6 Ways To Keep Your Finances Intact This Holiday Season   

‘Tis the season to shop until you drop-or until you go broke. But you don’t have to woman shopping on computeroverspend.

There’s no need to rack up a huge credit card bill or go into debt just to cover your holiday expenses. Enjoy a stress-free season by keeping your spending in check with these six tips:

Create a detailed list of all your expenses

Don’t leap into your holiday shopping armed with nothing but a credit card. Before you hit the mall or start browsing, sit down and draw up a complete list of every holiday expense you can anticipate. Include all gifts, holiday décor, travel expenses, charitable donations and food costs. Try to keep this list as trim as possible by cutting out any non-essentials and using stuff you may already have in storage from previous years. Bonus points for any homemade gifts!

Determine how much money you can spend

Once you have all of your expenses written out, work on finding a magic number that will cover everything on your list and that you can realistically afford. Ideally, this money should come from funds you’ve set aside just for this purpose.

Divide and conquer

Next, assign specific amounts of money in your budget for each expense category and for every person on your gift list. For example, you can decide to spend $300 on your preteen daughter’s gifts and to donate $100 to charity this season. Again, make sure your numbers will work from both a financial and practical perspective.

Track as you shop

You’re ready to hit the mall! As you shop, keep a careful account of exactly how much money you’ve spent for each person and in each expense category. It’s best to use cash or a debit card when shopping, and to review your budget often to make sure you’re staying on track. This way, you’ll know how much you’re spending and you won’t be hit by awful “Santa shock” come January when you need to pay those credit card bills.

To make this job easier, use an app designed for this purpose. A common favorite is one called Santa’s Bag. The app allows you to set a budget for each person on your list and then makes tracking the amount you spend super simple. It will even warn you when you’re nearing your preset spending limit or when you’ve gone over budget.

Shop smartly and spend less

Keep your spending to a minimum by following these hacks:

  • Use shopping apps, like the Coupons App and Shopular, to get your favorite retailers’ best deals and coupons delivered right to your phone.
  • Follow the 24-hour rule. Before purchasing anything on the expensive side, wait 24 hours. Sometimes, after sleeping on it, you’ll find that you don’t need to buy that pricey gift after all. Or, you might find the same item somewhere else at a lower price.
  • Shop online on Tuesday morning. Research shows this time of week is when you’ll find the hottest online deals.
  • Shop with a friend. Take advantage of BOGO sales by splitting the cost of a single item with a friend and each of you taking one item home.
  • Shop late. Everyone likes to get an early start on holiday shopping, but prices actually drop in the weeks leading up to Christmas as retailers seek to clear out their holiday inventory.

Let Destinations Credit Union help

If you’re having trouble covering your holiday expenses, or you want to get a head start on next year’s costs, let [credit_union] help! Here are three ways we can take the financial stress out of the holiday season:

  • Skip-a-Payment. We get it. The holidays are crazy expensive. That’s why we allow qualifying members to skip one payment on a loan each November without hurting their credit or defaulting on their loan. It’s extra breathing room, just when you need it most! Although it is too late for this year, keep it in mind for the future.
  • Holiday Loan. If you can’t come up with the funds you need for the holidays, consider taking out a Destinations Credit Union Holiday Loan. Our fantastic terms and affordable rates make it a no-brainer!
  • Holiday Club Account. Spread the cost of the holidays across the year with an account created just for that purpose. You’ll set aside a little bit of money each month into your Holiday Club Account, and next year, when the holiday season rolls around, you’ll have all the funds you need on hand.

Don’t let financial stress ruin your holiday cheer this year. Follow our tips to keep your spending down, and stop by [credit_union] to see how we can help!

Your Turn: How do you get through the holidays with your finances intact? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-stick-to-your-holiday-budget-2385688

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/08/speding-holiday.asp
http://mentalfloss.com/article/516568/8-ways-make-sure-you-stick-your-holiday-budget

What To Buy And What To Skip This Black Friday

It’s the bargain-hunter’s favorite season-or is it? Before you brave the crowds this Blackblack friday shopping Friday, take a few minutes to read through our list of what to buy and what to skip so you come home only with true bargains.

