Tag Archives: finance tips

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   

How to Make Realistic Personal Finance Goals

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According to Kiplinger, every person needs a steady income, financial reserves, and insurance against catastrophes, whether that’s formal insurance or a large savings or investment account. Whether you already have those things and you want to work toward a more rewarding financial future, or you’re nervous that you don’t have one or all of those things, you’ll need to set financial goals to get where you want to be.

Regardless of your current life stage, your financial goals will be dictated by your life goals. Whether you want to retire early, send your children to college, or travel more, you will need to manage your money well in order to plan for your future. In addition to developing a solid emergency fund, you may plan to have a wedding or purchase a house soon. Automatically depositing a chunk of your paycheck every week or month is one way to pay yourself first and plan for these goals.

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Setting aside money for specific goals is a good idea, but how do you decide how much to set aside, and how often? That depends on your long-term, medium-term, and short-term goals. Long-term goals may be that elusive retirement, while medium-term might be making a large purchase like a vehicle or a house, and a short-term goal might be paying off that pesky credit card. To meet those goals, you need to make them even more detailed and specific.

Applying the SMART method to your financial goals is one way to get a clearer idea of what you really need to do to make your money matters work for you. “SMART” stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Limited.

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The “specific” characteristic directly addresses the thing you want your money to pay for: the house, the college degree, or the new car. It is important to make your goal specific because then it will have meaning. “Measurable” means applying a specific amount to that goal, such as $18,000 for the car or $30,000 for the down payment for your house. Find out how much you will need to reach that goal and apply that amount to your goal.

To figure out whether a goal is “achievable” is a big challenge, and sometimes very closely linked to the “T” in SMART. A financial goal is only achievable if you give yourself enough time to do it. If you want to buy your own island in the tropics, but you only have $10,000 in your savings account, you may need to make it a long-term goal for it to be achievable. If you just want to buy some property that doesn’t necessarily need to be adorned with palm trees, you may be able to make it a medium-term goal with a starting point of $10,000.

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But we skipped the “R!” Well, that’s because you have to know if your goal is achievable and time-limited to know if it is realistic, and that might be the most challenging element of all. For a goal to be time-limited, you simply need to give it a deadline, but how can you tell if that time limit is realistic? Setting unrealistic goals is the best way to shoot yourself in the foot when it comes to financial planning, because you can spend so much time focusing on the dream that you don’t actually see the way your money is really being spent.

Whether or not your goals are realistic depends on how well you prioritize. For example, if you want to buy a house in the next year but pay $600 in rent and $600 in student loan payments while making $2,000 per month, you’ll need to consider where you spend the remaining $800 each month. Does it leave enough to save for the down payment you’ll have to make? Furthermore, do you have good enough credit to get a homeowner’s loan? If you spend all but $50 of the remaining $800 on groceries, a car payment, a credit card balance, medical bills, and utilities and have only decent credit, you may want to re-adjust the time limit on your goal and add another goal to the mix: increasing your credit score.

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Without setting financial goals, you will not be able to pay for the things you want. Without setting realistic goals, you won’t have a clear idea of how to approach the future. So SMARTen up and start setting goals today!

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Are you spending too much money on everyday things?

Valuable Tips for Cost-Cutting

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If saving money wasn’t such a challenge, everyone would do it – but why pay $10 for something you can get for $5? There are many easy ways to save money throughout the day if you are willing to commit to them. Below are a few things you may accidentally be overlooking when you think about trimming costs from your daily or monthly budget.

Coffee & Cigarettes

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Daily habits like coffee and cigarettes add up quickly, but they don’t have to. If you are like the average American worker, you could probably save about $15 every week, or over $1,000 per year, on the coffee purchased in chains and shops.  Make it at home; make a profit. If worries about your health haven’t made you stop smoking, the maybe worries about your wallet will. Pack-a-day smokers could save an average of $2,000 per year on cigarettes, and that’s money they could be putting away for travel or retirement. Cut back on coffee shop coffee consumption and quit smoking, and that’s $120,000 you’ve saved in 40 years.

Lunch

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If you work away from home, there is a good chance you buy café or restaurant lunch several days per week. Studies show the average American eats lunch out at least twice per week, and men spend on average $21 per lunch, while women spend $14. If you don’t want to lose your precious time out of the office, try choosing a less expensive restaurant, finding places with coupons, or nixing a side item, a drink, or both.

Buy Generic

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While generic products are not always a way to get more bang for your buck, some items, like cereal, may be better or just as good at a significantly lower price. DailyFinance.com advises buying store brand spices and seasonings in addition to cereal to shave off costs for food. Medications may be another avenue for saving money, but certain items like toilet paper and trash bags are not necessarily cost effective because their low quality will make you use them faster, therefore making you spend more to replace them.

Energy Habits in the Home

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While a long, luxurious shower may be your favorite way to start the day, you may be able to save quite a bit on energy costs if you cut your shower time shorter. Save the luxury shower for the beginning of a relaxing Saturday and expedite the process on the weekdays. Many high costs come from the air moving around in your house as well, so encourage your family or roommates to close the blinds in the daytime to keep the rooms from being heated up by the sun.

Entertainment & Travel

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Reconsidering how much you can spend on entertainment may be a great way to trim your budget, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely deprive yourself. If you love going to the movies, see a cheaper matinee, then spend the rest of your evening reading a book from the library instead of the bookstore. While your car isn’t entertainment, it does get you to and from the places you like to be entertained, so make sure you change the oil regularly and keep the tire pressure at appropriate levels.  These simple acts can keep you safer and help you save what could be hundreds of dollars per year in fuel costs. Another idea to keep yourself entertained is to try out free community events at various parks or the library.

Whatever your money-saving goals are, they require thought and dedication. Saving money feels good and helps you reach your financial goals for the future, and makes occasional splurges even more rewarding.

 

If you find that (despite your best efforts) you simply can’t save any money up, and you really would like to have some extra funds, consider selling any diamond jewelry you may have with Diamond Lighthouse.  We will get you the best price for your diamonds, every time, with our entirely unique, fair and transparent online auction platform.  Find out more!

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