It’s Christmas time and officially my most favorite time of the year. I love putting up Christmas decorations, going to holiday parties and of course…shopping. Even though I love the shopping, I always overspend every year. It’s hard to get presents for everyone on your list and stay within your budget because you have so much to choose from and once the Christmas shopping bug hits you…it becomes hard to stay focused and as a result, it gets a bit out of hand. There are sales everywhere…especially on Black Friday. If you find yourself in this situation, then I suggest re-gifting as a way to cross some of those items off your list without having to sell your left foot.
Now I know that I’ve just made someone turn their nose up at the notion of re-gifting. For some, re-gifting can be somewhat of a taboo thing….but I think if you do it tastefully, then it becomes a genius idea and most of all, you can save money, which is something that is so hard to do when it comes to the holiday season.
Below are some guidelines for Re-gifting:
- Only give new items. Never re-gift an item that has been used and make sure that the packaging is in excellent condition…i.e. re-wrap the gift.
- Never re-gift an item you wouldn’t like as a gift or that you feel the person wouldn’t like. (No, that’s not the whole point of re-gifting)
- Never re-gift an item back to the person who initially gave you the gift, no matter how long ago it was.
- Beware of re-gifting clothing items. (Scarves, hats, gloves or similar items are acceptable as long as they have not been worn).
- Gift Cards (very popular)
- Books, Cd’s, Electronics, etc.
- Art, Picture Frames, etc.
- Gift Baskets, Perfume or Cologne, etc.
Regifting is smart
As you can see, it’s not a hard thing to do….anybody can do it just as long as they do it tastefully and respectfully. You don’t have to wait until the Holidays to re-gift, it’s a great idea that can be used any time of the year and most of all, it helps you save money and the person receiving the gift will be just as happy as if you bought the gift…..keep in mind, it’s the thought that counts.
I love talking about money and I like making lots of it too! I guess that’s why I affectionately named my blog “My Take on Money” because it gives me a platform to talk about one of the things that I’m most passionate about….Personal Finance (PF). I’m so addicted to PF that I’ve decided to become a professional at it by embarking on a journey to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). So don’t be surprised if from time to time you stumble upon a starchy article about the importance of estate or retirement planning, however, I do promise to throw in some entertaining articles from time to time… don’t worry.
Because I love personal finance so much, I’m constantly setting goals. One of my favorite goals is saving money of course. In fact, I like to think of myself as a “Super Saver”. I’m sure there are a plethora of varying definitions out there of what a Super Saver is, but here’s my definition.
A Super Saver is a person who has gone one step beyond being a normal saver (whatever that might be). They find creative and innovative ways to save money. I like to call it putting your “savings on steroids”. Instead of saving the normal 10-15% of their income, they’re saving 35+% without causing undue stress or feeling deprived i.e., they’re still enjoying life and do splurge every now and again, but they’ve somehow managed to find a formula that works to help them achieve their financial goals effortlessly.
So based on my definition above, are you a Super Saver? Yes, no…maybe so?
Characteristics of a Super Saver:
- Frugal – Super Savers are Frugal. Frugality is their middle name..it’s a way of life, not a single occurrence. They find ways to cut cost every chance they get, however they’re not cheap, there’s a difference (we’ll get more into that in another article). They don’t run out and get the latest and greatest gadgets as soon as they come out….they use wisdom and wait a while before purchasing in order to get that same item heavily reduced. They learn to do without or adjust to certain things such as opting for Netflix or Hulu Plus in lieu of having cable. They’re the ones who will car pool to work, shop in thrift stores and use coupons with every item they purchase. Super Savers are money conscious and hate overpaying for items.
- Goal Oriented – Super Savers know how to set goals and stick to them. They’re laser focused. Keep in mind that your goals need to be realistic and attainable, so don’t set some outrageous feat that you know you’re not going to be able to achieve. It’s best to chop your goals up into a series of smaller steps. This will make it easier to obtain and keep you from getting discouraged.
- Disciplined – As you probably already know, everybody is not cut out to be a Super Saver because most are not willing to make the sacrifice. It really takes discipline to accomplish anything worthwhile. Super Savers are not easily swayed off the beaten path. They set a goal and stick to it….they do not succumb to temptation. A shiny brand new car or a 50” flat screen TV will not be their demise. They are not easily discouraged and they definitely are not trying to keep up with the Jones.
- Budget Conscious – They know how to budget extremely well and are constantly finding ways to squeeze what they can from it to sock away towards their savings goal. I’m not advocating that you starve or deprive yourself of the things you really need or want, I’m saying that Super Savers adhere strictly to their budgets to eliminate the urge of impulse purchases. Impulse purchases can destroy a budget.
