Archive for the ‘Lifestyle Trends & Tips’ Category
Tuesday, September 8th, 2015
If you’ve been to a retail store during the past few weeks, you’re well aware that back-to-school shopping season is in full swing. In fact, next to the holiday season, the back-to-school season is one of the biggest shopping times of the year as retailers promote “Back-to-School” blowouts, savings, and specials.
Unfortunately, this time is also a big season for fraud, as scam artists take to social media, email, and telephones to defraud innocent students and parents.
Here are some ways to ensure you don’t become victim:
- Only do business online with reputable retailers. If you see an enticing offer or promise, don’t click on banner ads and email links from retailers you don’t know or trust.
- Don’t participate in online surveys that promise to give you cash or free gifts.
- Trust your instincts. Scam artists like to lure you in with incredible offers, such as iPods or smartphones for $20. Chances are, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Be vigilant when handling phone calls. One popular technique for scam artists involves callers posing as college personnel looking for additional tuition fees and asking for immediate payment. They may claim that a loan payment or scholarship didn’t go through and that your child will not be able to attend school without payment.
- Watch for text messages offering you free giveaways when you click on a link.
Getting kids ready for school again is challenging enough. Follow these smart tips to ensure you don’t have to deal with a far greater challenge – being a fraud victim.
Monday, August 24th, 2015
With the high cost of housing prices today, it’s no wonder that purchasing a home may likely be the biggest investment you will make in your lifetime. That’s why it’s so important to proceed with caution to ensure you’re making the right home choice for your situation. Here are some key steps to making that happen:
Build savings. It takes money to buy a home. In addition to down payment funds, you’ll want to have funds available to cover household expenses, including repairs, home maintenance, and emergency expenses.
Make a checklist of criteria. Before you set out on your home search, you’ll need to narrow your search criteria and decide where you would like to live, what features you need in a home, number of bedrooms, etc.
Get pre-approved by a mortgage lender. A pre-approval from a mortgage lender can help you determine how much you can afford and help you concentrate on houses in your price range. It can also give you a negotiating edge with sellers who will know you’re a serious buyer.
Hire a real estate professional. Ask your friends, family members, and colleagues to recommend someone with expertise in the area you are seeking to buy. An experienced real estate professional should know the area well.
Do your homework. With the Internet, you have access to helpful information and tools to help you better understand the market and home buying process. Be sure to visit credible real estate sites to learn more.
Get an inspection before you buy. Once you find your perfect home, hire a licensed building inspector to determine if there are any problems with the home before you purchase it.
Make a smart move; take these simple steps before you start shopping for a home.
Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
First County Bank “Team Retail” won the Step Ahead Challenge where employees formed teams for a competition based on the number of steps they took within the month of June. The Step Ahead Challenge was sponsored by the First County Bank Working on Wellness “WOW” Committee, which encourages employee health through fitness, nutrition and stress reduction.
Photo caption: The First County Bank Step Ahead Challenge winner was “Team Retail” featured (L to R): Tammy Lindsay, Bertha Calhoun, Alexis Dipreta, Terry Coreau, Selma Conte.
Friday, October 24th, 2014
It’s the most basic tenet of money management, but often the most difficult thing to do – lowering your costs. That’s especially important when it comes to the costs involved with maintaining a home. But how can you spend less on one of the biggest, but necessary expenses of owning a home in the winter – your heating bill?
Here are 8 easy ways:
- Set your thermostat to 68 degrees. Putting on a heavy sweater or throwing an extra blanket on your bed is a lot less expensive than raising your thermostat.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Why heat your home when you’re not there or when you’re sleeping? Consider installing a programmable thermostat, which will ensure your heat is on when you need it. It’s a small investment that can make a big dent in your heating costs.
- Seal windows, doors, and pipes. Those openings in your home can be a significant source of energy loss and drafts. Seal windows, doors, and pipes by using caulking or weather stripping available at hardware stores.
- Insulate electrical outlets. You have the power to control your heating costs by checking and insulating electrical outlets and boxes.
- Cover and uncover windows. Curtains aren’t just nice to look at; they also provide a great way to keep in heat at night. During the day, open curtains to allow sunlight to warm your home.
- Clear vents and heating ducts. Your couch might look great against a wall, but if it’s blocking your heating vents, it’s probably making your heating bill look higher than it needs to be. Move furniture and other obstructions away from vents and ducts.
- Use your ceiling fans. Fans aren’t just for summer. By running your ceiling fan in the winter, you’ll help push heat down.
- Set up a free energy audit. Contact your fuel company to arrange for a free audit to assess your home and learn other ways to lower your heating costs now so you don’t “take the heat” with a big bill later.
Friday, October 17th, 2014
Which brings more comforts for home?
Homeownership. It’s long been considered the American dream. But is owning a home always a better alternative than renting one? Before the housing crisis of a few years ago, the argument for buying may have been a lot stronger. Today, however, with economic uncertainties, it’s critical to understand and evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of buying and renting a home to determine what’s best for your situation.
Homeownership offers some nice benefits, not the least of which is the ability to build equity, a valuable asset. Homeowners also have greater control of their housing situations with no landlord to tell them what color they can paint their walls or when they have to move.
But there are some drawbacks to owning a home that also make renting attractive. Homeowners are responsible for making home repairs and performing ongoing maintenance, which can be costly. They also don’t have the freedom to pick up and leave if they want to move.
So how do you determine which option is right for you? The answer of course will vary depending on your unique financial situation and needs, but here are some general guidelines:
Consider buying a home if you –
- Like the stability of staying in one place for a long period of time.
- Have savings for a down payment and for maintenance costs.
- Have a steady income and good credit.
