Success Strategies for Saving Money at the Holidays, Part 2

Success Strategies for Saving Money at the Holidays, Part 2

Continued from Part 1
You can create a lot of family fun without having to spend a lot on food and alcohol. If you do want to indulge yourself by going out for a meal or drinks, don’t starve yourself all day in preparation for a feast. Also don’t buy a lot of expensive and watered down drinks. Your friends might consider taking turns hosting and getting in cases of beer from the warehouse club, or larger bottles of wine. In many cases the whole bottle will be cheaper than what you are paying for one glass of wine in a restaurant.

Have a potluck holiday supper in which everyone brings a dish, or you assign people appetizer, main course, sides and so on. You can provide all the cutlery and drinks or have everything bring a bottle or six pack and you provide the tableware, glasses and desserts.

Make do with the decorations you already have, or get some free resources online and use crayons, colored pencils and whatever else you already have in the house to make your own decorations with the children. Spend time using the toys that the kids got last year for the holidays and probably have not played with since.

In fact, one great way to spend early December planning for the holidays is to take the time to start clearing out things in your house and especially in each child’s room and start gathering all the things that you and the children don’t use or have outgrown.

If they are decent quality, put them on sale at eBay or donate them to the Salvation Army and be sure to get a receipt. Then look on their website to calculate the values for the items and deduct those amounts from your taxes next April.

Use the money you earn on eBay or the money you save on your taxes as the foundation for next year’s Christmas savings account. Don’t feel pressured to spend what you don’t have. Practice saying, “I can’t afford it,” or “If we want it, we have to save up for it.”

Also be sure to revise your Christmas list in light of what you find as you do your holiday cleaning and sorting. You may find yourself crossing a lot of items off the list.

Try to stick to practical gifts for your loved ones, such as attractive items that double as school supplies, for instance, can make great stocking stuffers. Clothes, shoes, boots, a new back pack and so on also make excellent gifts, especially if they are at the right price and your child did not get very many new back to school supplies.

As for re-gifting, we are all in favor of it provided it is not fruitcake. But seriously, if you have no use for it, by all means pass it on to someone who will appreciate it, so long as no one will find out or expect you to use or wear the item you were gifted. Also consider if it is genuinely that person’s taste or not. Re-gifting can help fill in blanks in your list, and it can also enable you to give a gift to someone you would like to be able to give one to, but might not have in the budget.

Everyone has different perspectives on Christmas and what they wish to spend versus what they can afford. If your gap has widened this year, be honest about it and focus on all the fun and free ways you can celebrate the holidays. The new found financial freedom you start creating for yourself and your family will be well worth it and the best gift you can give to your children.

For more top tips on how to save money at the holidays, see How to Save Money this Holiday Season


Personal Finance for Dummies

If you are stuck trying to figure out your personal finances, or even how to create a budget, then consider getting a copy of Personal Finance for Dummies. This book offers sound and practical advice for those who want to get control over their financial lives.

The author, Eric Tyson, lays out a solid framework for anyone interested in getting and maintaining control of their own financial situation.

Tyson breaks down into layman’s terms the most complex concepts of finance and investing, allowing the average person to get control of their financial lives.

Here is a little of what you will find in the book:

* Assessing your financial fitness and setting goals

* Ways to reduce your spending

* Building wealth and wise investing

* Protecting what you’ve got with insurance

* Working with financial planners

* Survival guide for ten major life changes that will have a big impact on your finances

With Personal Finance for Dummies, a reader will not only be able to educate him/herself concerning money, but will also have instilled in them the confidence that a financial situation can be corrected or controlled personally.

This book provides excellent advice on how to save money and how to set your saving and spending priorities. It has an extensive view of tax advantages and disadvantages through various approaches to finance.

Tyson gives the reader detailed examples which helps provide an easy to implement way to maximize the tax benefits that the government allows. He also encourages wise financial decisions in all areas of personal finance.

Personal Finance for Dummies is a great resource for anyone who needs help getting off on the right financial foot, or the one who has lost their footing and needs some help getting back up on their feet once more.

Personal Finance for Dummies


17 ways to shrink your daily expenses 3

Part 3.

12-Clip coupons.

Even some of the discount, bulk stores accept coupons, so make sure you take advantage of all the Sunday coupons and neighborhood flyers. Pay attention to stores’ double-coupon days and save twice as much.  Even better, use a coupon when items are on sale.

Try to file your coupons alphabetically in a small coupon clipper file to save time and effort. Also try not to get tempted by new items that you would not normally buy.


13-Buy in bulk.

If a non-perishable item is on sale, consider buying several.

But make sure you also check the unit price on some items.  Just beeause it is a larger size, does not always mean it is a savings.  You might do better with waiting til the smaller items are on sale.


14-Check the store circulars.

This is where stores list their weekly specials. Read carefully, though, because stores sometimes intersperse regularly-priced items with sale merchandise. Know your prices on your list, so you can see if it is a real deal, or just a lure.


15. Do the work yourself,”avoid store-prepared food.

Sure, it saves time to have everything cut up for you, but the time it takes you to prepare a salad or put together a side dish can definitely save you money over buying prepared items from the store. Plus, the food you prepare yourself is usually fresher and tastier anyway.