Skip: Large home appliances

While you may find markdowns on large household appliances, like dishwashers and refrigerators, on Black Friday, you’ll find even better deals on long holiday weekends throughout the year, including Memorial Day, Labor Day and President’s Day. If your appliance is still working well and you’re just looking for an upgrade, you’re better off saving your purchase for a later date.

Buy: Small home appliances

You can score fantastic Black Friday deals on small household appliances like coffee makers, toaster ovens and blenders, which may see discounts of up to 65%.

Skip: Jewelry

If you’re planning on buying a special someone a gift that truly sparkles, don’t buy it on Black Friday. While some jewelry companies will offer slight discounts on their merchandise after Thanksgiving, prices on jewelry will fall significantly in December and even further in January. If you’re not in any rush, you’re best off waiting until July, when jewelry prices are at their lowest point of the year, thanks to the usual summer slump.

Buy: Electronics

Crazy-low prices on electronics are a Black Friday basic. In recent years, supersized TVs were marked down by several hundred dollars by retailers like Walmart and Amazon. Discounted Apple products are another Black Friday favorite, with shoppers waiting for this day to buy their MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Apple TVs.

While you might find fantastic bargains on electronics this Black Friday, be sure to read the fine print before finalizing purchases. Some deals may require you to sign up for a pricey phone plan to qualify for the purchase. Others may depend on a store gift card to net you the full bargain; if you don’t typically frequent this store, it may not be such a great bargain after all.

Skip: Toys

Don’t count on finishing up the gift-shopping for the little ones in your life this Black Friday. You’ll get much better prices on toys and children’s games in the weeks leading up to Christmas, when the shopping season is already winding down and retailers are looking to clear out inventory.

Buy: Online doorbusters

In an effort to attract customers, major retailers for years have been offering bargain Black Friday doorbusters. Many stores have recently started offering these deals online as well, so there’s no longer a need to camp out Thanksgiving night in Walmart’s parking lot to get the best picks, or to fight your way through crazed crowds. You can now shop at your leisure from the comfort of your home. The best items will still get grabbed quickly, so be sure to move fast!

Skip: Fitness equipment

It’s always a good season to stay fit, but in the world of retail, the prime season for fitness equipment is January, when New Year’s resolutions are still fresh and relevant. Push off the purchase of exercise gear until after the holidays for a better deal. You’ll score even steeper discounts if you wait until February, when the post-holiday inspiration for getting into shape starts wearing off and prices start falling.

Buy: Travel deals

If you plan on traveling for the holidays, or for a mid-winter getaway, look for markdowns on Black Friday and Cyber Monday on airfare, hotel reservations and car rentals. Make sure to check popular travel sites multiple times over the weekend, as the best travel deals are usually only live for a limited time.

Skip: Bedding

Is your bedroom in need of a facelift? You’ll have to wait for January’s legendary “white sales” for the year’s steepest discounts on bedding and linens.

Buy: Video games

If you’ve got a serious gamer on your holiday gift list, you’ll want to shop for discounted video games on Black Friday. You’ll find deals on the newest games at the big-box stores and online at Playstation.com, Nintendo.com and Xbox.com.

Skip: Winter clothing

You’ll always get more bang for your buck when you purchase clothing toward the end of the season or even mid-season, and winter is no exception. You’ll see lots of splashy sale ads from your favorite clothing stores in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, but these are typically modest markdowns of 30% or less. For the real steals on winter apparel, you’ll have to wait until the calendar hits January.

Now that you know what to buy and what to skip this Black Friday, you can go ahead and hit the stores knowing you’ll walk away with the best deals.

