Tag Archives: finance advice

9 Ways to Save During the Holidays

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It’s the same story every year, isn’t it?  The holidays arrive, in a whirlwind of candied yams, spiked nog and flimsy tinsel, and then all of a sudden it’s January 2nd; you’re cold, still hungover and decidedly broke.  So what’s a festive yet cash strapped gal/guy like yourself to do?  Why, start your shopping bonanza with thriftiness as well as cheeriness, that’s what. 

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Don’t Budge (from your budget), Blixen 

Most people begin the shopping process by fashioning a list of all the people they need to procure presents for, in a jolly and jovial, Santa-esque manner.  This is a big Ho-Ho-No.  You first need to look at the cumulative present budget that you have to work with.  Now, you can break it down, communist-like, by dividing the figure by the exact amount of people you need to buy for, and each person gets a present within this set monetary parameter.  The other option is to allocate varying percentages of the budget to each individual (let’s face it, great Aunt Trudy who’s visiting from Albuquerque, that you’ve met once, shouldn’t get the same caliber of present as, say, your spouse).  After you perform a fair assessment of who should get what, you may find that you need to trim some fat from the list; sorry, slightly sketchy Steve from down the block, no fruitcake for you this year.

Be Practical, Prancer 

A further caveat to factor in to the spending budget is any and all other holiday related expenses.  These may include, but are not limited to, shipping costs for delivering presents to those pesky out-of-state folk, postage for holiday cards, any new holiday specific home decor items, the anticipated surge in the electric bill due to lights continuously running, scrumptious holiday themed treats, and merry more.  Decide what is essential and then assign these things a monetary cap.   

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Carols & Cash only, Comet 

This is an age old trick that can help even the most magnanimous shopper stay within required fiscal boundaries; leave the credit cards at home and only carry wintry-cold, hard cash.  Some people can never stick to the budgets they have devised once they find themselves in the glittering shopping malls, all strategically loaded with goods designed to drain your bank accounts.  To avoid a Maxed Out X-mas, leave all forms of plastic behind and just bring the set amount of bills necessary to get all your stuff.  This way when your cockles are warmed by the sight of a Twerking Elmo or an Electrolux with disco lights – ‘That would just bring little Timmy oh so much joy this year!’ – you are forced to stay within the confines of your cash limit.  

Don’t dawdle, Dasher!

Often the weeks leading up the the big events can be hectic and stressful, leaving you with little time to get your shopping done.  So what’s the result?  You end up sprinting through whatever stores are open on Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa Eve; a virtual prisoner to whatever items are left in stock, at ridiculously marked up rates.  “Was gonna get Janey a doll made of yarn this year, but the only thing left here are these Tiffany earrings – oh well!  We’ll have to get her ears pierced, too – they do that for toddlers, right?”  No matter how busy you are, don’t procrastinate!  Get your shopping done post-haste.

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DIY, Dancer

Sure, everybody likes shiny wrapping paper and all that jazz, but some presents can take the form of actions rather than goods.  Offering to shovel an elderly neighbor’s walkway, cat-sitting your crazy aunt’s even crazier cat, making a few extra gingerbread cookies for your ornery mail-person; all these kindly gestures are presents that will be very much appreciated and don’t cost a red-nosed cent.  

Use e-Cards, e-Cupid!

Holiday greeting cards can be fun, but when you think about how expensive they can be, along with the added burden of postage, in addition to the amount of trees that have to be murdered… e-Cards look like the way to go.  With zero waste and tons of fun, you can customize these little fellows to say (and even sing!) anything you like.  They are either free or very inexpensive, relative to physical cards, so utilizing these can help free up some extra cash for the rest of the budget.  Also, they’re quite time efficient; knock out that entire list in a just a couple of clicks.   

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Donate, Dunder 

If times are tight for you, just imagine how bad they can be for some others out there.  One way to combat the rampant commercialism and overindulgent consumerism is to collect a few of the more mature members on your list (not the lil’ ones, of course), and see who would be amenable to taking a donation (in their name) to a charity in lieu of a present.  Volunteer that you would like to do the same thing; this way several of you can combine your assets and deliver a sizable gift to the organization of your choice.  It’s the season of giving, and going through with this will have you feeling truly in the spirit.  

