Category: Holiday Finances

Nov 15 2009

Why Gifts Cards are not such a great gift

Gift cards may seem like a terrific idea, but there can be a lot of hidden fees and restrictions. Here is a handy article on what to watch out for this holiday season. Gift Cards not a great gift

Sep 30 2008

Christmas Shopping in September?

I lived in the UK for many many years, and so for me, Christmas used to happen in about August. The reason was that it would take so long for the parcels to arrive to my family in the US.

But there was also a more practical reason. I could budget for my shopping over several months, not be broke and miserable, or worse still, go into debt, at the end of the yea, and then have to face the long cold winter months strapped for cash.

On the news last night I saw that the big retailers like Target and Walmart have already got their Christmas displays and even bargains out already before Halloween has even finished, in order to try to make the most of what they fear is going to be a terrible holiday season due to the dire economic climate.

So there can be bargains out there, and you can shop early to avoid disappointment, but as one shopper pointed out, it is hard to have to look at all these items and know you really have to watch every penny and can’t really afford to gift the way you would like.

In our series of articles on the holiday season and your finances, we will help you get the most out of your budget without breaking the bank.

Again, one has to be practical, based on your own job and other situations. The most crucial thing is to get out of debt and stay out of debt, and perhaps even start saving.

So, like Santa, make a list, and check it twice. Then set a budget for each person, and start shopping modestly, or setting the cash aside for December (for things like tips for the doorman, mailman and so on), so you are not making one or two paychecks do all the hard work. Don’t be tempted to stray, and try not to ‘gift’ yourself too much.

Sit on purchases for a day or two as well. Think before buying-is it really a bargain? Comparison shop online.  Know what things cost, so you will not be fooled by a ‘sale price.’

Look at store circulars-take advantage of the ‘loss leaders’, but don’t buy anything not on sale.  They are trying to lure you in!

You can also do the same with birthdays, especially if your family is born from October onwards. It can be an extra added burden.  In addition, if you have family born from  January onwards to March, you might also be able to find some good bargains.

One  other point is that the rate of inflation has been over 10% this year, so prices are really only going to go up, not down, so if you have been putting off essential purchases, you might pay a lot more in the long run.

Finally, one other practical word of warning. Gas and heating oil prices are also going to be tough this winter.  If you have a chance to start budgeting for it now, do so.

Some power companies also offer ‘level billing’ options, so that you pay the same each month, so that when demand is highest, you are not zapped with a huge bill because you have already budgeted for it. Look to see if it makes sense with you and if you get a discount for participating.

Otherwise, put the money in a money market account (you can get about 2.3% from Paypal and have instant access through a debit card, or within 4-5 business days through your bank account).

You can do the same with your Christmas money; set it aside in a money market account until it is time to use it.

And of course,  Christmas is not just presents, but food, booze, entertaining, parties, travel, so again, start making a list of all your obligations now. And don’t forget Thanksgiving!

Budget wisely and make the most of the wages you do have, and be glad to have a job.  Naturally, if your job security is in question, you will have to be that much more careful and frugal. But that is a subject for another article….