- Innovative and Creative – I know that sometimes saving and sticking to a strict budget can be hard to do, not to mention, it can boring and a bit monotonous…that’s why it’s wise to find innovative and creative ways to save.
Check out some personal examples:
- Because of the down slump in the housing market, my property taxes decreased slightly as a result; I received a nice little refund check in the mail from my mortgage company. What did I do with that unexpected money? I socked it away in the bank toward one of my savings goals.
- Another example – I received a credit from the electric company of about $326 dollars from a deposit I made 10 yrs. prior. They were refunding this credit back to me for being a good customer. This again was unexpected money that I didn’t spend, I saved it.
Some additional innovative and creative ways to save:
- Put your savings on autopilot – Have a set amount automatically deposited into a savings account on a weekly or monthly basis.
- Save your spare change – Empty your change everyday into a jar and watch the money add up.
- Save the actual money from the use of coupons – If you have a set budget for food and you end up having money left because you used coupons, then you could move the savings into a savings account.
- Sell unwanted or unused items – This is one of my favorite ways to earn some extra income. We’ve all got stuff around the house that we are not using that we could sell on Craigslist, Ebay or through a yard sale. Don’t let that stuff accumulate dust, get rid of it if you haven’t used it.
If you’re not a Super Saver at the moment, but aspire to be one someday, applying some of the characteristics above will put your well on your way.
What’s your definition of a Super Saver?
The other day I was looking at a Clark Howard special on television about “Kids and Money”. It was very informative and definitely worth my hour of time. Even though I currently don’t have kids, I still think that it is imperative to teach them about money early so that they will be well prepared for retirement when it comes.
We need to instill a sense of future in our kids. Parents should make it a priority to talk to their children about saving and investing before the world teaches them because they might not like the outcome. We as Americans have got to change our ways when it comes to saving and spending. As a nation, we are in tremendous debt and it doesn’t look like the guys in Washington are trying to rectify the situation anytime soon. We can’t wait on the government to find a way to get us out of debt, we’ve got to stop using them as a scapegoat or an excuse for our negative habits when it comes to money and how use it. We’ve got to take responsibility for how handle money and we can start by teaching our children good financial habits because they are our future and the next generation of teachers, doctors, lawyers and politicians. They are the ones who will determine what state America will be in 15-25 years from now.
We already know that Social Security and Medicare are changing and might not even be around when our kids get to the qualifying age, so we have to teach them not to be dependent on the government and show them how they can stand on their own two feet without expecting a hand-out. Don’t let your kids develop a welfare mentality. Show them how to be financially independent by encouraging them to become entrepreneurs and not “slaves to wages”.
Some of the important topics that Clark Howard covered were student loans and how not to get into debt by starting a college fund early such as a 529 Plan or an Educational IRA. He mentioned that there were plenty of resources available such as scholarships through various organizations but the key is to start early and not wait until your child is in their junior or senior year of high school.
He also talked about kids investing their money to make it grow and that it’s never too early to learn about stocks, bonds and mutual funds. There are certain banks out there who offer special mutual funds or other investment vehicles specifically for children to invest in and as an added benefit, they waive most, if not all, custodial fees..and this is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition, he mentioned that young adults should stay away from credit cards and other alluring money pitfalls that some deadbeat companies throw out there to attract young naive college students. Fortunately, it is now against the law for companies to offer credit cards to students younger than 23-24 yrs old….thank God. I remember when I was in college, I signed up for a major credit card that eventually became a nightmare because I was not prepared and not taught how important having good credit was to my financial future…but one thing I did get was a free t-shirt! What a price I paid for being financially ignorant….about 7 yrs.
Clark interviewed quite a few kids and he asked them if they had a certain amount of money, what would they do with it. Some said that they would spend half of it and save the rest, others mentioned that they would give some of to charity and then buy themselves something nice and then save the remainder. All the answers were pretty good, however, the highlight of the show last night was this little boy who had been saving up his allowances and had amassed a nice little stash of $327 dollars! This little boy; couldn’t have been no more than 10 yrs old, hadn’t spent a dime of his allowances. He asked Clark how he could make his money grow because he wanted to be a billionaire. It was pretty impressive; his parents had started early teaching him about the benefits of saving and it caught on…now the poor kid won’t spend a dime. It was so funny but truthfully, down the road it will pay-off. I just don’t want him to be a stingy lonely old man….you do need to teach them to balance it.
In conclusion, I can’t stress to you enough how important it is to start teaching your kids about money and how to be financially responsible and independent early. It will be one of the best lessons in life they’ll ever learn and it will yield great results!
