Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this January 2020

Happy 2020! We’re ready to kick off the new year with some wallet-friendly activities for your family and friends. So, break out that new calendar and pencil in these dates for some free or inexpensive events happening in a town near you this month.

January 1: New Year’s Day Beach Walk at Island Beach State Park (Seaside Park) at Swimming Area 1, begins at 2pm. Ring in the new year for a scenic 1.5 mile walk down the beach. Learn about nature that is still present at the beach even in the winter. This event is free to attend, don’t miss the beauty of a winter beach walk to kick off 2020! Learn more and register to attend online at https://www.friendsofibsp.org/events/

January 1 – 5: A Vintage Holiday Display at the Vintage Automobile Museum of NJ on Bay Avenue (Pt. Pleasant Borough). The event takes place from noon to 4pm each day except for Saturday, which is 10am to 4pm. If you are a car buff, you won’t want to miss the vintage cars on display, plus a train, vintage auto servicing equipment, model cars, kids’ toys, period antiques and holiday decorations. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Find out more by calling 732-899-0012 or go to https://vintageautomuseum.org/

January 4: The Roving Naturalist at Turkey Swamp Park (Freehold) from 9am-11am. Join in on a winter leisurely walk in Turkey Swamp Park. You’ll search for seasonal points of interest, wildlife, and identify some birds. Dress for the weather and meet in the main parking lot. This event is free to attend. Learn more here.

January 11: Polar Bear Plunge (Union Beach) from 10am-1pm. Union Beach Recreation has organized a fundraiser to brave the chilly water to benefit Jason’s Dream for Kids. There will be an after party at American Legion 321 following the plunge. Find out more here.

January 12: Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park Seashore Open House (Long Branch) from 1-4pm. Even though it’s winter, the Seven Presidents’ activity center will be holding an open house of seashore fun and light refreshments. There will be hands on activities, education, aquatic animals on display, and you’ll get to create a beach keepsake to take home. For more details call 732-872-2670 or click here. This event is free to attend.

January 18: Winter Beach Blast at the Ocean County Mall (Toms River) from 1 to 2:30pm. Stop by center court for some summer like free fun, featuring games, temporary tattoos, and crafts. Learn more by calling 732-506-9090 x5951 or go to http://ocparks.co.ocean.nj.us/

January 24-26: Jersey Shore Home Show at Brookdale Community College (Lincroft) from 11am to 8pm on Friday, 10am to 8pm on Saturday, and 10am to 6pm on Sunday. If you are looking to make home improvements this year, this is the place to be! There will be a wide selection of home improvement professionals, tons of ideas, and endless possibilities. You can register to attend in advance for free, otherwise admission is $10 at the door. Find out more here.

January 26: Chocolate, Wine and More at iPlay America (Freehold) from 12-4pm. Enjoy the sweeter side of life by indulging in chocolate, wine, and making your Sunday afternoon a little sweeter! Tickets include 4 wine samples (adults only, age 21+), and additional drinks may be purchased at the bar at the event. Adult tickets purchased in advance are $10 each or $15 at the door. Kids ages 13-20 are $5 each, and under age 12 are free. There will be plenty of vendors including Frutta Bowls and The Cocoa Exchange, plus more. Get more information here.

We hope you have a happy and healthy new year!

Is a Rewards Credit Card Right for You?

Believe it or not, there isn’t a “one size fits all” credit card rewards program. For every card on the market, it seems like there are hundreds of different ways to earn rewards.

With all the options, the research can be overwhelming and you might not know where to start. Have no fear, because we’ve come up with a few ways you can choose the right credit card rewards program for you!

Is a rewards card right for you?

That’s the first question you need to ask yourself. A rewards card isn’t right for everyone. Here’s a handy checklist to help you decide whether or not a rewards credit card is a good fit for you:

  • You have a good credit score. Most card issuers are looking for consumers who have a FICO score of at least 670. Of course, a higher credit score will help you get a lower interest rate, but a that mid-600 range will get your foot in the door. FYI, the higher your credit score, the more lucrative rewards programs you’ll most likely have access to.
  • You can pay off your balance every month. Rewards cards sometimes have a higher-than-average interest rate. When you carry your balance over each month, you could end up paying more in interest charges than you earn in rewards.
  • You can maximize the value of your rewards. A rewards card can cost you money if you don’t maximize your reward-earning potential. If you don’t earn enough points, you can actually lose money if your card has an annual fee.

