Start a new tradition this year---stick with your budget and avoid credit card debt.
1. Create a holiday spending plan.
Develop a spending plan (aka budget) that includes all your holiday expenses. Besides gifts, include the costs of wrapping paper, cards and postage, decorations and lights, entertaining, eating out, special clothes (Christmas sweaters anyone?), charitable gifts, and travel.
Save time by using the Holiday Spending Worksheet and Calculator at http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/savings/holiday-spending-calculator.aspx
2. Make a gift list.
Write down each person's name and how much you plan to spend on each. Add up the total dollar amount for all the gifts. Does it fit in your budget? (See your spending plan). If not, adjust the amount per person or limit the number of people on your list.
Take cash when you shop and leave your credit cards at home. Research finds that people spend more when paying by credit card, than by cash. Why? It's easy to overspend when all you have to do is swipe your card. Handing over cash is more “painful” so cash shoppers generally pay more attention to prices and spend less.
Plan to do some or all of your shopping online where paying cash is not an option? Keep reading.
4. Use the “envelope system” to manage your cash.
Get enough cash to pay for all the gifts on your list. Sit down at home with the cash, your gift list, and a stack of blank envelopes. Write each person's name on the front of an envelope, and put the budgeted amount of cash inside.
When you go shopping, pay for gifts with cash from the appropriate envelope. If there's not enough money for the gift you selected, find another gift that fits your budget. When an envelope is empty, you are done shopping for that person.
5. Pay with a credit card and use a “modified” envelope system.
Are you planning to shop with your mobile device or online? Modify the envelope system so it works for you.
Label an envelope for your “checking account”. Each time you charge a gift, put cash to cover the payment in your checking account envelope. When you are finished shopping, the envelope will have the money needed to pay the credit card bill that arrives after the holidays.
No debt, no fees, and no interest---that sounds like a happy start to the New Year!Is overspending a holiday tradition? It doesn't have to be.
Are you taking it easy this holiday by purchasing a complete pre-cooked Thanksgiving dinner?
Don't invite foodborne bacteria as dinner guests. Follow these steps when you bring dinner home:
If you're eating later in the day: Food shouldn't be kept hot for longer than 2 hours. As soon as you bring it home...
• Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavity, put it in a shallow container in the refrigerator. (No need to cool it first.)
• Cut up a whole turkey into smaller pieces, including slicing the breast meat and put it in the refrigerator. It's OK to leave the legs and wings whole.
• Refrigerate potatoes, gravy, and vegetables in shallow containers (so they quickly reach a safe temperature of 40° or below).
• Keep cold food cold by putting it in the refrigerator.
When its time to eat:
- Reheat the turkey, dressing and side dishes until hot and steaming, or (the best way) until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F as measured by a food thermometer.
- Bring gravy to a rolling boil.
- If using a microwave oven, cover the food and rotate the dish so it heats evenly.
After dinner:"Chill" before you chill out.
- Put all perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer within 2 hours of cooking.
- Cut up leftover turkey into small pieces before refrigerating.
- Place the leftover turkey, stuffing, and side dishes into shallow containers and refrigerate at 40 °F or below.
- Don't forget to refrigerate the desserts, particularly any prepared with eggs or dairy products such as pumpkin pie.
- Freeze any leftovers you won't be able to eat within 3-4 days.
- Throw away any perishable food left out for more than 2 hours---including raw or cooked vegetables, and cut fruit. (Getting food borne illness (aka food poisoning) is no holiday!)
After 3-4 days
Throw out any uneaten leftovers.
Other food safety questions?
Call the “USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline” 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) which is open on Thanksgiving Day from 8:00 a. m. to 2:00 p. m. Eastern Time and regularly Monday- Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET.
Get answers 24/7 from “Ask Karen”, the FSIS automated response system:
Mobile phones: m.askkaren.gov
Consumers who have savings PLANS are much more likely to save and reduce debt than those who don't have plans.
That's the conclusion from the 4th National Savings Assessment sponsored by America Saves* and the American Savings Education Council (ASEC). Opinion Research Corporation conducted the study of a representative sample of more than 1,000 adult Americans in early 2011.
Having a Plan Influences Financial Progress
Although income level certainly influences how much a person saves, researchers found “striking differences” between the savings progress of those with and without savings plan.
Individuals with savings plans are more likely than those without plans to:
|1. Spend less than they make and save the difference
2. Be reducing debt or debt-free
3. Have sufficient emergency savings
4. Report saving enough for retirement
Take action to improve your finances:
1. Make a basic savings plan.
Set a goal, decide how much money you need, choose your time frame, and determine how much to save each month (or pay period) to reach your goal.
Learn more about SMART financial goal-setting from Cooperative Extension.