Your Turn: What do you shop for on Black Friday? Share your best buys with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://bestblackfriday.com/user-guide/sorting-through-phony-black-friday-deals

https://www.finance.yahoo.com/amphtml/news/buy-skip-black-friday-151858321.html
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/black-friday-what-to-buy-skip/
https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/10-products-you-should-not-buy-on-black-friday

How Should I Fund My Holiday Shopping?

Q: I’ve made my gift list and I’m checking it twice. But, I’m getting a bit panicky just Two women looking in window holiday shoppingthinking about how I’m going to pay for all this stuff! What’s the best way to get me through this expensive season?

A: Relax! You can keep your budget and your sanity, too! You can do it without having to dip into your savings or rack up a high-interest credit card bill that you’ll be paying off well into 2019. Instead, learn about your choices so you can spend responsibly and keep your holiday cheer all through the season..

Let’s explore your options and take a look at why they may or may not be right for you.

1.) No-interest credit cards

It’s never a good idea to rack up debt. However, if you can get your hands on a credit card that offers an initial no-interest period, you can borrow the money to fund those purchases without it costing you a penny in interest.

Nice: This can be a perfect solution for you if you have an excellent credit score and concrete plans to pay back the bill before the zero interest period ends.

Naughty: Don’t go this route if you have a poor track record of paying down your credit card bills. You might end up carrying that balance well after the intro period ends. You’ll then be hit with super-high interest rates that will make your holiday expenses go much higher.

2.) Personal loans

Anytime you need a pile of dough, you can stop by Destinations Credit Union to apply for a Holiday Loan. Our representatives are always happy to help, and you can walk out with the money you need to fund your holiday shopping shortly after starting your application.

Nice: Like all of our lending products, our personal loans have low interest rates, which makes the payback plan affordable for almost any budget.

Naughty: If you’re already carrying a load of debt and unpaid loans, don’t take out another one just to get you through the holidays. Consider lower cost gift ideas and focus on paying off debt.

3.) Skip-a-Payment

Here at Destinations Credit Union, we understand that the holidays can be super expensive for our members. That’s why we offer you our own gift this time of year: the option to skip a monthly loan or credit card payment to give you that extra cash flow. It’s more breathing room in your budget, just when you need it most! We skip the November loan payment to give you more shopping time, so it’s already passed for this year.

Nice: When you choose Skip-a-Payment, you’ll be able to pay for those presents without adding to your credit card balance or taking on new debt. No high-interest bills to haunt you through the first part of 2019!

Naughty: When you choose to skip a monthly loan payment, you are essentially moving that payment to the end of the loan’s life. Every Skip-a-Payment will make the loan’s term one month longer. Consider this: If you skip just one payment a year on an auto loan, the loan will be around five months longer than you’d originally anticipated (for a five year loan).

4.) Holiday Club Account

Don’t wait until Black Friday to start thinking about your holiday shopping. Pay a little bit toward this expensive season all year long by opening a Holiday Club Account. This way, when November rolls around, you’ll actually look forward to buying all those gifts instead of dreading it. Put the cheer back in your holiday season by opening a Holiday Club Account today!

Nice: Holiday Club Accounts offer you a way to pay for your holiday shopping ahead of the season, instead of playing catch-up on your bills in the coming months. It’s the perfect way to take the stress out of the holidays!

Naughty: If you want to open a Holiday Club Account to help you make it through this season, you’re a little late. But, it’s never too early to start thinking about next year!

5.) Deferred-interest financing

If you’re buying several large purchases at big-box stores, consider signing up for the retailers’ deferred-interest financing. Many chain stores offer customers this interest-free financing option so they can walk out with their purchase today, and pay for it tomorrow.

Nice: Deferred-interest financing works just like an interest-free line of credit, only it’s exclusive to the store selling the item. If you don’t like the idea of opening another credit card but you need that interest-free option, this can be the perfect solution for you.

Naughty: If you neglect to pay off your bill before the interest-free period expires, you’ll be slapped with sky-high interest fees. Worse yet, you’ll have to pay interest retroactively for the entire interest-free period.