Now that you’ve determined if you could benefit from a rewards card, let’s talk about choosing the card with the program that best suits your lifestyle and spending habits.

Choosing the right card.

There are three main things to consider when choosing a card: your spending habits, personal preferences, and your credit score. If you don’t look at your spending habits and personal preferences, you could end up spending a lot of money and racking up rewards that aren’t right for you.

Let’s say you have a large family and your primary expenses are groceries and gas. It would make sense for you to have a credit card that offers bonus rewards on those types of purchases. But, if you’re single, have a small grocery budget or don’t have a car, those rewards wouldn’t make sense for you.

Use your cards for everything.

The more you use your card, the more rewards points you’ll earn. But, don’t let that be an invitation to start spending money on things you don’t need. Instead, use your credit card in place of cash or your debit card whenever possible.

Start looking for everyday situations where you can use your credit card instead of another payment method – gas, groceries, food, etc. But, always make sure you only spend what you can pay off every month.

What if a rewards card isn’t for you?

Rewards cards aren’t for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe your credit score isn’t in the right range for a rewards card at the present time, or maybe you’re not interested in using your card to gain rewards. Maybe you’re just looking for a credit card for emergencies only.

Whichever the case, we can help! First Financial has three great credit card options, lower APRs, no balance transfer fees, and no annual fee.* 

 Let us help you find the right card for you! Check out our website, stop by and talk to us or give us a call so we can answer any questions you may have. Or if you like what you see, you can apply online 24/7!

 *APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances 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: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. 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.

First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Woehr Elementary School

Press Release

(L to R: First Financial’s VP of Marketing and Business Development, Assistant VP of Business Development, Grant Recipient Theresa Eagan, and Principal Walter Therien).

FREEHOLD, N.J. – New Egypt’s Dr. Gerald H. Woehr Elementary School third grade teacher, Theresa Eagan, was recently surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $159.96 Erma Dorrer classroom grant for the 2019-2020 school year.

Eagan submitted a grant application to purchase educational tools to teach her third grade classes about financial education and banking, as part of the school district’s economics curriculum within the social studies department.

“Our third grade classes learn how banking works in terms of savings, deposits, and withdrawals,” said Eagan. “I would like to have a hands-on ATM toy machine that would enable the children to see how ATMs operate. It would be beneficial for the students to be able to create a PIN, use an ATM card, and see how banking transactions take place. It would also be educational for our students to see how savings is important.”

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators seven (7) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

“Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we’re delighted to be able to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” said First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a tough job of choosing just seven winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received double the amount of classroom grant entries this year, which included heartwarming essays and videos from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs within their schools,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the seven initiatives in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”

Important Member Alert: Wawa Data Breach

Wawa locations were found to have undergone a major data breach between March 4, 2019 and December 12, 2019 due to malware and anyone who used a card during this time period at any Wawa location may be at risk.

Chris Gheysens, CEO of Wawa – released the following statement about the data breach:  “I am very sorry to share with you that Wawa has experienced a data security incident.  Our information security team discovered malware on Wawa payment processing servers on December 10, 2019, and contained it by December 12, 2019.  This malware affected customer payment card information used at potentially all Wawa locations beginning at different points in time after March 4, 2019 and until it was contained.  At this time, we believe this malware no longer poses a risk to Wawa customers using payment cards at Wawa, and this malware never posed a risk to our ATM cash machines. Debit card PIN numbers, credit card CVV2 numbers, other PIN numbers, and driver’s license information used to verify age restricted purchases were not affected by this malware.  If you did not use a payment card at a Wawa in-store payment terminal or fuel dispenser during the relevant time frame, your information was not affected by this malware.  At this time, we are not aware of any unauthorized use of any payment card information as a result of this incident.”

  • View the entire alert message from Wawa’s CEO here.

If you visited any Wawa location during this time period and used a First Financial card, we urge you to monitor your First Financial account.  You can visit a branch location to replace your debit card, or contact our Member Relationship Center at 732.312.1500 to have a new Debit Card ordered due to suspicious activity on your account.  For First Financial credit cards, please call 866.820.3808 to receive a replacement card.

