Inexpensive Halloween Costume Ideas

Let’s face it – no one wants to buy an expensive Halloween costume they’ll only wear once. Sure, it might be easier to quickly put one together on the day of – but all those costume pieces can really add up. Plus, store-bought costumes can sometimes be of lesser quality and expensive at the same time. If you’re looking for cheap Halloween costume ideas for you and your family, we’re here to help. Here are some budget-friendly tips to get you inspired.

Consider a DIY costume

Put those artistic skills to good use by making your own costume this year! There are many ideas out there that you can work off of, no matter your skill level. While making a costume from scratch is a bigger time commitment, you’ll be extra proud of your finished product. Here are some themes to get you started.

  • Bag of ice costume: Use plastic bags to create the look of a bag of ice and make it into a family-friendly “ice ice baby” costume.
  • Butterfly costume: Whether you choose to create wings with fabric or by painting cardboard cutouts, you can certainly generate something unique.
  • Operation board game costume: Use felt fabric to create shapes inspired by the board game and then glue them to the costume.
  • Bat costume: Cut a black umbrella in half and use it as wings. Make sure to wear all black and add in ears as well.
  • Spooky ghost: Use white sheets and cut out eyeholes, or use white makeup and gauze to make yourself look extra eerie.
  • Mummy costume: Wrap yourself from head to toe in toilet paper and bandages to achieve this look.
  • Bob Ross and Happy Little Tree: You might have to buy some art supplies for this one, but the rest of this couple’s costume is pretty simple to put together.

Work with what you have

Sometimes the inspiration comes directly from your closet. Chances are, with a little creativity, you can put together a costume based on what you already have. Use some of these ideas for encouragement or take an inventory of your closet and see what you can come up with.

  • Lumberjack costume: If your closet is stocked with flannels, this look will be easy for you to achieve.
  • Hippie costume: Got some 70’s inspired clothes in your wardrobe? Create a hippie-inspired costume and add in some temporary butterfly or flower tattoos.
  • Nerd or gamer: Go the traditional route with glasses and suspenders, or dress up like a gamer with headphones and a game controller.
  • ‘Men in Black’ costume: You’ll need a black suit and sunglasses to look like you’re walking out of the popular Will Smith movie.
  • Bread winner costume: Got a few loaves of bread around and some old trophies or medals? Together they can make a truly ‘punny’ costume.
  • Brawny man costume: All you’ll need is a fresh roll of paper towels, a red flannel, and jeans!

Rely on costume makeup

Not all costumes need accessories to make a statement. Sometimes it’s the makeup that brings a costume to life. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a professional makeup artist to achieve some of these looks. You can make it as simple or as detailed as you’d like!

These looks can be easily achieved with a bit of makeup:

  • Any animal costume (cat, dog, mouse, deer, etc.)
  • A skeleton costume
  • Pop art character
  • Zombie costume
  • Alien costume
  • A (haunted) doll

No matter what you decide to wear or how you’re celebrating, we hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween! Want more budget-friendly tips? Subscribe to First Financial’s monthly newsletter for all the latest financial resources and advice.

Backyard Cookout Ideas on a Budget

The smell of a sizzling barbecue, sunscreen, and freshly mowed grass fills the air – summertime is indeed in full swing. And chances are, you’ve already been to a backyard cookout or pool party this season. If you’re looking to host friends and family for some grilling and fun, there are plenty of ways to have a party without breaking the bank.

Here are our top inexpensive grilling ideas for your next summer cookout!

Start budgeting and planning

Before you start shopping for grilling and party supplies, it’s always a good idea to start with a list of what you need to budget for. You may even want to consider having a maximum amount you can spend. Once you have a rough starting point of what you’d want for your cookout, you can determine what is essential and what is a wish list item.

Your cookout shopping list might look something like this:

  • The main course: Hamburgers, hotdogs, meatless alternatives, rolls, and buns
  • Side dishes: Vegetables, potato or pasta salad, coleslaw
  • Condiments: Ketchup, mustard, relish, and other grilling staples
  • Starters: Dips, chips, crackers, cheese platters
  • Desserts: Watermelon, ice cream, cookies
  • Beverages: Soda, water bottles, seltzer, iced tea, beer, wine, and fixings for cocktails
  • Utensils, napkins, cups, and paper plates
  • Insect repellent
  • Decorations & games
  • Grilling accessories
  • Cooler(s) and ice

Do you already have condiments at home? Or perhaps you don’t need to buy new decorations and outdoor games. Try to think where you can cut back from your list, and figure out how much you can afford for party expenses.

