Financial Considerations When Applying for College

There are many factors to consider when applying for college. Not only do you have to find the best fit for you personally, but you also have to incorporate what you can afford. This can be a very expensive and stressful process. However, it’s important to consider the financial aspects of college beyond what’s the best cultural fit.

Things to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Application Fees – Most colleges charge an application fee, which can range from $25 to $100 or more. Be sure to factor in these costs when applying to multiple schools.

Financial Aid – Research the financial aid options available at each school you’re considering. This may include grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and student loans.

Cost of Attendance – Look into the total cost of attendance at each school; tuition, fees, room and board, books, and other expenses. Consider how much financial aid you’re eligible for and how much you’ll need to pay out of pocket.

Living Expenses – Whether you want to live off campus or on, it’s going to cost money either way. If you’re planning to live off campus, be sure to factor in the cost of rent, utilities, food, and other living expenses. These costs can vary depending on the location of the school.

Transportation – Consider the cost of transportation to and from the school, including flights, gas, and parking fees.

Part-time Work – If you plan to work part-time while attending school, research the availability of job opportunities on or near campus and the potential earnings.

Repay Student Loans – If you plan to take out student loans, it is super important to consider the repayment options and the impact they’ll have on your future finances. It may not be something you want to think about now, but it’s imperative to have an idea of what you’ll be paying once you graduate.

Related Article: Financial Tips for Teenagers

Thinking about your child’s future is probably already hectic, but we can work together on figuring out the right financial steps to be taken. First Financial has specific ways of helping our members prepare for their kids, teens, and college grads. You might also want to talk to a financial advisor in The Investment and Retirement Center, about 529 college savings plan options.*

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

*Securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial (LPL), a registered investment advisor and broker/dealer (member FINRA/SIPC). Insurance products are offered through LPL or its licensed affiliates. First Financial Federal Credit Union (FFFCU) and The Investment & Retirement Center are not registered as a broker/dealer or investment advisor. Registered representatives of LPL offer products and services using The Investment & Retirement Center, and may also be employees of FFFCU. These products and services are being offered through LPL or its affiliates, which are separate entities from and not affiliates of FFFCU or The Investment & Retirement Center.

Securities and insurance offered through LPL or its affiliates are:

Fake Jobs, Phony Recruiters: Job Scams are on the Rise

Finding a new job can be a big undertaking. It’s hard to search through countless job descriptions and submit dozens of applications, so when a promising offer comes along – it’s easy to be excited.

But be careful. Fake postings and phony recruiters make up a growing number of scams, known as job or employment scams.

It can happen through email, social media, and on popular job sites. These scammers are generally after two things: your money and/or personal information. You can protect yourself by knowing what to look for.

View this short video to learn more about job scams.

Spotting a Job Scam

Fake jobs that appear too good to be true. In some cases, a scammer may post an opening appearing to be from a real company, promising a tempting salary and great benefits for little experience. Do an online search of the company, the hiring manager, or the recruiter to determine the legitimacy of the job.

Requests for money. If your potential employer asks you to send them money upfront for things like training or equipment, immediately withdraw your application. A legitimate employer will never ask you to pay for a job.

Recruiters asking for compensation. If you are approached by a recruiter asking for compensation in exchange for helping you find a job, there’s a strong chance the alleged recruiter is really a scammer.

Requests for personal information. Job applications tend to require information like your name, contact information, and work experience – but it shouldn’t go much deeper than that. Companies that require a background check will typically wait until much later in the interview process before asking for personal information like a Social Security Number. Similarly, never provide your banking information for setting up direct deposit until after you are hired. A legitimate company will not ask for those details on a job application.

Urgency to hire immediately. Beware of potential employers who show a sense of urgency to hire you immediately or within the same week of the application. They may want you to “seal the deal” by sending money or personal information. This urgency is to get you to act on emotion before you realize the company or job is fake. If the interview process does not include an in-person or on-camera interview, that should also be considered suspicious.

Key Takeaway

To protect yourself from a job scam – research the company and role, and reject any offer that asks for money or sensitive information upfront or promises great pay for little or no professional experience. When it comes to job scams, remember to slow down and ask questions.

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.

To learn more about scams and ways to protect yourself, visit


Zelle and the Zelle related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC and are used herein under license.




Tricks for Trimming Your Monthly Expenses

As we go through life, our expenses tend to increase over time. From rent to groceries to utilities, it can feel like we’re constantly shelling out money each month. Fortunately, there are many ways to cut back on expenses and save some money. Here are some of our top tricks for trimming your monthly expenses.

