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Holiday Expenses: Top Ways to Avoid Debt this Season

By | Debt

The holiday season is supposed to be about joy, but for many people it brings a great deal of stress. In addition to organizing and attending multiple holiday events, traveling and hosting visitors, you have to watch your budget. Otherwise, you end up with that January hangover when the bills come in.

Fortunately, you can enjoy all the season has to offer while minimizing stress about your holiday expenses. The key is to make a plan and stick with it. Try to follow some general tips as a family, so everyone is on the same page when it comes to spending money.



1. Estimate Non-Gift Holiday Expenses

Holidays typically mean decorations and food, but also higher expenses you might not think to put in your seasonal budget. Electricity and heating is more expensive because of outdoor lights, home decor and cooking. You may also give to charity at this time of year. Review your expenses from last year to help you estimate how much the holidays typically cost.

2. Identify Gift Recipients

It’s neighborly to give small gifts to almost everyone in your circle, from your child’s piano teacher to the kindly woman who lives across the street. Make a complete list of everyone you plan to remember this year. Even if a gift is only $10, when multiplied by 10 people, that’s $100–plus interest if you slap it on a credit card and don’t pay it off right away.

3. Start Saving Early

Ideally, put aside a few dollars every month throughout the year to build a fund for holiday expenses. But life isn’t ideal, so you may only start saving when the weather begins to get colder. As soon as you turn your mind to the season, start to put money away. If you anticipate coming up short, consider taking a seasonal job or revising your original holiday expenses. You still have time to make changes.

4. Start Buying Early

Check out sales as they happen throughout the year. If there’s a sale on food you’ll eat during Thanksgiving and your holiday meals, double up and put the excess in your pantry or freezer until December. If you see the perfect gift for someone on your list, buy it when it’s on sale, even if it’s several weeks before the big day. Just remember to cross that individual off your budget!

5. Research Pricing

Look online and compare retailers for those few special items. Often flash sales and internet-only deals can get you a break on in-demand items, although you may have to buy early before they sell out.

6. Budget for the Unexpected Holiday Expenses

Set aside a bit of cash for a last-minute invitation or unexpected guest. That way you can get a hostess gift or add a plate for dinner without breaking the budget. Better yet, if you never use the money from this seasonal emergency fund, you can put it toward another priority in January.

7. Use Credit Sensibly

When you’re trying to budget, credit cards are not the enemy as long as you use them sensibly. Your credit card may offer cash back or valuable rewards points. If you want to use credit for this reason, consider using the card and immediately transferring the amount of the charge out of your bank account and onto the card.

As with any debt, awareness is crucial. If you put money on a card, write it down and post it on a bulletin board at home so you don’t forget. The more you are conscious about what you’re putting on credit, the more control you have.

Enjoy the holidays the way they are supposed to be: with friends, family and good food. In terms of your holiday expenses, all it takes is a little planning and strength to stick to the budget over the season.

7 Money-Saving Tips to Keep Your Finances on Track

By | Save Money

Are you someone that lies awake thinking about your credit card balance? Do you consider how late payments are affecting your credit score — or why you cannot seem to be saving any money? If you are often dipping into your overdraft, constantly living in the ‘red’ — it’s time to take positive action.

Money Saving Tips

You Can Improve Your Current Financial State

Regardless of your current financial state, you can experience a more stable financial future. In order to become financially independent, however, you must begin living on less than you earn — period. Even if you are in debt, you must live by this rule.

Just remember, it’s not the amount of money that makes you ‘rich’ — it’s how you manage that money. As you learn to acquire good finance habits and develop more effective money management skills, you too will experience greater financial freedom.

Seven Money-Saving Tips to Improve Your Finances

When you make a plan, you’d be amazed at what you can achieve. As you begin to accomplish small goals, you will gain greater motivation and self-confidence. You can take action today, improving your financial health for years to come.

1. Budget for expenses and saving

You need to sit down and crunch some numbers. Although your situation may be unique, the 50/30/20 rule is often useful. The concept here is that 50% of your income should be spent on the essentials, such as your fixed expenses; 30% should be used to purchase additional desired living expenses and optional extras; followed by 20% to pay off debt and to save.

Top tip: Make a spreadsheet based on your fixed (mortgage payments, utilities, car payments, etc.) and variable expenses (groceries, entertainment, gas, etc.) in relation to your income. This will help you see where you need to cut back so that you can tackle your debt and begin saving.

2. Reevaluate your bills

Although 10 extra dollars here and 15 extra dollars there may not seem like a big deal, it all adds up at the end of the month. Here are a few tips to get you back on-track:

  • When it comes to your utility bills, start comparing. If you are already with the best energy provider, then it’s time to become more energy efficient. Begin researching some of the top energy-saving tips, as outlined by the Department of Energy.
  • In relation to communications, be aware of where your money goes. Do you exceed your monthly mobile allowance each month? Then perhaps it’s time to switch to a package that makes more sense for your needs. Better yet, bundle your mobile phone, internet, and cable services for instant savings.

3. Effectively target your debt so that you can save

When aiming to save money, it may seem counterintuitive to address your debt — but this is a very important step. If you have debt that’s accumulating interest in the background, what’s the point of saving? Begin with the most expensive debts first, including credit cards and other loans that incur high penalties.

Prioritize, and when the most expensive debt is clear, you’ll already be in the habit of transferring x-amount each month. With your debt gone, those funds can now be transferred into a savings account. However, there isn’t a one size-fits-all strategy, so if you’re struggling to get out of debt and improve your credit score, you may want to consider professional credit services to get back on-track.

