Press Release: 150 NJ Motorists Amazed by $3,750 in Free Gas

First Financial Federal Credit Union Provides Free Gas in Response to NJ Gas Tax Hike

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Pictured above from L to R: Toms River Assistant Manager April Sirleaf, Chief Financial Officer Terri Warn, Director of Business Development Matt Brazinski, Howell Branch Manager Dan Dunn, Assistant VP of Member Services Jackie Setser, and Assistant VP of Marketing Jessica Revoir provide free gas to Howell and Freehold motorists at Exxon on Rt. 9 on 11/15.

FREEHOLD, N.J. – At 6 a.m. at three secret locations during the week of November 14th, New Jersey motorists were stunned to be greeted by employees of First Financial Federal Credit Union where they received $25 in free gas, plus a travel coffee mug. In the wake of New Jersey’s 23-cent gas tax hike, the credit union eased the pain at the pump for 150 drivers with a total of $3,750 in free gas this month.

“This is a really great thing and a nice way to give back to the community,” one motorist said after filling up at the Mobil station at 3330 Rt. 66 East in Neptune on November 16th. Free gas was also given away at the Exxon station at 639 US 9 North in Freehold, where one woman even got out of her car to shake every First Financial staff member’s hand. On November 17th, the First Financial surprise team also provided another 50 motorists with free gas at the Shell station on the corner of Routes 9 and 571 in Toms River.  One woman was so happy with the efforts of the credit union that she opened her membership at the Toms River branch across the street a few hours later.

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Pictured above: Business Development Representative Kyle Kasten informs a happy customer about their free gas at Mobil on Rt. 66 in Neptune 11/16.

The free gas promotion came soon after New Jersey had its first raise in its gas tax in nearly 30 years. On November 1st, New Jersey went from having the nation’s second lowest gas tax to the seventh highest. The added funds are expected to raise an estimated $16 billion over the next eight years to fund improvements to roads, bridges and mass transit.

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Pictured above: Assistant VP of Marketing Jessica Revoir, Toms River Branch Manager Suzanne Mealia, Director of Business Development Matt Brazinski, Assistant VP of Member Services Jackie Setser, and Compliance Specialist Jennifer Bly provide Toms River motorists with free gas at Shell on the corner of Routes 9 & 571 on 11/17.

“This was a fantastic three-day event, and not just for 150 lucky New Jersey motorists, but for all of us here at the credit union,” said Issa Stephan, President/CEO of First Financial. “We care about the people outside our walls at the credit union. Our employees also thrive on the positivity and joy they receive when helping our community. We know it’s a busy time of year with the holidays coming up and shopping to do, so if we could help by providing groups of motorists with free gas on their way to work for a few days in the month of giving thanks – we’re happy to be giving back to our community even in some small way.”

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Pictured above from L to R: Assistant VP of Marketing Jessica Revoir, Chief Financial Officer Terri Warn, Howell Branch Manager Dan Dunn, Assistant VP of Member Services Jackie Setser, Neptune Branch Manager Jessica Lombardi, HR Manager Patty Razzano, and Business Development Representative Kyle Kasten provide free gas to Neptune motorists on 11/16.

While the free gas events have ended, First Financial is offering anyone who refinances their auto loan, or purchases a new or preowned car financed with First Financial, a $25 Wawa gas card at loan closing. This gas card promotion runs through December 31st or while supplies last. For more details visit firstffcu.com.

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About First Financial Federal Credit Union:

First Financial Federal Credit Union is a community credit union serving Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey. First Financial is a not-for-profit whose goal is to achieve members’ financial dreams by defining their goals and lifestyle, empowering them through financial education, building their wealth, planning their retirement, and managing their risk. Established in 1936, First Financial currently serves more than 19,000 members. First Financial is overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of credit union members. The credit union is federally insured by the NCUA. To learn more, visit http://www.firstffcu.com.

Stop Wasting Time with These “Money Saving” Habits

Red Old Style Alarm Clock. Isolated on White.

You have probably heard the age old cliché “time is money,” a few times in your life. That saying could not be any truer for money saving habits. There are many great money saving tips out there, but not all of them are worth your time. Here are a few serious time wasters you should avoid.

Clipping Physical Coupons

If you play the “grocery game” using coupons and find yourself compulsively looking at deal matching sites, as well as driving to different stores each week to score a coupon deal – you are wasting your time (and gas).

Digital coupons are much faster, though try not to look at deal matching sites daily – and if you have to, maybe only a few times a month. You can simply go to your local grocery store and browse their sale items to see if items you typically purchase are discounted, or look through their offers online before you go to the store – rather than driving all over town trying to score free items you may never even use.