Create a budget

Creating a budget is one of the most important steps you can take to trim your monthly expenses. Start by listing out all of your monthly expenses – such as rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation costs. Then, determine how much you’re spending in each category and see if there are any areas where you can cut back.

For example, you may be able to reduce your grocery bill by meal planning and buying in bulk. Or, you may be able to save on transportation costs by carpooling or taking the train or bus instead of driving your car.

Negotiate bills

Many people assume that their bills are set in stone, but that’s not always the case. If you’re looking to trim your monthly expenses, try negotiating your bills with your service providers. This can include your cable or internet provider, your phone company, or even your landlord.

Ask for discounts or promotions that may be available, or see if you can switch to a lower-cost plan. You may be surprised at how much you can save just by simply asking.

Cut back on subscriptions

From streaming services to gym memberships, we often sign up for subscriptions that we don’t use regularly. Take a look at your monthly subscriptions and see if there are any that you can cancel or put on hold. Even a few dollars saved each month can add up over time.

A good way to track your monthly expenses and subscriptions is by using an app that keeps all of your spending and account information in one place. Our First Financial mobile banking app makes managing your finances easier through real-time tracking, account alerts, and full control of your finances on-the-go.

Cook at home

Eating out can be expensive, especially if you do it frequently. By cooking at home, you can save money on food and reduce your monthly expenses. Plan your meals ahead of time, buy ingredients in bulk, and cook in large batches to save time and money.

Use coupons and discounts

Coupons and discounts can be a great way to save money on your regular purchases. Look for coupons in your local newspaper or online, and take advantage of discounts offered by stores and service providers. There are also coupon browser extensions out there that make it easy to find deals on items when you’re shopping online.

Shop around for better deals

Don’t settle for the first deal you find on a product or service. Shop around and compare prices to find the best deals. This can include everything from groceries to insurance to clothing. Shopping for second-hand items can also help you spend less—consider browsing at a local consignment store for clothing or searching online for gently used electronics and other items.

Cut back on energy usage

Reducing your energy usage can not only help you save money on your monthly bills, but it can also be better for the environment. Simple steps like turning off lights when you leave a room, using energy-efficient light bulbs, and turning down your thermostat can all add up to significant savings over time. Check out our blogs on reducing expenses in the winter and summer energy bills for more seasonal insights!

Trimming your monthly expenses may take some effort, but the savings are worth it. By following these tricks, you can cut back on your expenses and save money each month. And, by putting those savings into a savings account, you can start building your nest egg for the future.*

No matter what life 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.

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.


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

Let’s spring into March with a little bit of luck and have some fun with family and friends! Check out the list below of local (free or inexpensive) activities to do with your loved ones all month long.

March 4: Downtown Toms River Irish Festival will run from 12pm – 6pm on Main Street. There will be live entertainment, and lots of Irish themed fun that is perfect for the whole family! Learn more by calling 732-341-8738 or click here.

March 5: Belmar St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place from 12:30pm to 5pm on Main Street. Don’t miss this great annual Jersey Shore event! Learn more on the parade website, or call 732-280-2648.

March 8: Wooden Plank Easter Egg Painting Class at Laurita Winery (New Egypt) from 6-9pm. Paint an 18” wooden Easter egg in this great Everlasting Egg Workshop! Supplies and instruction are included in the cost of the class ($55), as well as a complimentary glass of wine for participants ages 21 and up. Learn more and register here, or call 609-752-0200.

March 10: Bead Your Own St. Patrick’s Day Bracelet at Beach House Studio (Lavallette) from 7:30-9pm. The event includes materials to make a bracelet, hands on instruction, a gemstone tutorial, light refreshments, a raffle, and is $30 per person to attend. Ages 10 and up are welcome to sign up, ages 21+ can feel free to BYOB. Get more information here, or call 908-451-9832.

March 11: Ocean County St. Patrick’s Day Parade (Seaside Heights) begins at 1pm on the Boulevard. Bring the whole family out and wear some green! After the parade up until 5pm, stop by Casino Pier for $5 off an arcade card, drink specials, and corned beef or reuben sandwich food specials. Get more details here, or call 732-793-6488.

March 12:

The 15th Annual Belmar Dine and Discover Event will begin at 11:30am through 3:30pm. There will be a food tour and tastings from participating restaurants. There will be free trolley rides to take you around town while you are sampling. Tickets are $35 a person in advance, or $40 on the day of. See the participating restaurants here, and purchase your tickets online. You can also call 732-681-3700, extension 211 for more information.

