Helping local students take their first steps towards college

When the Richard E. Taber Citizenship Award was established,
one of our goals was to create a scholarship that recognized local high school seniors
for their contributions at home, school and in our community.

Since 2011, the First County Bank Foundation has awarded
$120,000 in scholarships to deserving high school seniors who have demonstrated
a commitment to the core values of the Award.

Now, we are pleased to announce we are accepting scholarship applications for this year’s Awards. To find out more about the Award, including criteria and the application process, please visit our website.


Save money on wedding planning

So, you’re planning a wedding! Congratulations! Weddings are a very exciting and special time but it’s no secret that expenses can add up quickly. Here are some tips to have your dream day while sticking to a budget.

Make a plan and a budget. Your first step should be to make a plan of exactly what you want your special day to entail along with how much it will cost. Be generous with your estimates and make sure to factor in gratuities for your vendors.

Know what you don’t want. Take some time to talk to your future spouse about what truly matters (and doesn’t matter) to you both. There’s no sense in paying for a seven-tier cake when you would both rather have a DIY candy bar.

Shop around. Before getting too attached to one venue or caterer, get quotes from several different vendors to get a better sense of the market rate. Visit a designer boutique for your dress, but also consider bridal consignment stores or department stores.

Go Paperless. Invitations can be expensive and are easy to misplace. Consider using an e-vite website such as paperless post. Create a wedding website (The Knot has an easy-to-use website builder) with all the information your guests will need. If you send an e-vite, you can link to the website and guests can keep all the information they need in one place.

Be flexible with your date. Saturdays are the most expensive days to get married, so consider an alternative day. Winter months are less in-demand so venues may be cheaper. Check WeddingWire’s wedding date calendar to get a sense of how popular each day of the year is.

Consider the talents of your friends and family. Is your friend a calligrapher who could create place cards? Is your cousin a violinist who knows Canon in D? Often friends and family will feel honored to have a part in your big day and their contributions can help you cut costs.

Get crafty. The internet has a wealth of DIY wedding crafts. If you aren’t handy with a glue gun, get the members of your wedding party together for a night of decorating centerpieces. It will save you money and help your wedding party bond.

Limit vendor hours. In order to manage your photography budget, hire a professional photographer for the ceremony and then create a unique hashtag for the reception and let the guests take over as photographers. You will save money on the contract with the photographer by limiting their hours.


Maple Sugar Festival Recap

There’s nothing like a
New England winter weekend morning with pancakes and local maple syrup. The
Stamford Museum & Nature Center hosted a Maple Sugar Festival Weekend with
a teen chef competition featuring maple syrup as the key ingredient in each
dish.

We were proud to sponsor
this local community event and many First County Bank employees volunteered by
working the griddle and passing out bank swag to attendees. The teen chef
winner was fourteen year old Maximus Galarza who made choux pastry with maple
caramel drizzle and maple whipped cream. The event also featured fun family
activities such as face painting, arts & crafts, live music, and farm
animals. 


Security Tip – Why you should use Online Banking alerts

You’ve heard you should be monitoring activity on your bank accounts – but you also know you should be flossing your teeth and drinking more water. But like many things you are “supposed” to do, it’s easy for them to drop to the bottom of a very long list.

Here’s the good news – by signing up to receive Alerts through Online Banking, you can some help. With Alerts, you can receive notices automatically when a direct deposit or other payment is received, if your balance falls below a certain level, or every time your debit card is used (just to name a few options – login to Online Banking for a full list of available alerts). You can also choose to receive a notice each day with your current balances.

Signing up for Alerts is easy:

1. Login to Online Banking through our website or using our mobile app.
2. Select Manage My Alerts.
3. Select the type of alert you want, as well as how you want to receive it, by text, by email or both.

By the way – For security purposes, there are some Alerts we will send to you automatically using the phone number or email you have provided. These Alerts include any changes to your User ID, password, security information, mailing address or email address.

Not using Online Banking yet? You can get started in just a few clicks.

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to call our CustomerFirst Contact Center during regular business hours at 203-462-4400.