The following is a guest post.
The process in which consumers are enlightened on the steps necessary in order to steer clear of incurred/ incurring debts is termed as Credit Counseling. Credit counseling is also the first procedure that the consumer must complete before his application for bankruptcy has to be approved. Human psychology plays a major part in the process of counseling. The consumers are subject to a series of enquiries about their lifestyles, saving habits, spending behavior, investments, finance- planning and other related information, into which the counselors get an insight; so that they may decide the order of debt- relief planning. Hence credit counseling is also called as a ‘Debt Management Plan’ or the DMP.
Through the process of credit counseling, the consumers are advised on the ways and means to avoid bankruptcy and also how to manage their finances so that the road ahead will not prove to be difficult as regards repaying of debts.
Many a time, coming to a settlement with creditors forms a part of the credit counseling process and a plan on how to manage repayment of the monetary outstanding obligations is mapped. This is done in a number of ways like reduction in the payments that are due, reduced rates of interest and also fee-reduction in some cases.
First, once the DMP (Debt Management Plan) is decided upon, the customer’s account is closed and is rescheduled for further changes. Usually, several monthly payments are merged into one single monthly payment; the value of which is generally lower (approximately by an amount of 10-20%) than that of the total of previously paid monthly installments of the customer, as per the requisition of the credit cards banks, which involves acceptance of lower monthly payment from customers in a DMP as compared to the situation had the customer been paying the account out of his own pocket.
For a customer who has a defaulted credit card account, normally, the applicable interest rate for payment is near about 30%. But when the DMP is involved, there occurs at least lowering of the yearly rates to 5-10%; if not zero percent, which is also done by certain credit banks when the situation is beyond the customer’s control. Due to this breathing space provided to their customers, the counseling agencies publicize the fact that the twenty odd years that would have normally been taken by the customers to repay the debt would now be changed to only about three to six years as the rates of interest as well as the debt amounts have been sufficiently reduced due to the DMP.
Regularization of accounts that were termed as ‘failing’ accounts before the DMP now can be made ‘current’ as a result of the credit counseling processes. For this, a number of regular and timely payments are made through the debt management plan in order to demonstrate dedication to the plan and give assurance that payments as prescribed would be made without defaults. This is called as ‘Re-aging’ or ‘Curing’ the account. While the previous defaults will not be deleted from the credit bureau’s statements, it certainly helps the customer to get another chance at creating an affirmative credit history. After a few years, the credit scores may look good, but there is always a possibility of the debt collectors taking legal action against the defaulters, as six years is the limit for the worth of a credit card debt.
Thus, in many cases, credit counseling goes a long way in reducing consumer debts and has benefited millions of people in the world that have been assailed by credit problems.
Smith Paul likes to write articles on personal finance related to the Stock Market, Credit Counseling, Debt Consolidation, Government Debt, Housing Market and U.S. Real Estate Market. For the latest updates, visit www.profitconfidential.com
The money drain begins even before a student steps foot on campus. Deposits for housing, tuition fees, parking permits, and dining hall dollars are just the tip of the iceberg. College students also have to budget for gas, car maintenance and vehicle insurance as well, and these charges seem to come due at just the wrong moment. Those wise enough to realize just how much car insurance can hurt their bottom line should work hard to make sure that they are getting the most for their money. The tips listed below will help students lower their car insurance costs so that the cash they save can be applied to other living expenses:
Teenagers should know that they start determining their future car insurance costs when they choose their first vehicle and get on the road for the first time. For this reason, it is necessary to know the following facts:
- Grades matter and good ones can reduce insurance costs in the future.
- Vehicle make and model is important to insurance providers so choosing a safer, less expensive model will help control insurance costs.
- A driving record begins the minute that a driver first gets behind the wheel so keeping a great safety record by obeying all traffic laws is important.
- Neglecting to take driver’s training classes may be a costly mistake.
Shopping for vehicle insurance is more like other types of shopping than most consumers are aware and students should go about it in an organized manner. The following steps might result in significant savings:
- Students should decide just how much insurance is needed to purchase new transportation if the old vehicle is destroyed. Also, they should consider how much out-of-pocket cash they will have available to pay deductibles for any damages that their vehicle sustains. With these numbers in mind, they will be able to determine a dollar figure for the amount of insurance they wish to purchase.
- Once the needed amount of insurance has been determined, students should use an online insurance comparison website to get a good idea of the price of this insurance offered by each of the reputable companies. Then, they should personally visit the local agent of the three companies with the lowest quotes and explain that they are searching for the best bargain. Most agents will work through all of their available company discounts and look for insurance bundling opportunities in order to earn a new client’s business or keep that of an established customer.
