3 Tips for Saving Money While Traveling Abroad

The Doge's Palace and Cathedral of San Marco, Venice, Italy

Here are three tips on how to manage your money when traveling overseas, while still having an unforgettable journey.

Set a daily budget while planning your itinerary.

When traveling abroad it’s important to make the most out of your trip, especially if you are not there for much time. Everyone knows the value of having a game plan for things you want to do and see, but alongside that, it’s a good idea to set a daily budget. Consider how much you will spend on each meal, activity and attraction. If you do your research, you can find out ahead of time how much certain sites will cost you. This way, you’ll see what you can afford to do in advance.

Shop wisely for food and gifts.

Make a list before traveling of the items you want to purchase when on your trip. If you want to buy gifts for others, set an amount you are willing to spend on each person. Additionally, if you plan to buy drinks or snacks to keep with you or in your room, avoid purchasing them at busier sites such as train stations or near tourist attractions. Look for local markets or shopping marts, so you can buy things at a lower price and shop at stores where locals typically get their essentials.

Explore different means of transportation.

Sure, it may be quicker to hail a cab and be on your way, but first consider the cost. If you are in a city, check out their different forms of public transportation and compare the cost of each. Additionally, when going from city to city, you may find that if you take trains that make frequent stops, rather than a direct trip, it brings the cost down significantly. Therefore, although the cheaper way to travel may not always be the fastest, if you plan for the extra time, you’ll have more money in your pocket, and every little bit helps, especially when traveling abroad.

Planning to travel outside of the United States? First Financial offers Foreign Currency Exchange! Foreign currency exchange allows you to exchange our currency for another country’s currency when planning to travel abroad.* Give us a call at 732.312.1500, email info@firstffcu.com , or stop into any branch to learn more about foreign currency exchange today.

*You may purchase Currency Price Protection (CPP) for an additional $10.00 in order to protect the purchase rate of transaction. The protected dollar amount may vary based on selection of currency. There is also a purchase/shipping cost for $14.50 per transaction.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

First Financial Foundation Sponsors Career Day Program at South Toms River Elementary School for a Second Year

Press Release

(L to R: AVP of Marketing at First Financial, Principal at South Toms River Elementary, Director of Business Development at First Financial, President & CEO at First Financial, Supervisor at South Toms River Elementary, and Guidance Counselor at South Toms River Elementary).

FREEHOLD, N.J. (March 2017) – The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation once again awarded $500 to South Toms River Elementary School to sponsor their annual Career Day Program for students.

This year’s grant money will be going to South Toms River Elementary and the Walnut Street School so the 4th and 5th grade students can attend the Teen Arts Festival at Ocean County College this June. The students will be spending the day at OCC taking part in the activities presented in the arts, having lunch on campus, and touring the college to see what OCC has to offer for various future career opportunities. After this visit there will be a follow up musical presentation by students at both elementary schools to promote careers in the arts.

First Financial’s Business Development and Marketing departments were also asked to come back to the elementary school to speak during South Toms River Elementary’s on site Career Day and discuss basic financial education with the students.

“We’re thrilled to be fortunate enough to help the students of South Toms River Elementary prepare themselves for a bright future during their Career Day for the second year in a row, and upcoming visit to Ocean County College. Since we began as a teacher’s credit union, we thrive on the importance of education and the success it brings – we’re happy to continue to support this great program,” added Issa Stephan, President and CEO of First Financial.

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About the First Financial Foundation:

Since 1994, First Financial has supported the Monmouth & Ocean communities with the Erma Dorrer Scholarship Program. Today, that program has been extended into the First Financial Foundation to assist charitable organizations of the Monmouth & Ocean County Communities.  The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation is a non-profit working to support a variety of community programs and organizations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  We direct 100% of your contributions to programs because all administrative expenses are paid for by First Financial Federal Credit Union.  To learn more, click here.


7 Money Saving Party Hacks

Group Of Mature Friends Enjoying Buffet At Dinner Party

Hosting a party is a fun way to express hospitality to friends and family, but the expense can also be a strain on the budget. The concern with trying to throw a party on the cheap is that it will end up looking or feeling just as cheap. So how do you pull off an amazing, classy party that’s much less expensive than it looks? are seven simple ideas for you to try next time you want to host a gathering.

