Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Watch Out! Scams That Come Out For the Holidays

Gift Cards
Gift Cards (Photo credit: PersonalMoneyNetwork)
The holidays are an expensive time when people spend large amounts of money on their families, friends, or themselves. It is often helpful to find deals and discounts that save money. Buyers must beware, however, for the ever-present scammers and swindlers who will try and separate consumers from their money. Some scams are always around, but some come out just for the holidays.

The Charity Scam

Over half of American adults give to some sort of charity during the holidays, and criminals know that. Most of the charity scams are accomplished over the telephone in the form of cold calls. Scammers will call your phone, and state they are representing some sort of charity. They will say all the right things, and have all the right information; however they will not be affiliated with any charity. Eventually they will ask for your personal information, to include your banking or credit card information, and take you for as much money as they can.

Special attention should be paid to charities claiming to represent emergency services workers such as police, fire, and veteran's groups. Often, scammers will claim to represent these groups in an effort to garner additional sympathy from you. Even if the name of the charity they are using is legitimate, the callers may not be. If you feel like donating, contact the charity directly instead of responding to a received phone call.


This type of scam is more high-tech, but even more dangerous. These days, consumers complete a fair portion of their shopping online. When done correctly, you can receive discounts and additional savings by shopping online. When searching for cheaper prices online, look-a-like websites are set up to fool you into buying from them instead of the legit site. Make sure the online coupons you run across have details that distinguish it from others like it that are scams.

Often, the website itself will be an exact replica of the proper site, with the only clue to the scam residing in the address bar. The website will be slightly altered in some way, and if the link has been clicked from a search results page, it is very easy to inadvertently put in your credit card information into the fake site.

Fake Gift Cards

In recent years with the explosion of gift card sales, retailers have set up in-store displays of all kinds of cards. In most cases, you can buy more types of gift cards than the average store brand. It is not uncommon to happen upon a rack in a department store with many different gift cards, from restaurants to online retailers. It turns out that scammers have targeted these cards with frightening results.

Using a handheld scanner or by simply peeling off the sticker on the back, thieves copy the gift card information and place the cards back on the rack. They simply lie in wait for the cards to be purchased, and once they discover the card has been bought and activated, they use the pilfered card information online before you even get a chance to use it. Instead, you should buy the gift cards directly from the retailer’s website or at an attended customer service counter.

Scams have always been around, and the tactics will continue to change. It’s important to remain abreast of new techniques and ways to protect yourself and your money.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

How to Improve Your Financial Condition in 2013

Finance (Photo credit: Tax Credits)
The year 2013 is filled with uncertainties related to changing tax laws, concern over online security and privacy and challenges faced by each and every demographic group. Even the wealthy group is facing steep increases in tax this year. In such a scenario, it is difficult for you to mange your finances.

However, undertaking some measures would help you to attain your monetary goals for this year. If you are fed up of experimenting with various techniques to improve your financial condition, it time for a change now. This article states some effective measures that would certainly help you to significantly improve your finances in this year.

Tips to improve finances in 2013:

Shop mostly when discounts are offered in the market.

Discounts and special offers are given on a large number of occasions. Massive discounts are offered in various places on Black Friday, Labor Day, July Fourth and other occasions. But, nowadays the retailers offer sales almost for the entire year, even at unexpected times. In 2012, the Christmas sales began in October and continued for the entire season, in many places. The year-round sales are a good opportunity for buyers to get the best deals at relatively lower prices, at almost all times of a year. Shopping when sales are being offered in the market can help you to significantly save money and improve your finances.

Buy only what you need.

Retailers, nowadays offer various kinds of items and goods that are outstanding in every way. But, instead of getting tempted when shopping, it is wise to control your temptation and go for only those items that you really need. Also, compare the prices of items that you need to buy. You may find a store offering the same thing at a lower price, than its price at a different store. This would require you to do a bit of research before buying. Comparison becomes very important when you go for purchasing expensive items. Though these small advices are well-known to most of the buyers, but only of them follow them.

