Archive for November, 2009

Free Budget Software Giveaway Winners Revealed

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I held a YNAB Pro download giveaway for two free copies of YNAB (along with some other goodies) last week. I wanted to share my gratitude with all our readers and visitors on this occasion, and to those who submitted their comments and tips on how to save and budget [...]

Free Budget Software Giveaway Winners Revealed

Plan and Budget for Holiday Spending

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Whether you’ve already started shopping, plan on hitting Black Friday sales, or are still procrastinating just a bit, one thing is certain: holiday spending can quickly become a budget buster. But with a bit of careful planning, you can get through this holiday season without spending more than you can afford.

The 6 “C’s” of Holiday Budgeting

  1. Create a plan: Before you do any shopping (or any more, if you’ve already started), get organized. Take a couple of hours to sit down with a pen and paper, Excel spreadsheet, or other tool of your choosing. Make a comprehensive list of expected holiday-related spending. Make sure to think beyond just gifts: include contributions to parties at home, work or school, charitable donations, gift wrapping supplies, seasonal celebrations, and anything else that you tend to spend money on in December. If you don’t have specific gift ideas in mind yet, that’s ok – at least write down the person’s name so you know to account for them in budgeting.
  2. Collect pricing information: Do some research to figure out how much each item on your list might set you back. Compare prices at different stores or for different brands of the same item. Make sure to look for coupons in the paper or online, take full advantage of deals on cash back sites, and include shipping costs in any estimates for online purchases. If you do not yet have a specific gift in mind for a person on your list, set a target price point for that person, and then look for gifts that fall within that target.
  3. Crunch the numbers: The next step is to figure out how much money you can afford to spend on holiday shopping. “Afford to spend” means the amount that you have saved for the holidays thus far, or any new income that is not earmarked for bills, regular spending, or long-term savings. It does not mean any amount you have to put on a credit card. We’re talking about truly discretionary funds – the money you might use to buy a new outfit or a few extra lattes in any other month, or throw into savings as “extra.” You can also look for places to cut your budget this month. For example, holiday party invitations might mean you eat at home less, and can get away with a smaller December grocery budget. Basically take your income between now and the end of the year, subtract necessary December expenses (be realistic!), and calculate the amount left over. Then add any previous holiday savings. This is the amount of money you have to work with. You should do this step without regard to your list in step 1 – the number you figure out in this step is what you have to work with, period. We’ll figure out how to reconcile it to your list in the next step.
  4. Compare costs to budget: Add up the items on your list, and compare the total with your available budget from Step 3. If you were planning to spend more than you have available, you need to revise your list. Either remove a few people/items completely or reduce the amount you were planning to spend on each. An alternative is to squeeze a few more dollars out of your normal spending to use for holiday spending instead. Repeat Steps 1-3 until the money in your holiday budget exceeds the amount of money you plan to spend. It’s helpful to keep a little cushion in case you forgot something or end up spending just a little more on “extras” like shipping or gift wrap.
  5. Control spending: With your list in hand, set out to actually purchase your items. Whether you physically go out shopping or choose to point-and-click your way through the holiday season, make sure that you are buying items on your list at or below the prices you planned for. If you buy something and find a better deal later, consider returning the first item if it’s not too inconvenient. Also remember that credit cards are NOT one of the 6 C’s on this list. Resist the urge to buy now and pay later – paying with cash is the only way to truly stay within your means.
  6. Conquer your budget: Keep track of every dollar you spend, and compare your actual spending against your original spending plan at least once every couple of nights. Make adjustments as necessary – nobody can be 100% accurate with your planning, and that’s ok. The key is to make adjustments in other areas to compensate. If you truly want to keep your spending in check, going over on one person or item will mean cutting back on something else. Consider this carefully before allowing yourself to spend more than you budgeted!

Final Thoughts

Having a realistic holiday budget is one way to reduce stress and keep your holiday spending under control – but it only helps if you have the willpower to stick to it! Starting early is one way to keep costs down – you have more time to look for deals, and can avoid the pressure of buying because you just don’t have time to wait.

