First Financial Business Member Spotlight: Certified Auto Mall 2022

“I refer first financial to everybody!”

Welcome to our First Financial member spotlight – a series where we feature some of our personal and business credit union members who we’ve worked with over the years. First up is Bill Stahnten, the owner of Certified Auto Mall in Howell, NJ.

Bill has been banking with First Financial for all his business and personal needs for the past 10 years. We helped get him set up with lending, checking accounts, credit card processing, and more. As a business owner, it was important for Bill to work with a credit union that could make managing money seamless – and we provided just that. Our team takes pride in making banking convenient and easy, so you can focus on the many other facets of managing your business.

Certified Auto Mall specializes in sales, service, and towing. Their phenomenal reviews speak for the excellent quality, value, and service that they provide. If you’re in the market for a great pre-owned vehicle, be sure to shop Certified – located at 5499 Rt. 9 in Howell.

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 members can sign up too. To get started, call us at 732.312.1500, email, or stop by any of our local branches.

Summer 2022 Newsletter

We hope you are having a wonderful Summer Season! While you’re relaxing at the beach or lounging by the pool – we thought you might enjoy our third quarter member  First Edition Newsletter of the year.

In a continued effort to go green, we’re publishing our newsletter electronically – it can also be found on our website and social media sites. Paper copies will be available in our branches.

The Summer Newsletter features the following articles:

To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

Enjoy the rest of your Summer and wishing all our educator and student members, a great upcoming new school year!

What We Wish We Knew About Finances in College

Being on your own for the first time is one of the most empowering feelings. Whether you’re living in a dorm, an off-campus apartment, or are commuting from home – college life will give you your first taste of independence. And while adulthood may sound glamourous, there’s certainly more responsibility to manage – and that includes your finances.

One of the most important factors of growing into adulthood is how you manage your money. Those habits you make now will have a lasting impact on your financial wellness down the road. Here’s what we wish we knew about money management when we were in college.

Start building credit, but avoid credit card debt

You might be thinking more about classes right now, but after you graduate college – your credit score will have an even bigger impact on your life. Your credit score essentially determines your creditworthiness to lenders when you apply for a credit card or a loan. So, if you have a low score, it will be far more difficult to buy a car or even secure housing in the future.

Start by working on building your credit now. You can do this by applying for a credit card and having your parents added as authorized users (or vice versa). At First Financial, we offer a Visa® First Step Credit Card that’s specifically designed to build or establish your credit.*

Having a credit card is crucial for building credit, but you need to also make sure you’re paying it off in full each month. It can be easier than you think to pile on credit card debt. Some people use their cards like they’re free money, but in reality – you should only be making purchases that you can afford. Otherwise, paying your balance will become more difficult and interest will quickly add up.

Check out our blog post on credit card tips for beginners to learn more.

Always have an emergency fund

Part of adulting is having a back-up plan for when things go wrong. And most of the time, that means having a lump sum of emergency funds in case you have a large medical expense or car repair. As you get older, saving money will become increasingly important – so getting in the habit now is a great way to set yourself up for success.

Open a separate savings account and deposit a small amount of money into it regularly from any paychecks or gifts you receive. The amount you choose should be based on what you can afford. Even starting with putting away $25 per paycheck is a great, because it will add up overtime. The goal is to eventually allocate 20% of your paycheck to your savings, but everyone has to start somewhere!

Utilize student discounts

Companies know college students are on a budget, and many create affordable deals and memberships just for them. Don’t overlook how much money you can save by asking for a student discount. Trust us – you’ll miss it as soon as those perks go away! Many services like Amazon Prime, Hulu, Amtrak, and more offer discounted subscriptions and fees for students. Even insurance companies may offer lower rates for those in high school or college full-time.

While it’s important to balance your classwork while managing your money, you should also prioritize fun and safety. College goes by faster than you think – and the more you learn and enjoy yourself during these years, the better!

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

*APR varies up to 18% for the Visa First Step Credit Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases 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: Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Fees of 3% or $10, whichever is greater; Late Payment Fee of $29, $10 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of $29. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date. 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.


Don’t Get Scammed While Back to School Shopping

It’s that time when all you parents out there are probably shopping online, trying to get the best deals on school supplies and clothing for the upcoming academic year. While you’re busy shopping and trying your best to save money, be on the lookout for scams. Continue reading about some of the most common ones that are out there.

Do your research. Are you clicking and adding to cart on a new website you’ve never used? Before you actually make a purchase, do a quick online search for the merchant’s name. See if anything comes up that mentions a multitude of complaints or lists any scams associated with the company name. You can also check the company’s social media sites to see reviews and comments, as well as look on the Better Business Bureau’s website. If you are browsing around a website and see misspelled words or unclear sentences, this is another indicator that it may be a fraudulent website.