Arrive at a budget after discussing with your partner.

The disagreement between you and your spouse or partner, over how the shared income should be spent, can be quite stressful. But, it is a very important to discuss your budget and spending ways with your partner before going for spending. A budget decided by both of you would be more realistic, which would help you to attain your financial goals.

Pay your debt slowly.

When you have a significant amount of debt to pay, it is not possible to pay off the amount overnight. Attempting to pay off your debt in one time can have an adverse effect on your finances. So, it is advised to pay off the debt at a slower pace. Bring some changes to your spending habits and lay emphasis on saving more. Once your expenditure is under your control and you have made significant savings, start paying off your debt.


These are some primary measures you can take to improve your finances for this year. The current year has a lot of uncertainly and inflation is also a concern at many places. Keeping these factors in mind, the above mentioned tips can significantly help you to build a strong financial status.

Author’s Bio: Alisa Martin is a financial expert who contributes articles on topics like investment types. In this article, she has discussed timber investment and Ethical Forestry as investment giant.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Making a Big Purchase? 4 Things to Consider Before You Commit

Whether you are in the market for a new home, apartment or vehicle or something on a smaller scale like an appliance or television, it is always important to take certain things into consideration prior to making a large purchase. While there are numerous things to keep in mind, these things are the most important. 

Do you need it?

Avoid making an impulse purchase you will regret by honestly asking yourself if you really need whatever you are considering. Ask yourself if it is a necessity or a luxury purchase. Before making a final decision that you need it, determine why and when. If it is a luxury purchase, think about what impact, if any, it will have on your budget. Big purchases are not the type of purchases that can be rushed—you need to carefully think about what you are buying, the pros and cons, and compare the differences in brands. If possible you should think about these types of purchases for a significant period of time, to ensure that you aren't rushing into anything. 

Can you afford it?

Whether your purchase is a necessity or a luxury, take a close look at your budget to make sure you can afford it. When possible, pay with cash, but do not dip into your emergency fund to do so. Do not use a credit card or make payments unless doing so is absolutely necessary. Before taking on a payment of any size, though, be sure that your budget has room for the extra payment. You may need to wait to make the purchase until you have a larger income or a more flexible budget. Do not assume that you can “find the money” to pay for it after committing to a payment plan. It is best to have the money before hand so you don't run into any problems down the road. 

Have you done your research?

Research is an essential step in making a final decision regarding a large purchase. Read product reviews from both professional reviewers and consumers, and compare features among numerous models. When looking to purchase a home or apartment, do your homework regarding the neighborhood and schools as well as things like average utility costs and property taxes. When buying a car, ask a professional about any questions or concerns you have and test driving is sure to help you avoid buyers remorse. Auto experts who often show the Kia Soul in Utah to potential customers have found that people who don't spend at least an hour looking at the car will definitely have buyers remorse afterwards. These dealers of Kia Salt Lake City always suggest that their clients “investigate” and test drive the car more than once, and often on multiple days.

Is the timing right?

The right timing is important when it comes to getting the best possible deal. If you do not need the item right away, you could save yourself hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars by waiting for a good sale or shopping at the right time of year. If you are making a major electronics purchase, for example, shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the best time to get a good deal. Appliances are often on sale during the summer holidays - Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. If it is possible to wait until one of these sales comes on to replace an old appliance, device, etc, it could be worth the wait.
Keeping a few simple things in mind before buying any big ticket item allows you to make a good decision that you will not regret. In addition to ensuring the best deal, careful considering prevents you from buying the wrong thing or something that will not be put to use.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stressing about Paying for Christmas Presents? 4 Quick Fixes for Financing Christmas

Christmas presents may bring joy on Christmas morning, but buying them can also cause a huge financial headache for those who go into the holiday season unprepared. This Christmas, instead of waiting until the last minute to figure out how you will afford all the gifts you need to buy, try one of these four quick strategies for financing your Christmas spending. 

