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

How to Holiday Shop and Not Regret it in the New Year

It’s the holiday season and we love spending money on those we care about right? It’s very easy to overspend when it comes to holiday shopping.  According to a recent Gallup study, 1/3 of consumers expected to spend over $1,000 on gifts. While that might seem like a great idea in December, there may be some regrets spending that amount come January. If you’d like to avoid demolishing your budget with holiday spending this year, consider these few tips.

Stick to a set budget: It can be really easy to add a few extra items to your shopping cart when you see big sales and savings. It can be even easier if you’re shopping online. What you really need to do is plan ahead, and if you already missed the boat this year – start now for next November. Figure out how much you’ve set aside to spend and don’t allow yourself to make any last minute or impulse purchases. Think about who you’re buying for and pick out something within budget that you know they’ll love. If you’re under budget, choose some smaller items or stocking stuffers until you’ve met your spending goal.

Start early: Are you a last minute shopper who typically hits the mall on December 23 or 24? Unfortunately you won’t find nearly as many deals on December 22 or 23 as you would if you started looking in early November.  Plus, even if you do find exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll probably be in such a hurry to finish your shopping, that you may be forced to pay whatever the price tag says without any sale options since you’ll be out of time.  If you start coming up with ideas in October or November, you’ll have plenty of time to do your research, save up, and find the best deals. Don’t overpay for last minute gifts that you could have gotten on sale weeks ago.

Save your receipts: There’s nothing worse than buying someone a clothing item and then finding out you bought the wrong size. No matter what you’re buying, there’s a chance it’s going to need to be returned. If you don’t have receipts, it’s quite possible the store won’t refund your money in full. If you can remember to get a gift receipt and include it with your gift – even better!

If you would like to get ahead of the game for next year’s holiday shopping – ask us about our Holiday Club Savings Account. You can easily setup payroll deductions from each paycheck to automatically go into the account, and by October you’ll be all set to shop for everyone on your list!*

*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. View full Rewards First program details at firstffcu.com.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Tips for Holiday Shopping on a Budget

‘Tis the season…to avoid going broke buying presents for your loved ones. It’s easy to do, right? Sometimes we get carried away and spend more money than we intended to. You don’t want to look like a cheap gift giver, but you also don’t want to buy the whole store either. So, how do you buy awesome gifts for everyone on your list without breaking the bank? We have a few tips to help keep your wallet full this holiday season.

Make a List, Check it Twice. Hey, the process works for Santa so it can work for you too! Start with a list of people you plan to buy for, jot down the gifts you think they’ll love and then check it twice. Santa has to buy gifts for the whole world, but you don’t have to. If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, trim your list. Look at alternatives like homemade gifts or baked goods so you can spread holiday cheer without looking like a Scrooge or going broke.

Create a Budget Based on Your Finances. Your best friend started a great job a few years ago and always gets you the most amazing gifts. However, if you’re in a different place in your financial life, don’t overextend yourself to match another’s gifts. Look at your budget and see what you can do. Don’t shop based on what you think you should spend. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” really does ring true here. It’s still possible to give thoughtful gifts to your loved ones without going into debt.

Take Advantage of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Online Deals. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest shopping days of the year. And for good reason – those are the two days you can get the best deals and save the most money. Electronics and toys are usually highly desired items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so if those are on your list, don’t miss the discounts. However if you did miss these two shopping days this year, keep checking your list and retailers’ websites and promotional emails – a lot of the time they end up extending their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales or even offering new discounts in the weeks leading up to December 25th.

Keep It Local. Shopping local is a great way to save a little cash while also supporting local businesses. Because there are fewer hands involved, buying local can often save you some money. You’ll likely save by purchasing green beans from a produce stand because the farmer doesn’t have to divvy up profits the way a chain supermarket does. It’s also a great way to improve your local economy. Plus, shopping at local businesses helps to improve your town’s economy. Follow your local news and check Facebook pages in your area to see what businesses are offering locally made products.

We know that holiday shopping can be stressful. You’re paying your regular bills, taking care of your regular expenses, and planning for holiday shopping on top of that. It can be tempting to open multiple credit cards or store cards, which often come with incredibly high interest rates. Don’t get stuck paying big balances on multiple cards. We have numerous options that can help you fund your holiday shopping without breaking the bank!

Let us help. Stop by, check out our website or give us a call to see what money saving options we have to help you this holiday season.