Stick to the grilling basics

Grilling enthusiasts might hand you a detailed list of pricey grilling accessories, but don’t be fooled. You actually don’t need as much as you think (even if those items are helpful). The only essential tool for grilling is wood, which enhances the flavor of the food you’re grilling or barbecuing. Another helpful instrument is a meat thermometer, which is relatively inexpensive. The internal temperature of your meat is the best way to ensure it’s cooked properly.

Consider alternatives and shop sales

If you’ve been in a grocery store recently, you’re likely aware that meat prices are soaring. This is forcing many shoppers to consider alternative options for their barbeque parties and meal plans. Don’t get discouraged just yet, though. There are a few different ways you can approach saving on meat costs.

Here are a few we recommend:

  • Explore meatless options: Stock up on veggie burgers, and look into cooking vegetable-based entrees (grilled portobello mushrooms are delicious, and some are as big as a burger anyway!). Also, have you ever tried grilled pineapple or watermelon? If not, it’s a must!
  • Make your own patties: Instead of getting more expensive pre-made patties for convenience, consider using ground beef and making your own.
  • Shop sales: This may go without saying, but you should always keep an eye out for sales on meat products – and try to buy less expensive cuts like chicken and turkey.

Make it a BYOB or potluck party

Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and relatives to bring their own beverages. Beer, wine, and liquor prices really add up fast – and your guests probably all have their own preferences. Another approach is to make your backyard cookout a potluck party. This way, each person can bring their favorite dish, and the guests can plan who’s responsible for bringing what. Either way, this will take some of the weight off your shoulders and will be easier on your wallet.

Make your own sauce

You don’t have to be a master chef to make a delicious rub or BBQ sauce. Plus, you likely already have all the ingredients in your kitchen. All you’ll need is salt, pepper, ketchup, vinegar, and mustard. For an easy to make rub – we recommend salt, sugar, pepper and paprika. Of course, your sauces can be a bit more flavorful if you’d like – try some of these homemade BBQ sauces for inspiration.

No matter the size of the cookout, there will always be ways to save on the final grocery bill. The first step is to determine how much you can actually spend, and then give yourself a cap. Without that max budget – your shopping list could get out of hand, and the idea is not to accumulate debt by having a fun summer get together. We hope you enjoy the rest of your summer and get to spend some backyard time with family and friends!

Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to First Financial’s monthly newsletter for financial resources and advice.



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


Budget-Friendly Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast! Have you planned a date with your significant other yet? If you’re like many Americans still recovering their finances after the holiday season, you’re likely looking for inexpensive date ideas that still show your special someone how much they mean to you. The good news is there are so many low-budget ideas out there that only need a bit of creativity and time to pull off.

Keep reading for four budget-friendly Valentine’s date ideas to try this year.

Cook their favorite meal

Does your partner have a favorite meal they like to eat? Instead of going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day, recreate that meal at home. Not only will you save money by skipping high-priced dinner and drinks, but you’ll also be able to make enough for leftovers. Not to mention you’ll get to avoid crowded restaurants! Try cooking the meal in advance and surprise your significant other with a romantic, candlelight dinner. Make the dish together if you’re looking for an activity to do alongside one another, and if you both enjoy cooking.

Have a movie marathon

Skip the movie theater and buttery popcorn, and opt for an at-home movie marathon instead. Is your special someone a big Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Twilight fan? All the more reason to surprise them with hours of their favorite movies at the comfort of their own home! Plus, you can have endless snacks, soda, and candy that are way more affordable at your local grocery store.

Get crafty together

You don’t have to be a professional artist to enjoy making arts and crafts with your partner! Enjoy the artistic process together by bringing paint-and-sip to your home or creating a memory book of your relationship. No matter what you make together, you’re guaranteed to remember it and have a fun keepsake of your crafty evening together.

Play games

Embark in some friendly competition this Valentine’s Day with a couples game night. Create a scavenger hunt, play your favorite two-person board and video games, or even create your own game. This could be a great way to learn more about your partner and experience something new together – all while on a budget.

No matter what you decide to do on Valentine’s Day, your financial wellness should always be top-of-mind. That’s where we can come in and help! At First Financial, we put our members’ financial needs first by offering useful products and services that are customized to their lives. To get started, call us at 732.312.1500, email, or stop by any of our local branches.



How to Avoid Holiday Season Gift Card Scams

It’s the time of year where many scams are prevalent, however lately – gift card scams seem to be popping up and affecting consumers more and more this holiday season. Continue reading to find out how to protect yourself and your finances from this type of fraudulent transaction.

If you ever receive a call, email, or text from someone asking to be paid via a gift card or to buy something by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the numbers on the back of the card – they are attempting to scam you. Before you read any further, know that a legitimate business or government agency will never ask to collect payment via gift card.

