10 Things to Do to Avoid Holiday Debt Later

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Kmart made headlines recently as the first retailer to advertise for holiday shopping. While it may seem ludicrous to think about the holidays before the summer season officially ends, it’s actually smart to get started now. In fact, the National Retail Federation found that 40 percent of consumers started holiday shopping before Halloween in 2013.

I know that most of us would rather not think about the holiday shopping season just yet, however taking some time to educate yourself now will help you have a successful holiday without going into debt.

Here are 10 Things to Do Now to Avoid Holiday Debt Later.

1. Sell your stuff.
While spring may be synonymous with cleaning, fall is also a good time to declutter and sell anything you no longer want especially since you can stash the earning away for gift shopping. Large items like furniture is best sold through Craigslist or via local Facebook buy-sell-trade groups. Clothing can be sold at local consignment shops or online atRecycleYourFashions.com or thredUp.com. Finally, you can sell old gadgets for cash through Gazelle.com or NextWorth.com.

2. Track flights.
If you’re flying over the holidays, it’s wise to start looking into flights now. Typically, the sweet spot for the best airfare deals is six to four weeks before your desired departure date, but the holidays are another animal. As you begin researching, use the “flexible date” feature to compare rates among departure and return dates. This will help you pinpoint the cheapest dates to fly and lock in your time-off request early. Don’t forget to track prices using Yapta.com; this way, if you notice the flight price drop after you book, you can request a credit from the airline.

3. Buy discount gift cards.
In addition to being the most highly-requested gift for seven years in a row, gift cards can actually save you money when you buy them at a discount. Websites like GiftCardGranny.com have thousands of gift cards to popular retailers, with savings like 25-percent off Starbucks gift cards. You can also sell any unwanted gift cards for cash, and get up to 92 percent of the card’s value back to put toward your holiday shopping budget.

4. Eliminate excess spending.
Whether it’s weekly takeout, weekend spa appointments or too many morning lattes, there is always room in your budget to cut back and boost your holiday savings. Review your spending over the past several months and identify areas where you can cut back. Keep in mind, some of the excess purchases you eliminate now doesn’t have to be forever.

5. Stash your savings.
Whenever you skip a spending opportunity, put what you would have paid into a savings account specifically for your holiday shopping budget. You can open a Christmas Club-type account at your bank or local credit union, or go online to SmartyPig.com, a free service that helps you stash away cash for any purpose. Ultimately, putting your savings in a place where it’s not easily accessed will help you avoid dipping into it for unrelated purposes.

6. Anticipate hidden costs.
Budgeting for gifts and travel is a no-brainer, but often we forget about the hidden costs of the holidays. Things like postage for holiday greetings, White Elephant gifts for corporate parties, or tips for all the helpers in your life. It’s these expenses that send our budgets in the red, so prepare for them now to avoid surprises. Holiday packaging can be purchased on the cheap from dollar stores, while White Elephant gifts can be a re-gift from something you already own. For advice on tipping etiquette, check out these guidelines from Emily Post.

7. Consider side hustles.
Now is a great time to look into earning extra cash. This will help you avoid living on Ramen Noodles until after the holidays, plus it might expand into a legitimate gig beyond the holiday season. Sites like eLance help you find companies in need of freelancers, while TaskRabbit connects you with people who need assistance with small tasks like grocery shopping, dog walking or handy work. If you have the flexibility, a part-time retail job not only offers extra cash but also an employee discount for gifts.

8. Round up your rewards.
Between social events, back to school shopping and family getaways, you likely racked up quite a few points on your credit card over the summer. Use those points to offset your holiday spending by turning them into gift cards. You can give these cards as gifts or use them to pay for gifts at specific stores. Sometimes, credit card companies will offer these reward gift cards at a discount, so keep your eyes peeled for these deals.

9. Start scouting and collecting gifts.
Now is a good time to start scouting for gifts and note their selling price. If you find a really good deal right now, buy it! Picking up a few gifts over the course of two to three months will limit the financial strain you may experience when buying multiple presents during the peak shopping season. If you’re researching online, be sure to look for coupon codes to score discounts or free shipping.