- Would like to take advantage of potential tax savings (consult your tax advisor).
To learn more about the option that’s best for your financial and life situation, talk to us today.
Friday, July 11th, 2014
You gotta love the sound of that.
Summer. It’s that brief, but wonderful time of year that brings your senses alive and your loved ones together. You can enjoy sizzling barbecues, plunge in cool ocean waters, and take in the electric atmosphere of a ballgame. There’s another summer activity that you’re sure to love the sound of – free concerts and movies!
Free Wednesday Night Concerts
First County Bank is honored to once again sponsor the summer concert series held at Calf Pasture Beach. This year’s series, which coincides with the 45th anniversary of Woodstock and the 50th anniversary of The Beatles, features some of the best tribute bands around celebrating the music of Jimmy Buffett, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Eagles, ABBA, and more. You can also enjoy entertaining performances by regional rock and roll bands, including Bill Genuario and Destiny, The Royal Kings, Keith Marron’s Whistleville Band, and much more.
Free Outdoor Movies
In addition to the free concerts, you can enjoy free outdoor activities at Shady Beach located at Calf Pasture Beach Road. These kid-focused events, feature free face painting, karate demonstrations, and outdoor movies, including Monsters University, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs #2, The Lego Movie, and more.
Not in the Norwalk area? Many towns offer free movie or concert series through their park or recreation departments. It’s a great way to save money while making the most of the summer. Plus, you can always take advantage of the many playgrounds, parks, walking and hiking trials throughout Fairfield County. Try a new sport or activity – in addition being active and enjoying the outdoors, it’s also a great way to spend some quality family time together.
Thursday, May 15th, 2014
At long last, spring has arrived. And whether you’re planning to clean up, build out, or fix up this season, it’s a great time to invest your time and money in what will likely be the biggest asset you will ever own – your home. But fixing up your home this spring doesn’t have to break your budget. Here are five smart and simple projects you can take on that can actually improve your home and save you money:
- Clean out those gutters. Springtime is the season for rain. And the last thing you need is to have your gutters overflowing with water that could build up near the foundation of your home, causing significant damage over time. If you don’t mind getting up on a ladder, you can save money by cleaning the gutters on your own. Or, you could hire a professional for a few hundred dollars.
- Check your roof for damage. Snow, sleet, and ice from the harsh winter can take a toll on your roof. That’s why it’s a good idea to get out your binoculars and visually inspect your roof for misplaced or missing shingles. Arrange to have any shingles replaced by a professional or replace them yourself. Making roof repairs is a whole lot cheaper than replacing your roof altogether.
- HVAC unit installation/repairs. Having air conditioning is a wonderful luxury in the hot summer months. But if you’re going to invest in a system or make repairs to one you already own, spring is a great time to do it. You’ll pay more if you wait until the hot summer months when demand and prices are considerably higher.
- Plant trees. Spring is the optimal time for planting. It’s also a great time to save money on air conditioning costs by planting shady trees in areas of your house that are hot.
- Clean your refrigerator. Dirty coils in your refrigerator force your refrigerator to work harder, thereby making it less energy efficient. Use your vacuum cleaner to clean out the coils to help improve its performance and reduce your energy costs.
Other home improvement ideas in bloom.
Click here for more spring home improvement tips to save you money.
Friday, March 21st, 2014
It’s been a longtime coming, but spring is finally here. If you’re like most members of our communities your heating bill crept up as the temps continued to go down throughout the winter. Enough of that!
The Department of Energy has a list of easy-to-do tasks to help you cut down on your home energy usage (and expenses) as we spring forward into the milder weather months.
Friday, September 6th, 2013
With hurricane season upon us, First County Bank is urging customers to prepare by staying informed and creating emergency plans to protect against the potential threat of bad weather.
“Preparation is key to ensuring safety during hurricane season,” said Katherine Harris, President and COO of First County Bank. “When faced with natural disasters, the bank takes preparation seriously to ensure customers have access to accounts and services, deposits are protected and our community is well prepared.”
In addition, the bank has taken preventative measures to enhance safety during emergencies by developing extensive recovery plans, educating employees on best practices in an emergency and staying actively involved in the community to identify the need for assistance after the storm.
“Through a few easy steps prior to a hurricane, households can be well prepared for the storm,” said Harris.
First County Bank offers the following tips to ensure you and home are prepared for the unexpected:
· Create an emergency kit and develop family communication plans. The emergency kit should include first aid supplies, a flashlight, extra batteries, at least three days of non-perishable foods and water, towels and a supply of any necessary medications.
· Identify an evacuation route and have a safe place to go. Establishing a plan before an emergency can help eliminate confusion and stress.
· Know when and where to evacuate, and know what you can and cannot bring to a shelter. Find out if your local emergency shelter allows animals and family pets or register pets at an animal shelter prior to a storm.
Thursday, May 16th, 2013
In 2010, Americans threw away about 250 million tons of garbage and recycled about 65 million tons. Recycling is vital to our planet as it helps make our environment clean, conserves materials, saves energy and reduces garbage in landfills. It is a valuable process, however it does require energy and labor to turn recyclable materials into usable materials again, and in some cases produces pollutants to do so.
Now, there is a process that is just as useful to the environment, that doesn’t require the melting down of materials, but rather requires imagination and a desire to turn something old into something new again. That process is called “Upcycling” – finding another purpose for an item that’s disposable and old.
In this Brass Magazine article, the author talks about the basics of “upcycling,” how to start and what to look for. Take it as far as your imagination goes – like messenger bags from old jeans, bottle caps into jewelry or even coasters out of corks. Who knows, you may even turn your upcycling into a business! http://www.brassmagazine.com/article/repurpose-driven-life-giving-old-items-new-image