Let’s Vacay, Vixen

If you have a significant other, significant mother or close-knit family, you may want to skip the gifts altogether and go on a trip.  The good news here is that during the actual holiday dates (Christmas, New Year’s Eve), prices on hotels, plane fares and the like take a dramatic dip.  It’s a great way to come together as a couple, or entire clan, and see some of the natural and man-made gifts already out there for the taking! 

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Be resourceful, Rudolph 

If you end up with a couple of pennies left over after all is said and unwrapped (or are given a few of those super thoughtful ‘gift cards’ to various stores yourself), you can think ahead to next year and take advantage of the cavalcade of sales now occurring at all the local shops (and online as well).  Yes, shopping may be the last thing you want to engage in all over again, but the slashed prices on inventory (that just needs to be moved) are really unbeatable in January.  So light your sleigh to savings! …or something like that.  

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-Joe Leone   

The Ups and Downs of Doing a Balance Transfer

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So you’ve gotten yourself into some credit card debt and you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about how to get out of it. It seems like every time you look at your balance, it’s gone up way more than you expected because of those pesky interest charges, and you’re beginning to wonder whether you’ll ever be able to get it back to zero.

But then, a beacon of hope arrives in the mail. Your bank is telling you that you can put a stop to those interest charges—at least for a little while—by putting all of that debt somewhere else. Or, maybe a new bank is telling you to bring your debt over to them by opening an entirely new account. Whether or not you should take advantage of one of those balance transfer offers depends upon the current state of your credit and the merits of the offer itself.

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If you’re interested in opening a new card, one of the negative sides is that, even though the direct mail letter may make it seem like you can basically call them and the card will appear in your hand, you still have to apply for the new line of credit. Because of that, the process can take time and you risk being denied. Daily Finance advises against applying for several lines of credit at a time because it will work against your credit score, decreasing your chances of actually getting a new credit line. However, if you are approved, your credit score could increase because your credit utilization rate (or your credit-to-debt ratio) will improve.

Using an existing line of credit may be a great way to consolidate your debt as well, especially if you already opened a new line of credit in order to complete a balance transfer in the past. CreditCards.com shares the important reminder that you may not be able to open a new line of credit because creditors could see you as a risk if you continue to carry a balance even after getting new credit. Being seen as a risk would make it harder for you to get different types of credit, such as loans for cars or a home.

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Regardless of whether you need to open a new account or are considering using an existing line of credit, make sure to read the fine print to find out how much it will cost. Every balance transfer will have a fee associated with it, regardless of the bank or the newness of your account, but some balance transfer offers have lower fees than others. Another consideration is the length of the zero or low interest rate promotion: some give you 18 months to pay off the amount, while others give you 24 months. USA Today makes an important point for debtors: creditors have no legal obligation to remind you of the end of your promotional rate, so it’s important to be diligent about paying off the entire amount in time or be prepared for the appearance of interest charges when the promotional rate expires.

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In addition to enjoying a lower interest rate on your debt, you’ll have the added benefit of easier, streamlined payments. If you have found yourself confused by due dates and bill cycle closing dates, this may be a very real perk to help you get back on top of your debt. The phrase “consolidating debt” sounds a lot fancier than it really is: all it means is that you put all of your debt in the same account, typically using a method like a balance transfer. But, keep in mind that many balance transfer offers have a limit on the amount of debts you can transfer.

If you do a balance transfer, be careful not to forget about the debt or only pay the minimum just because you are enjoying a zero percent interest promotion. Make regular payments and remember, if you have zero debt, you won’t have to worry about finding a card with zero interest!

Solving the Credit Card Debt Enigma

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Everyone hears about how ‘Americans are in debt,’ but what does that specifically mean?  Where are these debts stemming from, and most importantly, how do we combat them?

There are 4 major categories that dominate the debt umbrella.  These are credit card, student loan, auto loan and medical expenses.  Most Americans dealing with significant debt face at least one of these main groupings, and sometimes all four.  Mortgage debt is another big one, but this obviously only affects Americans who own property.
Continue reading Solving the Credit Card Debt Enigma