Using Budgeting Apps

Get rid of any money saving app that takes too long to use daily. It’s not worth the frustration or wasted time. For budgeting to truly work for individuals, it must be simple and a daily habit. You will stay on budget if you can easily look at how much you planned to spend in a certain area, and how much you have already spent in that area. For example, if you know you have budgeted $350 for groceries for the month, you should be able to look quickly at your phone to see how you are sticking to that particular goal.

Making Your Own

A few years ago, there was a huge boom of money saving homemaker blogs. These popular blogs seemed to make everything from scratch and the owners boasted a frugal lifestyle. However, if it takes you almost 30 minutes each to make homemade tortillas and bagels, you are only really saving pennies for both items.

In some cases, making your own food or craft items from scratch just make sense. Calculate the savings versus time spent to see if your DIY project is really worth it. If something saves you $5 but takes you over an hour to do it, is it really worth it? Of course, if you love doing the DIY project, then the time was worth it. Know yourself and do what works for you.

Over Researching Everything

Research is valuable and you can save a lot of money with knowledge. However, don’t research something to death or waste time trying to save just a few dollars. If it takes you 30 minutes looking for a $5 Home Depot coupon code and trying to get codes to work, is that really worth your time or the minimal savings?  If you find a money saving coupon code online right away, then great. But if the process takes much longer than expected and isn’t really saving you that much anyway, it might be better to just order the item and spend the rest of your time wisely.

Article Source: Ashley Eneriz for Money Ning, http://moneyning.com/frugality/stop-wasting-time-with-these-money-saving-habits/

 

The Only Diet You Need is a Spending Diet

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It’s hard to go even one day without seeing an advertisement for some “fast, amazing, unbelievable” diet. Even if you somehow managed to spend your days away from the television, internet, or social media, you still have to deal with the many times you hear friends and co-workers talk about “losing a few pounds” or trying a new program.

Unfortunately, the diet probably won’t last long and old habits will reign once again. The problem is, psychologically, these dieters aren’t preventing the temptation from catching their eye. And how can they? If one person brings cookies to the office, the dieter might think, “Well, one bite won’t hurt. I don’t want to hurt Suzy’s feelings, she worked hard to bake these.” If that same dieter watches television, the chances are high that they will see at least three food-related commercials during that time too.

What does all of this have to do with money? When someone tries to spend less money (in an effort to trim down expenses), they encounter the same temptation as the food dieters mentioned above. They may go out with friends who are all buying coffees at Starbucks, or they may think that spending a few dollars here or there won’t really hurt their mission to save money.

If you think that, then you need to go on a spending diet. Yes, you read correctly, a spending diet. No matter your reasoning (maybe your significant other lost their job or you’re drowning in student loan debt payments), a spending diet is a simple solution to a seemingly difficult problem.

When you go on a diet, you typically try to rid your kitchen of all of the foods that are now no-no’s. For a spending diet use this concept and hide or cut up all your credit or debit cards. If you can’t find the box of Oreos, you can’t eat it – the same idea goes for your cards.

As for those temptations that are less in your control (like Suzy’s famous cookies), take a step back to think before acting. Do you really need a coffee at 11 in the morning, or is it just the normal stop on your mid-morning walk around the office building?

Spending diets are easy to set up and even easier to implement.

First thing is first: commit to it! Tell yourself that, for exactly one month, you will track what you are spending (and attempt to keep that number as close to $0 as you can).

Second step: cut the temptation in any way possible! One big motivator to stay on your diet is if you constantly remind yourself about the reason for why you began the spending diet in the first place: debt repayment, job loss, saving for a big expense, etc. Your motivator will help you when that 11am coffee is calling your name from across the plaza.

As with any diet, it is okay to slip. Maybe you left your travel mug of coffee on your kitchen counter this morning, and you seem to be dragging today. One $5 morning coffee won’t kill you, or your diet. But just one!

The best way to ensure you keep those extra expenses from creeping up, is to only carry cash for the month you decide to diet.  If you only have $5 on you, that is all you can spend. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and you need to accept the fact you can’t just whip out your credit card to buy a second coffee (because you hid it at the beginning of the month, remember?).

The spending diet can be an effort to either slim or eliminate non-necessity spending. This much is up to you. Just like a food diet, you need to make the spending diet work for you and your finances, and only you can decide how much you truly want to spend (or save).