Take precautions with online ads. Don’t think that scammers can’t purchase ads on social media sites. If you see something too good to be true, or that follows the website criteria we just mentioned – it’s best to shop elsewhere.

Review the price and availability. Are you looking for something in particular that you can’t seem to find anywhere else, but seeing it available at a great price on an unknown website or ad? Be leery of this. It could be a trap to lure you to the fraudulent website, and pay for merchandise you’ll never receive – or be able to get your money back.

When checking out, make sure the web browser is secure. How to know a website is legitimate and secure? The web address and payment page URL will begin with https:// and you should see a lock icon at the top. Also, if paying via PayPal through the merchant’s website is an option – take it. This protects your card information and also would help with reimbursement to you should there be any issues with your purchase.

Shop with a credit card. When you can, it’s always better to shop online with a credit card. This protects you if there is a dispute for charges you didn’t approve. If you use a debit card, the funds actually get deducted from your bank account and while you can still file a dispute and get your money back – it may take awhile. Credit cards typically also offer higher daily purchase limits. Read more about our advice on this topic in our credit vs. debit guidebook.

Check the fine print. Before purchasing, be sure to review the merchant’s return policy to make sure you can return items you purchase, if there are any restocking fees, or if you’ll need to pay for return shipping. You’ll also want to read any additional fine print details and see how long shipping might take, as well as where your order is shipping from. Will tracking information be provided and notifications, once your items have shipped?

What do you do if you were scammed? Hopefully you either paid with a credit card or through PayPal. If so, you’ll want to call your credit card company right away, and with PayPal you can open a case online. You should also report the fraudulent website to the Better Business Bureau and FTC websites.

This back to school season, stay safe online and prevent fraud from happening to you! Questions about a scam involving any of your First Financial accounts? Contact us right away.

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Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this August 2022

As the Summer continues to heat up, let’s look at some free and inexpensive activities to cool it down this August. Grab the entire family and explore these fun happenings around you!

August 1: Monday Concert Series (Seaside) begins at 7pm to dusk on the Franklin Avenue Stage at Seaside Heights Boardwalk. Bring a beach chair and enjoy the sounds of the local singers each week. Learn more here, or call 732-830-3700.

August 2:

National Night Out – Check your local police department’s website or Facebook page for fun, safe family activities! Learn more about the origin of the celebration here.

Jenkinson’s Boardwalk Kite Festival (Pt. Pleasant) from 11am-5pm. Enjoy kite flying, music, games, prizes and unforgettable special moments. Bring the entire family out! *Beach entry fees do apply for this event. Get more information here, or call 732-892-0600.

August 3: Free Family Outdoor Movie Night (Freehold) begins at 8:30pm with a showing of the Lion King (G) 1994, at the Hall of Records downtown. Don’t forget to bring your snacks and lawn chairs! Learn more here.

August 5: Princess Sing-A-Longs (Seaside) every Friday in August at Casino Pier from 3pm-5pm, 800 Ocean Terrace in Seaside Heights. Find out more here, or call 732-793-6488.

August 6:

Old Freehold Day at Topanemus Park, will feature a kids zone, food, various vendors, bouncy rides, a petting zoo and more! The event takes place from 12-5pm at 251 Pond Rd. Find out more details here.

Made in Monmouth (Cream Ridge) takes place from 12-6pm at Cream Ridge Winery, 145 Rt. 539. This event is free to attend. Attendees ages 21+ will get to sample wine while shopping for items by two dozen local Monmouth County vendors. Get more details.

August 6 & 7: New Jersey Friends of Clearwater Festival (Red Bank) from 11am-7pm at Riverside Gardens Park. Don’t miss the 47th annual celebration of music and the environment with live music on two stages, vendors, food and free sailboat rides. To learn more, click here.

August 7:

American Girl Doll Tea (Ocean Township) from 1-3:30pm at the Eden Woolley House Yard, 703 Deal Road. Attendees will get to complete a custom-made craft, enjoy refreshments, tour the house museum, and there will also be a doll shop available. Tickets are $30 and include one adult and one child. Call 732-531-6040 or click here for more information.

Argos Farm Sunflower Festival (Lacey) from 3-8:30pm, 1250 Lacey Road. There will be live music, photo opportunities, treats, an obstacle course, corn hole, tractors, and lots more! And of course you can pick your own sunflowers too. Learn more here.

August 8: Free Movie Mondays on the Beach (LBI) starts at 7pm. “The Goonies” will be shown at 7pm at 68th Street Beach in Brant Beach (6805 Long Beach Blvd.). Family Promise of Southern Ocean County will be selling concessions to help support their organization. For more information, click here.