‘Tis the Season (for Holiday Fraud)

The best time of the year is here, but it’s also a time of year when fraud increases too. If you are doing any sort of holiday shopping, be aware of the following scam tactics designed to steal your personal and financial information:

E-Skimming – This is what happens when a scammer gets control of an unsecure link within a website that you may be shopping on. Without even realizing it, you could be redirected to a malicious domain where a skimming code can capture your personal and financial information as you are making your purchase online. Such a skimming code would be sent to a remote server in real time where fraudsters would be collecting all your personal data. This data is often sold and then used to make fraudulent purchases in your name afterward. Before you click on any links in emails or on the web – make sure it’s a secure website (you’ll see an https at the top) and only open emails from trusted sources.

Social Media Scams – Sometimes social media platforms are used to set up a fake online store. The site will feature advertising messages and take payments, but unfortunately you will never receive what you ordered and your financial information may also be compromised in the process. When following a brand on social media, look to see if it’s a verified business (blue check mark in the profile) and look to see their website and contact details, number of followers, and the like. If something seems off or too good to be true, it probably is.

Porch Pirates – This is a big time of year when delivered packages often disappear from the doorstep of unsuspecting homes and businesses. Be sure to track anything ordered as it ships to you, look for a delivery confirmation from the retailer, and try to not leave packages out on your porch for hours on end. If you are going to be away from home when a package is delivered, ask a trusted neighbor or family member to pick it up and hold it for you.

Shipment Update Scam Emails – You may find that a fraudster sends you a fake email that tells you your item failed to deliver and then asks you for updated shipping and contact information. This is a scam! The email may look legit (though you will usually find a fake or unusually long email address with a slightly different domain name), but it often contains a link with malware that will steal your personal information if you click on it. The original retailer has all of this contact information and will not ask you for it again.

Donations to Fake Charities – Scammers know that people love to give back this time of year. A donation scam will often duplicate a charity website and get you to click on a link (which is malware) to donate money. Instead of going to the actual charity, your donation goes right into the pocket of a criminal. Do your research before you donate, ensure the site is legitimate and verified.

Additional steps you can take to help prevent fraud this holiday season:

  • Sign up for transaction alerts to receive emails and/or texts for all your credit and debit cards.
  • Pay careful attention to links in emails and on websites.
  • Try to avoid entering card information into website forms. Instead use PayPal or a digital wallet like Apple or Google Pay when you can.
  • Make sure your home computer and mobile devices have anti-virus protection and a firewall.
  • Only shop on well-known and verified websites when buying online.
  • Go directly to a retailer’s website yourself instead of through a social media ad.
  • Look for skimming devices at the ATM or a gas station pump.
  • Monitor your bank accounts on a daily basis and if you see a purchase that was not made by you, report it to your financial institution right away.

Follow the above tips for an enjoyable, safe, and risk free holiday season. Think First!

Article Source: CUNA Mutual Risk Alert 11/14/19

 

First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Brick Township High School

Press Release

(L to R: First Financial’s VP of Marketing and Business Development, Grant recipient Mrs. Kim Haug, and Assistant VP of Business Development).

FREEHOLD, N.J. – Brick Township High School woodshop teacher, Kim Haug, was recently surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $500 Erma Dorrer classroom grant for the 2019-2020 school year.

Haug submitted a grant application to purchase a woodshop jointer for her classroom, as the high school is over 50 years old and the current machinery in the woodshop is original to when the school first opened. Some of the original machines are still working and have been repaired, however the classroom’s jointer is unfortunately beyond restoration at this point in time.

“I teach woodshop to a great group of students,” said Haug. “My students are very creative, and they design and construct great wooden projects, but with the lack of good working machines – they are limited in the quality of their finished projects. I would love to be able to use the grant money to offer my students a gift that will be used to improve the quality of their projects. A new jointer would be a worthwhile and necessary addition to our wood shop.”

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.”

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this December 2019

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  With so many joyful and festive events happening this month, it’s definitely going to be hard to choose which ones to attend. Enjoy this special time of year with your family and friends – check out the many free or inexpensive activities happening this December in a town near you.  Happy Holidays from all of us at First Financial, and wishing you a prosperous 2020!

December 1:

Asbury Park Holiday Bazaar at Convention Hall from 11am-6pm. There will be handcrafted and vintage goods, photos with Santa, live holiday music, food, a fireplace lounge and hot drinks bar, 30 foot Christmas tree, kids art and holiday workshops, and a photo booth. Don’t miss this fun holiday event for the whole family! Learn more here.

Long Branch Tree Lighting in Pier Village from 4-6pm. The Pier Village ice skating rink will be open, there will be mini train rides, a meet & greet with Santa, a live band, characters in costume, dancers, carousel rides, and more. Find out more information here.