Article Source: Will Lipovsky for Money Ning, http://moneyning.com/frugality/the-only-diet-you-need-is-a-spending-diet/

 

10 Financial Habits You Should Start Today

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When you look at people who are financially fit, they all have several things in common. They know the value of money and have developed plans and habits that keep them in shape — financially speaking, of course. They are never late with their bills. They know the value of money. They have little to no debt at all.

These are their habits. They all have this common thread, which binds them together. They know what to do when it comes to money — and what not to do. They may not have thousands of dollars in the bank, but they are still financially fit. They just handle money in a way that seems magical to many of us.

The truth is that it is not magic. There is no secret formula that they follow. They have one thing in common: Good financial habits.

Anyone can do this. You just need to know where to start. Below, you will find 10 habits that these people all have in common. Best of all, they are things you can start doing today.

1. Have a Written Budget

This is the key to any financial plan. Many people – sort of, have a budget. They know who they have to pay each month, but maybe it’s not in writing. When you have a written budget, you see exactly where your money goes. Best of all, you can direct your money where you want it to go. You can decide what you want to save and how much you want to spend on groceries. When writing out your budget, be sure to include every single expense (don’t forget about the coffee you stop for every morning or if you pay for parking each day). Your budget is your roadmap to financial success.

2. Pay Your Bills On Time

Never be late with your bills. There are so many ways to ensure they get paid on time, including easily setting up automatic payments or setting reminders on your phone. You can even use a calendar and write in due dates. When you pay your bills on time you show you are responsible. Not only that, but you won’t have to worry about late fees either.

3. No Need for Immediate Satisfaction

It can be tempting when you are shopping to pick up that new bag or pair of shoes. However, do you really need them? Will buying them truly make you happy? Why do you want to buy them? Asking yourself these questions can help you avoid emotional purchases, which typically only lead to buyer’s guilt later on. If you do want to buy something, use the 24 hour rule: Go home and think about it. Check your budget, and if 24 hours later you still really want and can afford the item – go ahead and purchase it.

4. Try Not to Use Credit or Debit Cards

Cash is one of the best ways to ensure you are financially fit. Even if you think you use credit cards the right way and pay them off each month, you could still be overspending. For example, if you only have $100 to spend on groceries, you can’t spend even $101 if you only have cash. If you are using plastic, it’s often too easy to spend more than you anticipate.

5. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Have regular budget updates with your other half – look over your finances and check your spending. Don’t hide money or spending – just be honest. Try to make time for a monthly meeting, and add it to both of your calendars so you can go over your budget together.

6. Pay Down Debt

Take steps to pay off any debt you have. If there’s a lot of it, you will probably need to create a debt pay off plan. It may take some time, but you can do it!

7. Save Money Every Month

Your budget should include a line item for every penny you earn, including savings. Saving could be needed for retirement, holidays, emergencies, and so on. There is never a right or wrong thing to save for. The best trick here is to automate your savings. When it’s automatic, you can never make excuses for yourself that you can’t save. Instead, it’s money not available for you to spend – and this is never a bad thing!

8. Live Within Your Means

Who wouldn’t love a huge house or fancy car? We all would – but can you actually afford it? Everyone has a different income, therefore the way we live will be different based upon that income. The real difference is not in how much you make, but in what you spend.  If you can’t afford that huge house right now, you shouldn’t buy it.

9. Use Credit Wisely

Credit cards can be a great way to not only build your credit, but also to gain rewards and perks. But, you need to use credit cards the right way. Never charge more than what you have in the bank – if you only have $500 in your account, do not charge more. The reason being, a payday is never a guarantee. You should generally be able to pay your balance in full each month, and on time.

10. Balance Your Accounts Regularly

While you can use online banking 24/7 to check your account balances, there may still be transactions that haven’t posted yet, checks that haven’t cleared, and online bills that haven’t been reflected yet either. If you balance your account regularly, you know exactly what you have to spend.

These 10 habits will easily get you to be financially fit.  You don’t have to start with all ten at once – even if you master a few now and slowly add in the others, you’ll be financially fit in no time!

Article Source: Tracie Fobes for Gobankingrates.com, https://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/financial-habits-need-start-today/

Need to Lower Your Grocery Bill? Bring Some Old Fashioned Frugality into Your Kitchen

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Does it feel like your grocery bill keeps growing? Maybe you’re eating healthier or haven’t been as diligent about shopping sales ads and using digital coupons, rewards cards, or rebate apps. Or maybe, too many convenience foods are creeping into your kitchen.

Convenient prepared foods – even their healthy versions – are convenient. It’s nice to have pre-cut, pre-mixed, prepared foods for the times our schedules get a little hectic, but they can quickly become an excuse to get lazy about food preparation — and jack up the grocery bill.