Set Aside a Little Money from Every Paycheck

If you set aside a small amount from every paycheck, when you are ready to do your Christmas shopping, you will already have the money you need set aside. To figure out how much money you need to save each week, figure out how much money you want to spend and divide by the number of weeks you have left until your shopping needs to be done. 

Earn Some Extra Cash

If your finances are so tight that there is no extra to be put aside, another option is earning extra cash for Christmas. You can do this by picking up extra shifts at work, selling unwanted belongings you have lying around your house or donating plasma. You can sell homemade crafts or offer tutoring lessons. You are only limited by your creativity and motivation. 

Get a Small Loan

Christmas gifts.
Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If, despite your best planning, you find yourself in the last few days before Christmas with more gifts to buy and not enough money to cover them, you may consider getting a small, short-term loan to cover your last minute Christmas shopping. A payday loan from places like Power Finance in Dallas may be just what you need to fund the best Christmas your family has ever had. 

Agree to Spend Less

If the reason that you are short on Christmas funds is because your family always spends extravagantly, make a pact with each other that this year you will limit spending to a more reasonable amount. You may want to place a limit on the number of presents you will buy or the amount you will spend on each person. You may agree to do a white elephant or secret Santa gift exchange instead of buying gifts for everyone.

The best way to fund your Christmas is to prepare in advance. Whether you choose to set money aside, earn extra cash, spend less or take out a short term loan, make your family’s Christmas the best one yet by making sure you have the funds to pay for it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Holiday Shoppers Using Layaway Plans to Stay Debt Free

Layaway Now for Christmas
Layaway Now for Christmas (Photo credit: eric731)
The holiday shopping season is fast approaching. Shoppers wanting to stay debt free are using layaway plans.  Layaway allows a shopper to reserve an item and make interest-free payments toward the purchase of that item. The consumer receives the product when it is paid off.

"Layaway can be an option to survive Christmas shopping without going into credit card debt and paying high interest payments," says Bill Hardekopf of "But consumers have to guard against impulse buys even on layaway purchases. You need to determine if you can make all the payments before the deadline. Don't use layaway if you can pay in cash."

When using layaway plans it's best to be aware of the many rules and fees associated with them. Layaway is not free, but retailer competition is forcing service fees to be decreased or even eliminated. Toys R Us waived its $5 service fee on layaway orders made by October 31. Walmart lowered its service fee from $15 to $5, but you can get this back as a gift card after your final payment. Sears is dropping the service fee--$5 for an eight-week contract and $10 for a 12-week contract--for orders placed through October 29 and from November 2 to December 3. Kmart's fee is similar to Sears' and it is being waived through November 15.

Be aware of the rules concerning layaway plans:

  • Layaway plans aren't specifically regulated by federal law so consumers need to get the layaway terms of the store in writing before purchasing an item. 
  • Know all of the details and conditions of the plan. Know when you have to pay off the item and the dates that each payment is due. Ask what happens if you are late or miss a payment, or if you no longer want the item after making a few payments. Know what occurs if the item goes on sale after you've started the layaway plan. 
  • Be familiar with the refund and exchange policies for an item on that specific layaway plan.

Rules specific to stores:

Toy R Us - Toys R Us requires a deposit of at least 20% of the total price of your order plus all applicable taxes. 50% of the total price of your order must be paid within 45 days and the total price of your order must be paid within ninety days or by the "Holiday Cutoff", whichever is sooner. Your contract will be automatically cancelled and ordered merchandise will be returned to stock if you have not made payment of 50% of the total price of your order within 45 days or your balance is not paid in full within ninety days.

Sears - Sears layaway is available on purchases made September 29 through October 29 or November 2 through December 3. It requires a down payment and biweekly payments. Four payments of balance due are required after down payment for an eight-week contract and six payments of balance due are required for a twelve-week contract. All fees are nonrefundable.

Walmart - Walmart requires a $10 or 10% down payment. The minimum total purchase must be over $50 and individual items must be $15 or more. Layaway is available through December 14 and final payment and pick up must be made by that date. If your account is cancelled, the items will be returned to inventory and a $15 fee will not be refunded.

