Quarterdeck at Seastreak on Shore Drive. Tickets are $35 per person and includes the sampling of chili, two beer tickets and two voting ballots. There will be performances by bag pipe bands and Daly’s Irish Dancers. All proceeds will benefit the 2023 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Register to attend here, or call 732-291-4713.

First Financial Business Member Spotlight: Mount Springs Ministries

“First Financial genuinely cares about helping my business, it’s like being part of a family.”

We’re back with another business member spotlight – this time featuring a non-profit organization whose mission is to give back to our local community. Mount Springs Ministries, located in Neptune, NJ – helps those in need by providing food, home appliances, and paying toward rent. The organization has been able to support various individuals and families through donations from the community, local businesses, and by paying out of their own pocket.

Shortly after Mount Springs Ministries began their work, local community members heard about the organization and reached out to help support. “These people were genuinely concerned about how they can make my organization better,” Robert Turner of Mount Springs Ministries shared.

Robert initially came into First Financial for a personal account and then opened a business account for his non-profit organization. Not only was Robert pleased with the service, but he was excited to work with a credit union that truly cares about his business and the work he’s doing for the local community.

Learn more about Robert’s warm and friendly experience banking with First Financial in the video below.

Help support Mount Springs Ministries:

P.O. Box 2072

Neptune City, NJ 07754

848-298-1748 or 804-481-5940

How to join First Financial

If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ, you’re eligible to become a member. Businesses in Monmouth or Ocean Counties and our community partners are also eligible for membership. To join, all you have to do is open a savings account with $5. It’s that easy! Once you’re a member, your immediate family can also sign up. To get started, call us at 732.312.1500, email info@firstffcu.com, or stop by any of our local branches.

How to Avoid Winter Utility Scams

In a recent blog, we shared ways to spend less money on winter utility bills. This week, we’re focusing on winter utility scams. Just this fall, PSE&G released an alert that scammers were impersonating their representatives, noting 1,000 of their customers in 2022 reported being a victim of a scam. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the warning signs and develop strategies to avoid any future scams from happening to you.

What is a utility scam?

A utility scam is when someone pretends to be your utility company to take your money. It can look like a call from your gas, electric, or water company threatening to cut off your service if you don’t pay a bill immediately. It could be an individual impersonating a utility company employee at your door saying they need to repair equipment and that you have to pay on the spot. It could also be someone calling for your information to process a bill.

How to avoid a utility scam

Knowing the signs is the first step in avoiding a scam. If you ever feel uneasy about an email, phone call, or visit from your utility provider – trust your instincts. Chances are you’re getting contacted by a scammer. Here are signs of a winter utility scam to look out for.

  • Threats of disconnecting your service if a bill is not paid for within the hour
  • Requests of an immediate payment through a payment app, gift card, or even Bitcoin
  • Requests for personal or card information
  • In person demands for payments and high pressure door-to-door sales
  • Offers of products or services with drastic, too good to be true savings

Do your research! If you see an offer from a utility company, search them online with words like “scam” or “reviews.” It’s also recommended that you get any offers or savings in writing before accepting or signing a contract.

What to do if you encounter a scam

If you’re contacted by a fake utility company (or suspect you were), contact your current service provider, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and contact your state attorney general. It’s also recommended that you let others know about the scam so they can avoid it too. If you’ve already paid a scammer or gave them your personal information, contact your bank immediately. The FTC also has a handy guide for victims of a scam with advice and resources.

You can count on First Financial to go above and beyond to help you avoid fraud and protect your finances. If you ever see something suspicious, you can always contact one of our financial experts to help you determine if the offer, website, or service is legitimate. Contact our member services department at 732-312-1500 or visit one of our branches.

Get scam savvy and look out for fraud trends by subscribing to First Financial’s monthly newsletter.

Social Media Quizzes Can Lead to Phishing Attacks

We’ve all seen the quizzes, games, and survey questions asked on social media such as what was your first car, your pet’s name, your high school mascot, which character are you most like, and so on.

Personality tests, surveys, and online quizzes ask seemingly innocent questions, but the more information you share online over a public forum like Facebook – the more you risk it being misused. Scammers could do a lot of damage with just a few answers that give away your personal information, especially details that are often used as answers for online security questions.

This type of scam is called phishing, which is the fraudulent practice of sending emails or other messages that appear to be from reputable companies in order to get individuals to reveal their personal information.

What can scammers do with the answers to your online quiz questions?

  • Use your quiz or survey answers to try and reset your online accounts and passwords.
  • Potentially gain access to your bank account once they have the answers to your security questions that you have posted online.
  • Hack into your social media accounts by being able to answer security questions from online quiz responses, and then send malware links to your followers with another shared “quiz.”

Here are some ways you can protect your personal information on social media:

  • Maintain strong passwords and use multi-factor authentication when logging into your social media and online accounts.
  • Keep your social media profiles private – anyone can see what you are posting if you have a public page, and you won’t know who’s looking. Also refrain from listing your personal contact information and where you live on your social media accounts.
  • Steer clear of online quizzes and questions, or don’t answer them truthfully using the same answers you would use in online banking or other related account security questions.
  • When online accounts do require security questions, treat these answers like you would with other secure account passwords. Do not share this information with anyone.

