FEATURE ARTICLE: Gearing up for the Holidays
Gearing up for the holidays seems a little silly when Halloween hasn’t even arrived. The truth is the sooner you start the better you will be financially. Waiting until the last minute to do holiday shopping causes many consumers to overspend. A good way to begin preparing for gift shopping is by revisiting your budget and making sure you have your financial obligations taken care of so you know exactly how much money you have left over to shop for friends and family.
If you need assistance getting started with a budget, click here you can follow along with the categories on this worksheet or simply use it for ideas or reminders of your own expenses. Remember to always put something in savings. Even if the amount you are putting away is modest, it will continue to increase the funds in your account and get you closer to those financial goals you have in mind.
Continue your planning by making a list of those gifts you would like to purchase. If the list gets overwhelming, think of other ways to make this holiday season special without having to purchase gifts. Get crafty and make something for your friend or frame a special picture.
If after reviewing your budget you realize that you need to cut back on some expenses, check out the list below for ideas on savings.
Energy costs. If your electric bill is out of control, take a stand and purchase a economical, programmable thermostat. Prices for these start around $50 and even though that doesn’t sound cheap, it will eventually save you much more on your heating and/or cooling bill.
Brown bag it. Instead of purchasing lunch every day, which can cost anywhere from $8 to $10, plan ahead and make your lunch the night before. It might require a little extra time on your part but the calculations speak for themselves: $8 x 20 days (4 week month) = $160 x 12 months = $1,920!!! (for $10/day = $2,400).
Negotiate your rate. Here’s the most costly of your expenses if you have a credit card with a balance – your interest rate. If you have tried lowering this APR on your own and have had no luck get in touch with a reputable credit counseling agency that can negotiate the rate for you and get you out of debt soon. For more information on how to get this started visit http://www.dmcccorp.org/ .
MONEY SAVING TIP: Save Money While You Shop
- Visit your local library. People don’t really go to the library anymore, but they should. If you’re trying to cut costs and you like to read or watch movies, then this should be your next stop. If you rent a movie per week or buy a book per month, this could mean up to $30 in savings.
- Forget the gym. All of the exercises you do at your costly gym can be done for free either in the comfort of your own home or outside. Some cities even have community centers that offer exercise classes for free.
- Review your auto policy. If you haven’t reviewed your auto insurance policy in a while, check it to see if it’s still the coverage you need. If it is, call your insurance company to see if there are any discounts you qualify for, such as, safe driver. Or, check out http://www.insweb.com/ to compare other rates in your area.
- Shopping Avoid impulse buying. Practice tantric shopping.
- Buy as much as you can online.
- Negotiate the price on big ticket items like cars, electronics, and large appliances.
- Use cash as a negotiating tool. Nothing makes a seller ’s mouth water than cold hard cash in their hand.
- Before you buy something, ask if the item will be put on sale in the near future.
- Don ’t buy extended warranties. Eighty percent are never used, and they’re a major profit item for the vendor. That’s why they push you so hard to buy them!
- Keep receipts and send in rebate slips.Very few consumers actually return rebate coupons. Which is, of course, exactly what the manufacturers are hoping for.
Here are some websites that give you good discounts:
Did you know… that the online banking information about your account may not be accurate?
Because of all the electronic transactions that may take place on your account, online banking has become complicated. Deposits may show before they are actually available, and some withdraws or purchases may take up to 48 hours or longer to post to your account. Gas stations and restaurants are just two business that put holds on funds which can make it tricky to get an accurate balance online.
The best way to make sure you have an accurate balance on your account is for you to keep track of it. If you use your debit card, write a check, make a deposit or withdraw funds from your account – write it down! Non-sufficient-funds (NSF) fees are high these days and one small purchase can trigger multiple NSF charges resulting in havoc to your account. Yes, some banks will do a courtesy adjustment and forgive one or two of these charges (if you beg), but don’t expect this to bail you out every time. This type of courtesy only occurs one time per year.
If you share an account with someone, the best way to make sure you both are not overspending is by taking out an allowance. Give yourselves enough money for the week and leave the rest of the funds in your account alone. If you must tap into that account, inform your banking partner of your move to prevent overdrafts.