1. Make your own decorations with inexpensive materials rather than purchasing them pre-made.

Decorations are one of the easiest things to get away with doing cheap without sacrificing appearance, especially if you borrow ideas from frugal decorating blogs or Pinterest. Here are a few fun ones, just at a glance:

  • Construction paper stars
  • A “chandelier” made from a spray-painted umbrella frame and a string of lights
  • Window displays made by hanging single bulbs from tension rods
  • Ribbon — cheap, plenty of variety, and it looks good everywhere

2. Go to the dollar store for disposable paper goods, but serve from real flatware.

Not everything at the dollar store is a deal, but it’s a good place to find cheap disposable paper goods and supplies, holiday decorations, and bulk party favors that make it more affordable to customize for one occasion. To avoid even this expense, make your party a little classier by serving on real dishes. That’s right – pull out that fine tableware you never use and put it to work. The savings and elegant appearance of your party will be worth the extra load of dishes later.

3. Plan your menu based on sales, make your own appetizers and dips, and opt for cheaper desserts, drinks, and cheese.

Base your menu around what’s on sale, and get creative just like every other occasion. Appetizers like dips and breads are cheaper if you make them yourself, and a DIY dish has the added effect of appearing gourmet. For dessert, a punchbowl trifle is easy to make, visually appealing, and serves a large crowd. Instead of buying expensive, aged cheeses, use cheaper varieties like ricotta and feta and add herbs, honey, or spices for extra flavor. Finally, a common recommendation for saving money on drinks is to feature just one signature cocktail.

4. Presentation is everything.

You also don’t have to serve rich foods to impress your guests. Even the cheapest appetizers and dishes can look impressive if you take the extra step to plate them appealingly in glass dishes or trays and spruce them up with garnish and added touches.

5. Go with a theme: appetizers-only, dessert-only, cheese and wine, or a cookie swap.

Choosing to elaborate on a limited category adds uniqueness to your party while cutting out the expense of a multiple course meal. Sticking with small-plate finger foods that can be carried also encourages people to walk around, mingle, and creates a livelier party.

6. Ask your guests to contribute food, but with class.

Potlucks are a cheaper way to handle gatherings with family, but you might feel awkward asking guests to bring food to your party. Instead, ask people to bring a specialty item to share, such as a batch of their favorite cookies, or make it a “bring and share your favorite wine” event. This also makes the food or drinks a focal point for conversation and a natural ice-breaker for interaction.

7. Less is more.

Finally, less is always more when it comes to throwing a classy party. Too much stuff and fuss can come across as cheap no matter how much money you spend. The fewer, tasteful decorations and key foods (in plentiful quantities), the more memorable your event will seem.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing.com

Financial Spring Cleaning: Free Credit Report Reviews March 27 – April 1st

It’s almost spring, which means it’s time for Spring Cleaning … Financial Spring Cleaning that is. The week of March 27 – April 1st is Clean Up Your Credit Report Week. Make an appointment for a free credit report review today!

credit-score-explanation-graphicWe’ll help you gain insight by reviewing your credit report to help you understand:

  • Why you have the credit score you do
  • How you can improve your score
  • How you can keep your score high for years to come

Log into annualcreditreport.com, print your credit report, and bring it to your scheduled appointment. Don’t have easy printer access? A staff member will print it for you, or walk you through the website during your appointment.

Schedule your appointment now! Email marketingbd@firstffcu.com or call 732.312.1500.

*Your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com does not guarantee results and is not a product of First Financial Federal Credit Union. Appointments during 3/27/17 – 4/1/17 are not credit repair tools. First Financial does not guarantee that taking the actions suggested through the credit report process will produce improved or identical changes to bureau risk scores. The scoring model used to generate scores may not be the same as the model used at First Financial or other financial institutions. 

3 Steps to Take Before Seeking Preapproval for a Mortgage

Wooden house with keys

With interest rates rising, many people are rushing to buy a home early this season. If you are one of these people, then know that it’s especially important to get preapproved before you begin hunting for that dream home. With a competitive seller’s market, getting that proof gives you a leg up because the seller knows you’re “good for it,” so to speak. Here are some steps that will ensure you get the home loan that’s right for you.

