How to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

Back-to-school shopping has looked a bit different over the past few years. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, school supply prices have continued to be on the rise. According to The National Retail Federation, the average family expects to spend $864 on school supplies, which is $15 more than last year and $168 more than before the pandemic. This means families need to be a bit more savvy and budget for back-to-school shopping this year.

Here’s how you can save money and spend less on school essentials:

Shop online and compare prices

Instead of driving to different department stores for supplies, try searching online and comparing prices that way. By shopping online, you can find sale items easier and pick and choose where you want to buy from. Plus, you’re less likely to get distracted by your kids and any of the items they are likely to find in different aisles along the way. Keep an eye out for online back-to-school deals from retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Target ahead of the school year.

Find coupons and wait for deals

It may seem time consuming, but searching for coupons is an effective way to save money during the school shopping season. Coupon browser extensions like Honey, RetailMeNot, and Coupert make it easy to find all the best deals and will even apply them automatically. This time of year there are also major sales on electronics and clothing that you should take advantage of. If you’re not finding savings, consider waiting for the post-shopping season sales that usually happen in late September or early October after the school year has already started.

Also, check out this list of New Jersey back-to-school shopping deals from local retailers before the new school year begins.

Buy in bulk

When it comes to items like pens, notebooks, staples, and paper – buying them in bulk can get you the biggest bang for your buck. It’s typically always cheaper to purchase in bulk compared to by unit, especially if you have a large family. It’s even better if you can apply a coupon or find a sale on bulk items during your next shopping trip.

Shop with a credit card for rewards

Did you know you can get rewarded for your back-to-school shopping? Sure, finding deals is crucial – but you can also get value back for the money you spend. Earn 3% cash back or double rewards on back-to-school shopping through 9/30 on all First Financial Visa Cash Plus Credit Card purchases.*

Don’t have our Cash Plus Card? Apply today.

Don’t let back-to-school shopping overwhelm you! There are plenty of ways to spend less this year if you play your cards right. That’s why we’re here to help – our team can give recommendations based on your financial situation and even help you apply for a First Financial credit card. Contact us to get started, or stop by your local branch to speak with a representative today!

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*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Cash Plus Credit Card. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. APR varies up to 18% for the Visa Cash Plus Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is 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.


Financial Tips for Teenagers

Imagine having to take a surprise quiz after not reading the assignment. Pretty stressful, right? Now imagine having to maintain a good credit score without having any knowledge of how credit even works. Your understanding of finances plays a big role in your spending habits as an adult. That’s why learning money management skills in your teens is so important.

No need to sweat it! Here are 5 easy tips to help you navigate your finances while you’re still in school.

Start saving money

Just like shutting off the lights when you leave the room, saving money can become a useful habit that you don’t even have to think twice about. If you start learning how to save money now, that habit will stick with you in the long run. Whether you’re getting paid for a job, received a check on your birthday, or have an allowance – you should always save a portion of what you earn. The fewer expenses you have, the more you should save. Starting with saving half of whatever funds you have coming in would be ideal, and then you can adjust as you get older and your expenses grow.

Establish a credit history

Talk to your parents about starting your credit history before you leave home, and perhaps they can add you as an authorized user to one of their credit cards. This process will open a credit file in your name to help you build credit.

In the meantime, learn how to manage credit card usage and avoid debt. Take time to understand what a credit score means and how it can affect you in the future. And don’t forget to always pay your bills on time (that impacts your credit in a big way!).

Track how you spend

Take a minute to think about things you’ve spent money on this week. Did you get coffee or takeout more than you’d like to admit? This is where tracking your spending habits comes in handy. If you know where you spend most of your money outside of necessary expenses, you can find alternatives and work on changing your habits. Instead of getting an iced coffee every morning, instead get yourself a to-go mug and serve up some iced coffee at home.

Use your student ID

One of the best perks of being a student are all the deals you receive. Having a student ID can get you access to big savings on Amazon Prime, concert tickets, events, groceries, movies, travel, subscriptions, electronics, and more. Just ask if there’s a student discount!

Learn to earn money

It’s always a good idea to start earning money as soon as you can. Even if it’s babysitting once a week, starting to make money now will help you grow your independence and freedom. Want to go on a trip with your friends this summer? Find a job you can work after school or over summer break, and start saving what you earn in advance of the trip.

Talking finances may feel overwhelming at first, but there are always resources available to help. If you want to begin your financial journey and start your credit off strong, our financial experts are here to help. Contact us to get started or stop into your local branch to speak with a representative today!

