Archive for November, 2009

Giving Gift Cards

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

So it’s the holiday season which brings the stress of gift buying.  I happily turn to gift cards when I’m stumped about what to give someone.  I like to give them and I like to get them. It’s probably laziness on my part, but it takes some of the guess work out of gift giving. When giving a gift card, I don’t have to determine whether the recipient will like a particular item. I just have to determine whether the recipient will like the store.

Unfortunately, gift cards aren’t always so simple. The Office of Comptroller of the Currency recently put out a consumer advisory which provides some useful gift card tips.

The tips will show you important things to look for and be aware of when giving or receiving gift cards. There may be fees, expiration dates, and other terms that result in the card being worth less than the face amount. Make sure you check these things out before you shop.

Categories: Uncategorized

Give Yourself Away

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

In my last post, I talked about ways you can control how much you spend on gifts around the holidays.  The goal is to come out of the holiday season without tons of debt.

But what if there isn’t any extra money?  What if you really can’t spare a dime to buy presents? 

The blog, The Simple Dollar,  has a solution for you.  In a post called, Giving Experiences, Not Things, This Holiday Season, the author list six experiences that you can give.  Not all of them are free, but they are all meaningful and worth a lot more than gifts you can buy at the mall.

Categories: family, Saving

The Most Expensive Time of the Year

November 12, 2009 Leave a comment

acik091000008Here we are at the start of the holiday season.  This can be a very joyful time of year.  Time with family, holiday parties, holiday treats and last, but not least, presents!

But this time of year can also be a little stressful. We often over stuff ourselves with holiday treats.  Family will probably drive you crazy at some point.  And we often find ourselves in difficult situations when it comes to money. 

Too often, we show our love through spending money on others.  We want to see our loved ones get the things that they want.  We want to see smiles on their faces.  But are you putting that smile on someone’s face at the expense of your family’s financial stability?

So how do we make it through the holiday season without getting ourselves into (more?) debt.  Here is a basic plan to follow:

1. Determine how much money you intend to spend on gifts for the holidays.  Look at your entire budget and determine what you can afford.  And yes, I said “afford.”  This is not what you would like to spend if you made twice your actual salary.  We have to be realistic here.

2. Determine who you are buying presents for.  Make a comprehensive list.  Do you buy a gift for your child’s teacher? Secret santa for work?  Everyone goes on the list.   

3. Determine how much you intend spend on each person.  Break it down to the penny.

4.  Do some brainstorming.  What can you buy for each person that falls into that price range?  Come up with a couple option so that you have some flexibility.

5.  Don’t deviate from the information on your list.

That means that there shouldn’t be a last minute rush to buy a gift with no regard for its price.  You know what the result will be.  There shouldn’t be any surprises (especially when the credit card bill comes in after the holidays).   You have time to shop around, look at holiday flyers and ultimately prevent overspending.

Are there other ways you control your holiday spending?

Categories: Uncategorized

Take (Some of the) Pain Out of Saving

November 6, 2009 Leave a comment

I lot of people ask for my help because they want to increase their financial fitness but have a hard time cutting back on purchases.  Cutting out your daily caffeine fix or saving money may be difficult but there are ways to make these things a little less painful.

Real Simple magazine has a great article called How to Save Money Without Giving Up Too Much.  If you need some good tips on ways to cut spending while minimizing the pain of cutting back, check it out.   Whether you’re looking to boost your savings a bit or if you need to come up with a debt reduction plan, these tips can give you a great place to start.

How much money is slipping through your fingers?

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

thumbnailHave you ever purchased something and then later realized that you wish you hadn’t made the purchase?  

Sometimes I get overly excited about a purchase.  I FINALLY found that denim skirt I was looking for.  Yeah, maybe it’s a little baggy at the waist but I can make it work.  Right?  Um, maybe not.  I think many of us have similar experiences.  But the question is, do you take the time to return that item?

Do you stop by your local coffee shop on your way to work to buy a fancy latte or an overpriced cappuccino and find yourself only drinking half of it?

The next time you make a purchase, think about if it’s really worth your hard earned money.  Take a look at your credit card statement or bank statement and look at the expenditures.  How many of the expenses listed could you have done without?  How much money did you waste because of boredom or laziness?

And while you’re thinking about your daily expenditures, think about ways that you can curb that spending.  Keep a card in your wallet (either close to your cash or your credit card) that says “Do you really need this?”  Perhaps that little reminder will make you think twice about spending your precious dollars.

Categories: Saving, Spending

What Motivates You to Save?

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

piggyDo you regularly save some of your income each month?  Do you put all or a part of your yearly bonus into a CD or

savings account?  Do you do anything in particular to motivate yourself?

A new study, discussed in this Wall Street Journal article, found that people who were reminded about saving money by mail or text message actually increased their savings balances by 6%.  People who were reminded of their specific goals in those messages increased their savings by almost 16%.

While your bank may not offer these reminders, there are ways encourage yourself to save so that you can get closer to achieving your goals.  

1. Email reminders.  If you type “email reminders” into Google, a number of options will pop up.  You have your pick of free email services that you can set up to remind you of your dreams and goals.

2. Calendar reminders.  If you’re the type of person who is a slave to your planner, whether paper or electronic (don’t be ashamed – I’m that type of person), try making notes that will remind you of your financial goals when you look at a particular day.  If your pay check is deposited on a Wednesday, every other week, make a note on that day in your calendar.  Remind yourself of your goals so that you aren’t tempted to spend that money.

3. Personal finance software.  There are several services available that let you track your finances online.  These programs can keep you up to date on where your money is going.  Some of these products will let you know when you are over budget in a particular area so that you are automatically reminded that you needed to cut back on spending.  If you’re interested in learning more about some of the financial software that is currently available, check out this article from

3.  Get a money buddy.  This is a bit less technological but it works with other types of goals so why not saving?  Pick a friend that you trust and who is also trying to save more money.  Support each other in your savings efforts and help each other when the urge to spend on a non-necessity creeps up.  You don’t have to disclose your entire financial situation to your friend but you can share enough so that some one is holding you accountable for your goals.

Happy saving!

Categories: Saving, Spending