10. Research layaway thoroughly.
The main reason for early holiday shopping ads is to promote retailer layaway programs. While putting coveted items on hold and paying them off over time seems like a good strategy, you need to be careful about the program’s fees. Startup and service fees can range from $5 to $10, and if you need to cancel for any reason, there’s a fee for that, too. Stores like Walmart do not offer layaway for online items, nor do they price match in-store items with their online prices, meaning you could pay more for a gift than you need to.

This guest post has been provided courtesy of Andrea Woroch, is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc., who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

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Preparing for the Holidays; Only 20 More Fridays!

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20 More Fridays

I shared the picture above on Facebook a few days ago and the responses ranged from sheer terror to excitement.

But mostly everyone agreed they were not ready to really think of it.  Honestly, I am not sure I really want to think of it either, but with a little forethought and preparedness you can have the most successful, stress free holiday season ever!

Truly none of us really wants to start thinking about Christmas now, but if we take some time to do a little planning now we can keep from experiencing any after Christmas spending regrets.

Follow these simple steps to keep the consumerism monster at bay this year!

With only 20 Fridays until Christmas, you’ll have 20 weeks/paychecks to work with.

These are my top tips for saving on the holidays:

Create a Budget. Come up with a real amount that you can afford to spend on Christmas gifts.  This is the very first thing you should do before you make a single purchase.

Make a list. Write down every single person you would like to give a gift to. This includes your family, friends, co-workers, and service people in your life. You might even want to keep your list in your purse in case you happen to find something while you are out shopping.  Assign spending amounts to each person on your list. Obviously you are going to want to spend more on your children than on your hairdresser, so plan accordingly.

Stick to it. I think this is the hardest part.  It is easy to get caught up in keeping up with the Jones’, however remember you made a list long before the holiday rush came along to

  • Don’t give in to guilt.  A lot of people spend out of guilt, and that is the wrong motive.  The dollar mount doesn’t directly reflect how much we care about someone.
  • Don’t let your emotions have control.  Yes you love that person, but that’s not a good reason to put yourself in debt over a Christmas gift.

This week I challenge you to Create a Budget and Make a List.

Then over the next several weeks, as you find a great deal on the perfect gift for someone on your list you can buy it and mark it off the list.

I hope you’ll join me in the Saving Dollars and Sense Facebook Group where I will be sharing LOTS of money saving holiday tips and deals over the next 20 weeks!

Peppermint Bark Recipe

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Last year, at my husbands request,  I attempted to recreate a Peppermint Bark recipe that a friend of mine brought to a Christmas party.  My husband LOVES this recipe, and I love how super easy it is to throw together.

5.0 from 3 reviews
Peppermint Bark Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Holiday Recipe
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Super easy Christmas candy recipe to make using just a couple ingredients.
Ingredients
  • 1 bag of white chocolate chips
  • 1 bag or peppermint Hershey's Kisses
  • ½ bag of Oreos
Instructions
  1. Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper.
  2. Place half of the package of Oreos into a ziplock bag and crush them into chunks. I just press the middle of each cookie and it usually breaks into four which is perfect size.
  3. Unwrap Hershey's peppermint Kisses and add to a pot.
  4. Add the bag of white chocolate chips to the pot and heat on low heat until melted. Stirring often to avoid burning.
  5. Add the crushed Oreos to the pot and stir in until well mixed with the chocolate mixture.
  6. Pour the mixture out onto the wax paper and spread out using a spoon until it is ¼ - ½ inch thick.
  7. Place the pan in the fridge until hardened. Once hardened you can use a butter knife to break it up into pieces.

That’s it!  I said it was super easy, and it takes no time at all to whip up a batch to take to your next holiday party.  If you think this looks like a great recipe would you consider PINNING it on Pinterest?

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Names Of Jesus Advent Chain!

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The following post is reposted from last year:

I’m SO excited to share what I found the other day with you today!

When my kids were young one thing that we always did to count down the days until Christmas was make a Christmas countdown chain out of construction paper.  Each morning the would rush to remove one more chain link and watch as the days until Christmas got closer and closer.

I would have LOVED to know about this The Names of Jesus Advent Chain back then!

Although my kids are older now I still think I will do this today to remind me of what we are really counting down to!

Photo Credit: Spell Outloud

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