5 Tips for a Frugal Fall

fall-into-savingsFall is here and with it comes crisp weather, football, and changing leaves. For many, it is the best time of the year; for others it is the onset of a stressful, and often expensive holiday season. So, here are five tips for a more frugal fall:

Don’t go to the gym – Yes, you read that correctly. Cancel or freeze that gym membership and exercise outdoors. Enjoy the cooler weather while you go for a run (or walk) around your neighborhood, plan a hike, or take a bike ride around town.

Break out the crockpot – Spend time gathering ingredients for a hearty crockpot meal. Enjoy quality time at home with family and friends. Chances are that crockpot will produce leftovers, which will save you even more in the end!  Look for easy recipes on Pinterest.

Winterize your home – Make your home as energy efficient as possible in preparation for the colder months ahead. Seal off drafty windows or doors, shut vents in rooms that aren’t being used, and change the direction of your ceiling fan to draw cooler air up and force warm air down.

Get outside – During hot summer months, indoor activities (such as going to the movie theater or shopping) are a must, which can often come at a steep price. As the weather cools down, do research on things to do outdoors in your community (many of which are free or for a small fee). Visit a pumpkin patch, check out a corn maze, or do some apple picking at a local farm. Don’t forget to check out our monthly Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth and Ocean Counties blog series!

Start a holiday fund – Saving even a small amount for those upcoming holiday purchases can make a big difference. It can be quite stressful to think of extra expenses on the horizon, but planning ahead can ease that stress and help you enjoy all the fun that comes within these last months of the year.

The perfect way to save for your holiday expenses is by opening a Holiday Club Account right here at First Financial! No need to put yourself into debt over holiday spending – simply save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!*

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*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. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com, https://www.cuinsight.com/5-tips-frugal-fall.html


Need to Lower Your Grocery Bill? Bring Some Old Fashioned Frugality into Your Kitchen

Couple shopping in supermarket

Does it feel like your grocery bill keeps growing? Maybe you’re eating healthier or haven’t been as diligent about shopping sales ads and using digital coupons, rewards cards, or rebate apps. Or maybe, too many convenience foods are creeping into your kitchen.

Convenient prepared foods – even their healthy versions – are convenient. It’s nice to have pre-cut, pre-mixed, prepared foods for the times our schedules get a little hectic, but they can quickly become an excuse to get lazy about food preparation — and jack up the grocery bill.

Back in the ‘olden’ days, people didn’t have the option of prepared breads, sauces, dressings, or meals-in-a-box. They used basic staples to make everything they needed. It’s time to bring some old-fashioned frugality back into our kitchens. Here’s how we can do it.

Stop Buying Pre-Cut Veggies!

It’s easy to want to buy baby-cut carrots because, well who wants to peel and cut a bag of whole carrots when you can buy them ready made? Stop to realize the price difference between the two – roughly 50 to 60 cents per pound. Ouch! It only takes about five minutes to peel and chop a bag of carrots. Also keep a lookout for pre-cut vegetables that are on sale. Reduced-price chopped veggies might be past their prime for snacking, but they’re great for throwing in a quick stir fry.

Learn How to Make Things from Scratch

The term “from scratch” is scary to some people because it evokes images of slaving over the stove. In reality, there are dozens of items we use on a regular basis that don’t take much time – or skill – to make from scratch. Not only will this help you stay within your grocery budget, but you’ll enjoy fresher, less preservative-packed foods. Take a look in your fridge and pantry and write down staples you use on a regular basis. Can you learn how to make some of these just from watching a few YouTube videos or looking on Pinterest? Here are some suggestions:

■ Dressings – most contain five or less basic ingredients you probably already have on hand and take only a few minutes to whip up.

■ Sauces – these may require a little more time simmering, but still easy.

■ Hummus and other dips.

■ Oat and almond flour — just blend oats or almonds.

■ Bread – no-knead breads are easy to make even if you’re not into baking.

■ Cereal, granola, protein and energy bars.

Preserve In-Season Bounty

Produce is at its best and cheapest in the summer and fall, but then January rolls around. The word “preserve” elicits visions of canning and pickling, but the modern alternative is simple – prepare and freeze. You might be surprised at some of the things you can freeze. Most vegetables and fruits keep well frozen, and you can also freeze trays of fresh herbs in olive oil, broth, and egg whites or yolks.

Re-grow It

Don’t have time for a garden? No problem. Scallions, celery cores and herbs can all be grown and re-grown right in your windowsill.

Bring Back the Sunday Roast

Save money on meat by buying tougher, cheaper cuts and slow-roasting them in broth, herbs, and spices for a few hours. Plus, if you start the roast early, you won’t have to wait for dinner.

