What to Buy After the Holidays for the Best Deals

Forget Black Friday deals and sales – after the holidays is when you’re going to want to shop for the lowest prices. It’s tempting to buy items for yourself around the holiday season, but waiting out the frenzy could actually save you more money than you’d think. From winter clothes and holiday decorations to electronics and toys, here’s what you should plan to buy after the holidays for the best prices.

Holiday decorations

While you might plan to get all your holiday decorations in October or November, it’s smarter to stock up right after the holidays. Artificial trees, festive lights, ornaments, and more – are going to be marked down by about 50% and might even hit more than that off. That’s why it’s so important to plan ahead for the holidays and know what you need before the season starts. Stores know shoppers may be last minute with their holiday goods, and that they will pay full price in a pinch.

Winter attire

Even though we’re in the midst of the winter cold, the day after Christmas marks the beginning of spring for retailers. Meaning, stores will need to make room for their spring attire and start to reduce prices on winter merchandise to do so. While you might want to invest in a new coat or snow boots ahead of the colder months, it’s advised that you hold off until the holidays blow over.

Electronics

In need of a new laptop, iPad, Kindle, or gaming console? Retailers typically enter what is known as the “open box season” for electronic goods after the holidays. All those gifted tech items that have been returned are leaving stores with a surplus of items they need to get rid of. This presents an opportunity for consumers to buy the items they’ve been waiting for at a lower price.

Toys

In December, kids are eager to put together their wish lists of the year’s most popular toys, but parents should ideally save some of the higher-priced items for after the holidays to get better deals if they can. This presents an opportunity to start teaching your children money management and shopping strategies early on. By enforcing smart shopping habits, you can show your family useful financial skills that can be used throughout their lives.

Travel fare

Travel enthusiasts know winter is the best time to book a low-priced vacation. Typically, consumers are strapped for cash after Christmas and aren’t thinking about financing their next trip yet. That’s why travel, hotel, and airline companies will have lower prices and great package deals right after the holidays. Plus, now’s a great time to stock up on items like luggage and travel accessories too.

The key takeaway here is that prices are typically based on demand. If you’re shopping for something when everyone else is, you can expect to pay full price. If you’re strategic and know what you’ll need in advance, it’s best to shop when others typically aren’t.

If you want to learn more shopping and money-saving strategies, look no further than the experts at First Financial! We’re here to 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.

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

Happy New Year! We hope you enjoy some of these great winter events in a town near you this month, as we kick off 2023.

January 6:

The Little Mermen will be at House of Independents on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park at 8pm. The ultimate Disney tribute band returns! Come and enjoy an evening of music, dancing, and epic sing-alongs. Tickets cost $17 and can be purchased online here.

January 7:

Bruce Springsteen Symposium at Monmouth University (West Long Branch) takes place from 9am to 5pm. The Archives and Center for American Music will present this celebration of the 50th anniversary release of Springsteen’s debut album. Tickets are $50 per person, and more information can be found here, or call the box office at 732-263-6889.

January 8:

New Year’s Holiday Victorian Tea at the Mathis House in Toms River from 11am-3pm. The Inn will remain decorated for the holidays through the end of January, and will be featuring various events on most days of the week! Don’t miss this great Sunday tea that also includes live music, a five course meal, and a tour of the historic Mathis House. Cost is $50 per adult on weekends (weekdays is $40), kids up to age 12 are $20, and under age 5 are free with a paid adult. Call 732-818-7580 for reservations or go to https://www.mathishouse600main.com/

January 13:

Commemorative Breakfast Celebrating the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Sheraton Hotel in Eatontown from 7:30am to 9:30am. The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County will be holding their 34th annual commemorative breakfast buffet with various keynote speakers. Tickets are $35 for adults, and $10 for those ages 16 and under. Purchase your tickets at https://ymcanj.org/mlk

January 15:

Lacey Township High School Flea Market from 9am to 2pm at 73 Haines Street in Lanoka Harbor. This is the 13th annual event to help the Lacey Fishing Club fund trips, outdoor experiences, and scholarships. Get ready to shop and support! Admission is $5. Learn more here.

January 18:

Wonderous Winter Walk at the Manasquan Reservoir (Howell) begins at 10am. Toss on your winter gear and tag along with a Park System Naturalist as you explore the Manasquan Reservoir in the wintertime. Meet in the Environmental Center parking lot. This event is open to all ages; under 18 must be with an adult. Sturdy footwear is recommended, trails may have inclines or tree roots to step over. Free to attend! Learn more here, or call 732-751-9453.

January 20:

Miniature Golf Tournament at Ocean County College (Toms River) begins at 6pm in the Larson Student Center. Don’t miss an evening of competition, food, drinks and fun! Call 732-557-8000 to learn more, or sign up here.

January 21:

Bluebird Workshop takes place at the Manalapan Community Center on Rt. 33 West from 10am to 11:30am. This event is a great opportunity for the entire family to learn how to attract these beautiful birds to your yard or nearby trails, by providing a habitat for them. Did you know Eastern Bluebirds help control backyard mosquitos naturally? For more information click here.

