Tricks for Trimming Your Monthly Expenses

As we go through life, our expenses tend to increase over time. From rent to groceries to utilities, it can feel like we’re constantly shelling out money each month. Fortunately, there are many ways to cut back on expenses and save some money. Here are some of our top tricks for trimming your monthly expenses.

Create a budget

Creating a budget is one of the most important steps you can take to trim your monthly expenses. Start by listing out all of your monthly expenses – such as rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation costs. Then, determine how much you’re spending in each category and see if there are any areas where you can cut back.

For example, you may be able to reduce your grocery bill by meal planning and buying in bulk. Or, you may be able to save on transportation costs by carpooling or taking the train or bus instead of driving your car.

Negotiate bills

Many people assume that their bills are set in stone, but that’s not always the case. If you’re looking to trim your monthly expenses, try negotiating your bills with your service providers. This can include your cable or internet provider, your phone company, or even your landlord.

Ask for discounts or promotions that may be available, or see if you can switch to a lower-cost plan. You may be surprised at how much you can save just by simply asking.

Cut back on subscriptions

From streaming services to gym memberships, we often sign up for subscriptions that we don’t use regularly. Take a look at your monthly subscriptions and see if there are any that you can cancel or put on hold. Even a few dollars saved each month can add up over time.

A good way to track your monthly expenses and subscriptions is by using an app that keeps all of your spending and account information in one place. Our First Financial mobile banking app makes managing your finances easier through real-time tracking, account alerts, and full control of your finances on-the-go.

Cook at home

Eating out can be expensive, especially if you do it frequently. By cooking at home, you can save money on food and reduce your monthly expenses. Plan your meals ahead of time, buy ingredients in bulk, and cook in large batches to save time and money.

Use coupons and discounts

Coupons and discounts can be a great way to save money on your regular purchases. Look for coupons in your local newspaper or online, and take advantage of discounts offered by stores and service providers. There are also coupon browser extensions out there that make it easy to find deals on items when you’re shopping online.

Shop around for better deals

Don’t settle for the first deal you find on a product or service. Shop around and compare prices to find the best deals. This can include everything from groceries to insurance to clothing. Shopping for second-hand items can also help you spend less—consider browsing at a local consignment store for clothing or searching online for gently used electronics and other items.

Cut back on energy usage

Reducing your energy usage can not only help you save money on your monthly bills, but it can also be better for the environment. Simple steps like turning off lights when you leave a room, using energy-efficient light bulbs, and turning down your thermostat can all add up to significant savings over time. Check out our blogs on reducing expenses in the winter and summer energy bills for more seasonal insights!

Trimming your monthly expenses may take some effort, but the savings are worth it. By following these tricks, you can cut back on your expenses and save money each month. And, by putting those savings into a savings account, you can start building your nest egg for the future.*

No matter what life brings, the team at First Financial can 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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*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.


Tips for Spending Less at the Grocery Store

Saving money on everyday expenses is a key piece to achieving financial stability. One area where many people can probably cut back on expenses is their grocery bill. With a few simple tips and tricks, you can spend less at the grocery store and keep more money in your bank account. Here are some tips to get you started.

Plan your meals in advance

While you might dread the idea of meal prepping or planning ahead for the week, you should consider the benefits it has on your wallet. Before you head to the grocery store, take some time to plan out your meals for the week. This will help you avoid impulse purchases and ensure that you only buy what you need. Make a list of the ingredients you will want for each meal, and stick to it while shopping. Not only will this also stop you from getting takeout or going out for lunch, but it’s also an opportunity to try new recipes!

Shop with a full stomach

We’ve all made the mistake of going to the store while hungry. But this common faux pas leads to impulse purchases and overspending. Make sure to eat a meal or a snack before heading to the store to avoid temptation. It also doesn’t hurt to keep snacks in your car or purse when emergency strikes!

Look for deals and coupons

Check your local grocer or online for coupons and deals on items you regularly purchase. Many grocery stores also offer loyalty programs that provide discounts on certain products. If you order your groceries online for pick-up or delivery, you should be able to find coupons directly on the app.

Opt for pick-up or in-store shopping

Speaking of ordering your groceries online—it sure is tempting to have your groceries delivered, but those extra delivery fees can really add up. Most apps or online grocers can charge around $10 in delivery fees or $100 annually for membership. Instead, consider ordering your groceries for pick-up or just biting the bullet and going back to good old in-person shopping.

Buy in bulk

Purchasing items in bulk can be a cost effective way to stock up on essentials. Many wholesale clubs offer inexpensive memberships that allow you to get all your necessities in bulk. Just be sure to only buy what you know you will use, and don’t be swayed by the allure of a good deal if you don’t really need the item.

Compare prices

Before making a purchase, compare prices between brands and stores. Refrain from assuming that the larger or more well-known brand is always the better choice. Often, generic or store-brand products are just as good as their name-brand counterparts. Additionally, consider the location of where you’re shopping. Some stores raise prices based on the neighborhood and market.

Avoid convenience foods

Pre-packaged and pre-made foods may be convenient, but they are often more expensive than making the same meal from scratch. Plus, cooking at home allows you to control the quality of the ingredients and the portion sizes.

Lock in rewards

Consider buying your groceries with a credit card that offers rewards. With our uChoose Rewards program, you can earn points just by using a First Financial Cash Plus Credit Card!* For every dollar spent, you’ll earn 1.5 points which can be turned into cash back or used toward gift cards, travel expenses, and more.