Just because we have so many convenient, prepared foods at our fingertips doesn’t mean we have to use them. Bringing back a few old-fashioned practices into your kitchen will shave your grocery bill and revitalize your enjoyment of fresh, homemade ingredients at the same time.

Happy cooking (and saving)!

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Money Ning, http://moneyning.com/shopping-smart/need-to-lower-your-grocery-bill-bring-some-old-fashioned-frugality-into-your-kitchen/

Ways to Save Money this Halloween

halloweenAccording to a poll from the National Retail Federation, Americans are planning on spending more than ever this Halloween. It’s estimated that we will spend $8.4 billion this year, which breaks down to an average $82.93 per shopper. If that number seems a little too spooky for you, follow these saving tricks to treat your budget.

Get your candy from warehouse clubs.

Places like Sam’s Club or Costco are great for buying anything in bulk and yield a ton in savings. If you have a membership to one of these stores, they already have a variety of candy available. You’ll probably save enough to be able to buy a few extra bags.

Hold off on buying those pumpkins.

The search for the perfect pumpkin is one of the best parts of the holiday. Postpone the search until as close to Halloween as possible, as many stores will give discounts in order to clear out inventory. Not to mention the pumpkins you carve won’t have time to rot before their big day, and you can use the uncarved pumpkins for thanksgiving decorations!

Search around for free activities in the community.

A lot of community centers, schools, museums, churches and other local venues host free Halloween events for their communities. Look at your local newspaper, Facebook events, or community calendars to plan your holiday outings. Don’t forget to check out our monthly Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth and Ocean Counties blog post too!

Make or share your Halloween costumes.

You can find plenty of tutorials and tips online for making Halloween costumes with inexpensive materials. Some blogs suggest making the costume creation process a competition with your kids by giving them a budget and letting them loose in a thrift shop. You can also lend and borrow costumes with your friends which is great way to not spend anything, acquire new costumes, and still look good at the same time.

Craft your own decorations.

The scariest part of Halloween isn’t the decorations themselves, it’s how much they can cost. To save big, head over to your local dollar store and pick up some supplies to craft your own decorations.

Happy Halloween!

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CU Insight, https://www.cuinsight.com/ways-save-money-halloween.html


Simple Steps to Save on Home Heating Costs this Fall

Family Relaxing Indoors Playing Chess And Reading Book

The air is getting crisper every morning and the leaves are starting to change color and drop. It means that fall is truly here. You probably don’t want to think about what season is coming next, but it’s a good idea to get an early start to slashing the upcoming “w” word’s energy bills. Here are some simple things you can do now that will pay off in the colder days to come.

Clean, Service or Upgrade Your Heating System                                                       

One of the simplest and cheapest things you can do to maximize your furnace’s efficiency is to replace the air filter – now, and then every 30 to 45 days. Make it easy for yourself by setting mobile calendar reminders. If your furnace hasn’t been serviced by a professional in a few years, that’s also a good idea too. Just like other pieces of equipment, heating systems need a ‘tune up’ every now and then. Finally, if you’re due for a new furnace, take advantage of federal tax credits (up to $500) by purchasing one that meets the Department of Energy’s efficiency standards. Upgrade to solar, wind, geothermal or fuel-cell technology, and you’ll be reimbursed 30% of the cost, including installation (you’ll need to fill out Tax Form 5695 when the time comes).

Install a Programmable Thermostat (and Lower It)

It makes sense not to waste heat when you don’t need it. Even the cheapest programmable thermostat can save up to $150 a year, so invest the time and money to install one. Lowering the temperature 10 to 15 degrees during the sets of eight hours you’re at work and sleeping at night could lower your bill as much as 10%. Even lowering it one degree during the day correlates to a 2% decrease in heating costs.

Keep the Heat – Curtains, Leaks and Upgrades

Keeping the curtains on south-facing windows open during the day helps heat your home naturally with sunlight, while closing them at night keeps out chilly air. Besides weather-proofing windows, look for other places your home is leaking energy: worn weather strips, mail slots, around pipes and wire holes, through unfinished spaces, and in the attic – where the majority of heat rises and then escapes. Caulk, weather strip, and insulate everything you can. Replacing old insulation, roofing, windows and doors with more energy-efficient counterparts will ultimately save the most, especially since you can recoup the expense by claiming that energy tax credit (10% of the cost up to $500, or a specific amount from $50 to $300).

Enjoy the Fireplace

Fall is the perfect time to take advantage of a natural fireplace if you have one, not only for the ambiance – but for the energy savings (as long as you remember to close the damper between uses). Lower the thermostat to between 50 and 55 degrees and close surrounding doors to keep the area toasty. The energy savings only work if your fireplace is a traditional log burning one. If you turn on a gas fireplace, you aren’t really saving anything by turning that on instead of the heater since both units typically run on gas.

