Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this December 2016

Outdoor Family Choosing Christmas Tree Together

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  With so many joyful and festive events happening this month, it’s definitely going to be hard to choose which ones to attend. Enjoy this special time of year with your family and friends – check out the many free or inexpensive activities happening this December in a town near you.  Happy Holidays from all of us at First Financial, and wishing you a prosperous 2017!

Town Tree Lighting Ceremonies:

  • Belmar – December 2nd at 5:30-7pm, Pyanoe Plaza at 9th Ave & Main Street
  • Manasquan – December 2nd 6-9pm, Main Street (plus candy cane hunt!)
  • Highlands – December 2nd at 6pm, Huddy Park

December 2: A Christmas Carol at Count Basie Theater (Red Bank) at 8pm. To purchase tickets go to or call 732.842.9000.

December 2-4, 9-11, and 16-18: Scrooge at the Spring Lake Theater, 300 Madison Avenue. Two shows per day at 2pm and 7:30pm. For details call 732.449.4530 or go to

December 3: Spring Lake Candlelight Christmas Inn Tour from 3:30pm to 7pm. Tour Spring Lake’s famous inn’s and B&B’s decorated in their holiday splendor, sponsored by the Historic Inns of Spring Lake NJ. For more information go to or call 732.449.9090.

December 3 – 18: Asbury Park Holiday Bazaar – Every Saturday and Sunday in December until 12/18 from noon to 5pm, gather for one of the most spectacular holiday markets in New Jersey! The Bazaar is located at the Grand Arcade of Convention Hall, 1300 Ocean Ave. For more details go to or call 732.829.2663.

December 3 – 24: Holiday Horse and Wagon Rides (Red Bank).  Ride through the Red Bank Business District and enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season every Saturday and Sunday in December from 1-5pm through 12/24. There are two start locations to choose from: 26 Broad Street or Bridge Avenue (across from The Galleria). For more information call 732.842.4244 or go to

December 3, 10, 16, and 17: Christmas Lantern Tours at Allaire Village (Wall) from 5-8pm. 90 minute tours leave every 15 minutes at Historic Allaire Village within Allaire State Park Rt. 524, 4265 Atlantic Avenue. For details go to or call 732.919.3500.

December 9 and 11: Christmas at Havens Homestead Museum (Brick). 12/9 from 3-7pm and 12/11 from 1-5pm. The Brick Township Historical Society has sponsored this annual event for 19 years. It features the Havens Homestead Museum and two other buildings on the property decked in its festive best with guides dressed in period costumes. This year’s theme is “A Vintage Christmas.” Guests will enjoy homemade refreshments and musical entertainment as they tour the rooms of this 1827 Homestead. $5 per adult, children under 12 are free. For information call 732.785.2500.

December 10: 5th Annual Christmas on the Island & Parade, including Santa Claus from noon to 5pm. A Christmas Parade along the Boulevard in Seaside Heights. Event is open to all Ocean County, NJ residents with gifts, giveaways, Santa’s Workshop, and a special Santa’s send-off with live entertainment as Santa’s way back home to the North Pole is lit up.

December 10 and 11: The Nutcracker at Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, 1pm and 5pm. To purchase tickets go to or call 732.842.9000.

December 10, 11, and 17: A Christmas Light Show (2702 Wooley Road, Wall), 6:30pm and 8:30pm. The Christmas Light Show is a free, world class computerized lighting and pyrotechnic show. Returning for its 11th year, this incredible event has become an area tradition. The show is very much like attending a Disney World concert, featuring pyrotechnics, fog, color changing effects and thousands of lights synchronized to music broadcast over a concert quality sound system. Don’t miss this one of a kind Christmas event in Monmouth County, NJ! For more information go to

December 11: Breakfast with Santa at iPlay America (Schanck Road, Freehold) at 9am and 11am.  For information call 732.577.8200 or go to

December 11: The Nutcracker at Ocean County College (Lakewood), 1pm.  The performance will take place at Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts. This delightful ballet is a dream story brought to life through music and dance. The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara, a young girl who’s magical journey begins with a Nutcracker doll and ends with the Land of Sweets. Along the way, you’ll meet the Mouse King, Flowers, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and a cast of enchanting characters.Tickets: Adult $12, Child $10. Call 732.255.0400 extension 2466 for information.

