Tag Archives: money tips

8 Essential Black Friday Shopping Tips

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Shopping on Black Friday is clearly not for the faint at heart.  You’ve undoubtedly seen hideous videos of the masses literally trampling each other at various ‘Marts’ around the country, but the unfathomably succulent savings still call out to you, siren-like.  So, if you truly are ready to face the hordes of rapacious sale-mongers, please abide by these money, time (and possibly, life) saving tips.  

Know why you’re there.

Under no circumstances should you just saunter into the mall to “browse”; you’ll be shoved to the gleaming floor like a sack of leftover sweet potatoes.  Read up on the internet (and whatever promotional materials were mailed to you) about what sales are happening where.  Like a thrifty Santa, make a list and check it thrice; compare and contrast what certain stores are offering, online and off.  Here are some sites that actually compile the best Ebony Day After Thanksgiving options for you: bfads.net, DealNews.com, gottadeal.com, theblackfriday.com.

Get an early jump on it. 

Since the whole idea behind this day is for the stores to do stellar business (they’re obviously thinking quantity over quality), many businesses try to get a leg up by offering supreme deals before Friday even hits.  At this very moment, there are tons of shops that are offering beyond competitive deals in an effort to pre-beat out their competitors.  Do a quick search right now and possibly do some pre-emptive consuming; you may get the same low prices as on Friday and you won’t need to wear full contact football equipment to remain unscathed.   

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Even if a price looks good, it can be beat.

Don’t just fall prey to the first low marked item you see; just Google that guy and check if there are any better prices in the near vicinity.  You may be shocked to see that a competing retailer across the street is offering a way better deal – and even more surprised to learn that the store you’re currently in has a ‘match-price’ policy.  That means that if a warring chain offers an identical piece of merchandise at a lower price, they will meet that price right there on the spot, so you don’t have to burn precious gas and/or calories chasing it down.  Score! 

Loyalty pays.

If you have any shops that you frequent, there’s a good chance you can rack up points (aka ‘discounts’) by enrolling in whatever sort of rewards program they have.  If you’re the type of person who, understandably, doesn’t like filling out boring forms and receiving annoying promo emails, perhaps you should temporarily reconsider your position on the matter when dealing in this particular Black Friday milieu.  Rewards Members typically are given first dibs on B.F. deals, via discount codes and the like. 

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“Like” ‘Em.

Aside from mailing lists you may be on, you can also bolster your B.F. amalgamation of sale options by following and ‘liking’ certain brands on social media.  There’s a host of companies that offer extra special savings codes when you like, heart, retweet, tag, pin, hashtag, hashmark or hashbrown them.  

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Stick to it. 

Just as mentioned in our Holiday Savings Tips post, create a budget with strict limitations and do not deviate from it.  This is not the time to ‘see what’s out there’ and, heaven forfend, make impulse purchases.  

Don’t Accessorize. 

One of the ways that stores recover the money ‘lost’ during the feeding frenzy of low-priced B.F. items is by the inevitable ‘additional’ purchases that people make while in the store.  You’ve just saved 200 hundred smackers on a TV – but then, high on the adrenaline of having ‘saved so much,’ you turn around and buy a superfluous rotating wall mount that costs 300 dollars.  Be smart.  Know when you’re victorious and leave on a high note (like after winning a big hand in Vegas).  No extra items!

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Cheapest is sometimes just that…

Just because a particular piece is at a jaw-droopingly low rate doesn’t mean it’s going to be an intelligent purchase.  The manufacturers are acutely aware of what goes down on B.F., so they sometimes create products specifically for the day that resemble their fully functioning brothers, but are blatantly inferior in quality.  You’ll notice these can take the shape of electronics that do not come with all the features that their regularly priced counterparts offer, or dolls that are missing limbs.

So, prepare yourself for a whirlwind shopping experience for the ages.  Registers clamorously clanking along to the merry holiday tunes inundating your eardrums, elderly shoppers elbowing your ribcage and tryptophan infused lethargy will be no match for you if you stick to these tips.  Happy deal-sealing; let’s make this the blackest friday yet!  

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-Joe Leone

How Much Should You Spend on Jewelry?

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The average U.S. household spends only $167 on jewelry per year, but that number varies greatly by region. The northeastern U.S., southern and central coastal California, and the east coast of Florida, for example, spend the most on jewelry per year, while the northwest region spends less than $50 annually per household.

The popular concept of smarter spending has a lot of people taking a closer look at how much they spend on everyday items, and jewelry is often an impulse buy. Self-help and finance blogs discuss budgeting and making realistic financial plans, which often results in cost-cutting or looking for ways to get some of your money back.

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But when you’re buying new jewelry, how much should you be willing to spend? What’s the price tag on feeling pretty or scoring a compliment from your moody boss? The obvious answer to this dilemma is: spend the amount that makes sense for you, whether that’s based on your region, your social circle, or your personal style. The decision, however, is more complicated than that, and probably varies with every piece you look at. It’s not easy to choose between shelling out more cash for nicer, longer lasting jewelry over less costly, trendier pieces. It’s hard to place a number on the value of the little boost in self-esteem you might get.