- Finally, students should use the information and quoted figures offered by one agent to deal with the next. Although agents are bound by some company rules and do have to comply, they will work harder to find savings if they know that people have done their homework and have the figures to prove it.
Good planning and methodical shopping should result in lower insurance costs for years. The money saved should make paying those other college bills much easier.
About the Author: Jennifer Lewis writes for a site that help female students find financial aid for college, including chemistry scholarships and nursing grants for women.
I got some great news. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve finally completed my CFP program. It was a hard long journey but I got through it. This couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time being that I’ve been laid off for almost a month.
I plan to sit for the CFP exam in November so I’ve got about four good months to prepare. The exam is very difficult and will last approximately two days. As a result, I’ll be starting a 14 week intensive review, the first week of August, which will require me to put in about 4 hours a day of study time in order to pass this test on the first try. It’s an uphill battle but I’m up for the challenge.
After I pass my CFP exam I’ll need to get at least 2-3 years of experience under my belt before I will be able to officially use those coveted three little letters behind my name. As a result, my plans are to start a tax and retirement planning practice, in January 2013, as well as start my non-profit AAMFL (American Association of Minorities for Financial Literacy). So I’ve got a lot riding on passing the CFP exam in November. I’m excited about branching out and creating my own future. It’s something I’ve always aspired to do but was a little apprehensive to do before now. Losing my job was truly a wake-up call for me. It’s a feeling I’d rather not experience again.
I’ll leave you with this quote by Moliere: “INNOVATION….The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
What accomplishments have you made lately?
The single most effective way to manage your money and save is to create a budget and follow it. While it can be difficult to get started, it’s well worth the trouble. Most households only need a simple budget to account for all of their expenses. In your income section, you should include every bit of income for the month, after taxes. This gives you an initial number that your expenses will need to come out of. If you’re lucky, you’ll wind up with a positive number and this amount can be put into savings. Knowing how to keep track of your budget can be tricky. In order to make sure you don’t leave anything out, proper categories need to be used to include every possible expense.
Your mortgage payment or rent will go into this category. Any homeowner’s or renter’s insurance payment belongs here as well. This is also the category that can be the home for your maintenance and repair allowance. You should always budget an amount for repairs and maintenance, if you’re a homeowner especially. This category will be a fixed expense category. All of the numbers in this field should be the same every month, unless one of your payments changes.
The utilities field will most likely fluctuate throughout the year, but it is still considered a fixed category because it contains bills that you will have every month, no matter what your behaviors are. Your electricity, water, sewer, gas, and phone bill amounts will go into this category. While these bills can change, you can enter an average estimate of what the bill amount will be. This will help you to know what to expect.
Food is another fixed category. This will include your grocery bill. While it is possible to spend more on groceries one week to the next, food is a necessity that you probably won’t want to cut money from. Allow a small amount of extra money in this category for special occasions or holidays. Be realistic.
Not everyone will need this category. It is the home for child support payments, alimony, and child care. Any money spent on family issues will go into this category. It is generally a fixed category as well.
Medical expenses, copays, insurance premiums, and fitness expenses belong in this category. If you don’t have insurance or a fitness membership, you can use this category to set aside money for future medical needs.
Whether you take a car or the bus, chances are you spend money on transportation. Gas, maintenance, bus fare, toll booth fare, car insurance, subway card, and car payments will be listed in this category. It will remain fixed most of the time as well.
If you don’t have credit cards or outstanding payments due anywhere, this category can be eliminated. Student loans, store cards, credit cards, and past debts should be listed here.
This category is where most of the cutting will take place, when needed. Cable, movies, internet, dining out, computer, hobbies, games, and vacation expenses will go here. If you experience a negative balance or wish to save more money each month, making cuts to this category is the way to go.
This category will be different for everyone. Any other expenses that you have can go here. Clothes, hair, nails, bathroom supplies (even toilet paper), cleaning supplies, housewares, donations, and pet expenses belong in this category. Cuts may also be made to some of these sub-headings.
While budgeting can seem like a lot of extra work, it truly does help you to see exactly where your money goes. By tracking your money and limiting certain expenses, cuts can be made and money can be saved. Make sure to include all of your expenses, no matter how small. Anything minor that just pops up from time to time can go in your miscellaneous category, don’t just leave it out.
About the Author: Daphne Garder enjoys writing about finance and savings at http://homeequityloan.net.
The following article is a guest post.
I was only 14 when I opened up my very first savings account. It was a special type of custodial account: I was allowed to make deposits but no withdrawals (except if it was to close the account completely).