4. Learn to minimize

Your budget will quickly show where your money is going. Whether you often shop at department stores or love to shop online, it’s time to cut back. Spending, spending, and spending some more actually distracts us from what’s truly important to us. Get rid of clutter, sell off items you no longer need, and put that money into a savings account. You’ll feel like a major weight has been lifted from your shoulders.

5. Quit spending money you don’t have

Credit cards can be great — they can help you make timely payments and even gain cash back. But if you’re spending frivolously, your debt can quickly spiral out-of-control. Always remember that golden rule, ‘do not spend more money than you earn.’ If you only make $3000 a month, but are spending an average of $5500, you can clearly see where the problem lies. At that rate, you’ll not only go into deeper debt, but you’ll never be able to save a penny.

6. Save a little each month

Even if you make $25,000 a year, it’s still possible for you to save a substantial amount by the time you reach retirement. Equating to just over $2080 a month, if you saved $180 of that each month, after 50 years, you will have an additional $108,000. If you can’t imagine putting away $180 of your monthly income, then you need to revisit your budget and change your personal financial habits. Everyone can save — the difference is, not everyone can save based on their current spending habits.

7. Take advantage of customer reward programs

No matter where you live or where you shop, there are retailers that will reward you. Focus on places where you shop regardless — such as your local grocery store. Do they offer a points program? If you are spending $100 on your family’s groceries, you may as well benefit. In many cases, you’ll be able to use these points to get free groceries. Also, don’t be shy to coupon!

As you make small improvements each day, these will quickly add up, allowing you to develop better financial habits. And remember, having stacks of cash in the bank isn’t freedom — but being in control of what you have certainly is.



How to Save Money: 100 Great Tips to Get You Started


5 Healthy Financial Habits to Teach Your Kids

By | Budgeting


When you teach your children about money, you teach them all sorts of valuable life lessons. You educate them about patience, thriftiness, long-term planning, generosity and more.

You might consider the habits below as you’re deciding what to tell your kids about money. By internalizing these behaviors, a child can grow into a financially responsible adult who never has to worry too much about his or her credit score.

1. Expecting to Earn, Not Receive, Money

Young children should first understand the basic tenet of capitalism: People get money in exchange for work. Cash doesn’t just magically appear (except maybe when Grandma and Grandpa visit).

To reinforce this idea, occasionally ask your children when they’re in elementary school to complete certain tasks. For example, you could vacuum the house together, or they could put the leaves that you rake into garbage bags. Afterward, you could give each of them a dollar to keep in a safe spot in their bedrooms.

2. Saving, Saving, Saving

Bring your children to a bank to show them how you deposit cash and checks. They might be fascinated to watch the mechanics of the process. If no one’s in line behind you, you might even hold up one of your kids so that he or she can swipe your card.

As you leave, explain how the bank is holding onto your money in much the same way that they’re storing their dollar bills in their rooms. That way, if you ever need money for something expensive like a new car, you’ll have access to it. If an emergency like a sudden sickness arises, you’ll have the funds that you’ll need to cover your medical bills and other expenses that come up.

You might even talk about how the bank gives you a little extra money now and then as a reward for saving with them — an amount that’s called interest. To really drive home the point, emphasize how saving gives you a happy feeling inside, sort of like eating an ice cream cone.

3. Only Buying What You Need or Really Want

Start working with your kids on their impulse control when they’re young, and keep reminding them of its importance until they’ve left home for good. Indeed, many adults struggle with delaying their gratification.

When you’re at a supermarket or a mall, wait for your child to point to a toy and ask for it. At that point, you can discuss how people shouldn’t buy something as soon as they see it. Instead, they should go home and think about it.

You can continue by saying that, every once in awhile, people should pick one item that they saw during the previous month or so and purchase it. That way, they won’t spend more money than they can spare, and they won’t hoard stuff that they’re never actually going to use. And by waiting, they can appreciate the things that they get even more.

You can also teach this lesson by example. For instance, you could point to an easy chair or a painting in a store and tell your kids that you’d like to buy that object but won’t. Rather, you’ll wait to make sure that you can afford it.

You might have to endure plenty of whining at first, but soon enough, delayed gratification will become a way of life for your little ones. They’ll eventually be proud of their ability to walk away from toys and other appealing items.

4. Creating Budgets

As soon as one of your children has money coming in regularly ― whether it’s from a job or an allowance ― it’s time to discuss budgets. Sit down with your son or daughter on the first day of the month. Together, make a list of all of his or her projected expenses that month, being as thorough as you can.

Deduct those expenses from your child’s total monthly income. The two of you should then negotiate how much of the remainder will go into a savings account. The rest can be used for social activities.

Until you’re confident that your child can handle budgeting, keep track of how much money he or she has on hand, and have a storage container for all receipts ― a place where you can look at them whenever you’d like.

By imparting the importance of budgets, you’ll help ensure that your son or daughter will someday have a strong credit report, even if he or she needs credit repair services once in awhile.

5. Ignoring Advertising

In your home and car, you might turn the volume way down when TV and radio commercials come on. Likewise, encourage your kids not to pay much attention to billboards and internet ads.

In our society, advertising is everywhere, and it can be loud and intense. Worse, much of it targets children in sneaky ways. Thus, tell your kids that commercials often make foods look tastier and toys more exciting than they really are. Also try to emphasize how commercials sometimes sell things that people don’t need at all. Resisting ads can save consumers of any age lots of cash.

Teaching your kids about money can be fun. You’ll bond with them as you put coins in piggy banks, use toy bills to explain savings accounts and decide which snacks to buy at the supermarket. Your children will probably remember these times together with great fondness.







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