Enroll your First Financial Debit Card in Visa Purchase Alerts – you’ll get an email each time your Debit Card is used over an amount you set, when your card is used outside the country, or when your card is used to make a purchase online or over the phone.

As always, First Financial continues to monitor our member accounts for suspicious activity. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please give us a call at 732.312.1500 or email us at info@firstffcu.com.

First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Manchester Middle School

Press Release

(Pictured Above: First Financial’s Assistant VP of Business Development, VP of Marketing and Business Development, and Grant Recipient Susan Holland with some of her students.)

FREEHOLD, N.J. – Manchester Township Middle School special education teacher, Susan Holland, was recently surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $93.50 Erma Dorrer classroom grant for the 2019-2020 school year.

Holland submitted a grant application to purchase a set of books called The Egypt Game for her seventh grade social studies class, which includes students with multiple disabilities.

“My class will be studying ancient Egypt this year and I would like to include a cross-curricular component by reading this novel together as a class,” said Holland. “My students will identify with the characters as well as the content of the book. It would be a great opportunity for the students to strengthen their reading stamina and comprehension skills. I will continue to use these books in years to come.”

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators seven (7) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

(Pictured Above: First Financial’s Assistant Vice President of Business Development with Grant Recipient Susan Holland.)

“Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we’re delighted to be able to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” said First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a tough job of choosing just seven winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received double the amount of classroom grant entries this year, which included heartwarming essays and videos from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs within their schools,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the seven initiatives in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”

Last Minute and Small Gifts that Can Make a Big Impact this Holiday Season

The holiday season is arguably one of the best times of the year. However, who wants to spend the first half of the new year paying off gift purchases from the previous year? Big ticket items are often at the top of most people’s lists, but bigger doesn’t always mean better. You can give meaningful gifts without breaking the bank.

Here are some smaller gifts that will still make a big impact this year, or some ideas for those of you who are known to be last minute shoppers!

1. Gift Certificates

Gift cards may seem boring or even cliché, but they make a great gift – as long as you buy them with the recipient in mind. Don’t just grab any gift card just to get a gift card. Choose one your recipient will love, but would probably never buy for themselves. The dollar amount doesn’t need to be huge either, it just needs to be from somewhere your recipient will love or a place you know they go to frequently.

2. An Item that Represents a Happy Memory

Maybe it’s a memento from your first date or an early encounter with your significant other, which could be a photo of the two of you in a nice frame, or even a coupon for a home cooked meal of a favorite shared dish. The idea here is to recreate an already happy memory the two of you shared together and to be as thoughtful as possible.

3. Ornaments

One of the best things about ornaments is that they get hung on the family tree, year after year. Ornaments are a gift that will keep giving, and reintroducing your present into memory with every passing holiday season. A gifted ornament can be store bought and sentimental or, even better – homemade. Do you have a niece or nephew who plays a certain sport? If so, an ornament for the sport they play is a great gift idea. Some shops will even personalize them for you with the recipient’s name, the current year, and a jersey number. Ornaments are generally inexpensive, and always thoughtful.

4. Books

There are few store bought presents that are as personal as a well-selected book. You most likely won’t be buying the same books for everyone on your list. To be really meaningful, each book must be tailored to the specific reader. Stop into your local book store or log into Amazon and go through your gift list. You could probably choose a great book for everyone on your list and spend an average of $10. If your recipient has a Kindle, you can even download an eBook instantly and send it to their Kindle electronically. eBooks are even less money than a paperback or hardcover book would be, and the possibilities are endless!

5. Games

If you have children on your gift list – sons, daughters, nieces, or nephews, then you can’t go wrong with a great game. Choose a classic board game that will help the child develop life skills while also using their imagination. Board games can be a fun and inexpensive gift, which also create happy memories of playing them among family and friends.

6. Movies

A good movie is something that can be enjoyed over and over. Like books, you’ll need to tailor your film selection to the individuals on your gift list. Movies too can be purchased at low prices, from family favorites to the new releases, and even giving electronically or via gift card (think Netflix) to your recipient.

The idea is to keep the holiday season a fun and festive time, and rather than blowing your budget and going into debt – give a small but meaningful gift that also creates a happy memory.

Article Source: Tracy for Moneyning.com