With Alerts from First County Bank, you can take one more item off your “should do” list and focus on other things – like drinking more water.


First County Bank Spotlight – Meet Alexa Faeth

Meet Marketing & Advertising Manager, Alexa Faeth, who recently joined First County Bank to provide strategic marketing support.

Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Alexa, and no, I cannot tell you the weather or play your favorite song! I’ve been in Marketing for a little over ten years, with a creative background in design and advertising.

I live in Norwalk with my fiancé, and we’re currently planning our wedding for this fall – the process is surprisingly not as terrifying as I expected! In my free time I enjoy spending time outdoors, reading a good book and visiting my friends and family.

What is the favorite part of your role with First County Bank?
Though I have only been with the bank a short period of time, I have to say my favorite part about my role is seeing how involved we are with the community.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?
I can’t wait to get to know everyone better and create some great memories!


Did you know ‑ You can get a new debit card instantly?

Dog ate your debit card? As anyone with a “best friend” knows, it’s not the craziest thing to happen. And if that’s not bad enough, now you have to wait for your new card to come in the mail.

 

But did you know, at First County Bank you can get your card faster than it takes to say “Drop that Buddy!”?

That’s because we offer “Instant Issue” debit cards, which means we can make you a new card right at any of our branches, at no additional cost, no appointment necessary. Opening a new checking account? Now you will leave with a debit card in your wallet, ready to use.

So whether you need a new card because it was lost, stolen, or chewed up by your dog, you can get where you belong, and stop watching the mailbox.

Click here to learn more about all the features and benefits of a First County Bank debit card.

 


Financial Tip – Save money on groceries

Groceries can be a big line item in any family’s budget – which is why it was no surprise to see it as some of your plans for saving this year. “Check out” some ideas on how to save money and lower your monthly grocery bill.

Eat first. We all are susceptible to being at the mercy of our hungry stomachs. This can be dangerous because suddenly the organic vegetable chips start to look appetizing and you will end up with a cart full of items you wouldn’t have considered if you had had a quick bite to eat before entering the store.

Make a list. It can feel like a waste of time, but looking through your cabinets before heading the store, and making a list will help ensure you buy what you need, no more, no less.

But you don’t have to do it alone - ask for help! With Google Shopping List
you can create and collaborate with family members. Mobile apps more your thing? Pick from this list of best grocery apps to help you organize your list and find coupons.

Enroll in your store’s rewards program. Almost every grocery store has a program to help you save money. Whether it's through a card on your key chain or an app, ask customer service if there’s an easy way to save money every time you check out.

Buy store brands. Store brands are a great way to save money on many staples such as butter, cereal, yogurt, and peanut butter – and you probably won’t even be able to tell the difference! (Not sure? Try a blind taste test with family members and see what they think).

Buy local and in‑season. This is not only good for your local economy, and your health, it will
also benefit your wallet because when produce is in season, it is often less expensive.

Experiment with substitutions in cooking. You don’t have to be a chef to change up a few ingredients in your cooking. If you go in with the basic plan of needing greens for a salad, choose the cheaper option between spinach, kale, mixed greens, or romaine. Try different types of protein. By getting creative with a recipe you may be able to better stick to your budget.


Mini Golf for a Cause at the Ferguson Library

It’s not every day you
get to enjoy a game of mini golf in the winter. Lucky for us, the Harry Bennett
Branch of the Ferguson Library hosted a fundraiser with indoor mini golf a few
weeks ago.

This family friendly
event allowed members of the community to come together to raise money for an
organization that means a lot to people of all ages in Stamford. We were proud
to be the presenting sponsor and attend the event to pass out piggy banks and
drawstring backpacks to participants.


Financial Tip - Pay Yourself First

We asked for your “financial resolutions” – and you delivered!  We’ll be sharing your ideas throughout the year starting with a great one . . . “pay myself first.”

But what does that mean?

Everyone looks forward to payday, but shortly after your direct deposit hits your bank account, the money starts flowing right back out. A great way to make sure you are saving money is to pay yourself first by allotting a portion of your paycheck to your savings account. Here are some tips on how to do so.