January 29:

Seashore Open House at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park (Long Branch) from 1-4pm. Engaging hands-on activities will entertain and educate you and your family about the shore and the sea. Speak with a Park System Naturalist about your own shell collection or the aquatic animals on display. You can even create a beach keepsake to take with you. This event is free to attend! Call 732-229-0924 with questions, or click here.

Know anyone getting married in the near future? The Jersey Shore Wedding Expo will take place from 12pm-4pm at Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch. It’s the largest Jersey Shore Wedding Expo featuring over 10,000 square feet of bridal show exhibits. There will be hundreds of ideas to plan your wedding, dozens of vendors, live shows, prizes, honeymoon giveaways, and much more. To learn more and reserve your spot (this event is free to attend) call 732-571-4000, or click here.

 

3 Financial Resolutions to Make in 2023

Now is a great time to look ahead and plan for the upcoming year. Many people notoriously set New Year’s resolutions that fall to the wayside halfway through January, but we want to help you set realistic and achievable goals. Here are some resolutions you can maintain throughout 2023.

Reframe your perspective on saving

It’s easy to set large savings goals at the beginning of the year that turn out to be unattainable later. Try to reframe the way you think about saving this year. Beginning or increasing your contributions to retirement savings, emergency funds, or specific savings goals is a realistic first step for many people. Instead of trying to save a large sum of money in one pot to cover all expenses, saving smaller amounts in different areas reframes your goals and makes them more attainable. Remember, any contribution to your savings accounts no matter how small – is a step in the right direction!

Get a better understanding of your credit

In an ideal world, a year is enough time to get out of credit card debt or improve your credit score. We know that emergencies and unexpected expenses are sometimes unavoidable. Understanding how credit works is a great way to set yourself up for success!

There are plenty of tips and tricks to know about your credit. For example, did you know that you can lower your interest payment while paying the same amount each month – by making two smaller payments throughout the month instead of one single payment at the end? And did you know that closing a credit card after you pay it off, actually lowers your credit score? There are plenty more adjustments you can make that will benefit you in the long run. If your goal is to start building your credit, explore First Financial’s credit card options with no annual fees!

Build a budgeting plan that works for you

Being realistic is a great way to ensure you’re able to maintain your goals. Understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all journey to finances. Just think about all the times you tried to save by cutting out things you spend on, and ultimately failed. When you’re starting your financial planning for 2023, make sure you look into all the ways you can budget.

There are plenty of resources on the internet with budgeting options that can fit your life better than a traditional approach. Putting effort into finding a plan that works for you is the best way to ensure you can stick to your New Year’s resolutions. Need a starting point? Check out our financial resources page!

Improving your finances starts with a single step in the right direction. Start planning for financial success in 2023 and set yourself up for long-term financial achievement! To speak to an expert about tools available through First Financial, 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.

 

First Financial Business Member Spotlight: Papa John’s

“First Financial is always there for our financial needs as busy business owners.”

As 2022 comes to a close, we’re reflecting on all the supportive individuals we’ve had the privilege to work with this year – including our business members. We’re so grateful to help businesses in our community thrive and are excited for even more growth in the years ahead.

With that said, we’re happy to share our next First Financial member spotlight – a series where we feature some of our personal and business credit union members. This time we’re highlighting Ayesha and Syed Nawazuddin, owners of Papa John’s in Neptune and West Long Branch, NJ.

Ayesha and Syed joined First Financial in 2019 after receiving better care than they previously had at other larger banks. Since then, they’ve opened a business checking and savings account, an auto loan, and they even added personal accounts. “We feel like a close family, and they are always there for our financial needs,” Ayesha shared.

Learn more about their experience banking with First Financial in the video below.

If you’re looking to grab a slice of their iconic “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza” pies, be sure to visit one of Ayesha and Syed’s locations:

Papa John’s of Neptune

712 Rt. 35 | (732) 898-6868

Papa John’s of West Long Branch

357 Monmouth Rd. | (732) 229-0200

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 can also sign up. To get started, call us at 732.312.1500, email info@firstffcu.com, or stop by any of our local branches.

Financial Advice for Freelancers

Becoming a freelancer is an excellent option for those who seek independence and flexibility in their careers. If you have the base network, you can choose the clients you want to work with and the projects you have the bandwidth for. Plus, you get to make your own schedule. Who wouldn’t love that?

Whether you’re a consultant, designer, artist, writer, or engineer – freelancing gives you full control of your career. Not to mention it’s becoming more popular – the freelance workforce contributes to $1 trillion of the economy and Gen Z’ers are freelancing more than any other generation of workers.

With freelancing, there can be a lot of unknowns. As a self-employed individual, you’ll be responsible for managing your own benefits and business growth. And you may have some challenges with cash flow and taxes. Overall, there’s less security than if you were to be a salaried employee. But don’t let that crush your dreams of being a self-sufficient freelancer – there are many ways to successfully be self-employed and financially savvy.