It’s also helpful to have an accountability buddy – maybe you can share this post with a friend, and create your holiday budgets together. Then you can check in to make sure you are both sticking to your budgets, and support each other when one of you is tempted to stray. Whatever you do, remind yourself that the holidays will come again – you don’t have to buy everything this year!

What about you? How do you plan for holiday spending?

Written by Jill


Click here to leave a comment on this article.

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Preparing for Black Friday

Are you preparing for Black Friday? I used to love getting up at 5AM and freezing my butt off to save a few dollars. My mom and I got her first computer on a Black Friday. I was also closer to 23 back then. Now at 33, my idea of [...]

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Amazon.com $10 off $50 When Paying with Discover Card

Amazon.com is offering $10 off when you pay with your Discover Card on purchase of $50 or more this holiday season. To receive the $10 promotional discount, you need to follow these steps:

Browse for qualifying items. Qualifying items are select items sold by Amazon.com in Apparel, Electronics, Software, Video Games, and Computers displaying the offer [...]

Original Post on The Sun’s Financial Diary

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Amazon.com $10 off $50 When Paying with Discover Card

When Is It Time to Hire a Financial Planner?

A lot of us feel like we have a good handle on our financial lives. We balance the checkbook every month. We sock money away in our retirement plans. We even have a little left over to have some fun with. Things are going well, right?
It could be but the idea [...]

Original Post on The Sun’s Financial Diary

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When Is It Time to Hire a Financial Planner?

Case Study: Retirement Soon, RRSP or Mortgage?

Kayla from PEI emailed me for some advice about her financial situation.  She is 50 with a mortgage and small RRSP.  She’s wondering where she should focus her money as she hopes to retire when she is 55.  Here is more information about Kayla.

RRSP Portfolio Value: $6,000
RRSP Contribution: $110/month
Gross Income: $67,000 (after tax ~$3,220/month) increasing 2.25% [...]

5 Four-Letter Words You Should Be Using in Personal Finance

This is a post from Jason over at Redeeming Riches. Jason is a financial planner by day and a personal finance blogger by night. Be sure to subscribe to his posts in a reader or by email.
No, I’m not going to list some new vocabulary words for you to use when your account [...]

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TradeKing New Account Review

TradeKing

New Account Screen

Account Security

Which Type of Account?

Who Are You?

Where Do You Work?

How Much Money Do You Have & What is Your Trading Experience?

Do You Have a TradeKing Promotional Code?

What Are Your Investment Goals?

Get Your Questions Answered

Do You Agree To Follow the Rules?

Give Your Signature

TradeKing Application Complete!

optionsXpress Promotion: Get $100 When Opening a New Account

The reason I got my optionsXpress account two years ago was that the broker had a promotion at that time that gave every new customer $100 bonus with a minimum of $500 deposit. That’s 20% return without much work. So I opened the account, made the deposit and received the bonus. Unlike other free money [...]

Original Post on The Sun’s Financial Diary

Special bonus offers

optionsXpress Promotion: Get $100 When Opening a New Account

Blockbuster vs Netflix: Online DVD Rentals For Less

Are you looking for ways to cut back on your entertainment costs? If so, then here are some options to get entertained for less.
With the nation coming out of a recession and into a jobless recovery, Americans are cutting back across the board. Unless you’re starring on “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” chances [...]

Blockbuster vs Netflix: Online DVD Rentals For Less

YNAB Pro Giveaway Code: fibonacci

Blockbuster vs Netflix: Online DVD Rentals For Less

Are you looking for ways to cut back on your entertainment costs? If so, then here are some options to get entertained for less.
With the nation coming out of a recession and into a jobless recovery, Americans are cutting back across the board. Unless you’re starring on “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” chances [...]

Blockbuster vs Netflix: Online DVD Rentals For Less

YNAB Pro Giveaway Code: fibonacci

Are You a Credit Card Junkie? Learn How to Kick the Habit

Are you a credit junkie? Millions of Americans are, including our favorite relative, Uncle Sam. We usually think of junkies as drug addicts or drug peddlers, but a junkie is any person who derives inordinate pleasure from or who is dependent on something. For many people, that’s buying things with credit. In other words, [...]