Best Buy - Best Buy layaway is available year-round with a 25% initial down payment plus a 5% nonrefundable layaway fee. The items must total $250 or more. Consumers must make a payment every two weeks until your balance is paid in full.

Target - Target does not offer layaway.

This year would be a good time to try layaway plans. It will help you stay within your budget and keep you from going into debt again this year.

Friday, October 28, 2011

5 New Ways to Save Money on Your Christmas Spending

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu.Image via WikipediaThe dreaded Christmas shopping season is fast approaching. Are you in danger of overspending like you did last year. Most Americans overspend and rack up large credit card bills. It's hard to break the bad habits of a lifetime, but this year will be different.

Breaking bad shopping habits is not impossible. I was terrible at shopping for Christmas gifts. I felt obligated to make a big present filled Christmas for my family. This led to over spending and large credit card balances arriving in January's credit card bill. The money I charge usually took till at least the summer time to pay back. This was an intolerable situation and I had to find ways to stop the madness. Below are just 5 ways that I made the break back to sanity. Maybe they can help you.

1. Cut back on the Gift Cards.
When shopping for that perfect gift for Christmas most people don't know what to get. So to end the shopping adventure they go to the gift card isle. It's so convenient to just get a restaurant or store gift card. But what amount do you purchase? You budget tells you that you can only afford a $10 card but you feel it may make you look cheap. So you go for the $20 or $25 card, which you think makes you look generous.

What you just did was bust your budget. This year skip the gift cards and do some actual shopping. You can't afford to give out $25 gift cards. Make a list with the name of the person and an amount of money you want to spend. You still have time to shop sales and stay on your budget. Don't give gifts not cards this year, you will save money and look like you actually care.

2. Spend cash not plastic.
All year you should of been saving for the Christmas shopping purchases. With this cash you will go shopping, you won't be using plastic. Not even your debit card. With plastic you have a greater chance to overspend. With cash it is very hard to overspend. Leave the cards at home so you won't be tempted. You will spend less and it will force you to hunt down better deals.

3. Have a Plan.
You are on a mission to hunt down that gift on your list, pay for it and get the heck out of the mall. No sightseeing or window shopping. You have your list, cash and a plan this year. Your not going to overspend again this year. You will be tempted by all the holiday decorations and music playing. But you can't let it happen. Remember you don't have to complete all your shopping at one time. It's better to break down your shopping into small missions that can be accomplished.

4. Make more purchases online.
The online shopping experience can make your purchases more economical because it's much easier to find the best deal. Websites like has forums where members take much pride in combing the Internet to find the best deals. Online you can get some new inspiration and find some great deals. For some, it eliminates impulse purchases, but for others it's to tempting. But if you are a savvy shopper, you can grab some good deals and stay out of the malls too.

5. Alternative gift giving.
The usual gift in a box will fulfill you Christmas obligation. But why not try something a little different this year. Instead why not give an experience. Get together with the whole family and plan a vacation. Your own family and extended family all plan on taking a little trip. You can rent a multi bedroom home at a lake or oceanside resort and split the bill. Make it a week together no TV or video games, just each other. Make a memory you will always cherish.

Giving experiences is a lasting gift that won't end up in the closet or the return counter. Do you remember what you received last year for Christmas, I know you don't remember. Most people don't because it was a meaningless gift. An experience won't break or get returned.

The holiday season is not about spending money or material gifts. It should be about celebrating Christmas and family. Don't get wrapped up in the material. Change the direction away from the usual and start some new traditions.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Christmas Eve Round-Up

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...Image via Wikipedia
It's been almost 6 months since I started this blog In July 2010. I have learned a lot in that time. I have made some friends along the way. My fellow bloggers have been open and kind to me. I am grateful to all those that have stopped by and to those that have been coming back. The motivation that keeps me writing everyday is that I hope to make a difference. If I can educate and inform, I have succeeded.