Determine a reasonable rate

Before anything, you’ll have to set a rate that will dictate your income based on the expected demand. There are many factors to consider when determining a reasonable rate. Some people might decide to bill by the hour, while others like project-based rates. A good step is to calculate your expenses as an independent professional. Some items may include:

  • Your office space
  • A computer and other electronics
  • Your internet and phone bills
  • Office materials
  • Programs like cloud storage tools, bookkeeping platforms, design software, and more
  • And of course, your typical living expenses (your other utility bills such as electric and heat, rent/mortgage, food, etc.)

From there, you should have an idea of what you will need to make to afford a living and cover your expenses without going into debt. On top of that, it’s best to do some industry research to see what others with your experience are charging their clients.

Get prepared for tax season

It can be challenging to correctly calculate how much in taxes you may owe as a self-employed person. Tax experts say the best way to avoid tax issues is to plan ahead and find a record-keeping system. There are some platforms out there that can help with this as you get more established in your freelancing journey, but you can always start small. For example, start a filing system that keeps all your business receipts, invoices, mileage records, and more in one place. As a freelancer, it will be crucial to track your income through an accurate invoicing system that is easy for you to find later.

Outsourcing your taxes to a CPA or other platform still may be your best bet. At First Financial, we offer savings on tax services like TurboTax and H&R Block every tax season to our members through the Love My Credit Union Rewards program.

Build a strong savings account

Building good savings is a must for freelancers (and everyone!). There are many unknowns and things you’ll need to plan for when you’re self-employed, so a savings account can help get you prepared for whatever life throws your way. Here’s what savings to consider.

  • An emergency fund: It’s possible your workload will ebb and flow, which can make your income unpredictable. A savings account can add some extra financial security.
  • Retirement savings: As a freelancer, you’re not eligible for a company 401(k). This means you’ll need to open an individual retirement account (IRA) as either a traditional or Roth IRA. If you have a 401(k) from a previous employer, you can roll that over into your current plan as well. You can get started with a 401(k) rollover through the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial, if you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ.**

First Financial offers personal and business savings account options to help you reach your financial goals.*

Don’t forget about health insurance

Obtaining health insurance is a big concern for many self-employed individuals. Luckily, there are options for those who aren’t able to get insurance through their employer. One option is to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. You can also see if there’s a suitable plan available through the Freelancers Union or if you’d qualify for Medicaid.

No matter where your freelancing career takes you, First Financial will be with you along the way. We’re here to help you plan for self-employment and financial success. To discuss your options, call us at 732.312.1500, email business@firstffcu.com 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.

 **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: Not Insured by NCUA or Any Other Government Agency, Not Credit Union Guaranteed, Not Credit Union Deposits or Obligations, May Lose Value.

Online Marketplace Scams Target Both Buyers and Sellers

Whether you’re looking for a houseplant, a coffee table, or a new gaming console, online marketplaces can be great places to start. But be careful. Anonymous listings and virtual transactions are ripe for online marketplace scams, which can take a variety of forms.

View this short video to learn more about online marketplace scams.

You May Not Get What You Paid For

If you pay in advance for something you have not seen in person, the item may not arrive as advertised. In fact, it may not arrive at all. A picture of a cute puppy or designer jewelry is easy to post in a marketplace, but if you pay without knowing the seller personally or seeing the product, the seller can take your money and disappear.

Payment Type Matters

Pay attention to listings that insist on an unusual payment method, such as gift cards. Gift card numbers are hard to trace, so if you don’t get what you paid for and the seller’s profile has disappeared from the marketplace, it will be very difficult to track them down or get your money back. Also keep in mind that with many digital payment methods, once you send a payment it often can’t be reversed, making it even more important that you know who you are dealing with and what you are buying.

Scams Targeting Sellers

While many people are aware of scams targeting buyers on marketplace sites, sellers can get scammed too. One tactic is for scammers to fake payment receipts or confirmations with an amount that’s higher than the asking price. The supposed buyer may claim to have purchased a product above your listed price and request a refund without actually having placed an order.

Another marketplace scam growing in popularity involves a fake email appearing to be from Zelle®, claiming that a transaction cannot be completed until your Zelle® account is upgraded. In reality, the scammer is tricking you into paying them for an upgrade that doesn’t exist. Zelle® does not offer account upgrades.

Warning Signs: What To Watch Out For

  • Unreasonably low prices – Sometimes an incredibly low price is literally too good to be true. In most instances, it’s best to pass on this type of offer unless you can inspect the product in person and ensure its authenticity.
  • Sales pressure – If the seller creates a sense of urgency by warning that the item won’t last long or many others are interested, take your time and think it through. Creating urgency is a technique to get you to act on impulse instead of logic, and it could lead you to overlook something suspicious.
  • Fake profiles – Keep an eye out for telltale signs of a false profile, like a generic profile picture, only one friend or connection, or a profile name that does not match the name or email address on the invoice.

Slow Down, Ask Questions

When it comes to making safe marketplace purchases, remember to slow down and ask questions. If you detect suspicious activity, report the user to your marketplace platform.

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 zellepay.com/pay-it-safe.

 

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