At First Financial, we are committed to putting your financial needs first—and that includes helping improve your financial wellness. Contact us today to learn more about our products and services that can help you save and grow your money.

Want more money-saving tips? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for financial resources and advice.

*Your First Financial Visa® Cash Plus Credit Card will earn cash back based on your eligible purchase transactions. The cash back will be applied to your current credit card balance on a quarterly basis and be shown cumulatively on your billing statement. Unless you are participating in a limited time promotional offer, you will earn 1.5% cash back based upon eligible purchases each quarter. 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. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.


Ways to Spend Less Money This Winter

If you’re a homeowner, you probably already know staying warm in the winter can be costly. Heating your home itself can make up more than 40% of a utility bill. On top of that, natural gas inventories have dropped this year, causing prices to increase by 300%. Staying warm is important, and luckily there are tricks to cutting those costs without having to completely turn off your thermostat.

Winterize your home

To avoid cold drafts and heat from escaping, winterizing is essential. Don’t get stuck wondering where the cold air is coming from – get ahead of it with this checklist:

  • Seal your windows and install thermal curtains
  • Get a weatherstrip seal to cover door gaps
  • Clean or change your furnace filter
  • Ensure your attic is properly insulated
  • Caulk gaps you find around your windows or on the walls
  • Install a programmable thermostat

Prevent winter damage

Without proper maintenance and preparation, homeowners risk having pricey damage to their homes. Severe winter conditions like snow and ice can lead to strain on your roof and gutters, plumbing problems, flooding in the basement, cracks in the foundation, and even potential fires. This can lead to heavy repair fees and long-term issues. Here’s what you can do:

  • Clear your gutters
  • Hire a chimney sweep
  • Clean your dryer vents at least once annually
  • Install monitoring devices on your water pipes

Use heat alternatives

If you plan on lowering the heat to cut costs, make sure you’re stocked up on blankets, slippers, warm pajamas, and heating pads. A space heater is a good alternative if you’re warming a small area as well. During the day, you’ll want to take advantage of the natural sunlight and keep the curtains open (but close them when the sun goes down).

Cook at home & buy in bulk

Save money on dining out and cook cozy meals at home like soups, pasta dishes, stews, or pot pies. Not only will these meals warm you up, but they’ll also keep the kitchen toasty from using the oven or stove. When getting ingredients for these meals, it’s best to buy in bulk from membership stores. This way you can save on your grocery bill and spend less on gas by reducing the amount you’re driving to the store.

Choose an inexpensive resolution

The post-holiday season is the time of year when many people choose a New Year’s resolution to start fresh. However, many tend to buy into expensive membership programs that they slowly stop using. If your goal is to get fit, try at-home workouts instead of joining an expensive gym (especially if you’re not really going to use it). Are you looking to break your record on good reads? Get a library card and borrow books instead of buying new ones.

No matter what winter brings, the team at First Financial can 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.

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

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.


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.


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.

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

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!

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

*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.


Tips for Saving on Summer Energy Bills

Ah, summertime. The time of year when air conditioners are on full blast and families are flocking to the pool or beach. If you haven’t already noticed how hot it’s been this season, then you certainly will when you receive your next energy bill. You don’t need to have a hefty bill just to stay cool. Here are our tips for saving energy in your home this summer while keeping costs down.

Stop hot air from entering your home

You might not realize it, but there’s likely pesky hot hair leaking into your home through windows. About 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost that way. You can stop this from happening by installing window coverings like drapes, shades, plastic films, shutters, awnings, or storm windows.

Heat is also able to make its way into your home through cracks. You may want to consider hiring a weatherization expert to assess your home for air tightness. In the meantime, you can caulk, weatherstrip, and seal air leaks in doors, windows, plumbing, floors, ceilings, and areas where electrical wiring comes through walls. Keep in mind that air sealing is a temporary solution to reduce heat flow and proper insulation will eventually need to be applied.

Adjust your energy use

Rethinking the way you use energy in your home is easier than you think. From lighting and water use, there are so many small adjustments you can make that can have a big impact on your final bill. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Switch to LED lighting – it uses 75% less energy and lasts up to 25 times longer!
  • Take advantage of natural daylight, but keep the curtains closed to avoid getting too hot.
  • Wait to use energy until “off-peak” hours such as early mornings or later at night.
  • Ensure all devices are unplugged when not in use.
  • Wash full loads of dishes and clothes in bulk for better efficiency.
  • Doublecheck that your refrigerator and freezer doors are sealed airtight and try limiting the number of times you open them.

Keep your cooling system up-to-date

Aside from getting regular maintenance, there are other ways to ensure your cooling equipment is running as efficiently as possible.

  • Regularly clean or replace your air conditioner filter or coil.
  • Move your air conditioner away from lamps, TVs, and other appliances that can cause the thermostat to sense heat and run longer than necessary.
  • Ensure furniture and other objects are not blocking airflow from your cooling system.
  • Consider a programmable thermostat that will automatically be set warmer when you’re away and cooler when you’re home.
  • Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you first turn on your air conditioner.
  • Utilize fans and ventilation in rooms with extra humidity, like your bathroom or kitchen.

Saving energy isn’t just a summer consideration – it’s something that can be done all year long. Getting into good habits now will help you reduce waste, improve efficiency, and save money. In the meantime, we hope you’re able to stay cool and enjoy the beautiful weather this summer. Don’t forget to stay hydrated, too!

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