1. Set some goals. Write down where you are now and where you want to be in six months. Ask a friend or partner to be your accountability buddy and check in regularly. You’d be surprised what you can accomplish if you just write it down first.

2. Name your savings account. In Online Banking, set your account name to a simple title like “vacation,” “holiday expenses,” “new car” to keep you motivated.

3. Automate it. Saving can be as easy as setting up an auto payment into a savings account. Ask your HR department to send part of your direct deposit to a different account or set up automatic transfers in Online Banking. That way, when your paycheck hits your account, you would actually have to take more steps to spend it rather than saving it. You’ll also get used to only being able to spend what you can truly afford to spend.

4.   Start small and increase slowly. Starting with a large amount could be jarring, so start with a small number that is comfortable but still gets you to your goals. Once your savings grows a bit, reevaluate your plan and consider saving more each month.

Looking for an easy way to save? With our FirstPrize $avings each time you make a deposit of $25 or more, you earn a chance to win $1,000! Click here for important details or to learn more about our FirstPrize $avings account.


First County Bank Spotlight - Meet Anne Hardy

Meet Marketing Assistant and Events Coordinator, Anne Hardy, who has been a part of the First County Bank team for over 8 years and was recently named as one of the Smart Meetings’ Smart Women in Meetings Award Winners by Bright Business Media/Smart Meetings Magazine, a national meeting/media company.

Tell us a little about your life outside of the Bank
I enjoy taking unusual finds and everyday items and think outside the box to create one-of-a-kind tablescapes and vignettes for an occasion or just to celebrate the season.

I enjoy photography; I am always searching for the perfect sunrise!  Besides baking and trying new dishes on my family I love to spend time in Maine on the coast – it’s peaceful – no rushing, and honestly, you can’t beat sitting on the shoreline watching the surf and dining on lobstah!

As an avid bird-watcher, I’m out every year for the Christmas Bird Count with the National Audubon Society. When I can, I get involved with the business end of protecting our birds by writing articles.

What is the favorite part of your role with First County Bank?
I think that has to be bringing life to an event, it doesn’t matter if it’s a business meeting or the Norwalk Seaport Association's Oyster Festival, each has unique needs, its own demands and rewards.

What is the most frequent question you receive?
What’s coming up next? We are lucky to have a number of great people ready to answer the call for volunteers for the events we sponsor. The answer: Maple Sugar Festival March 9 and 10 at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?
The last employee holiday party. To see the visions come to life; everyone with smiles and laughter, truly enjoying each other’s company it was a great evening. It has raised the bar for the next one!


Mark Rosenbloom wins third place in The Darien Chamber of Commerce chili cook-off

Congratulations to our very own Mark Rosenbloom for placing third in The Darien Chamber of Commerce chili cook-off this past weekend. Mark is vice president, cash management services manager at the Bank and a modern Renaissance man who enjoys cooking in his spare time.

Mark’s award-winning chili is called “Mark’s Master Chili” and contains four dried chili Pasilla Negro peppers, six dried chili Anaheim peppers and an entire bulb of garlic!

In addition to his duties at the Bank, Mark also serves as the Chairman of the Darien Chamber of Commerce Charitable Foundation.

We hope Mark will make a batch of his award winning chili for the office – though we’re not sure we’ll be able to handle the heat! Check out Mark’s chili recipe as well as those from other winners.


Security Tip – Two-Factor Authentication (Just Do It).

If you have ever signed into a website and been asked to confirm your identity by email or text message, you have used two-factor authentication.

Also known as dual or multi-factor authentication because it requires an extra piece of information, for example, a code sent to your mobile device, before granting you access, two-factor authentication provides an extra level of security, ensuring only authorized people are able to access your account should your user ID and password be stolen or hacked.

Did you know you can add this extra level of security to your email, shopping, and social media accounts? With many becoming dependent on these tools for business and personal communications, it makes sense to add a second level of security.

To help you get started, we’ve provided links to information about how to set up two-factor authentication from some of the most popular services.