Downtown Freehold Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place at 12:30pm along East Main Street. After the parade, many venues will have additional entertainment featuring local bands, food, drink specials, and raffles – including the Freehold Elk’s Lodge, the Freehold Columbian Club, and the American Hotel. Learn more here, or call 732-333-0094.

Asbury Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins at 1pm at the boardwalk (1300 Ocean Avenue). After the parade, the celebration will continue at some of the local venues with live entertainment and food and drink specials (Wonderbar – $15 admission, and Johnny Mac’s). Get more details at or call 732-775-7676.

March 16: Cake Decorating Class at A Sweet Memory Cake Shoppe and Tea Room (Waretown) from 6-7:30pm. You won’t want to miss a fun-filled evening of creativity while decorating a St. Patrick’s themed and delicious cake! The cost to attend is $35 per person which includes ingredients and instruction to make one cake, plus light refreshments will be served. Ages 21 and over can feel free to BYOB. Reservations are required by calling 609-242-0153, or learn more here.

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day Dinner at the Mathis House (Toms River) will begin at 7pm. This event includes a live bag piper, a traditional Irish dinner (corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, soda bread and scones) along with coffee, tea or soda. Event tickets are $45 per person and must be reserved in advance by calling 732-818-7580. Click here for more information.

March 18:

Allaire Village Flea Market (Wall) starts at 8am and goes until 2pm. The cost of admission is $5 per person. Learn more here, or call 732-919-3500.

St. Patrick’s Day Irish Breakfast (Long Branch) takes place from 9am-noon at Ocean Place Resort and Spa. There will be Irish dancers and a breakfast buffet that includes corned beef and cabbage. Adult tickets are $39 each, and kids ages 6-12 are $19 each. Reserve your spot here, or call 732-571-4000.

March 20: Kids Paint with the Bunny at Rosalita’s Roadside Cantina (Brick) from 5-7pm. Put on your bunny ears and have a great evening of fun and painting! Registration is $20 per child and also includes a meal from the kid’s menu. Registration is required by calling 732-504-5232. Find out more information here.

March 25:

Bradley Beach Mediterranean Festival will take place from 2-8pm at the Ascension Center (501 5th Avenue). There will be food, folk dance, music, art, jewelry and accessories, imported items, home décor, clothing, crafts, gifts and more. Find out more here, or call 732-776-2999.

Easter Egg Hunt at Legacy Gymnastics (Toms River) from 3:30-4:45pm or 5:15-6:30pm. All participating children will have a chance to find 15 eggs, as well as meet the Easter Bunny and take photos. After the egg hunt, open gym will be available as well as a snack. Cost to participate is $20 per child, and pre-registration is required. Get more details here, or call 732-864-6633.

March 29: Wine and Bundt Cakes at Laurita Winery (New Egypt) takes place from 7-9pm. For $35 a person, guests 21+ can enjoy a flight of four wines and four mini bundt cakes (lemon, red velvet, chocolate chip and white raspberry) from Nothing Bundt Cakes. Online registration is required, or you can also call 609-752-0200.

March 30: Monmouth Wine and Food Experience at Molly Pitcher Inn (Red Bank) will take place from 6-9pm. The cost to attend is $55 per person, and guests must be 21+ to attend. The event features food from local restaurants, cocktails, live music, giveaways, and more. All proceeds support JBJ Soul Kitchen. Find out more here.

Tips for Spending Less at the Grocery Store

Saving money on everyday expenses is a key piece to achieving financial stability. One area where many people can probably cut back on expenses is their grocery bill. With a few simple tips and tricks, you can spend less at the grocery store and keep more money in your bank account. Here are some tips to get you started.

Plan your meals in advance

While you might dread the idea of meal prepping or planning ahead for the week, you should consider the benefits it has on your wallet. Before you head to the grocery store, take some time to plan out your meals for the week. This will help you avoid impulse purchases and ensure that you only buy what you need. Make a list of the ingredients you will want for each meal, and stick to it while shopping. Not only will this also stop you from getting takeout or going out for lunch, but it’s also an opportunity to try new recipes!

Shop with a full stomach

We’ve all made the mistake of going to the store while hungry. But this common faux pas leads to impulse purchases and overspending. Make sure to eat a meal or a snack before heading to the store to avoid temptation. It also doesn’t hurt to keep snacks in your car or purse when emergency strikes!