What New Credit Card Users Need to Know

Have you thought about the age you can typically start building credit? While age 23 may be the minimum age requirement for opening a credit card, the idea of even having a credit card may be nerve wracking for some.

We’re here to tell you everything you need to know so you can build your credit with confidence. Here are some important tips to consider before applying for your first credit card.

Don’t just make minimum payments.

You might think covering the minimum payment each month is enough, but in reality – you’ll end up paying more in interest that way. Credit cards typically have a grace period from when your statement closes to when your bill is due. If you pay off your balance in full ahead of the due date, you won’t be charged any interest (this is the ideal scenario).

Say for example, you have a $5,000 balance on your credit card with a 15% interest rate. If you only pay the minimum payment, it could take you three years to pay the full balance with an extra whopping $1,500 in interest charges. Long story short, always try to pay your balance in full.

Always make your payments on time.

Another way you could end up paying more than anticipated on a credit card, is if you miss a payment or are past due. Even if you’re only a day late, your credit card company could charge you a late fee – which can also add up if you’re frequently late. We recommend setting up automatic payments to avoid any future late fees.

Only charge what you can afford.

If the goal is to pay off your credit card balance in full each month (which it should be!), it’s important to only charge what you can afford. Don’t get trapped in “I’ll pay it off later,” because that’s how many people get stuck with credit card debt that becomes out of control.

Instead of thinking of your credit card as “free money,” treat it like a debit card. Meaning, don’t put it on your credit card if you don’t have enough money in the bank for the purchase. This may seem obvious, but it’s also very tempting to just swipe away when you get your card.

Shop around for a credit card.

Not all credit cards are created equal. Some cards are meant for new users, while others are made for more seasoned credit cardholders. It’s always best to first shop around for a credit card that meets your needs and spending habits – before committing to one just because of the alluring benefits.

For example, a store credit card may save you $20 on your next purchase, but it also may typically have a higher interest rate. Plus, those exciting discounts are usually only available in that specific store – which is smart for the business, but likely not ideal for you.

At First Financial, we offer 4 consumer credit card options that each have benefits like a 10-day grace period and no annual fees.+ Our Visa First Step Card is a great card for building credit as a first time cardholder as well.*

Always review your credit card statements.

Every month you’ll receive a bill for your credit card with a list of purchases. You should always review your statement. Why? You can catch any fraudulent charges sooner and have a better grasp of your spending habits. Many card companies offer a detailed report of your spending categories which comes in handy when budgeting and cutting costs where you can. You can even save on paper by receiving your statements online instead of through the mail.

Are you about to begin your credit card journey and don’t know where to start? You can rest assured knowing our financial experts are happy to give you advice based on your situation. Contact us to get started, or stop by your local branch to speak with a representative today!

*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.

+No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.

Inexpensive Year End Gifts for Teachers

Being that First Financial began as a teachers’ credit union over 85 years ago, we’re privy to one of our largest membership groups and can’t forget our educational roots. Now that the school year is coming to a close and summer is almost here – we thought we’d provide our readers with a list of budget savvy gifts for teachers under $10 (approved by teachers everywhere!).

Gift cards for coffee or inexpensive food options. Think Starbucks, Wawa, Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell, or Dunkin.’ $10 goes a long way at these locations too. See what’s local to the area your school is in, and choose the gift card location based on that.

Chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate? This one really doesn’t require an explanation, and will always go over well.

A nail kit. Put together a cute gift bag with a couple bottles of nail polish and an emery board. Your teacher will be able to show off great summer feet at the beach or pool this summer!

Ornaments. A personalized ornament or one unique to the student (homemade is always good too!) is a great gift. Every year at the holidays when your teacher is decorating their tree, they’ll be reminded of that special class or student.

Custom tote bag. Purchase a blank canvas tote. If your student is very young, have them (or their class) each place a painted handprint with their name under it in fabric marker. You can personalize this bag as much as you’d like, or include the teacher’s name on it too. Teachers always need tote bags, plus now that stores require reusable bags – it can even double as a grocery tote. Beach bags or a towel are another idea for this time of year as well, and can be used for the beach or pool!

Dog treats. Does your teacher have a pet? Buy a box of treats or find a Pinterest recipe to make your own. Put them in a plastic bag with a nice ribbon around it.

People treats. Homemade baked goods are usually always a hit. Think cookies, cupcakes, or muffins. If you have a different specialty like sauce, soup, or homemade salsa – this is another idea. Place the homemade food item in a decorated mason jar, and voila!

Emergency kit. You never know when your teacher might need one! Put together a little zippered bag or case with Advil, Tide to go, a bottle of water, a pack of gum, band aids, pocket tissues, a small packaged snack, and some chocolate.