December 16, 17, 26, 27, 28: Jenkinson’s Sea of Lights at the Aquarium (Pt. Pleasant) from 6-9pm. Join Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant Beach as they light up the Boardwalk during Jenkinson’s Sea of Lights. This Holiday Lights Spectacular inside Jenkinson’s Aquarium is a real gift to your family at the special admission price of only $7. For more information go to

Press Release: 150 NJ Motorists Amazed by $3,750 in Free Gas

First Financial Federal Credit Union Provides Free Gas in Response to NJ Gas Tax Hike


Pictured above from L to R: Toms River Assistant Manager April Sirleaf, Chief Financial Officer Terri Warn, Director of Business Development Matt Brazinski, Howell Branch Manager Dan Dunn, Assistant VP of Member Services Jackie Setser, and Assistant VP of Marketing Jessica Revoir provide free gas to Howell and Freehold motorists at Exxon on Rt. 9 on 11/15.

FREEHOLD, N.J. – At 6 a.m. at three secret locations during the week of November 14th, New Jersey motorists were stunned to be greeted by employees of First Financial Federal Credit Union where they received $25 in free gas, plus a travel coffee mug. In the wake of New Jersey’s 23-cent gas tax hike, the credit union eased the pain at the pump for 150 drivers with a total of $3,750 in free gas this month.

“This is a really great thing and a nice way to give back to the community,” one motorist said after filling up at the Mobil station at 3330 Rt. 66 East in Neptune on November 16th. Free gas was also given away at the Exxon station at 639 US 9 North in Freehold, where one woman even got out of her car to shake every First Financial staff member’s hand. On November 17th, the First Financial surprise team also provided another 50 motorists with free gas at the Shell station on the corner of Routes 9 and 571 in Toms River.  One woman was so happy with the efforts of the credit union that she opened her membership at the Toms River branch across the street a few hours later.


Pictured above: Business Development Representative Kyle Kasten informs a happy customer about their free gas at Mobil on Rt. 66 in Neptune 11/16.

The free gas promotion came soon after New Jersey had its first raise in its gas tax in nearly 30 years. On November 1st, New Jersey went from having the nation’s second lowest gas tax to the seventh highest. The added funds are expected to raise an estimated $16 billion over the next eight years to fund improvements to roads, bridges and mass transit.


Pictured above: Assistant VP of Marketing Jessica Revoir, Toms River Branch Manager Suzanne Mealia, Director of Business Development Matt Brazinski, Assistant VP of Member Services Jackie Setser, and Compliance Specialist Jennifer Bly provide Toms River motorists with free gas at Shell on the corner of Routes 9 & 571 on 11/17.

“This was a fantastic three-day event, and not just for 150 lucky New Jersey motorists, but for all of us here at the credit union,” said Issa Stephan, President/CEO of First Financial. “We care about the people outside our walls at the credit union. Our employees also thrive on the positivity and joy they receive when helping our community. We know it’s a busy time of year with the holidays coming up and shopping to do, so if we could help by providing groups of motorists with free gas on their way to work for a few days in the month of giving thanks – we’re happy to be giving back to our community even in some small way.”


Pictured above from L to R: Assistant VP of Marketing Jessica Revoir, Chief Financial Officer Terri Warn, Howell Branch Manager Dan Dunn, Assistant VP of Member Services Jackie Setser, Neptune Branch Manager Jessica Lombardi, HR Manager Patty Razzano, and Business Development Representative Kyle Kasten provide free gas to Neptune motorists on 11/16.