Back in the ‘olden’ days, people didn’t have the option of prepared breads, sauces, dressings, or meals-in-a-box. They used basic staples to make everything they needed. It’s time to bring some old-fashioned frugality back into our kitchens. Here’s how we can do it.

Stop Buying Pre-Cut Veggies!

It’s easy to want to buy baby-cut carrots because, well who wants to peel and cut a bag of whole carrots when you can buy them ready made? Stop to realize the price difference between the two – roughly 50 to 60 cents per pound. Ouch! It only takes about five minutes to peel and chop a bag of carrots. Also keep a lookout for pre-cut vegetables that are on sale. Reduced-price chopped veggies might be past their prime for snacking, but they’re great for throwing in a quick stir fry.

Learn How to Make Things from Scratch

The term “from scratch” is scary to some people because it evokes images of slaving over the stove. In reality, there are dozens of items we use on a regular basis that don’t take much time – or skill – to make from scratch. Not only will this help you stay within your grocery budget, but you’ll enjoy fresher, less preservative-packed foods. Take a look in your fridge and pantry and write down staples you use on a regular basis. Can you learn how to make some of these just from watching a few YouTube videos or looking on Pinterest? Here are some suggestions:

■ Dressings – most contain five or less basic ingredients you probably already have on hand and take only a few minutes to whip up.

■ Sauces – these may require a little more time simmering, but still easy.

■ Hummus and other dips.

■ Oat and almond flour — just blend oats or almonds.

■ Bread – no-knead breads are easy to make even if you’re not into baking.

■ Cereal, granola, protein and energy bars.

Preserve In-Season Bounty

Produce is at its best and cheapest in the summer and fall, but then January rolls around. The word “preserve” elicits visions of canning and pickling, but the modern alternative is simple – prepare and freeze. You might be surprised at some of the things you can freeze. Most vegetables and fruits keep well frozen, and you can also freeze trays of fresh herbs in olive oil, broth, and egg whites or yolks.

Re-grow It

Don’t have time for a garden? No problem. Scallions, celery cores and herbs can all be grown and re-grown right in your windowsill.

Bring Back the Sunday Roast

Save money on meat by buying tougher, cheaper cuts and slow-roasting them in broth, herbs, and spices for a few hours. Plus, if you start the roast early, you won’t have to wait for dinner.

Just because we have so many convenient, prepared foods at our fingertips doesn’t mean we have to use them. Bringing back a few old-fashioned practices into your kitchen will shave your grocery bill and revitalize your enjoyment of fresh, homemade ingredients at the same time.

Happy cooking (and saving)!

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Money Ning, http://moneyning.com/shopping-smart/need-to-lower-your-grocery-bill-bring-some-old-fashioned-frugality-into-your-kitchen/

Ways to Save Money this Halloween

halloweenAccording to a poll from the National Retail Federation, Americans are planning on spending more than ever this Halloween. It’s estimated that we will spend $8.4 billion this year, which breaks down to an average $82.93 per shopper. If that number seems a little too spooky for you, follow these saving tricks to treat your budget.

Get your candy from warehouse clubs.

Places like Sam’s Club or Costco are great for buying anything in bulk and yield a ton in savings. If you have a membership to one of these stores, they already have a variety of candy available. You’ll probably save enough to be able to buy a few extra bags.

Hold off on buying those pumpkins.

The search for the perfect pumpkin is one of the best parts of the holiday. Postpone the search until as close to Halloween as possible, as many stores will give discounts in order to clear out inventory. Not to mention the pumpkins you carve won’t have time to rot before their big day, and you can use the uncarved pumpkins for thanksgiving decorations!

Search around for free activities in the community.

A lot of community centers, schools, museums, churches and other local venues host free Halloween events for their communities. Look at your local newspaper, Facebook events, or community calendars to plan your holiday outings. Don’t forget to check out our monthly Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth and Ocean Counties blog post too!

Make or share your Halloween costumes.

You can find plenty of tutorials and tips online for making Halloween costumes with inexpensive materials. Some blogs suggest making the costume creation process a competition with your kids by giving them a budget and letting them loose in a thrift shop. You can also lend and borrow costumes with your friends which is great way to not spend anything, acquire new costumes, and still look good at the same time.

Craft your own decorations.

The scariest part of Halloween isn’t the decorations themselves, it’s how much they can cost. To save big, head over to your local dollar store and pick up some supplies to craft your own decorations.

Happy Halloween!

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CU Insight, https://www.cuinsight.com/ways-save-money-halloween.html