How to (Actually) Stop Overspending on Christmas Presents

problem overspending on christmas presents?
how to not go totally broke buying christmas presents
how to never overspend on christmas presents
tired of going broke at christmas?
how to actually stop overspending on christmas presents

Here are the 5 steps you need to take to stop yourself from overspending on Christmas gifts

The excitement, the gingerbread latte is now kicking in … the click-clack of your shoes racing down Target’s floor tiles… as you frantically snatch the must-have toy of the season off the shelf, clutching it possessively to your chest!  

VICTORY!

As you round the corner trying to get back to the main aisle, you can’t believe your eyes; you haven’t seen this Magnolia item in stock in FOREVER! In your shopping cart it goes! Off to checkout, and you slooooow way down going by the girl’s section, and think, “That’s super cute! My little one would love that!” It too goes in the cart!

An hour later, and your phone bings at you. Yup, it’s a large purchase amount alert from your credit card. It reads, “Did you spend $358.42 at Target? This amount is over your alert limit notification settings”.

And just like in The Christmas Story, you say (in slow motion for dramatic effect) “Oh FUDGE!”

You totally overspent! Again! You told yourself you weren’t going to overspend on Christmas presents again! (like ever!) Last year’s holiday credit card bill left you with hives, and you promised yourself that this next year would be different!

Well, guess what, that Target scenario up above… it was just a dream. Just like Ebenezer, there is time for you to change your ways. You’re not doomed to follow the same path you did last year! So if you’re ready, let’s dive into how to stop overspending at Christmas!

how to stop overspending on christmas presents

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info

What is the Christmas Debt Hangover?

Ugh! No one likes a hangover! But unlike a hangover from too much bubbly, a Christmas debt hangover can last months and months (sometimes years)! No thanks!

According to a MagnifyMoney survey, “Americans took on an average of $1,325 of holiday debt in 2019”. Here’s how their numbers played out…

  • 44% of consumers took on debt this holiday season, and the majority (57%) didn’t plan on doing so.
  • 78% of those with holiday debt won’t be able to pay it off come January, including 15% who are only making minimum payments.
  • 58% of indebted consumers are stressed about their holiday debt.
  • 40% plan to consolidate debt and/or shop around for a good balance transfer interest rate, but more than half won’t even try. Of those that won’t try, 20% think it’s not necessary, and 18% don’t want to deal with another bank.

Now specifically regarding how long it would take them to pay off the debt, survey responders said…

  • 22% said one month
  • 21% said two months
  • 19% said three months
  • 8% said four months
  • 16% said 5+ months
  • 15% are paying only minimum payments

Right now, The Fed Reserve lists the average credit card interest rate to be 14.52%. You can generally assume that your minimum payment will be about 2% of your total bill. Here’s a screenshot of how long it would take to pay off the card (if you didn’t put any more purchases on it).

magnify money debt calculator
using Magnify Money’s credit card debt calculator

64 months? Paying $582 in interest? W.T.F.!

Are you ready to tame your shopping spree beast? Because, after looking at those numbers, overspending at Christmas is not cool!

How to stop overspending on Christmas presents: Step One – decide what you will focus on besides the gifts!

It’s just smart sense that when you take something away, you need to replace it with something else. Instead of a donut, have a whole grain muffin!  

So instead of focusing on gifts, what do you want to spend the season focused on? I’ve got a great list of frugal family fun ideas for the holidays!  These are bucket list items perfect for the holiday season!

You’re especially going to need something fun to do Christmas morning, as you don’t want the day to be anticlimactic without all the presents, as it might be hard on our littlest ones. Think about…

  • Doing a Meals on Wheels delivery route in your neighborhood.
  • Go caroling.
  • Do a Christmas movie marathon (pj’s required!).
  • Make a full holiday meal together as a family.
  • Go sledding/skiing/ice skating or go to the mountains for snow time fun! Don’t forget the hot cocoa and accessories for the snowman you’ll build!

Step Two – Consider a gifting strategy

Every good General knows that you need a plan of attack or a strategy, shall we say. And if you don’t think Christmas shopping is kind of like preparing for battle, then hats off to your peaceful and serene holidays of the past. The rest of us battle-weary moms can barely nod in agreement (as we’re still a little shell shocked from last year’s holiday season).