2. Commit to your savings goal by signing the Savers pledge at San Diego Saves.
You'll join thousands of other American Savers across the US who are committed to saving and reducing debt.
3. Start saving today.
Open a saving account (if you don't already have one) and make the first deposit toward your goal.
*America Saves is a national campaign organized by the Consumer Federation of America and a coalition of nonprofit, corporate, and government organizations to inform and encourage all Americans to build a secure financial future by saving and reducing debt./table>
Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest eating days of the year---right up there with Thanksgiving.
Pre-game warm-up: Eat a healthy breakfast and lunch or snack before you head to the party. Skipping meals to “save up” your calories for the big event backfires when you over eat because you are so hungry.
Think like a winner: Focus on the game and enjoying your friends, rather than on the food.
Have a game plan: Take a look at the food spread before digging in. You don't have to eat some of everything---choose 2-3 foods you really like---maybe something you seldom eat (you can eat chips anytime). Take small servings then fill up your plate with healthy items like fruit and veggies (but go easy on the dip---1 tablespoon typically has at 100+ calories!)
Follow a winning strategy: Eat mindfully---think before you put something in your mouth. After serving your plate, move away from the buffet table where it's easy to eat lots of guacamole and chips (without even thinking about it) while you're standing there watching the game.
Take a break at half-time: Grab a friend or two and take a walk in the neighborhood. You'll gain energy and be ready to tackle the second half of the party.
Keep advancing toward the goal line: Regular soda, lemonade, beer, and cocktails can add lots of extra calories. Drink light versions of your favorite beverages. If you indulge in cocktails, limit the calories by limiting yourself to 2 drinks--one each half, and drink water the rest of the time.
Avoid time-outs: Don't let food-borne illness ruin your game. Avoid eating perishable foods that have been left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. That includes things like chicken wings, nachos with chicken or beef, barbeque sliders, dips made with sour cream, and cut fruits and vegetables (unless served on ice).
Score the winning touchdown! Make healthy choices and have a great time.
How do you put on a super bowl spread that's healthier for your family?
However, there's still time to take control of your spending and prevent post-holiday financial headaches. Here's how:
1. Plan your gift-giving strategy.
Decide how much you want to spend on gifts. Make a list of everyone you plan to buy for, along with any gift ideas. Then, divide up the total dollar amount you have to spend by allocating the amount to spend on each person's gift.
Brainstorm possible gifts ideas for everyone on your list that can be purchased with the dollar amount allocated for that person. To reduce the amount spent consider family gifts (rather than individual gifts), gifts of time or service, or if appropriate, passing on family heirlooms as holiday gifts.
Charging holiday gifts means starting 2015 in debt. Instead of using your credit card pay cash if possible. Unlike swiping a credit card, the “ouch” factor when we open up our wallets and hand over the hard cash keeps our spending in focus. Some people use the “envelope system” for cash management. Put each person's name on an envelope and the amount allocated for their gift inside. When an envelope is empty, you are done buying for that person.
Alternatively, pay for gifts with a debit card instead of your credit card. This avoids interest charges and big bills in January because the amount spent is automatically deducted from your bank account. Keep track of debit card spending to avoid overdraft charges.
If you buy holiday gifts using your credit card, stick with just one card so it's easier to keep track of spending. Pick the card with the best interest rate and a grace period (if available).
3. Pre-shop before you buy.
A good rule of thumb is to compare prices with at least 3 sellers. You may save as much as 30%. Mobile apps and online shopping make this fast and easy. If buying an item you are unfamiliar with, find out the most important features to look for. Know the going price so can recognize a true sale. Just because an item is advertised in red letters doesn't mean it's a good deal, or even that it's on sale.
4. Shop with your list.
Stick with your plan. Only buy gifts for people on your list, and stay within planned spending limits. Your name is not on the list so don't buy things for yourself when holiday shopping. If you see a great buy on that mini tablet you've been wanting, or a red cashmere sweater that would look terrific on you---leave it in the store and drop a hint to someone who has you on their gift list.
5. Check your receipts.
Double-check your receipt before leaving the store to be sure you were not overcharged. If you see a mistake, get it corrected immediately. Last year, the County of San Diego Ag Weights and Measures Department, found that scanners in more than 20% of stores inspected had overcharges.
Check the receipts for online purchases too. I recently bought something from an online store that offered free shipping on amounts over $50. My purchase exceeded $50 so I entered the required code and completed the purchase. However, the receipt showed I was charged for shipping. I called the company's 800 number to get the problem corrected.
For more ideas on ways to save money on holiday gift giving, see what University of Florida's Dr. Michael Gutter has to say.
Enjoy your holiday gift giving and wake-up to a debt-free 2015.