Money Saving Tips for the Holidays

Who doesn’t want to save a little money on the holidays this year?

Want to the holidays without post-holiday debt and the stress that comes along with it?  Here are eight things you can do now to cut holiday spending without ruining any of the fun.
1. Look around.  Before you go out and buy wrapping paper, tape and decorations check your closet. You may have some left over from last year.  Make sure to keep all of your holiday stuff in one area so it’s easy to find and test lights once they’re out.  That way, you know what you have and aren’t buying extra just because you see it in the stores.

2. Create a budget.  Save all year round to ensure you have enough and leave some extra for incidentals.  Some incidentals might include stamps for greeting cards, extra little gifts, and supplies for holiday baking.  Also, try to save some money for the sales after Christmas too when you can buy all the holiday items at a steal.

3. Plan accordingly with credit cards.  If you plan on using your credit card for gifts this year and you still have a balance on them, it’s important to know what you’re capable of paying off.  Try to save some for the holidays coming up and wipe out the current balance.   To minimize added interest, keep the budget to what you can (comfortably) pay off at the end of the month.  Be realistic about what you can afford.

4. Get crafty.  Do you suddenly realize — in early December — that you could have saved a lot of money using your evening TV time for some fun, crafty projects for holiday gifts or decorations?

Use your creativity, but don’t get overwhelmed.  Compare the difference to what it would cost for you to make something versus finding it on a sale table.  Also, use your craftiness sparingly and keep the list of recipients down to those who will truly appreciate your work.

5. Gift exchange.  Exchanging gifts with extended family and friends doesn’t automatically mean burning through cash or spending hours shopping.  Some possible ideas are to set limits on the price and to make it fun.  For example, you could work together to hand make something and share it among everyone (like a recipe book or pictures) or exchange gifts secret Santa style so gifts are more specialized.  People are so much more relaxed when they don’t have to compete financially with other family members.

6. Be prepared for travel.  Start looking at airfare and hotel prices as soon as you know you’ll be going.  The sooner you know the better because last-minute travel plans around the holidays can get tricky and pricy.  Two months before traveling is usually the time when you’ll get the best prices on holiday travel.  This means Thanksgiving should be booked around September and Christmas around October.  It could help you save up to 50 percent on last-minute fares and hotel rates by booking ahead—especially for popular warm-weather destinations.

Other tips on air travel include:

Avoid flying Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Fares tend to be higher these days.  Play with (the) flexible booking tool that a lot of sites have and you can see what the options are for different combinations.

Go nonstop. While the ticket may cost more, you also limit the risk of expensive weather-related.  The last thing you want to do is deal with a missed connection from a blizzard that could have been avoided.

Be flexible. Family holiday get-togethers don’t always have to take place on the day.  You know what they say “It’s the thought that counts”.
7. Decide what you’re going to serve holiday guests in advance.  This way you can keep an eye out for specials on your favorite brands.  Membership clubs are a great place to start when looking for these deals, particularly on items such as wine and chocolates which are commonplace during the holidays.  Also, if you have room in the freezer pick up items that become pricier around the holidays, such as smoked salmon and beef tenderloin, at their pre-holiday prices.

8. Think ahead.  Need a new tablecloth or some new dinnerware for that Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner? Or maybe you just want to repaint the dining room?  Ask yourself “What do I need to do if I’m having people over for the holidays?” then set a time frame, and make it doable without overexerting yourself.

If the best thing you make for the holiday dinner is reservations, line that up now.  At this point in time, you still have time to find out which restaurants are open and what they’ll be serving, plus you can book the time and seating you want.

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Go Green

We’ve all heard the term “going green”, but have you ever actually wondered what it takes to go green?  Help save the environment (and money!) with these easy tips:

-Using a high-efficiency showerhead can save up to 3,000 gallons of water a year, as well as reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,000 pounds.

Buy a compost bin.  Depositing food and lawn wastes in a compost bin will create nutrient-rich soil perfect for spring planting.

Increase the efficiency of your water heater. We all love hot water, and now you can reduce you carbon emissions and energy bills by 25% or more.  Set your water temperature to 120° and wrap the heater in a water heater insulating blanket.

-Replace you current lights with compact fluorescents.  Buying compact fluorescents may be more expensive; however, they pay for themselves in less than two years.  Compact fluorescents last longer than normal light bulbs, and can significantly reduce your energy costs.

9 Tips for Saving Money

#1.  Know what you have.  Keep track of how much you’re making and where your money goes each month.  Having your monthly income documented makes budgeting easier.

#2.  Make a budget…and follow it closely.  You can get started by using apps on your phone like Expense Manager and mint.com to document your progress.  IMPORTANT: Never budget more than you can afford and give your budget a little wiggle room for discrepancies.

#3.  Save.  Have an emergency fund for at least 6-8 months of expenses.  After all you never know what might happen in the future.  Better to be safe then sorry.

#4.  Get rid of credit card debt ASAP!  Don’t just pay the minimum, your interest rates on the card may add up to a hefty amount quickly.  To prevent excessive interest nerdwallet.com allows people to compare their own credit card rates versus other companies.

#5. Watch your bills.  Make sure to pay all of your bills on time and analyze them as bills can have errors!  Check your bills to ensure you’re not getting charged for something you didn’t actually buy.  There websites that will display hidden charges/fees or fraudulent charges on your credit card.  An example would be billshrink.com.

#6. Download money saver apps on your phone.  For example, the app redlaser allows you to scan an items barcode and see if you can get the item for less elsewhere by scanning through nearby stores and websites like amazon.com.  (NOTE: Not all stores have their prices listed online)  Another app that may be useful is tweetalicious which will list off Twitter deals from certain retail stores.

#7. Live below your means.  Don’t live on what you make.  Live on less than what you make that way you can save for the future.

#8. Start a savings account you can’t touch.  A 401k is a great way to start because it comes out of your paycheck before you see a dime and you can’t pull it out until you’re retired.  Other good savings plans that will penalize you for early withdrawal are IRA’s and CD’s.

#9. Financial plans don’t fail people.  People fail financial plans by not mapping out their plans with a clear goal.  “People who make specific plans save more than people who don’t”.  Those who have specific financial plans that detail what they want-for example, retirement at 65 with a paid-off mortgage and enough money to take trip to Europe every year-save more than those who don’t have detailed plans.  Plans may change, but if that does happen revising your plans is better than not having any plans at all.  (The last three bullets were taken from the prevention magazine.)