If you’re still struggling to get through the holiday season, we can help! Stop by Destinations Credit Union today. We’ll show you how to stay in the black when your holiday expenses have you seeing red.

Your Turn: How do you pay for your holiday expenses? Share your method of choice and tell us why it works for you in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.thebalance.com/pay-for-big-holiday-purchases-interest-free-4154866

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704782304574541873369727460
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thestreet.com/amp/story/12808150/1/how-pay-your-holiday-shopping.html

5 Holiday Mistakes That Could Cost You

This article is courtesy of Darlene Aderoju who works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support Americans to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org.

The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to enjoy vacations, catch

woman in santa hat with scary face and an armful of gifts

.

up with family and old friends, and eat great food. While the holidays are about quality time and making memories, it’s easy to get caught up with spending money. Here are five holiday mistakes to avoid this year so you can enjoy the season with your finances intact:

You’re shopping without a budget or list.

It’s incredibly kind to get each of your relatives, colleagues, and in-laws thoughtful presents and cards to show them your appreciation, but your wallet might be crying for help after your first few purchases. One of the biggest financial mistakes you can make during the holidays is shopping without a spending plan.

When you’re shopping for loved ones, you’re imagining how happy they’ll be when they receive your gift. But remember, financial responsibilities don’t go on vacation during the holidays. Create a budget for your holiday spending. Once you know how much you can afford to spend, create a list that fits your budget.

This way, you’ll be able to purchase the items you plan for and know for sure that you didn’t bust your budget. Here’s a free holiday budget printable to get you started.

You’re volunteering your home, food, and car to everyone.

If you’re the person that always offers food, transportation, and lodging to everyone, you might want to try a new approach this year. It’s thoughtful to go the extra mile during the holidays, but don’t stretch yourself or your pockets too thin.

Consider splitting the responsibilities with your friends and family. You might not think you’re overspending by being so accommodating, but the more people there are in your home, the more likely you are to receive a high utility bill at the end of the month. You’ll also be surprised at how many trips you might have to make to the grocery store to restock on food, drinks, and toiletries.

You can suggest hosting a potluck style gathering this year. With a potluck, each guest is responsible for bringing at least one dish, beverage, or party supply. At a minimum, you’ll save money on food and drinks. If you need napkins or disposable utensils and plates, you can make one guest responsible for those items as well.

If you have a ton of relatives who need to be picked up from the airport or train station, see if you can rope in other family members to help with pick-ups and drop-offs. This will help you save on gas, time, and energy.

Splitting responsibilities will help you enjoy the holidays without being completely stressed out.

You’re shopping too late.

So you’ve created your list and a tight budget, that’s great! Don’t wait until the last minute to actually make your purchases. By then, sales may be over and supplies will be limited.

Start your shopping early so you can snag deals while they’re still available. When you have ample time to cross items off your list, you’ll have time to compare prices and bargain hunt. Some stores offer price matching, so keep that in mind as you start shopping and placing your online orders.

Time is of the essence. Shopping early will give you time to figure out what you actually need and get those items at the best price. When you wait until the last minute, you’re much more likely to bust your budget because you’ll just be rushing to cross people off your list instead of specific items that fall within your budget. Here are some tips to help you save while you shop.

You’re relying on your credit cards.

Do your best NOT to rely on your credit cards during the holidays. If you can’t afford to buy it now, don’t create a bill for yourself later. Once the holidays are over, you’ll be faced with a potential mountain of debt that you’ve built.

The holidays are a great time to enjoy the company of your loved ones, but you shouldn’t feel like the only way to show your love is through expensive presents and festive decor. Enjoy the holidays in a way that doesn’t destroy your finances. This year, make it a goal to spend quality time.

If an unplanned expense does occur during the holidays and you have to use your credit, here are some tips for using your credit card.