Increasing your heating efficiency and lowering your energy bill really isn’t that hard, and just think what you could do with that extra wiggle room in your budget: debt repayment, retirement savings, college savings, or just some short-term savings goals (maybe even holiday spending).

Take a few steps while it’s fall, and you’ll be thankful the rest of the winter!

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Money Ning, http://moneyning.com/frugality/simple-fall-steps-to-save-on-home-heating-costs/

5 Ways to Save Money During Fall

beautiful autumn leaves of maple tree

The fall is a favorite season to many, and it is easy to see why. The weather is nice, the leaves turn beautiful colors, and of course there’s pumpkin spice lattes. Here’s another reason to love fall – it saves you money. Here are five ways to save money this fall – you won’t want to overlook these tips!

1. Indulge in More Inexpensive Meals

When the weather starts to turn breezy, soup and chili are the perfect comfort foods. Take advantage of your slow cooker and these inexpensive meal choices. Another great thing about making soups and chili is that you can freeze them, prep them ahead of time, and even throw in random leftovers you have waiting for you in the fridge. It takes about five minutes to throw everything in the crockpot!

2. Skip Out of Season Produce

Don’t even get tempted by summer produce this season. Not only are berries and melons overpriced in the fall, they are also not as nutritionally dense when they are out of season. Instead, opt for frozen alternatives, or take advantage of apples and squash sales. Basically, produce that rises in price by a great deal during the “off-season” needs to be seriously considered before you buy because in this case, high price doesn’t mean a better product.

3. Goodbye Gym

If you have the option to opt out of your gym membership, then do so. Fall is the perfect time to exercise outside for free. Plus, let’s be honest, most gym memberships get wasted during the holiday season because life gets too busy. Canceling your gym membership for fall can save you over $100. Then, if you want to join up again, you can take advantage of the New Year’s sign up deals every gym offers.

4. Enjoy Better Travel Deals

Now that summer has ended and children are back in school, it is one of the best times to travel. Not only will you find a lot of travel deals, but a lot of popular locations will not be as crowded. Many people take cruises in October. The prices are typically half of what they were during the summer and the weather is a little more manageable in the Caribbean.

5. Give Your Thermostat a Break

Another reason to love fall is that you can go without using your air conditioning or heat. Of course, all areas are different – but generally you can get by at least for awhile. Decorate your home with plush throws and rely on hot drinks, such as herbal tea or homemade apple cider to keep you warm at night.

Article Source: Ashley Eneriz for Money Ning, http://moneyning.com/frugality/5-ways-to-save-money-during-fall/

Say Goodbye to High Credit Card Interest!


Today is National Moment of Frustration Day. But, we’ve got good news!

First Financial can help you get rid of your high-rate frustration with our Visa® Platinum Credit Card with low rates and minimal fees! Instead of being frustrated with high interest rates and various fees on your current credit card, we have a simple solution.

For one day only, Wednesday, October 12th (that’s today!), transfer your high-rate credit card balances to our Visa® Platinum Credit Card.

You’ll enjoy an introductory rate of just 0.80% APR for the first 8 months on all purchases and balance transfers (even as an existing cardholder – simply transfer a new balance of at least $800 to your Platinum Credit Card to qualify)!* Plus, there are no balance transfer fees or annual fees either.*

As an added bonus, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win an $80 Visa® Gift Card just for applying for a Visa® Platinum Credit Card today only.**

Start your application online now, call us at 732.312.1500 Option 4, or just stop by a branch today!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Other fees that apply: 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. Introductory APR varies from 0.80% to 18% when you open your account based on your creditworthiness. This Introductory APR is for purchases and balance transfers and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Not all applicants qualify, subject to credit approval. After the 8 month introductory period your APR will revert back to your regular qualifying rate which will vary between 11.15% and 18% depending on creditworthiness. The qualifying period for the Introductory APR is between 7/1/16 and 2/28/17. New Accounts will receive qualifying Introductory APR on all purchases and balance transfers for 8 months starting from the date the account is opened. Current First Financial Visa® Credit Cardholders will be eligible to receive qualifying Introductory APR on balance transfers with a minimum of $800 and maximum amount of $8,000.00 for an 8 month period starting from the date the balance transfer is posted. 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 or loan. **All in branch and online Visa® Platinum Credit Card applicants who submit an application on 10/12/16 will be entered into a drawing and a winner will be selected at random to win an $80 Visa® Gift Card. Do not need to be First Financial member or qualify for promotion to be entered to win. The winner will be contacted by the Marketing Department on or about 10/14/16.