I saved and saved all summer long with one specific goal in mind — to have enough money to buy brand new clothes for my very first year in high school. With determination and discipline I reached my goal at the young age of 14 and repeated the process many times after that.
You can do the same no matter your age or motivation. All you need to successfully build up a personal savings account is a) a S.M.A.R.T. personal goal and b) a plan tailored to your unique situation.
What Is Your Goal?
My goal was very simple and reflective of my youthful mindset at that time. What is your station and life and what is your savings goal? Do you want to save enough money to buy a new car? Reduce your debt? Give someone you love a very special gift
Write your goal down on a sheet of paper or a spreadsheet and then ask yourself if it is S.M.A.R.T. — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timed. It is important to have a realistic, clearly outlined savings goal in mind that you can actually achieve considering your resources. For instance, setting a goal to save $1 million within the next few months to buy a yacht when you make $40,000 a year is not S.M.A.R.T. Saving $4,000 over the next 12 months to purchase a used Honda Accord is a much more balanced and achievable goal.
Create a Plan
Next you need an action plan to reach the savings goal you set. At 14 I started off by estimating the amount of money I would take home each week based on my hourly rate and hours worked per week (I was very meticulous at that age). Then I subtracted that amount from my meager expenses at the time to decide how much I could put aside each check.
So take a moment to run through your budget and figure out how much you can afford to save. Divide the total savings goal by the amount you’ll put aside each month to determine how many months it will take to reach that balance. Write down what you will save each month or pay day next to the goal you defined.
Choose a Savings Vehicle
Now that you have a goal and a plan, you need a place to store your money. You have a number of choices — you can open a traditional savings account at a local bank, a money market account (for very large balances), a direct online savings account or a certificate of deposit account. Choose the account type that offers you the best interest yield (interest the bank pays you) and the most convenience for your needs.
Direct online savings accounts often have better rates than traditional brick and mortar banks. Generally, certificate of deposit accounts (which you can open either online or at a local bank) have the highest yields. If you prefer to save at a traditional bank, open an account at a credit union for the best yields.
Use Personal Savings for Deposits Only
If you’re seriously committed to building up your savings the best rule of thumb is to make it as difficult as possible to access your cash, so apply for a “passbook” style savings account. With a passbook account you do not have a debit card, ATM card or any other method of making quick withdrawals. You must go to the bank to perform all transactions — the teller will record each transaction in a passbook or on a printed statement.
An online savings account is also helpful because you must put in your transaction requests using a computer and you also have to wait two or more days for a withdrawal to process. That gives you some time to think over your decision.
Article provided by Jon Robinson- Consumer Financial Advocate for America’s Debt Help Organization, serving the public with authoritative information on a broad range of topics related to financial well-being.
This week has really been rough for me and it’s not because it’s the first week after my highly anticipated lay-off. The reason this week has been so rough for me is because I’ve experience the worst feeling of my life…..a toothache. I don’t know which feeling is worse, a toothache or being shot in the leg.
By the way, I’ve never been shot in the leg….but I might have preferred that over a toothache.
It was so bad that I was basically bedridden for about two days. It started aching late Monday night and it grew worse the following day. I went to the dentist early Tuesday morning but they couldn’t really do anything for me except give me three prescriptions to take because by that time my left jaw was really swollen. One of the prescriptions was for pain, and the other two were for the infection.
Anyway, to make a long story short, the swelling in my jaw has gone down completely as of today (Friday) but unfortunately I’m going to have to have a root canal.
That sucks. I hate the dentist.
Have you ever had a root canal? The pain is terrible but the cost is even worst. I was told that I would have to pay $883 out of pocket and that’s with insurance…..ouch. I’d hate to see what that cost would be without it.
I honestly think that amount is a little on the high side, so I’m going to shop around and see if I can get a better deal. Yes that’s right; you can shop around for a better deal on just about everything from buying a car to having a medical procedure done. As a matter of fact, I highly recommend it.
So what’s the take away?
The take away is first; take care of your mouth….get regular check-ups. Don’t let it get out of hand like I did, or it will cost you a lot of unnecessary pain and money. The entire idea is to avoid paying more money than you have to….but some of us have to learn the hard way. Second of all, check out at least three other dentist and compare cost. Make sure that they are in network with your insurance provider as well as find out the maximum amount your insurance is willing to pay for the procedure you’re having done. This will give you a good guide to adhere to when selecting a good dentist. Personal references are also a great way to find a good reparable dentist.
Take a lesson from me, take care of yourself. You’ve only got one mouth…..lol.
When’s the last time you visited the dentist?