Plants. Brighten your teacher’s day (and home for the summer) with a bouquet of flowers, bulbs that can be planted in the yard, or a decorative succulent. Your local Trader Joe’s store typically has beautiful plants and flowers for less!

School supplies. Did you know that many teachers buy their own classroom supplies from their pocket? Purchase some art supplies, teaching aids, or even a gift card to a store where your teacher can pick out their own classroom supplies.

Tea. Choose some different flavored tea bags, a bottle of honey, and some cute cocktail napkins and put them together nicely in a small tin or bucket.

Soap. Hit up your local Bath & Body Works and pick out some seasonally scented anti-bacterial hand soaps. Scented travel hand sanitizer always goes well in a post-Covid world too. Put the items together in a nice gift bag, and you certainly can’t go wrong!

Memory book. As a class gift, it might be a nice idea to put together a photo of each student on a different page, and have them write or tell you their favorite memory from the school year and something they learned.

A handwritten letter or note. This type of personalized gift is something a teacher can look back on and remember their individual students, what they taught them, and how many lives they truly touched.

Do you have another gift idea not mentioned here? Drop it in the comments!

Wishing all our educator members and students a wonderful and relaxing summer!

Article Source: The Penny Hoarder


4 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money


Mother’s Day is this upcoming weekend (Happy Mother’s Day to all our First Scoop reading Moms!), and in thinking about this important holiday and all you’ve taught your children in life up to this point – here are a few significant pointers you can teach them about their future finances.

  1. Let your kids earn some money. It’s rather difficult to teach your children about money if they don’t physically have any. Though just giving it to them without explaining the value of earning money based on hard work, won’t teach them anything either. Instead, give them some responsibilities around the house (taking out or walking the dog, age appropriate chores, etc.) and provide them with a weekly or bi-weekly allowance so they will know that money needs to be earned through consistent work.
  2. Teach your kids to save money. If your kids just spend their allowance on whatever they want, whenever they want – this isn’t helping them or teaching them about the importance of savings. Talk to your children about saving for a rainy day, retirement savings, and compound interest. You can even try setting savings goals for your kids and reward them for saving by giving them a little bit extra when they meet the goal.
  3. Allow your kids to spend some money too. Instead of just buying your children whatever they ask for, teach them the significance of making responsible purchases and to really think about their purchase before buying something. This will show them that they can get an item of their choice, but in order to do so they are also learning about saving, budgeting, and spending money too.
  4. Show your kids it’s okay to be frugal. One of the most important lessons you can instill in your children is the value of saving their money for things that really matter. Teach them to comparison shop, use coupons whenever possible, and not to buy things for the sake of just buying something.

The best way to teach your children to be financially responsible is to be an example for them. Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about your own personal money experiences too!

Article Source:

It’s National Credit Union Youth Month, Are Your Kids Money Savvy?

April is National Credit Union Youth Month, so we wanted to take a moment to highlight the importance of spending the time and energy to make sure your kids have some basic knowledge about money.

Did you know?

  • From 2004 to 2009, the median credit card debt among college students increased 74%
  • A report on the results of a financial literacy exam found that high school seniors scored on average only 48% correct.
  • A survey of 15 year old’s in the United States found that 18% of respondents did not learn fundamental financial skills that are often applied in everyday situations, such as building a simple budget, comparison shopping, and understanding an invoice.

With such a staggering knowledge gap, it’s easy for kids to grow up and fall victim to scams, high interest rate loans, and rack up an enormous amount of debt.

So, at what age is it right to start teaching your kids good financial habits? The short answer is – right now.

By age 3, your kids can grasp some basic money concepts. By age 7, many of their money habits are already forming. No matter what their age, let’s take this opportunity during National Credit Union Youth Month to start!

Does your child have a savings account or a safe place to deposit any money they receive?

Teaching your child the importance of saving money for a rainy day, should begin at an early age. If your kids don’t have a savings account, get them started with one as soon as possible.

First Financial offers a First Step Kids Savings Account for children up to 18 years of age. There are no minimum balance fees, and dividends are posted quarterly on balances $100 or greater.*

The moral of the story is the following: Take the time during National Credit Youth Month, to talk to your children about finances, budgeting, and saving money. It’s never too early (or too late)!

*As of 7/2/2020, the First Step Kids Account has an annual percentage yield of 0.03% on balances of $100.00 and more. The dividend rate may change after the account is opened. Parent or guardian must bring both the child’s birth certificate and social security card when opening a First Step Kids Account at any branch location.  Parent or guardian will be a joint owner and must also bring their identification. A First Financial Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.