About the Author: Jeremy is a retirement planning specialist and founder of Generation X Finance and the guide to Financial Planning at About.com. To learn more, follow Jeremy on Twitter.

Are You a Credit Card Junkie? Learn How to Kick the Habit

Frugal Holiday Entertaining

This is the first post in our frugal holiday series. Saving money during the holidays is no small feat and anyone who manages to accomplish it should be praised and envied. Our frugal holiday series is going to focus on saving money in three areas:

Frugal Holiday Entertaining
Serving Holiday Food Frugally
Frugal Gift Buying

Today we are kicking [...]

Original Post on The Sun’s Financial Diary

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Frugal Holiday Entertaining

Black Friday & Christmas Shopping Tips

I was looking back through the posts on the site from last November and saw a bunch of posts on Christmas shopping, Black Friday, etc.  The shopping season is here again so here are some tips on budgeting, shopping, and holiday deals:

Black Friday Deals or Cyber Monday Savings?
Christmas Budgeting – Building A Christmas Fund
Christmas Deals [...]

How to Score Big on Cyber Monday

I had one of the most fun and memorable holiday experiences several years ago. After a great Thanksgiving feast at my grandmother’s, my mother and I decided that we would bite the bullet and go together the next morning to shop on Black Friday. Neither of us had done so before, and we felt that it could be a fun, and lucrative experience.

My mom picked me up at 4:30 a.m. and we headed to the stores about a half an hour away, donned in sweatpants, sweatshirts, gloves, and hats. The warm glow of the stores in the darkness of the early morning, the excitement of other shoppers also donned in sweats, and the incredible deals we found (I saved $121 dollars that year on my Christmas shopping!) made it a memory for both of us.

By 8:00 a.m. we were finished, and grabbed a quick diner breakfast before heading home and crashing for a few more hours. While this was such a fun time for my mother and me, I have not gone back out since on Black Friday! It was cold, dark, and we used up a lot of gas.

Cyber Monday

Instead of shopping on Black Friday, I like to take advantage of Cyber Monday, where I can get some incredible deals, score some free shipping, and have it all delivered to my door without ever leaving the house.

This year, Cyber Monday is November 30, 2009. Here are some tips to help yours be a success!

Online Cyber Monday Ads and Resources

There are a few great websites that you should bookmark for your online shopping adventure:

These websites have some ads already listed, but many will not be available until the morning of Monday, November 30, 2009.

How to Get Free Shipping

Shipping costs can add up when ordering online. However, you won’t be paying any gas money to travel from store-to-store, so you still might come out ahead instead of shopping on Black Friday. Still, who likes to pay for shipping? I know I don’t.

One of the easiest ways to get free shipping is by bundling your purchases together. This will ensure that you reach certain thresholds of spending at a store so that your shipping is automatically free.

But if you would like to cherry pick deals—choosing one item from one store, and an item or two from another—then there are still some good shipping deals to be had. FreeShipping.org is a great resource for finding free shipping coupon codes.

Another way to score free shipping is to pick up the items yourself. Some merchants allow you to pick up the item in a store near you at your leisure. You can still purchase the product at a great discount on Cyber Monday, but then indicate that you will pick it up at a local store.

On a final note, while it does not take place on Cyber Monday, there is a Free Shipping Day with a lot of online merchant participation.  On December 17, 2009 you can order online from hundreds of merchants and get free shipping, with guaranteed shipment by Christmas Eve.

Score Cash Back on Online Purchases

A way to offset any shipping costs, or to sweeten your Cyber Monday deal finds, is to earn cash back on your online purchases. There are several sites you can sign up for, such as Cashbaq, and Ebates. Here’s how to get money back on your online purchases, as well as to get deals on Cyber Monday:

  1. First visit some of the online resources above, and copy down coupon codes for products and stores you want to use.
  2. Then visit the websites for free shipping, and find online codes for the stores you will be using.
  3. Next, sign onto your Cashbaq or Ebates account, and through that website, find the online merchant you wish to purchase from.
  4. Shop.
  5. Once you get to checkout, put in your coupon codes (as many as are allowed; you may be forced to choose between several, so pick the highest valued one).
  6. In several weeks, check your Cashbaq or Ebates account and see how much money you have earned!