You’re trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Don’t make the holidays a competition about who can wear the most expensive clothes, buy the flashiest gifts, or serve the swankiest dinner. Make the holidays about creating lasting memories and enjoying time with your loved ones, or simply yourself.

Gift Giving on a Budget

This article is courtesy of Faye Griffiths-Smith of UConn Extension, a nonprofit coordinator of 

wooden boards with holiday decorations and the word Save

Connecticut Saves.

As the holiday season approaches, do you find yourself looking forward to the festivities, but concerned about the impact on your wallet? You are not alone. By doing some planning now, you can simplify your gift giving. Here are ten ways you can enjoy this special time of year and keep spending in check:

  1. Food. Consumable items are very popular during the holidays. The recipients may enjoy the product themselves or share it with others when entertaining. Consider special breads, beverages, fruit baskets, snack items, regional favorites, and gourmet coffees and teas.
  2. Go green. Find locally grown plants, flowers, and dried wreaths. Another option might be to purchase colorful washable napkins, placemats, dishcloths, reusable bags, and lunch bags with individual containers for sandwiches and snacks.
  3. Set limits. This could be done by establishing a dollar amount per gift, completing your shopping in only one or two trips, purchasing one gift per family, or committing to doing all your shopping locally.
  4. Made by you. Make your own food specialty. Knit a scarf. Hand craft an item. Create an annual holiday ornament. Give a framed photo.
  5. Hobby-related gift or gift certificates. Consider the recipient’s hobbies and interests. Are there gardeners, chefs, woodworkers, knitters, readers and gamers on your list? Gift accordingly by providing them with the tools or materials to do what they enjoy.
  6. Agree on a gift challenge. Discuss this idea well in advance of the holidays with those whom you regularly exchange gifts, but make it fun. You might suggest handmade items only, gifts under $10, one gift for a whole family, limit shopping to consignment or thrift store finds or pick a theme such as useful or consumable items only.
  7. Purchase the same type of gift for everyone. It could be umbrellas, scarfs, journals, board games, puzzles, nice pens, throws, books, or flashlights and batteries.
  8. Recipe Book. You could make up a recipe book with family favorites or provide a blank recipe book for the great cooks in your life.
  9. Coupons for your services. Offer your time and abilities. You can create coupons related to your skills. Perhaps it is cooking a favorite meal, snow shoveling, home repair or an oil change, mending, guitar lessons and so on.
  10. Create a special memory. Look in newspapers or online for special events this holiday that are free or low cost. Instead of purchasing gifts, make a date with your family and friends to enjoy an event together and get together for desserts and coffee.

Most importantly: enjoy your holidays!

 

Why Do I Spend So Much When Shopping Online?

Q: I’m really trying to stick to a budget this holiday season, and I’m doing most of mywoman holding laptop and opening boxes shopping online. It should be easy to stay on track, so why am I constantly going over budget?

A: Both online and in-store shopping can tempt you to overspend, but the internet is particularly designed to help you lose track of your dollars.

More and more people are choosing to hit the web instead of the mall for holiday shopping. The internet definitely wins for convenience. Since there are no crowded malls, no long lines and no crabby cashiers, it’s much more enjoyable. Plus, you get to shop in your PJs. Can it get better than that?

Shopping the old-fashioned way, though, is not without merit. When purchasing items that need to fit right or that you may need immediately, you might want to head to the mall or local small business. You might even save money that way.

If you choose to do most of your holiday shopping on the internet, though, it’s good to understand why we tend to overspend online.

