Tag Archives: budgeting

5 Tips to Help You Survive the Holiday Shopping Season

4 Tips for Surviving the Holiday Shopping SeasonShopping for the holidays can turn the most wonderful time of the year into the most stressful time, but a little planning and creativity can turn the season’s most dreaded task into a bearable (even a pleasant) one…and these tips will help you save money! BONUS.

(1) Do Your Homework

Before the start of the holiday season, compile a list of the people in your life you need to buy gifts for. When your loved ones start dropping hints about electronics they would love to own or start admiring a sweater in the store window, you can make note and start your shopping early. Also, if you buy gifts for clients or business associates, plan those well in advance, so you are ready and are not “panic shopping” which can lead to overspending.

(2) Avoid Overspending

Decide how much money you want to spend this holiday season, and divide that amount among the people on your list. Be sure to leave some of your budget for those holiday extras that take so many people by surprise, like holiday dinners and clothes for work parties. Once you have your budget set, stick to it.

Check the app store for apps that will comparison shop for you, and sign up for your local retailers’ e-newsletters—insiders will often get access to sales and coupons not offered to the public. And when you’re shopping—whether online or in person—keep your focus. Buy only what’s on your list, and avoid the holiday displays and Instagram feeds meant to tempt you into breaking your budget.

(3) Personalize Gift Cards

Gift cards are a popular present, because they are easy  and suit all ages, budgets and tastes. They can, however, seem impersonal, especially when you tuck one into an envelope and hand it over at the holiday party. To personalize a gift card, include a small extra present with it. Tuck a gift certificate for a movie pass for two into a tin of gourmet popcorn, or wrap a gift card for a clothing store in a scarf.

(4) Skip the Presents; Give Experiences Instead

Do your children really need another gaming console? When the kids can’t figure out what they want, skip the stores and give them an experience instead. A day’s adventure can cost less than the newest electronic gadget, and it will still be remembered even when the gaming console is collecting dust in the basement.

For a sports enthusiast, try a day’s pass on a ski slope. A daredevil would love a trip to a treetop obstacle course. And if you have a teenager into culture, take them into the city for a tour of a museum and dinner at a high-end restaurant. Wrap up a lift ticket, a flyer for the adventure park, or a museum brochure to hint at what’s to come.

(5) Bonus Shopping Tips:

  • Don’t wait til the last minute. This can cause you to “panic shop” which is expensive and often leads to your buying any gifts, not necessarily the ones you want to buy.
  • Go during off-peak hours – maybe during your lunch hour, later in the evening, or first thing in the morning, before the mad dash of shoppers hits your favorite stores.
  • Subscriptions are an easy gift to buy (and give) online, allowing you to give a gift that truly keeps on giving.
  • Online shopping has become so much easier. While this is helpful in many cases, it can also lead to overspend. We recommend filling your shopping cart of items you want to buy, checking it against your list to be sure you aren’t buying too much, and then “sit” on the shopping cart for a day. Go back and if you still want to buy those gifts, go ahead! If not, delete unwanted items from your cart before checking out.
  • Make sure you get gift receipts and know what store return policies are before you inadvertently buy a gift that can’t be returned!

7 Financial Habits That Will Make Buying A Home Easier

Buying a Home: Homebuyer FAQs re Mortgage Costs and Closing CostsGood credit is important in qualifying for a mortgage, but potential homebuyers with less-than-perfect credit can still get a mortgage. No matter what your score, these seven financial habits will make buying a home much easier:

  1. Paying your bills on time or early. This means paying all of your bills on time, not just the ones on your credit report. In addition to credit cards and loan payments, this means utility bills, rent and other regular payments that show you are a responsible adult. Ideally, pay your bills early. This is much easier now that we can access our credit card and loan accounts online.
  2. Pay more than the minimum balance due. If your minimum payment on your Target card is $50 a month, pay $75 or $100. This will reduce your total debt faster as well as the amount of total interest you are paying.
  3. Use less than 30 percent of your available credit. While it is helpful to have credit cards for emergencies, you want to keep your total balances under 30 percent of your total credit limit. For example, let’s say you have a Visa card with a $1,000 credit card limit. Don’t charge more than $300 on that card.
  4. Review your credit report for errors. This is a good habit to get into no matter how good your credit is. If you check your credit report annually, you’ll be able to identify mistakes and get them corrected before it is time to apply for a mortgage loan. See a mistake? Contact the original creditor right away and contact the credit bureau to dispute the information. It could take several months to clear a mistake, so staying on top of your credit report is helpful.
  5. Start building a credit history early. If you are in your early 20s, you ideally have established some credit already, whether it is an introductory credit card or a student loan. Start small by applying for a low limit credit card or getting a car loan with a parent as a co-signer.
  6. Keep paid off accounts open. The length of your credit history is important to a mortgage lender. Even if you don’t use that Visa card you got in 2010, and the balance is zero, keep the account open. It shows a seven-year credit history, and it will help lower your total debt-to-credt ratio (see #3 above).
  7. Set a budget and stick to it. With credit cards so readily accessible, it is easy to treat yourself with a nice dinner, a manicure/pedicure or furnishings for your man cave. But is this the best use of your money? Probably not – unless you budget for it. Set a monthly budget and only indulge in those little luxuries when you have the money to do so without charging it to a credit card.

These good money habits will help you position yourself to qualify for a mortgage loan when you are ready to buy your first – or next – home!