The best part of personal finance is the personal part. The interaction between people and friendships formed. The rest is just a monopoly game that you are either ahead or behind in. I am looking forward to the new year and the many more posts I need to get out.

The following are a round-up of my favorite posts I have written. Merry Christmas to all.

There is still time to get the PDF book "The Four-Hour Workweek" by Tim Ferriss.

Here is a post telling of the The Greatest Gift You Can Receive Is Friendship

A more personal family story of what Grandma Would teach me "Grandma's Lessons Are Still True".

On YouTube you can watch a lot of good financial information. I came up with a few channels to get you started. "7 YouTube Channels That Teach You How To Handle Money"

Our national debt is insanely high. I list who we owe the money to. "15 Top Owners Of Government Debt"

A personal favorite about a good habit to have. "Why Read Books"

Manners are great but "Do You Have Financial Etiquette?"

The lesson of big government. "A Horse Named Government"

 An old but true lesson. "Kids Need To Work".

There are still other post that may interest you so have a look around. To all a safe and Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The New Tax Law: Gifts For All

United States Capitol in daylightImage via Wikipedia
The Congress has prepared for us a nice Christmas gift. The new tax law is ready to go the president for signing. He will add the ribbon and bow to it. The label will say To: The US Taxpayer, From: The Gang up in D.C. When we open it up we will see it has a little bit of everything in it. Also it will be the gift that keeps on giving all year.

The gift will be a 2 percent cut in Social Security payroll tax.  If you make $50,000, for instance, you'll get an additional $1,000 in your paycheck. Weekly, that's about $19.23. If your household takes in $75,000, you'll get an additional $1,500, or about $28.85 a week.

There is something even if your unemployed. You will receive an additional 13 months of benefits.

The other changes are basically a continuation of current law.Federal income and capital-gains tax rates will remain the same as they have been, at least for the next two years. The standard deduction for married couples will remain the same for that period, too. Credits such as the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Dependent Care Credit, Studen Loan Interest Deduction, and the American Opportunty Tax Credit for higher-education expenses also remain the same.

The deductions that were going to expire in 2011 will continue through 2012. They are deductions for state and local sales taxes, higher education tuition and qualifying teacher's classroom expenses. Retirees can also use the proceeds from their IRA's to make charitable contributions. For the next two years, the rules and limits for all of these deductions remain the same.

We are going to lose some tax breaks also. A tax credit of up to $1,500 for installing energy-efficient home improvements is reverting to a limit of just $500. And the Making Work Pay tax credit has been eliminated; under the new law focusing on a 2-percent payroll tax reduction, an estimated 51 million households will actually bring home less in 2011 next year.

Again the Congress has done it's work in the usual way. Spend more money and not address the underlying problem. Reducing Social Security payments is a kind of stimulus. Continuing unemployment benefits is also a kind of stimulus. Congress has put a bandage on the problem as usual. They need to get together and see that that the other way to address budget problems is to reduce spending. They never can do that. When you or I have budget problems we cut our spending. The government can do that to.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Greatest Gift You Can Receive Is Friendship

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu.Image via Wikipedia
The culture we live in teaches that it's the accumulation of things that will give us true happiness. During the Christmas season this is driven home. Just check the malls with all the crowds pushing and shoving to get the latest electronics and video games. What are we teaching our children?

I'm guilty I have done this too. But as my life has progressed  I have become aware of how material things are fleeting. Ask yourself what gifts did you get for Christmas last year, 3 years ago or 5 years ago. You probably don't remember. I'll also wager your kids don't remember. This is why the gifts you think are so necessary to get your children or friends, aren't. I don't remember the gifts but I do remember the experiences I have shared. The time I have spent with friends and family are etched in my memory.

There's an old saying that states, "A good friend forgives your faults. A loving friend doesn't see any". Having friends has become more important to me as the years have gone by. The things that your work can bring are  becoming less and less important.

Don't get me wrong, I haven't lived the hermits life. I have had friends and acquaintances forever. They have always been important. But recently they have been more important.  In my early years I always spent my time working to accumulate all the things that gave pleasure.  Those things were the house, car, vacations and children. After getting all those things what was there to satisfy.