Bradley Beach Tree Lighting from 4-7pm at Riley Park (615 Main Street). There will be live music, dancers, carriage rides around the park, and free hot chocolate and cookies. Plus, Santa will be arriving to help light the tree by firetruck! Attendees are asked to donate a pair of new socks to benefit the Jersey Shore Rescue Mission in Asbury Park. See more details here.

December 6: Spring Lake’s Christmas Train Village at Duggan Hall (313 Washington Avenue). Open seven days a week from 12pm-5pm until January 6, 2020. Come check out this spectacular holiday display with numerous running trains, animated attractions and much more. The display is free of charge to visit, but donations will be accepted from those who wish to do so. Donations will be given to the Common Ground Grief Center. Learn more here.

December 7:

Free Santa Photos at all First Financial Locations (Toms River, Neptune, Howell/Freehold). Sit with Santa from 10am-1pm! Each participating child will receive a free 4×6 photo in the mail, as well as the original image file will be sent to each parent/guardian. Register at your nearest branch here, or call 732-312-1500.

Santa Ferry Ride leaves from the NY Waterway Belford Terminal in Middletown from 8:30am-2:30pm. This fun yuletide ride will feature Santa and friends, Christmas carols, goodie bags, and a beautiful scenic view of the Statue of Liberty. Tickets must be purchased in advance, and are $17 for residents and $21 for non-residents. Kids under 1 are $5. Learn more here.

Horse Drawn Carriage Rides through Historic Allentown from 12pm-3pm at Pete Sensi Park. Come see Allentown decked out for the holidays by carriage ride, while also listening to historic tales. Tickets purchased the day of are $15 per person at Borough Hall, however advanced registration is recommended due to popularity of this event. Refreshments will also be available for purchase at Pete Sensi Park or enjoy any of Allentown’s historic restaurants after your 20 minute carriage ride. Find out more here.

Holiday Festival at Casino Pier (Seaside Heights) from 1pm-3pm. Entry fee is a new or gently used coat for a local coat drive and a non-expired canned good. Come dressed in your holiday best (or wear your favorite ugly Christmas sweater)! There will be prizes, holiday crafts, games, and a visit from Santa. See more information here.

December 8:

Breakfast with Santa at iPlay America (Freehold) from 9:30am-1pm.  Enjoy a delicious breakfast while Santa walks around, along with live holiday performances where the whole family can sing and dance along. There will also be an opportunity for photos with Santa, and decorating of Christmas cookies and reindeer treats to prepare for Christmas Eve! Learn more and register here.

Winter on Broad Street (Red Bank) from 11am-5pm. There will be lots of fun on the streets of Red Bank including ice skating, a life sized snow globe, a scavenger hunt, food,  a holiday bazaar and plenty of holiday spirit! Learn more about the event here.

December 13: Free Movie Friday at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park from 7pm-10pm. Come see the classic holiday movie A Christmas Story at the Paramount Theater with the whole family, for free!  See more details here.

December 14: Winter Solstice Celebration at Cattus Island County Park’s Cooper Environmental Center (Toms River) from 11am-3pm. There will be games, crafts, live animals, horse drawn carriage rides, campfire storytime, food, a candy cane nature walk, and a visit from Santa! The event is free to attend. Learn more here.

December 15: Christmas in Manasquan from 12:30pm-3pm at 126 Main Street. Don’t miss the town’s annual tree lighting, plus there will be hayrides, ice sculpting, giveaways, and lots of holiday cheer! Find out more here.

December 20: Free Movie Friday at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park from 7pm-9pm. Come see another classic holiday movie It’s a Wonderful Life at the Paramount Theater with the whole family, for free!  See more details here.

December 21: Free Classic Horse & Wagon Rides in Red Bank from 1pm-5pm (11 Bridge Ave or 26 Broad St). Take a free horse and carriage ride through beautifully decorated Red Bank for the holiday season! This is the last day of the event, you won’t want to miss it. Find out additional information here.

December 23: Downtown Freehold’s Annual Menorah Lighting at 5:30pm (10 East Main Street). Be sure to check out Freehold’s annual Menorah lighting to kick off Hanukkah this year! Find out more here, along with other Freehold holiday events throughout the month of December.

December 28 & 29: Springsteen Historical Exhibit in his hometown of Freehold (70 Court St) at 11am. This unique exhibit at the Monmouth County Historical Association will feature 150 items about Springsteen including his personal scrapbooks, yearbook photos, his original recorder, music, and more. General admission tickets are $15 per person, and Freehold Borough resident tickets are free of charge. Learn more here and reserve tickets online.

Happy Holidays!