If you suspect an online quiz might be a phishing scam, report it to the FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/

At First Financial, our goal is to help protect our members from scams and identity theft. If you have any concerns or questions about any of your First Financial accounts, please call member services at 732.312.1500 or visit one of our branches.

Article Source: FTC.gov

Ways to Spend Less Money This Winter

If you’re a homeowner, you probably already know staying warm in the winter can be costly. Heating your home itself can make up more than 40% of a utility bill. On top of that, natural gas inventories have dropped this year, causing prices to increase by 300%. Staying warm is important, and luckily there are tricks to cutting those costs without having to completely turn off your thermostat.

Winterize your home

To avoid cold drafts and heat from escaping, winterizing is essential. Don’t get stuck wondering where the cold air is coming from – get ahead of it with this checklist:

  • Seal your windows and install thermal curtains
  • Get a weatherstrip seal to cover door gaps
  • Clean or change your furnace filter
  • Ensure your attic is properly insulated
  • Caulk gaps you find around your windows or on the walls
  • Install a programmable thermostat

Prevent winter damage

Without proper maintenance and preparation, homeowners risk having pricey damage to their homes. Severe winter conditions like snow and ice can lead to strain on your roof and gutters, plumbing problems, flooding in the basement, cracks in the foundation, and even potential fires. This can lead to heavy repair fees and long-term issues. Here’s what you can do:

  • Clear your gutters
  • Hire a chimney sweep
  • Clean your dryer vents at least once annually
  • Install monitoring devices on your water pipes

Use heat alternatives

If you plan on lowering the heat to cut costs, make sure you’re stocked up on blankets, slippers, warm pajamas, and heating pads. A space heater is a good alternative if you’re warming a small area as well. During the day, you’ll want to take advantage of the natural sunlight and keep the curtains open (but close them when the sun goes down).

Cook at home & buy in bulk

Save money on dining out and cook cozy meals at home like soups, pasta dishes, stews, or pot pies. Not only will these meals warm you up, but they’ll also keep the kitchen toasty from using the oven or stove. When getting ingredients for these meals, it’s best to buy in bulk from membership stores. This way you can save on your grocery bill and spend less on gas by reducing the amount you’re driving to the store.

Choose an inexpensive resolution

The post-holiday season is the time of year when many people choose a New Year’s resolution to start fresh. However, many tend to buy into expensive membership programs that they slowly stop using. If your goal is to get fit, try at-home workouts instead of joining an expensive gym (especially if you’re not really going to use it). Are you looking to break your record on good reads? Get a library card and borrow books instead of buying new ones.

No matter what winter brings, the team at First Financial can help you better manage your money and reach your financial goals. Call us at 732.312.1500 or stop by any of our local branches.

Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to First Financial’s monthly newsletter for financial resources and advice.

What to Buy After the Holidays for the Best Deals

Forget Black Friday deals and sales – after the holidays is when you’re going to want to shop for the lowest prices. It’s tempting to buy items for yourself around the holiday season, but waiting out the frenzy could actually save you more money than you’d think. From winter clothes and holiday decorations to electronics and toys, here’s what you should plan to buy after the holidays for the best prices.

Holiday decorations

While you might plan to get all your holiday decorations in October or November, it’s smarter to stock up right after the holidays. Artificial trees, festive lights, ornaments, and more – are going to be marked down by about 50% and might even hit more than that off. That’s why it’s so important to plan ahead for the holidays and know what you need before the season starts. Stores know shoppers may be last minute with their holiday goods, and that they will pay full price in a pinch.

Winter attire

Even though we’re in the midst of the winter cold, the day after Christmas marks the beginning of spring for retailers. Meaning, stores will need to make room for their spring attire and start to reduce prices on winter merchandise to do so. While you might want to invest in a new coat or snow boots ahead of the colder months, it’s advised that you hold off until the holidays blow over.

Electronics

In need of a new laptop, iPad, Kindle, or gaming console? Retailers typically enter what is known as the “open box season” for electronic goods after the holidays. All those gifted tech items that have been returned are leaving stores with a surplus of items they need to get rid of. This presents an opportunity for consumers to buy the items they’ve been waiting for at a lower price.

Toys

In December, kids are eager to put together their wish lists of the year’s most popular toys, but parents should ideally save some of the higher-priced items for after the holidays to get better deals if they can. This presents an opportunity to start teaching your children money management and shopping strategies early on. By enforcing smart shopping habits, you can show your family useful financial skills that can be used throughout their lives.

Travel fare

Travel enthusiasts know winter is the best time to book a low-priced vacation. Typically, consumers are strapped for cash after Christmas and aren’t thinking about financing their next trip yet. That’s why travel, hotel, and airline companies will have lower prices and great package deals right after the holidays. Plus, now’s a great time to stock up on items like luggage and travel accessories too.

The key takeaway here is that prices are typically based on demand. If you’re shopping for something when everyone else is, you can expect to pay full price. If you’re strategic and know what you’ll need in advance, it’s best to shop when others typically aren’t.

If you want to learn more shopping and money-saving strategies, look no further than the experts at First Financial! We’re here to help you better manage your money and reach your financial goals. Call us at 732.312.1500 or stop by any of our local branches.

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