Strategy One – Adopt the 4 Gift Rule

This one is amazing in its simplicity to help you stop overspending on Christmas gifts! It caters to those toying with the idea of having a minimalist(ish) holiday, and it’s gaining popularity every year! You gift each recipient (that you would typically buy lots for) just four gifts.

  1. Something to wear
  2. Something to read
  3. Something they need
  4. Something they want

I’d like to think of it as a way to buy a more meaningful selection of gifts. As you’re looking not just to buy lots of things, but purchase specific items. Hopefully, the receivers will appreciate their gifts a little more and not get lost in the craze of ripping off wrapping paper at the speed of light.

Don’t forget to snag your printable gift list tracker; there’s a four gift rule one and then a classic gift list printable. Everything you need to stay organized and on budget!

christmas gifting list

Strategy Two – Give the gift of an experience

Maybe your kids have everything that they need! Maybe you are dreading anything more coming into your home as you need to get your Home Edit on right now!

If that’s the case, then consider giving an experience instead. This could be a short trip to the beach or a big trip to Walt Disney World. Or tickets to a sporting game or an event like Comic-Con. Go as big or as small as you like. Set aside the Christmas money and put it in a sinking fund to make this experience come true (even if it’s at a later date).

Hint: if it’s a trip to a theme park, some have vacation planning DVDs or online videos (DisneyWorld does). This would be a great thing to wrap and put under the tree!

Strategy Three – Go the D.I.Y. route

Now, this isn’t for those of us that are all thumbs (meeee!) I am not a crafter/knitter/artist/DIYer by nature. But for those of you that are, consider harnessing your talent for homemade gifts!

Even if you don’t have a talent, maybe consider gifting a custom photo book from Shutterfly. Or collect great grandmothers family recipes together and turn them into a little book (or place her most famous recipe on a tea towel! Cute huh!)

That’s right, as your mother always said, it pays to plan ahead! That means getting your Christmas present shopping done early! As the holiday gets closer, we tend to panic slightly; we grab just about anything that will do as a good gift. Most of the time that means we’re spending a little more (because we don’t want to get a cheapo lame gift)!

So start jotting down your gift choices now! Aka ASAP! I.e., immediately!

Okay, you get the drift. Besides, online ordering gets bigger every year, and sometimes there are shipping delays or snowstorms that stop service in half the country (yikes!) You don’t want to get a substitute gift because your original gift won’t be back in stock until January 17th!

Christmas Budget Workbook mock up

Step Four – Use Cash

They say cash is king, and they’re right! Especially when it comes to spending money. Because when the cash is out, the spending is done! It’s genius at its most basic, and it works every time (as long as you leave your credit cards at home). You simply cannot overspend on Christmas gifts!

Using cash envelopes is a strategy used by many successful budgeters! Besides, stuffing these cute festive holiday cash envelopes is fun! You can use one for each person you’re gifting to or use one for each holiday shopping category—I.e., food, decorations, gifting, fun times, supplies, etc. Or if you’re crafty here are some cash envelope templates that you can make on your own!

Nerdwallet references a cult classic report where, “An often-cited study is one conducted by Dun & Bradstreet, in which the company found that people spend 12%-18% more when using credit cards instead of cash.”

Don’t forget that when you pay with cash, you won’t have to pay interest on the charge either! Look at it this way; when you pay cash, you’re buying something. When you pay with a credit card, you’re borrowing the money for it; you didn’t buy it (but you’ll pay extra for it in interest!)

Step Five – Don’t go into the stores!

This one sounds silly, I know, but it’s so painfully obvious. If you don’t have to go into a store, then don’t! Because really, we’ve all gone into a store, we don’t grab a cart because we just need one thing, and we come up to the cashier juggling items like a clown!  

Inevitably when you go into a store, it’s straight temptation. Why do that to yourself? Stay home, and send someone else to the store, or better yet, do some online ordering for that item you need!

Or if you’re poison is the 1-click buy, then take some super easy preventative measures. Delete your credit card info on your devices! GASP! I know, I know, it sounds drastic, but making it just the teensiest bit harder on yourself to shop online could mean saving hundreds! Because honestly, sometimes I don’t get up to walk across the house to grab my credit card number!

Better yet, do a marketing edit! Unsubscribe from those pesky emails from your favorite retailers and unfollow them on social media! You won’t want what you never see! Now, I know you’ve been thinking about this idea for a while, give it a try! You can always go back later and subscribe again!