#1: Determine what you can afford.

Being assured by a lender that you’re approved to borrow a certain amount doesn’t mean you can afford the sum. Despite laws that hold lenders more accountable than before the housing crisis, these companies are still known for offering larger loans than borrowers can afford. So, how do you know what you can actually afford?

  • Look at what you’re currently paying for housing, and try to stick as close to it as possible.
  • Look at the whole picture. Calculate the true expense by combining the principal, interest, taxes and insurance (an easy acronym to remember is PITI). What’s your down payment? If it’s less than 20%, you may also need to factor in an extra $50 to $300 per month for mortgage insurance. Don’t worry about the math though — there are plenty of online calculators that can help! Check out First Financial’s right here.

#2: Know what you’ll need to provide.

To get pre-qualified, a lender will ask simple questions about your income, assets, and debt. Preapproval means you’re offered a particular loan amount, so it’s a little more serious and usually comes with an application fee.

The lender will consider your debt-to-income ratio, your ability to repay the loan, and your FICO credit score (which influences your interest rate). To do this, they’ll run a credit check and ask for a list of financial documents, usually the following:

  • Bank statements for the last few months
  • Tax returns and W2s for the past few years
  • Proof of employment and income (pay stubs)
  • Anything else they believe could strengthen your loan application

Having these documents ready to go will streamline the process.

#3: Get your finances in shape.

Once you know what a lender will be looking for, work on anything that’s below standard. For instance, have you held a regular job for at least a few months? Lenders look for job stability. If you’ve jumped around, or if you’re considering a career move, staying put for now might improve your loan terms.

Have you taken on any new credit accounts or loans or closed old ones? Recent shifts in credit, such as getting a bunch of credit cards even if your intention was just to grab those sign-up bonuses, can affect your debt-to-income ratio and perceived financial stability.

Finally, take a look at your credit report and score. Is it below 620? You might have trouble qualifying. Is it at or above 720? You’re in the sweet spot for the best interest rates.

Simple things like making payments on time and paying off your credit card balance each month can improve your score and save thousands of dollars in interest over the lifetime of a loan. This process takes time though.

You really need to make sure you are ready to buy a house long before you even start planning to purchase it. If a home is at all on your radar, then start immediately and get prepared well before looking for a good mortgage lender.

Stop into any First Financial branch and we can help you with your home buying journey. We provide great low rates and offer a variety of Mortgage options – to speak with First Financial’s lending department, call us at 732.312.1500 option 4.* 

To receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message.** We’re here to help you achieve your financial dreams!

Don’t miss our FREE Homebuying Seminar on March 15th at 6pm in our Freehold/Howell Branch. Register today!

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. **Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing.com

4 Reasons You Should Live Like You’re Broke

Businessman holding empty pockets

So you can pay off debt faster.

Debt isn’t cheap. Anyone who’s ever had to throw an unexpected bill on a credit card knows this to be true. On the occasion this happens, it can sometimes feel like it takes all year to pay it off. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, this can definitely be the case. If you’re spending less, this will give you a chance to pay down that debt a little faster than you’d normally be able to.

So you can save up for awesome experiences.

We all enjoy buying “stuff.” Most the time that stuff isn’t around years later. Sometimes, we’ll remember that stuff we spent our money on years ago, and it seems ridiculous that we thought so highly of it. The things we typically remember most are people and places, and the experiences that come with it. Next time you want to splurge on an object, put that cash into savings and figure out the best way you can spend it on a memory that can last a lifetime.

So your children won’t treasure material possessions.

If you never start your child on a path of not needing to have the same things as the kid down the street, not only will they not feel like their self-worth is based on objects, but they might grow up appreciating the little things in life. They also may be a little more frugal when they’re spending their own money one day.

So you can simplify life.

Things are nice, but life can be amazing even when it’s simple. Teach your children the value of saving money for the future. Show them there’s more to living than a daily trip to Starbucks or the mall. Eat at home more. Avoid using that credit card. Old-fashioned living can be quite satisfying.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com