While the free gas events have ended, First Financial is offering anyone who refinances their auto loan, or purchases a new or preowned car financed with First Financial, a $25 Wawa gas card at loan closing. This gas card promotion runs through December 31st or while supplies last. For more details visit

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About First Financial Federal Credit Union:

First Financial Federal Credit Union is a community credit union serving Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey. First Financial is a not-for-profit whose goal is to achieve members’ financial dreams by defining their goals and lifestyle, empowering them through financial education, building their wealth, planning their retirement, and managing their risk. Established in 1936, First Financial currently serves more than 19,000 members. First Financial is overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of credit union members. The credit union is federally insured by the NCUA. To learn more, visit

5 Smart Financial Moves Before the Year Ends

Three classical shape pawns made of blue glass

When the leaves begin to change colors and the year draws to a close, people think about many things: the football season in full swing, apple picking, maybe even a thought or two about finding your rakes before the leaves start to fall all over your lawn. As the year begins its last act before drawing to a close, here are five things to do to get your finances in top shape for year’s end.

Assess Your Status

Take stock of your overall financial status. Look back on the goals you had for the year; have you met them? Don’t just look at your short-term goals, either. Review your earnings, your long term financial requirements, and your overall level of financial peace. If nothing is adding up, then it might be time to think about making some serious life changes – new job, downsizing, selling assets – to make sure you are meeting all of your financial objectives.

Review your Insurance Coverage

Other than paying your premiums or making claims, you likely don’t think of insurance too often. Now is a good time to review all of your policies and ensure that you are satisfied with your level of coverage. Start with your life insurance policies, and ensure that you have the right coverage for your circumstances. This can change as you age, or get married or divorced. Next, make sure your homeowner’s policy is up to date. Finally, if you have bought or sold any cars over the past year, make certain that you aren’t insuring a car you no longer own – and that you have sufficient coverage on your new car.

Save for the Holidays

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, and with them come a plethora of expenses. Holiday gifts, food, travel, and vacation expenses require significant cash outlays at the end of the year; the average household spends nearly $900 on Christmas alone. Start saving money as the nights get colder, so that you are ready when the holiday season rolls around.

Get Ready for Winter

Now is the time to get ready for winter. Ensuring your house is winterized – basement, walls, and attic insulated, windows sealed, everything caulked – can provide substantial savings before the first snow falls. Changing furnace filters will help optimize your home heating and reduce costs, and running your ceiling fans in reverse (clockwise) will make your home heat go a little bit further. The savings from all of these moves add up, and will equate to less money going to utility companies this winter.

Max Out Your Retirement Account

You have until April of next year to maximize the yearly limit on retirement account contributions, but don’t delay making that deposit anymore. Your tax-deferred IRA, 401k, or other savings plan are your post-work future. Verify how much you have contributed thus far for the year, and work to maximize your contribution before the deadline.

Questions about retirement planning? To set up a complimentary consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1564, email or stop in to see us!*

Fall is the one of the best times of the year to get your finances in order, and to close out the year on a high note. Do a good assessment of your overall financial status; determine what you are doing well, where you are falling short, and decide whether or not major changes are in order. Take time to review all of your life insurance policies, and ensure you have adequate coverage. Winterize your house for savings from energy efficiency, and strive to maximize your retirement account contributions. If you do all of these things, you will close out the fall with peace of mind, and will be ready for whatever the next year holds.

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source: Will Lipovsky for,


Stop Wasting Time with These “Money Saving” Habits

Red Old Style Alarm Clock. Isolated on White.

You have probably heard the age old cliché “time is money,” a few times in your life. That saying could not be any truer for money saving habits. There are many great money saving tips out there, but not all of them are worth your time. Here are a few serious time wasters you should avoid.

Clipping Physical Coupons

If you play the “grocery game” using coupons and find yourself compulsively looking at deal matching sites, as well as driving to different stores each week to score a coupon deal – you are wasting your time (and gas).

Digital coupons are much faster, though try not to look at deal matching sites daily – and if you have to, maybe only a few times a month. You can simply go to your local grocery store and browse their sale items to see if items you typically purchase are discounted, or look through their offers online before you go to the store – rather than driving all over town trying to score free items you may never even use.