The more friends I embrace, the more this circle of wisdom, common sense and laughter enriches and nourishes me. Some of us remember black & white TV, 10 cent phone calls and life before e-mail. These are friends that  can relate to me and my time. Even the younger ones who think I'm a relic of ancient history can also be satisfying for their individual point of view. It doesn't matter. True friendship trumps accumulated days on a calendar.

This is my hope for everyone. That you will come to realize that friendship are more rewarding than accumulating things.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rent Your Christmas Tree This Season

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...Image via Wikipedia

One of the controversies that pop up every Christmas Season is the ecological consequences of having a real tree vs. a fake one. The arguments are a fake tree is reused over and over again while the real tree uses resources and eventually ends up in a landfill. Artificial trees are made of plastic, made overseas, take up storage space and don't always look that authentic.

Keen entrepreneurs have given us a third option and that is to rent your Christmas tree. Several firms on the West Coast have come up with the idea of renting living trees. Trees are delivered to your home in pots, and picked up after the season is over. During the year the trees stay in a nursery and our cared for to use again next season. You can even adopt-a-tree. This allows you to receive the same tree every year. You can even give it a name.

For all the tree huggers maybe the rent a tree is the best option. The tree is used over and over again saving the environment. You will be able to rent different kinds and sizes of trees every year so maybe it's not such a bad idea. It doesn't end up in a landfill.

Personally my family enjoys going down to the tree lot picking out the tree and carting it home. It's a fun tradition we aren't going to change for the near future. The kids have always enjoyed it. We have been able to get an even lower price this year with the competition from private tree lots and their big retail competitor (Home Depot). This year we spent half of what we usually spend.

After the season ends the city picks up the discarded tree separately from the other trash and they bring it to a place where the tree is put in a chipper to make mulch. Seems pretty ecologically friendly to me.

So how does the prices compare? The price for a living tree runs between $100-$150 to rent versus $50- $65 to buy a cut one. I paid $32 for mine. What a deal.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How To Have A Debt Free Christmas

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...Image via Wikipedia
For so many years I never planned or saved for Christmas. I either didn't buy very much or went heavily into credit card debt. Even after learning from my parents about saving for Christmas. They had something called the "Christmas Club" account over at their bank. They would save a little every week and by Christmas they would have the money needed to buy gifts.

I reached a point where I was sick of paying my Christmas credit card debt till August. You have to reach a point where your sick and tired of being sick and tired. That's when things will change.  I reached my point and reversed the behavior that got me into this mess. I began slowly to save a little out of each paycheck. They were small amounts of $10 a week.  Soon I didn't miss the $10 and kicked it up to $15 a week and then $20. Over the course of the year my account filled up and Christmas was a success.

I have been doing these things for 15 years now. Preparing for something in the future today so you don't have a crisis in the future. The money is there waiting for me. I do the same with my property tax and home insurance. Every week  an amount is saved for these future bills.

Saving for Christmas is only half the battle. Now it's time to plan your gift giving with a budget. Make a list of the friends and family you need to purchase a present for. After each name indicate the amount you want to spend. Add up the total amount you need. If your on below the amount Christmas savings account then your fine. If you are over either increase savings or eliminate the amount needed per person or shorten the list.

Now that you have your plan it's time to layout your shopping strategy. You must set a specific time to shop. Making. A schedule will get you organized and psyched out to accomplish the task. List what stores you will go to and the amount of time you will spend there. If distracted by a sale, quickly access the benefits and then get back on track. This isn't a window shopping experience; be careful not to buy anything for yourself. As you complete each purchase write down what you buy, for who and how much you spend. Be sure to shop early and only use the cash you have saved. Using credit cards is off limits. You will distracted many times while in the store, it's their jobs to get you to make unplanned purchases. Finish your list and get out of there.

When your finally finished you can be proud of yourself because this may be the first year in your life you stuck to a budget and enjoyed a debt free new year.

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