Why we spend more online

Here are 10 ways online retailers push us to overspend:

  1. They push products strategically. The first few products you’ll see when you visit a retail website aren’t necessarily the hottest-selling items; they’re just the stuff the company needs to get rid of most urgently. Most people, though, will assume the products on the site’s homepage are the most popular and will quickly drop one or two of these items into their cart.
  2. They offer free shipping-with a minimum purchase. Don’t think the retailer is being super-generous when they offer to sponsor the shipping costs if you spend $50 or more. They’re only luring you to spend more. And it works: Most people choose to fill their carts with stuff they don’t need just to avoid paying the shipping fee.
  3. They make it super-easy to check out. Websites make their checkout process ridiculously easy just to keep you buying. If your info’s been saved on the site, you can order your whole cart within minutes. The quicker you make those purchases, the less time you have to rethink them and opt out.
  4. They offer spending-based discounts. Online retailers often offer discounts after you’ve reached a certain spending threshold. Just like the free-shipping minimum, these conditional discounts manipulate you into spending more just to qualify-even if you won’t save any money at the end of the day.
  5. They change their prices without rhyme or reason. Online retailers constantly adjust their prices according to consumer and market behavior. This tactic, known as “dynamic pricing,” is designed to draw you back to the site again and again just to check the going price. It also prompts you to buy before the price rises again.
  6. They use anchor pricing. Retailers want you to believe you’re getting a great deal. They frequently employ “anchor pricing,” or placing items with inflated price tags right next to one you’re looking at now to make your desired item look less costly.
  7. Their ads stalk you. Online retailers target you with ads based on your search history. They know what you’re into and they can even determine your style.
  8. They have lenient return policies. Online retailers purposely have looser return policies than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. They know you’ll consider these policies when making your purchase and that you’re more likely to buy something online if you can easily send it back to the store.
  9. They have a virtual checkout aisle. If you think you’ll save big by shopping online because you won’t be tempted to grab all those goodies that the brick-and-mortar stores have lining their checkout aisles, here’s a reality check: Retailers are smarter than that. They’ve discovered a way to create a virtual checkout aisle, full of last minute add-ons that go well with the stuff you’re buying. It’s all designed to make you drop another item or two into your cart before you realize your total is way above your planned budget.
  10. They stay in touch. That subtle email reminder that you still have items in your cart is really just a nice way of nudging you back into. buying mode. Fact is, it works. When retailers send you emails with headlines that scream about “Today Only!” and “Free Shipping on Every Order,” they get your attention. And your money, too.

Spending less online

Should you ditch the on-the-couch shopping and camp out at the mall until the holidays?

You don’t need to be extreme and do all your shopping IRL this year. By educating yourself about the most common manipulative tactics that online retailers use, you’re already better equipped at handling them. You can also follow these tips to keep your online spending to a minimum:

  • Shop with a list. Yes, just like the one you scribble before heading to the grocery. Don’t just have a look around your favorite sites. Decide what you want and need to purchase before browsing, and do your best to stick to your list.
  • Set a time limit. When there are no store closing hours to curtail your shopping trip, you can easily lose track of the time, which can trigger overspending. Plus, the internet is designed to keep you engaged, and one click leads to another. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to shop, and once time’s up, snap your laptop shut.
  • Never pay full price. Don’t check out without doing a quick search for coupons and discounts on sites like RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin.com.
  • Don’t twist yourself into a pretzel to qualify for free shipping.Don’t buy stuff you don’t need just to avoid a dreaded shipping fee.
  • Shop early. You’ll find it easier to stick to your budget, and to avoid the free shipping trap, when you shop early. Plus, many e-tailers offer free shipping with no strings attached as long as you don’t mind waiting a bit for your stuff to show up.

With awareness and careful planning, you can stick to your budget this holiday season-even when shopping online.

Your Turn: Do you spend more when shopping online or in-store? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2017/05/18/you-might-be-spending-twice-as-much-money-as-you-think-online-shopping.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.recode.net/platform/amp/2018/6/8/17441288/internet-time-spent-tv-zenith-data-media
https://apparelmag.com/holiday-trend-continues-consumers-will-do-more-shopping-online-vs-store-season
https://www.everydollar.com/blog/online-vs-in-store-shopping
https://www.google.com/amp/s/kdvr.com/2017/12/04/do-you-spend-more-when-shopping-online/amp/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/sneaky-ways-online-retailers-get-you-to-spend-more-2016-5