Why do fraudsters attempt to collect payment in the form of gift cards? Because they are easy to get, and there are virtually no buyer protections. In other words, it’s basically like using cash. And when the money on the gift card is gone, it’s gone.

How does a gift card scam work?

  • You’ll get a call, email, or text letting you know you’ll need to pay as soon as possible, and that the only way to do so and help is to buy a gift card.
  • The requestor will almost always tell you exactly which gift card to purchase – typically eBay, Google Play, Target, iTunes, and so forth. You might even be asked to purchase the gift card at a specific store, such as Target, Walmart, CVS, or Walgreens. The scammer may ask you to purchase various gift cards at different stores too (this is so the cashier won’t be suspicious).
  • Once purchased, you’ll be asked for the gift card number and PIN. These two items will give the scammer access to all the funds that were loaded onto the card, and once they have that – the money is theirs and they can use it immediately with no way for you to get it back.

If you are thinking the steps listed above are pretty obvious and how could someone actually fall for this type of scam – keep reading.

How scammers convince consumers to purchase gift cards and get away with it:

  • The caller states they are from the government, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration. They’ll tell you that you owe taxes or need to pay a fine, and the only way to do so is with a gift card.
  • The caller says they are with Apple or Microsoft tech support, and that there is something wrong with your device. They’ll also tell you that in order to fix it, you’ll need to go out and purchase a specific related gift card.
  • Online dating sites are another hangout for gift card scammers. If you meet and chat with someone via a dating site or app, and then after they build a connection with you – they tell you they need help and the only way to do so is with a gift card.
  • The scammer spoofs the phone number of a family member or friend close to you, and tells you they’re in trouble and that the only way to help them is to go out and purchase a gift card. If this happens to you, hang up and actually call your relative or friend on your own and ask if they truly need help.
  • You are contacted that you won a prize, however in order to redeem it – you need to pay contest fees with a gift card. This will never happen with a legitimate contest, and – did you ever enter one to begin with?
  • You get a call from your “utility company” threatening to cut off your service unless you pay them with a gift card.
  • Someone contacts you and says you will receive a check in the mail – however it ends up being more than you were told you would be getting. The sender contacts you again and tells you to deposit the check into your bank account, and give them the difference on a gift card. There are two problems here – the gift card payment, and also the check being deposited is typically fake and you may be held liable for that amount by your bank as well.

Here are a few ways to ensure gift cards are used properly and legitimately:

  • Remember that gift cards are for gifts. You should never use a gift card to pay someone.
  • Purchase gift cards at stores you know and trust – don’t buy them online or through a gift card auction site, as they may be fake or stolen.
  • Look the gift card over before you purchase it. Ensure there are protective stickers that have not been tampered with, and make sure the PIN on the back isn’t visible.
  • Keep your receipt after your gift card purchase. This will prove that money was loaded onto the card if you ever need it, as well as the gift card’s ID number will be listed. If you ever lose the gift card, you’ll be able to file a report to close that particular card.

The moral of the story: This holiday season (and any time), be mindful of those who might be trying to scam you into purchasing gift cards. Always remember, legitimate organizations will never ask to be paid in this manner.

THINK First because There’s Harm In Not Knowing!


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Easy Ways to Save Money During the Holiday Season

Have you started your holiday shopping yet (hopefully)? If you are needing some additional money or looking for ways to save this year, keep reading to find out a few easy ways to keep costs in check from now until the new year.

Only use cash: We’re living in an online world that makes spending money quick, too easy, and through electronic means. If you don’t usually carry cash, this is a friendly reminder that to pay for items – you physically need to shell out the money. This will feel more personal and be a better option if there is a budget you need to stay in line with (which hopefully you made a holiday shopping budget before starting to shop). Using cash is usually enough to make you think twice about what you are buying.

Write everything down: Every time you make a holiday purchase, write it down or save it in a note on your phone. By physically writing down or typing every dollar you use, you’ll quickly realize just how much money you are spending. This also works for non-holiday purchases this time of year. Also jot down other things you are buying (coffee, food, a pack of gum, etc.) for the month to help you realize where you can cut back and what might be unnecessary, impulse purchases. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call to help you cut back on any needless spending.

Layer up: Decreasing your electric or gas bill is another great way to save money this month. Sure, winter is coming in a couple weeks and it may be getting colder – but depending on where you live, your heat may not need to be fully on just yet (or it could at least be lower during the day when no one is home, or at night when you are wrapped up in warm blankets anyway). If the cold doesn’t bother you too much this December, grab a blanket, heavy sweatshirt, and socks – and turn the thermostat down. Dressing in layers can help keep you warmer too.

And there you have it, simple and easy ways to save some money this month!


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