August 10: Free Family Outdoor Movie Night (Freehold) begins at 8:30pm featuring Dora and the Lost City of Gold PG (2019) at the Hall of Records downtown.  Bring your snacks and lawn chairs! Learn more here or call 732-333-0094.

August 11: A Beginner’s Guide to Fishing (Howell) from 10am-2pm at the Manasquan Reservoir. Learn how to rig, bait, cast and hopefully catch your first fish! This event is free to attend. To learn more and register, click here.

August 13: Brick and Central’s Summertime Carnival (Bayville) from 5-10pm at Central Regional High School, 509 Forest Hills Parkway. There will be carnival rides, games of chance, food trucks and lots of fun! Learn more here, or call 732-269-1100.

August 19: Live Music (Downtown Freehold) from 7pm-9pm.  Don’t miss this free event at the Downtown Freehold Gazebo (1 East Main St.)! Learn more here, or call 732-333-0094.

August 22: Women’s Networking Event (Toms River) at Playa Bowls located at 224 Rt 37, from 5pm-8pm. If you are interested in networking with other local women, there are monthly meetings focusing on various topics regarding health and wellness. The topic for 8/22 is essential oils and massage therapy. The cost to attend is $25, which includes a $15 food credit. Learn more and purchase your ticket here.

August 27: Beachwood Community Day from 12-4pm at Birch & Surf Park, 1001 Ensign Avenue. There will be lots of vendors, giveaways, games, inflatables, pony rides, a petting zoo, live music, food and more! Get more information here.

August 28: Free Movies on the Beach (Seaside) begins at 8pm at Carteret Avenue Beach. Boss Baby 2 will be shown on 8/28. Bring your own beach chairs and blankets! Learn more here or call 732-830-3700.

August 30: Hot Halloween (Pt. Pleasant) will take place at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk from 3pm-7pm. This is a free event for all ages, so don’t forget to dust off those costumes to have a great time! Find out more.

August 31: They Might Be Giants (Asbury Park) will be performing at Asbury Lanes, located at 209 4th Avenue. Doors open at 7pm, come out to bowl and get a chance to see a great performance. To purchase tickets, visit or call 732-361-6659.

We hope you all enjoy the rest of summer and wishing all the teachers and students a great new upcoming school year!

Tips for Saving on Summer Energy Bills

Ah, summertime. The time of year when air conditioners are on full blast and families are flocking to the pool or beach. If you haven’t already noticed how hot it’s been this season, then you certainly will when you receive your next energy bill. You don’t need to have a hefty bill just to stay cool. Here are our tips for saving energy in your home this summer while keeping costs down.

Stop hot air from entering your home

You might not realize it, but there’s likely pesky hot hair leaking into your home through windows. About 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost that way. You can stop this from happening by installing window coverings like drapes, shades, plastic films, shutters, awnings, or storm windows.

Heat is also able to make its way into your home through cracks. You may want to consider hiring a weatherization expert to assess your home for air tightness. In the meantime, you can caulk, weatherstrip, and seal air leaks in doors, windows, plumbing, floors, ceilings, and areas where electrical wiring comes through walls. Keep in mind that air sealing is a temporary solution to reduce heat flow and proper insulation will eventually need to be applied.

Adjust your energy use

Rethinking the way you use energy in your home is easier than you think. From lighting and water use, there are so many small adjustments you can make that can have a big impact on your final bill. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Switch to LED lighting – it uses 75% less energy and lasts up to 25 times longer!
  • Take advantage of natural daylight, but keep the curtains closed to avoid getting too hot.
  • Wait to use energy until “off-peak” hours such as early mornings or later at night.
  • Ensure all devices are unplugged when not in use.
  • Wash full loads of dishes and clothes in bulk for better efficiency.
  • Doublecheck that your refrigerator and freezer doors are sealed airtight and try limiting the number of times you open them.

Keep your cooling system up-to-date

Aside from getting regular maintenance, there are other ways to ensure your cooling equipment is running as efficiently as possible.

  • Regularly clean or replace your air conditioner filter or coil.
  • Move your air conditioner away from lamps, TVs, and other appliances that can cause the thermostat to sense heat and run longer than necessary.
  • Ensure furniture and other objects are not blocking airflow from your cooling system.
  • Consider a programmable thermostat that will automatically be set warmer when you’re away and cooler when you’re home.
  • Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you first turn on your air conditioner.
  • Utilize fans and ventilation in rooms with extra humidity, like your bathroom or kitchen.

Saving energy isn’t just a summer consideration – it’s something that can be done all year long. Getting into good habits now will help you reduce waste, improve efficiency, and save money. In the meantime, we hope you’re able to stay cool and enjoy the beautiful weather this summer. Don’t forget to stay hydrated, too!

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