Look for deals and coupons

Check your local grocer or online for coupons and deals on items you regularly purchase. Many grocery stores also offer loyalty programs that provide discounts on certain products. If you order your groceries online for pick-up or delivery, you should be able to find coupons directly on the app.

Opt for pick-up or in-store shopping

Speaking of ordering your groceries online—it sure is tempting to have your groceries delivered, but those extra delivery fees can really add up. Most apps or online grocers can charge around $10 in delivery fees or $100 annually for membership. Instead, consider ordering your groceries for pick-up or just biting the bullet and going back to good old in-person shopping.

Buy in bulk

Purchasing items in bulk can be a cost effective way to stock up on essentials. Many wholesale clubs offer inexpensive memberships that allow you to get all your necessities in bulk. Just be sure to only buy what you know you will use, and don’t be swayed by the allure of a good deal if you don’t really need the item.

Compare prices

Before making a purchase, compare prices between brands and stores. Refrain from assuming that the larger or more well-known brand is always the better choice. Often, generic or store-brand products are just as good as their name-brand counterparts. Additionally, consider the location of where you’re shopping. Some stores raise prices based on the neighborhood and market.

Avoid convenience foods

Pre-packaged and pre-made foods may be convenient, but they are often more expensive than making the same meal from scratch. Plus, cooking at home allows you to control the quality of the ingredients and the portion sizes.

Lock in rewards

Consider buying your groceries with a credit card that offers rewards. With our uChoose Rewards program, you can earn points just by using a First Financial Cash Plus Credit Card!* For every dollar spent, you’ll earn 1.5 points which can be turned into cash back or used toward gift cards, travel expenses, and more.

At First Financial, we are committed to putting your financial needs first—and that includes helping improve your financial wellness. Contact us today to learn more about our products and services that can help you save and grow your money.

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*Your First Financial Visa® Cash Plus Credit Card will earn cash back based on your eligible purchase transactions. The cash back will be applied to your current credit card balance on a quarterly basis and be shown cumulatively on your billing statement. Unless you are participating in a limited time promotional offer, you will earn 1.5% cash back based upon eligible purchases each quarter. 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. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.


Credit Card Mistakes to Avoid

Credit cards can be a useful financial tool when used wisely. They can help you build credit, earn rewards, and manage your expenses. However, there are also potential pitfalls associated with credit card use, such as credit card scams and other mistakes that can lead to financial trouble. Here are some of the top credit card mistakes to avoid, whether you’re a new cardholder or are looking for a refresher.

Carrying a balance

One of the most common credit card mistakes is carrying a balance from month to month. When you carry a balance, you’re charged interest on the amount you owe, which can add up quickly and lead to long-term debt. It’s important to pay off your credit card balance in full each month to avoid interest charges and improve your credit score. If you can’t pay off your balance in full, be sure to pay more than the minimum payment to reduce the amount of interest you’ll accrue.

Falling for credit card scams

Credit card scams are a growing problem that can cost you money and put your financial information at risk. Some common credit card scams include phishing scams, where scammers try to obtain your personal information by posing as a legitimate company, and fake credit card offers that require you to pay a fee upfront. To protect yourself from credit card scams, be wary of unsolicited offers, never give out personal information to someone you don’t know, and monitor your credit card statements regularly for any unauthorized charges.

Maxing out your credit limit

Another mistake credit card users make is maxing out their credit limit. When you use up all of your available credit, it can negatively impact your credit score and make it harder to obtain additional credit in the future. It’s important to keep your credit utilization rate below 30%, which means you should use no more than 30% of your available credit. For example, if your credit limit is $10,000, you should try to keep your balance below $3,000. If you do need to make a large purchase, consider spreading the cost over multiple months or using a personal loan instead.

In addition to these top three credit card mistakes, there are other pitfalls to be aware of, such as paying your credit card bill late, using your credit card for cash advances, and opening too many credit cards at once. By avoiding these mistakes and using your credit card responsibly, you can improve your financial well-being and achieve your long-term goals.

At First Financial, we’re committed to helping you make informed financial decisions, including managing your credit card use. We offer 3 consumer credit card options with competitive rates and rewards, as well as educational resources to help you use your credit card responsibly. Our Visa First Step Card is a great card for building credit as a first-time cardholder as well.*

Whether you’re a first-time credit card user or a seasoned pro, we’re here to help you achieve your financial goals and secure your financial future. Contact us to get started, or stop by your local branch to speak with a representative today!

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

Related Article: Steps to Improving Your Credit Score

 *APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are 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. 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. See for current rates.