16. Join a food club or shop at a warehouse store.

Often the savings can more than cover the cost of the membership. If you are buying in bulk, share the large quantities out with friends and family.


17. Always double-check your receipt before you leave the store. Sometimes, items get miscounted, rung up twice, or charged in full even if they’re listed on sale. Or, it is easy to miss a coupon.  If there is an error, it’s easier to go to customer service and get a refund if you haven’t left the premises with your bags.


Finances: The Importance of Creating a Budget for Yourself Part 2

Part 2.


To get you started with saving your money, to help relieve the stress and other issues often associated with debt, you will want to start by outlining all expenses that you must pay for on a monthly basis.

These expenses are ones in which you cannot go without paying, like rent, mortgage, homeowners insurance, auto insurance, auto loan payments,your utility bills, and finally, groceries.  These are the expenses that must be paid, no matter what.  If you have any money left over after all these obligations are met, you are fortunate.

Once you have a detailed list of important expenses, the next items are luxuries you have to decide upon. There is no right or wrong answer. You just need to remember that everything involves a sacrifice. So try to keep your long-term financial goals in mind when deciding on whether or not to spend money on these luxury items.

Such items include internet access or cable television.  If you are just looking to save money, possibly to put into a savings account, you should be able to continue paying these expenses without any problems.

On the other hand, if you are looking to dig yourself out of all of the unpaid debt that you have accumulated, it may be a good idea to go without internet access or cable television, if at all possible, even if it is just for a short period of time, to pay down that debt, so the interest doesn’t keep accumulating. Some credit cards can carry an interest rate as high as 30% and some sort cards, almost 50%.

There is no point in putting money into a savings account at 4-5% if you are paying 30% for debts.

You can also use your budget to determine how much extra money you will have each month.  You can do this if you regularly work the same hours or if your pay is salary-based.

Once you have totaled up all of the aforementioned expenses, you can subtract that from the amount of the money that you bring home each week.  Any extra is money that you may want to consider putting towards your debt or savings.  Once you are free of debt, then you can start to save.

We have other articles at the site on budgeting and on asset management and investing. The important thing to remember is to get out of debt as fast as possible, or never get into it. Then, once you are debt-free, you can start saving towards your long-term financial goals.

A budget is not meant to be a straight-jacket, but it will help serve as your road-map to a more successful financial future.


A Budget: Your Ultimate Financial Management Tool, Part IV

(Continued from Part III.)

Now let’s look at your own personal finances in more detail.



Savings should always come first before any spending or investing, except if you are carrying a fair amount of consumer debt or student loans. If you are, make it a point to pay if off first, as we have discussed above.

But do also make sure that there is no penalty actually involved in paying it off quickly. Seriously, they WILL do that. WHY? Because they make more money out of you paying interest, than in paying back the principal (the money owed.

Once you are in the clear on debt, then it makes sense to save.  If an APR is at 15%-29%, then the 4-5% savings you would get from the average online savings account would be meaningless.

Look at your savings options, and choose something with relatively easy access so you don’t run the risk of penalties if you have to withdraw it in an emergency (such as if you had it in a 1 year CD).

If you are thinking of investing it to get a higher return on your money, decide what you can afford to invest and thus risk.

Even a small amount saved will help you reach your short term and long term  financial goals.



Above all, keep in mind that your budget is a living entity, as the cost of living goes up or down, and your situation changes.  If you are living on your own, make sure you hold yourself accountable, by realizing that short-term sacrifices can lead to long term gains.

If you are in partnership, both of you will need to be happy with the final budget, and feel like it’s something you can stick to. Remember, you’re working together towards a brighter and better future, not playing the blame game.

Once you have your budget, you can look at your overall financial health, and work on the areas that need improvement. At least with your budget, you will have a workable map toward your destination, so while you may not always steer the straightest course, at least if you follow your budget, you won’t sail onto the rocks.




A Budget: Your Ultimate Financial Management Tool, Part III

(Continued from Part II.)

Now let’s look at how to start organizing your family budget.


If you have a spouse or a significant other, you should make this budget together. Sit down and figure out what you are spending money on both collectively and together to run your household. If there is a lot of fat that needs to be trimmed, try to take it a step at a time. Remember, there is no blame involved, it is just looking at the cold hard facts.

Often just looking at them is to see a problem, and once you see it, you can start to work together to come up with a solution.



The next step is to discuss  joint financial goals are in both the short and long term. Car, vacation, house, kids, college, retirement, these are pretty standard goals for most people. You may have other personal goals too, like going to grad school, having to pay off student loans, and so on.

Whatever the goals are, the first step is to identify them. That way you can plan your route to get to those goals.

Every journey begins with a single step, so the first step to attaining your goals is to make a realistic budget that you, or you and your partner,  can live with.



A budget should never be a financial starvation diet. That won’t work for the long term any more than living on lettuce for three months to trim the fat would work. All you will do is get sick of it, and binge.

So, be honest, and realistic. The rate of inflation is about 5%, so make reasonable allocations for food, clothing, shelter, utilities and insurance and then add on 5% for a bit of wiggle room.

Set aside a reasonable amount for entertainment and the occasional treat. If you want a vacation, set aside a certain amount each month, but be clear it will have to come out of your budget, and not from a credit card or at the expense of other crucial items.

Continued in: A Budget: Your Ultimate Financial Management Tool, Part IV