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.

Steps Identity Theft Victims Need to Take

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Steps Identity Theft Victims Need to Take



I always pay very close attention to my bank accounts.

Ever since the Target Security Breach during the holidays last year, I make sure to log in and check my accounts daily.

Several weeks ago, I noticed a debit for $49.95 to a strange 1-800-*****.com website that I had never heard of so I called the number immediately to see what the service even was.

It turned out to be some sort of raspberry supplement which I knew no one had ordered so I canceled the order right away.  Then I called my bank and cancelled my debit card and put a hold on the order and ask for the fraud department to investigate.  They has since returned the money, but I might not have even noticed an amount like that had I not taken the time to review my account.

Recently the news of a Home Depot Security Breach attack has me thinking I need to share the following information with you in case you find yourself in the position where you are the victim of identity theft.

FOUR STEPS TO TAKE IF YOU ARE AN IDENTITY THEFT VICTIM

(FARMINGTON HILLS, MI - September 3, 2014) As home-improvement giant The Home Depot becomes the latest big-box retailer to investigate possible data theft (following on the heels of Target and Michael’s Arts & Crafts, a reminder from GreenPath Debt Solutions, a nationwide nonprofit credit counseling and education group, about the steps you need to take, if you become a victim of identity theft.

1. Place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit reports, and check your credit reports regularly through www.annualcreditreport.com. Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below or visit their websites (you only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert on all three).

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com

2. Close any accounts that you believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of everything you send and a record of every conversation.

3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can do this on their website https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ or by calling the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.  Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems.

4. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Call and ask them if you need to file the report in person or if you can do it over the phone or on the internet.  When you file your report, bring or attach a copy of your FTC ID Theft Complaint form and any supporting documentation. Ask the officer to attach or incorporate the ID Theft Complaint into their police report.

The FTC ID Theft Complaint, along with the police report, can constitute what is known as an ‘Identity Theft Report’. This Identity Theft Report can be used to (1) permanently block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report; (2) ensure that debts do not reappear on your credit report; (3) prevent a company from continuing to collect debts that result from identity theft; and (4) place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.

I certainly do hope that you never find yourself needing this information.  But I am a believer that it is wise to be informed just in case.

How to Begin Paying Down Debt

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How to Begin Paying Down Debt



The idea of where and How to Begin Paying Down Debt can seem so overwhelming when you are drowning in it.

It wasn’t all that many years ago, that I sat with my husband at a kitchen table filled with overdue loans, shutoff notices and collection bills, and no direction for getting out of the situation we had gotten ourselves into.

It felt like an impossible feat, but once we made the decision to change our financial perspective and fight for our lives things began to slowly turn around. Since that day, I have made it my mission to share my story and the hope of financial freedom with everyone.

I am participating in a 30 Day Budget Bootcamp, along with several other top frugal and personal finance bloggers throughout the month of September.

If you have been looking for a way to get your financial house in order then I highly suggest you follow along.  Each day another step towards financial freedom will be shared along with actionable steps that you can take towards reaching your financial goals.

Although we are already on Day 7, you can easily go back to see all of the previous days here.

Once you have a clear understanding of the kind of money you have to work with, you can begin paying down debt no matter how large your burden might be.

The main thing to keep in mind as you begin paying down your debt is that every forward movement you make counts, no matter how small if may feel.

I know how it feels when you are just starting out on your journey to get control over your financial life.

I remember thinking there was no way we would ever be free from our debt.  We had been running on the hamster wheel of minimum payments for so long it became a way of life for us.

But I can tell you from experience that it is possible if you are willing to overlook the enormous debt elephant in the room.

The old saying “You can’t see the forest through the trees” is very true when it comes to debt.

Sure, when you look at all you owe it can easily become very overwhelming.  I don’t know about you, but when I get overwhelmed it is in my nature to run away or choose denial.

Most times denial is the route I pick.

I want to encourage you to try something else when you are first facing your debt head on.

Here is a trick that we find works for us every single time:

  1. On a piece of paper write down every single person you owe and how much you owe them.
  2. Then rewrite this list starting with your smallest bill owed, until you have listed them all in order of amounts from least to greatest.
  3. Instead of looking at the entire list, just take a look at your smallest bill and plan to attack that one bill with all you’ve got.
  4. Set your mind to it to send that one debtor every single extra cent you can find each month until you have it paid off!
  5. Enjoy knowing that you do have the power to control your finances, and that one day you will be free from the bondage that comes from being in debt.

I don’t know how long this will take you since each of us have our own situations.  But this does work as long as you are being a ninja about it.  What do I mean?

Well you can’t cry about your finances if you are choosing to spend your money on things you want instead of things you need. Until you have completely paid off your smallest bill you need to get it through your head that you have NO extra money for luxury entertainment such as eating out, movies, etc.

If you sacrifice a little now you will be able to enjoy the things you like again without the guilt or shame that irresponsible spending causes.

It doesn’t matter how great a deal it is if you don’t have the money it is not for you! Click to Tweet!

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Look for creative ways to earn extra money each month. You might have some things you aren’t using that you can sell on Craigslist, or maybe you can hold a garage sale or offer to babysit for a friend? Take everything left over after paying your other bills and drop it on you smallest bill until it is gone.

When it is gone, move onto the next smallest on the list and do the same thing.

I think it is natural to look at your biggest bill first because we want to get rid of them.  But when you adjust your thinking to look at the smallest ones first, you can work to pay them off completely freeing up the money you were spending on that bill to use towards the next one on the list.

Nothing in your financial life is going to change unless you change the way you spend!