Using Budgeting Apps

Get rid of any money saving app that takes too long to use daily. It’s not worth the frustration or wasted time. For budgeting to truly work for individuals, it must be simple and a daily habit. You will stay on budget if you can easily look at how much you planned to spend in a certain area, and how much you have already spent in that area. For example, if you know you have budgeted $350 for groceries for the month, you should be able to look quickly at your phone to see how you are sticking to that particular goal.

Making Your Own

A few years ago, there was a huge boom of money saving homemaker blogs. These popular blogs seemed to make everything from scratch and the owners boasted a frugal lifestyle. However, if it takes you almost 30 minutes each to make homemade tortillas and bagels, you are only really saving pennies for both items.

In some cases, making your own food or craft items from scratch just make sense. Calculate the savings versus time spent to see if your DIY project is really worth it. If something saves you $5 but takes you over an hour to do it, is it really worth it? Of course, if you love doing the DIY project, then the time was worth it. Know yourself and do what works for you.

Over Researching Everything

Research is valuable and you can save a lot of money with knowledge. However, don’t research something to death or waste time trying to save just a few dollars. If it takes you 30 minutes looking for a $5 Home Depot coupon code and trying to get codes to work, is that really worth your time or the minimal savings?  If you find a money saving coupon code online right away, then great. But if the process takes much longer than expected and isn’t really saving you that much anyway, it might be better to just order the item and spend the rest of your time wisely.

Article Source: Ashley Eneriz for Money Ning,


How to be a Savvy Online Shopper

Mobile phone in hand

We all know that online shopping is extraordinarily convenient, and with the holiday season coming up – you might be thinking about it more and more. Whether you’re purchasing a gift for a family member, friend or just treating yourself – you can buy virtually anything from your computer or mobile device. The question is though, are you a savvy online shopper? Below are a few helpful tips for getting the most out of your money while making those mobile purchases.

Subscribe to email alerts – When you visit an online shop, you will often be asked to sign up for their recurring emails. Although no one likes a clogged inbox, take advantage of the discount offered for subscribing (which usually ranges from 10-20%). Email blasts are required to include an unsubscribe option, therefore after you use the promo code provided you can remove yourself from the list if you want to.

Check out online consignment stores and private shopping clubs – Groups like Zulily and Gilt Groupe are free to join and are great resources for finding high-end items at discounted prices. Local consignment stores often have an online shopping option, download the Poshmark app on your mobile phone to buy and sell items, and Facebook also supports many private shopping groups selling high-end items in your local area.

Download retailers’ mobile apps – Companies like 1-800 Contacts will offer customers a percentage off for downloading and ordering through their mobile app. Even a small amount off your purchase can help, and like the email blasts – after you take advantage of the offer provided you can always delete the app from your device if you decide to.

Discover a cheaper way to wander – Don’t automatically assume you can’t travel just because you are on a tight budget. Sign up for alerts from Airfarewatchdog. When you input your ideal travel destination, they will notify you of the best deals available. VRBO and Airbnb have a large selection of affordable accommodations for your next trip, and Living Social offers daily cost-effective updates on unique events, excursions, and experiences in your local area.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for,  

2016 Holiday Food Collection and Gift Donations in Monmouth & Ocean Counties

Holiday Greetings to all of our First Scoop Readers!

Family With Grandparents Enjoying Thanksgiving Meal At Table

As we approach the 2016 holiday season, First Financial will be partnering with local non-profit organizations to help families in need within Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Our First Financial branches will serve as collection sites for non-perishable food items that will then be donated to the following non-profit organizations:

Please note that the final day for food collection at all branches will be on Tuesday, November 22, 2016.

Closeup of Santa Claus filling his bag with toys and presents. Only Santa's hands are visible. Wrapped presents soccer ball, football, toy airplane and gifts fill the frame. Horizontal format.

Each branch will also be holding a holiday toy and gift drive:

Please click on the links above for more details. These gifts will be picked up on Tuesday, December 20th at all First Financial locations – so please be sure to return your gifts to your nearest branch before this date.

Help brighten someone’s holiday this season and thank you for your continued support!