No matter which way you choose to shop—Black Friday, or Cyber Monday—I hope your experience is a memorable and lucrative one. If you find some great deals, come back and share them with us all!

Written by Amanda


Click here to leave a comment on this article.

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3 Principles of Successful Investors Part 2

This is a continuation of a 2 part series on the principles of successful investors.  Here’s a quick recap of the first article.

1. Faith
The single most important characteristic of successful investors is faith. This includes faith in the markets, in the future, in our free enterprise system, in the ability of good companies to grow [...]

How Much Do I Need To Retire?

The following post is from Todd Tresidder. Todd retired at age 35, publishes the FinancialMentor blog, and lives in Reno, Nevada, with his wife and two children. His ebook, “How Much is Enough to Retire?” reveals the problems behind retirement calculators and explains the solutions he created to plan 60+ years of retirement bliss and [...]

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Want To Day Trade? Try Paper Trading First

Which online brokers offer simulated or virtual stock trading platforms?
There is more than one way to invest in the stock market and while many investors will debate that one approach is “the right way” to go about investing, it’s my opinion that any approach is “right” if you’re making money by employing it… consistently.
That said, [...]

Want To Day Trade? Try Paper Trading First

YNAB Pro Giveaway Code: fibonacci

My Up Close Look at Health Care

By Curmudgeon.  Just to make sure none of my anxious relatives read this and think this is me, I’ll repeat – no, I didn’t write this.  That having been said, Curmudgeon has a few important notes about health care in America that we’d all be better off thinking about now rather that later.  My family [...]

My Up Close Look at Health Care is an original article from the website brip blap.

A Few Black Friday Shopping Tips

Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving in the United States) provides consumers with bargains beyond their wildest imaginations.  Retailers offer their goods and services at decreased prices as a way of persuading men and women to start their holiday shopping earlier. Seasoned pros know just how difficult it is to find parking on this [...]

About the Author: Jeremy is a retirement planning specialist and founder of Generation X Finance and the guide to Financial Planning at About.com. To learn more, follow Jeremy on Twitter.

A Few Black Friday Shopping Tips

Cleaning Out the Garage

Our garage hasn’t been this clean and organized since we moved into our house! Since we’re debating selling our house my wife is on a de-cluttering mission so we spent the whole weekend cleaning out our garage.
Organization Saves Money
One thing I was reminded of as we worked is how you can save money by staying organized.  [...]

How to “Find” Holiday Money

It’s already the end of November and for many, myself included, that means holiday shopping. From holiday gifts to decorations to food for the family table, all the festivities can really add up. The good news is that even retailers have not been immune to the downslide of the economy and are now working hard [...]

Original Post on The Sun’s Financial Diary

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How to “Find” Holiday Money

7 Tips to Avoid Holiday Spending Stress

As we approach the busy holiday season, are you worried about it wreaking havoc on your finances? Each year about October or so, my dad likes to scare everyone by saying something like “only FIVE more paychecks ‘til Christmas.” This makes people nervous, because they haven’t started shopping and don’t see where they’ll find the money to do so.

But the reality is, the holiday season comes at the same time every year – and brings with it a lot of stress. During the holiday season, we find ourselves short on time and long on things to do. We spend more, save less, and forget about budget tracking all together. But with some careful planning, a few deep breaths, and maybe just a little bit of luck, you can get through the holiday season (relatively) stress-free.

Holiday Financial Pitfalls

It’s easy to get caught up in overspending during the holidays. Maybe the holiday spirit gets to you, and you become generous to the point of breaking your budget. Maybe you simply have a lot of people on your gift list. If you’re involved in a lot of community groups, or your children are on lots of teams, you can have endless parties that require a contribution of food, gifts, or both.

Adults-only parties might mean shelling out money for a baby sitter and maybe a hostess gift. The end of the year is also a popular time for charities to solicit donations. Extra running round means more gas money. Finally, the stress of your increasingly-busy schedule can lead to paying for convenience in the form of meals out, professional gift wrapping, or housecleaning services. And all of it together means you just don’t have time to manage your budget and make sure all is going as planned.