Mommysavers 30 Day Budget Bootcamp Challenge

30-Day Budget Bootcamp Challenge

Are you struggling making ends meet? Or, do you need to get your spending in line with your priorities? Join our 30 Day Budget Bootcamp Challenge! We’ll help you get a grip on your finances in this easy-to-follow 30-day series.

At the end of the 30 days, you’ll be on the right track money-wise and have the know-how to continue on that path.

Walmart Savings Catcher Program

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How to Save at Walmart without coupons



Walmart has changed the grocery savings game with the Walmart Savings Catcher program.

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One of the best ways to save at Walmart is by price matching, but I have to admit that I rarely remembered to take advantage of it.  And I always left knowing that my lack of planning would mean several things that I could have saved on someplace else.

The Walmart Savings Catcher makes saving money practically foolproof!!

The program was tested out in several markets and until today was not available in my area.  But as of August 4th, the Walmart Savings Catcher is now available nationwide and I couldn’t be more excited to hear it!

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Why is this such great news, you may be asking?

Now you can be sure that you are always getting the lowest price when you shop at Walmart! The Savings Catcher makes sure you are getting the lowest price on everything you buy, and if another store has it for less, they will hand you a Walmart Gift Card with the difference on it.

Pretty neat huh?!!

How does it work exactly?

Download the Savings Catcher App and head to Walmart and do your shopping like you would any other time.  When you have finished shopping, scan your receipt barcode with the app or type in the receipt number here.

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The Savings Catcher will search for a lower price at all of the local competitors for you. You don’t even have to think about searching through sales yourself anymore!

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If the Walmart Savings Catcher finds a lower price then you get the difference back in a Walmart Gift Card which you can use at another time!

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I did this online and received this message once I finished putting in the TC# and signing into my account.

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You can type in your first receipt here.

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Did the Walmart Savings Catcher wok for you?  How much did you end up getting back?

Will You Help Me Fill A Backpack?

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5658842_sI know many of us are using the sales and coupons that I have been sharing during the Back to School Deals posts to get the best prices on school supplies this year.

Unfortunately there are some kids who won’t have the necessary school supplies for a successful school year without the kindness and generosity of others.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to give children who had grown up just like I did backpacks filled with school supplies, snacks and love!

I wrote this article after that experience which changed my heart forever!

This year Liberty Family Outreach is giving out 1500 backpacks during the annual Summerfest event!

“Your mission – if you choose to accept it – is to give a child the proper tools to start the school year off right! It only takes $10 to fill a backpack with school supplies.”

We are talking about 1500 kids being given the chance at a successful new school year because people like us took $10 of the money we’ve saved this year to help another get ahead in life!

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty awesome to me!!

There are lots of people like the ones that make up the Liberty Family Outreach group that do what they can for the kids who would otherwise go without and now is your chance to join them in this huge endeavor.

You can find all of the current Back to School Deals on school supplies which I listed here this week to help you save.

I would ask that if you have saved $10 this year and can spare it, would you consider helping me to fill one of these backpacks?

They are still accepting school supply financial donations through Sunday, July 27th, so there is still plenty of time to join me!

*Saving Dollars and Sense Tip: This is a great time to show your kids how to have a compassionate heart and bless others with your abundance.  We always picked up the FREE or almost free supplies to donate each year and my kids loved it.

Here’s what is needed for each backpack:

  • Crayons, 24ct
  • Washable Markers, Asst Colors, 8ct
  • 3 -Spiral Notebooks, 70 Sheet, Wide Rule
  • 1-Glue Stick
  • 4-Pencils
  • 2-Blue or Black Pens
  • 3- Paper folders

You may donate $10 to fill one backpack using your Paypal or Credit Card.

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I am super excited to do this with all of you!!

DIY Non-Toxic Fruit & Veggie Wash

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Homemade Fruit & Veggie Wash



One of the first things I like to do when I get home from grocery shopping is prepare my fruit and veggies so that they are ready to eat at any time.

Because we try to shop every single week, I only buy what we will eat up in that time so I don’t have to worry about if it will spoil faster from washing it.

I have found that when it comes to snacking, my family and I will generally grab whatever is most accessible and ready to be eaten.

This is why those packages or cookies or pretzels get chosen so often, they are just too easy not to choose.

So I make sure the healthier options are at least just as easy to choose with the hope that everyone will actually choose them more often than not.

I know my 16 year old son especially is more likely to grab an apple if he doesn’t have to do anything to it first.

Most things just require a quick washing before sticking them in the fridge or in a bowl on the counter like apples, tomatoes, plums, etc.

Other things like grapes will require just a little more work. I remove the grapes from their stems, wash with a DIY Non-Toxic Fruit & Veggie Wash and stick in a bowl with a lid before putting it away.

I also wash and cut up carrots, celery, cucumbers and berries.

This has become my secret and I use it to trick my family into eating better.  Do you have any tricks you use to make sure your family choose healthier options?

DIY Non-Toxic Fruit & Veggie Wash

In a 12-14 oz glass spray bottle mix the following:

1 cup of water
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar

Put 1 tsp. of salt in a small bowl and add 5-7 drops of lemon, lime, or orange essential oil.
Add the oil mixture to the spray bottle.

Shake each time before spraying.

*Saving Dollars and Sense Tip: You’ll want to use glass spray bottle or  stainless steel on because citrus oils break down plastics and you wouldn’t want that on your food either.

I personally will only use Young Living Essential Oils, especially if I am using them on anything that will be ingested since they are the only Essential Oils I would ever trust.

Read why my family and I Decided to Jump on the Essential Oils Bandwagon and find out where I always buy my oils from.