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Websites like Pinterest and Instructables make Do-It-Yourself a viable option for saving money on a lot of important items including jewelry, but there are certain pieces that are essentially impossible to DIY. And that’s one element of DIY that people often overlook before diving in to a project: the cost of the materials and tools, which is one part of what goes into jewelry-making. When you’re deciding how you want to better your budget, consider how original you would like your jewelry collection to be. If originality is important to you and you want handmade jewelry from an artist or smaller manufacturer on a site like etsy, plan to spend a little bit more than you might for a similar piece from a larger manufacturer, like Forever 21, who outsource their work and user cheaper materials specifically so they can offer their products at a low price point. Some smaller companies even begin to outsource once they gain popularity so they can manage the costs and offer their product to more customers, saving 400-500 percent by having someone else produce their designs.

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Choosing how much to spend on jewelry may also depend on the materials you are looking for. If you’re more concerned about the look than the actual material, sterling silver is a good substitute for silver and white gold, and purchasing gold-coated jewelry can save you a lot of money if you prefer the darker color. In addition, synthetic gemstones can be created to look like a natural gemstone, so if you are here because you are aiming to sell your diamonds, a man-made stone might be a great replacement.

Another consideration for choosing an amount to spend on jewelry is whether you value the experience of going into a physical store and trying on the jewelry or whether you are comfortable buying it online. Online stores are often cheaper, simply because renting a brick-and-mortar space is expensive for the business.

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If you are not looking for a specific piece, buying jewelry at an overstock or auction site can be a way to find great deals. Sale jewelry is typically marked down temporarily, while clearance and overstock jewelry are usually marked down because the manufacturer or retailer wants to make room for other products. Because there is an incentive to get rid of it, clearance and overstock jewelry can offer a steeper discount, but the selection may be limited.

One great rule of thumb for a jewelry purchase is the dollar-per-wear rule. To follow this rule, ask yourself how many times you anticipate wearing a particular piece, and if that number is the same as or lower than the price, then it is probably a good purchase. However you decide how much money to spend on jewelry, remember to make the choice for your own reasons, not someone else’s.

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Trick Yourself into Saving More Money

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While you may not have gotten a raise, you can still save more money if you introduce smart saving habits into your daily lifestyle. Being able to save really just means you take a closer look at the ways you manage and spend your money, then find avenues for putting cash away. Creating rules to follow and developing smart habits will change the way you think about your cash flow, and can be a great way to trick yourself into saving more money.

Use Cash

Striving to use only cash will cause you to force yourself to pay closer attention to how much money you really spend every time you go out, to the grocery store or clothes shopping. The trick is to put your plastic away so you feel like you don’t even have it to use. You may also want to consider removing your credit cards from easy pay and 1-Click settings from your online accounts to make it harder to make purchases. You might be surprised at how much less you want an item you see online when the added difficulty of typing in your 16-digit credit card number is in your way.

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Check Your Credit Card Statement Every Month

Your credit usage may have run away from you because you are like the thousands of other people who do not check their credit card statement every month. Looking at how much money you spend and the places you spend it is a good way to make yourself think about your choices in a more deliberate manner. Seeing that you spent $80 at the bar instead of the $40 you planned may shock you into being a little more careful next weekend, or realizing you spend half of your paycheck on new threads may encourage you to create a budget for your wardrobe.

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Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Attorney Leslie Tayne who writes for Fox Businesses advises you wait five days before making a big purchase. While that hot tub sale is enticing, give yourself five days to ponder whether a hot tub purchase is really in line with saving for your kids’ college tuition. Thinking about what you want to buy is a great way to prevent yourself from spending too lavishly on items you don’t need. A bonus benefit of waiting to buy something is that it gives you a chance to find a better deal, whether you look online or in competitors’ stores.

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Ignore Extra Income

Even though your surprise income may look like it has “jet-ski” written all over it, try instead to imagine it saying “Save me!” and put it away into an account you don’t use immediately. Tayne advises that you only rely on the money you make regularly to make big purchases. That means you should take that big fat tax refund or even the $10 you found in the parking lot and put it toward debt or into a savings account. Extra income is anything outside of the realm of your weekly or monthly income, including cash you make from selling your unneeded wares, (like diamonds that you sell with us!) By putting that extra cash away, you’ll never be tempted to dump it down the drain on something you don’t need. The unexpected kind of money is best spent by not spending it at all.

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Automate Everything

Investopedia advises against taking care of your financial business on a day-by-day basis. Instead, get your employer to deposit portions of your paycheck not only into your checking account, but into your savings account and IRA as well. In addition, set up your credit cards to pay off the balance each month, not just the minimum. A penny paid off is a penny and a half earned in the credit world, because each time your balance equals zero, that means you don’t have to pay annoying off bank fees later in life.

Saving money is really just about changing the way you look at money. If you don’t let it burn a hole in your pocket and instead let it burn a hole in your debt or build your savings, you’ll be on your way to securing a bright financial future in no time.

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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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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!