How to Avoid Holiday Stress

The seven tips below will help you get through the holiday season without negating all the financial progress you’ve made in 2009. Ultimately though, they all come down to the same thing – treat your holiday purchasing and spending just the way you treat the rest of your financial life.

  1. Make a list and check it twice: Before the busy season really gets going, sit down and make a list. Write up all the things that could cost you money this holiday season – people you need to buy gifts for, party contributions, and everything else I named above. Use a spreadsheet to make extra notes – where will you buy things, how much they will cost, the timeline for doing it. Keep this list with you at all times and use it to plan out your evenings and weekends – buy everything from the same store in one trip, visit stores on the same side of town on one day, etc. Check off items or make new lists as you go along, so you always have an idea of exactly what you have left. In your life, you plan to avoid surprises – do the same thing here.
  2. Consider group buying: If you give gifts to families (like your sister, husband, and their two kids), consider giving one family gift or one parent gift and one child gift instead of four individual gifts. This can cut down on shopping and wrapping time and overall money spent. A favorite gift of mine is a couple of age-appropriate board games and box of popcorn or candy. For parents, you can give a bottle of wine and the promise of free baby-sitting. You can extend this idea to people in the same age group or with the same interests. Consolidate trips and save time by buying multiples of the same item at the same time, and distribute appropriately. If this tip makes you reconsider the list above – revise as necessary. Life is about finding efficiencies to keep us going – this tip extends that idea to gift-giving.
  3. Look for coupons and deals: Now that you have your list, start scanning newspapers and websites for ways to bring down your cost. That will give you some extra money in case you go over on some items, have unplanned expenses come up, or fall victim to some of those convenience costs I talked about earlier. You do it for grocery shopping – why should holiday shopping be any different?
  4. Set a budget and stick to it: Do not spend more than you can afford – and if you’re putting it on credit, you can’t afford it. Add up the items on your list and decide how much money you can set aside for holiday spending, then set a holiday budget. If the money you have available is less than what you need, rethink your list. This is just like the rest of your life – spend less or earn more!
  5. Don’t be afraid to say no: Be realistic about how much you can afford to spend – in terms of both money AND time! Holiday spending should not come at the expense of emergency or retirement savings. Holiday activities should not mean you fall into bed exhausted at 2 AM each night, and neglect the needs of yourself or your family. You should give from the heart in a way that makes sense for you – and if that means some people just get cards or a box of cookies this year, or you miss the “awesome” party your neighbors throw every year, that’s ok!
  6. Take five minutes every day to regroup: At the end of each day, take five minutes to regroup. Look over your list and see what you’ve accomplished. Get together a plan for the next couple of days. Look at your calendar to determine what events you have coming up. If you track your budget carefully, record today’s items. Then close your eyes and recharge, even if just for a moment. In life, a little strength goes a long way, and the same goes for the holiday season.
  7. Learn lessons this year, and use them in the future: Nobody’s perfect. Even with the best planning you might spend a little more than you’d like. But use lessons from this year to do better next year. Whether it’s planning your spending earlier, saying yes to fewer invitations, keeping more frozen food available for quick meals, or going ahead and hiring that housekeeper, a lesson learned this year is time and money saved next year.

We can all learn something about controlling stress during the holidays, financial and otherwise. Share your lessons in the comments, and help a fellow reader out!

Written by Jill


Click here to leave a comment on this article.

© My Dollar Plan

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How Car Lease Payments are Calculated

With the new 2010 Honda CRV released, a renewed interest in a replacement vehicle has occurred in our household. After browsing around the auto makers website, I was curious as to the difference between purchase and lease payments. As someone who likes to pay cash for everything to avoid the interest, I’ll reluctantly admit that [...]

Are You Paying Too Much for Your Job?

This is a post from Neal over at WealthPilgrim.com. After reading the article, be sure to sign up for free at Wealth Pilgrim to receive more from Neal.
You might be paying a very high price for the work you do. In fact, it might make a lot of sense for you to take [...]

Post by Frugal Dad

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