Simple hacks to stop overspending on Christmas presents

Know your prices

Do you know the regular price of the “sale” item in your hand? Even though it says it’s on sale or discounted 20% off, it might still not be a great price! If you are 100% in on saving money this holiday season, then you should scout your gifts early, record their prices, and wait to see what the “holiday deals” actually are.

Many retailers change their prices regularly. What was $59 in September could easily now be $75 in December. Yet now they can mark it being 20% off! They get to keep their sales margin high enough to get a good profit, and you (the customer) feel like you got a good deal. Winner Winner… oh wait, that’s a bull$hit dinner!

Be smarter than the retailer!

Don’t go shopping when…

  • You are hungry
  • You’re short on time
  • With somebody else (friends can be bad influences, sorry friends)
  • It’s going to be super crowded (instead go early in the morning, or late at night)

Next years plan for Christmas gifting

If you get through this Christmas and going low key on gifts wasn’t for your family, then no problem. You can have the Christmas that your family wants; you may need to start socking away money for it a bit earlier than usual! Check out How to Start a Christmas Savings Plan and How to Plan the Perfect Christmas Budget!

At the end of the day

I know that reading about how to not overspend at Christmas sounds like a bummer of a topic. But honestly, think about how you’ll feel come January when you don’t have that big fat credit card bill that’s knocking out your wallet like it’s Balboa in Rocky 1!

I know that for many of us, we remember Christmases of youth, with mountains of presents, and we want to recreate those warm fuzzy memories for our own kids. But those warm fuzzy feelings can be created out of so many instances, not just present opening. So save yourself the agony and angst of overspending at Christmas, and don’t even go there!

Christmas Budget Workbook mock up

What are your top tips for how to stop overspending on holiday gifts ?

Source: moneyforthemamas.com

Staying Home for the Super Bowl? 9 Items To Give Your Place a Sports Bar Vibe on Game Day

Truth: Some folks were just fine with the fact that Thanksgiving and other holidays had to be scaled back last year due to the coronavirus. Frankly, less exposure to Aunt Martha meant you could avoid her gloppy casserole and prying questions about your love life.

But we’ll admit that watching the Super Bowl at home—when you’d rather be at your favorite sports bar tossing down hot wings and yelling at the screen—is just a wee bit depressing.

Alas, we still shouldn’t gather indoors as the pandemic hangs on. But the game (and the halftime show!) must go on—and there’s no reason we shouldn’t enjoy it in style. So why not transform your den into your own mini sports arena? For some help, here’s what the pros would include for maximum fun on game day.

1. TV trays

Tuck this slender piece along your couch end when the game is over.
Tuck this slender piece along your couch end when the game is over.

Wayfair

“The Super Bowl is all about the snacks, so I’d pick these retro TV trays, especially since you can also use them as a mini desk after game day,” says Darla DeMorrow, author of “Organizing Your Home With SORT and SUCCEED.”

This wheeled pick can be slid into place easily, plus the lower shelves neatly hold remotes, books, and other den gear ($105, Wayfair).

2. TV wall mount

Swivel this device for the right angles in your TV room.
Swivel this device for the right angles in your TV room.

Amazon

Among the best parts of sitting in a sports bar are the multiple screens and replays, which means you’ll never miss a single fumble. At home, you can up your game with a sturdy wall mount so your flat-screen TV is perfectly tilted.

You can mount the bracket on wood, brick, or concrete and then relax, knowing the 10-year warranty has you covered ($27, Amazon).

___

Watch: Rent vs. Buy: Yes, Even NFL Players Should Run the Numbers

___

3. Cozy seating

Compact chairs are smart for small spaces,
Compact chairs are smart for small spaces,

Crate & Barrel

Comfy recliners or—better yet—smart-looking swivel chairs are the ultimate in seating in front of your big-screen TV, says Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP.

This barrel shape sports a ’70s vibe as well as durable boucle upholstery that’ll help hide black bean dip drips ($1,199, Crate & Barrel).

4. Themed tumblers

Steel-lined, splash-proof mugs are a must during touchdowns.
Steel-lined, splash-proof mugs are a must during touchdowns.

Macy’s

Real fans feature their favorite team’s colors and logo at Super Bowl time, whether it’s a jersey hung on the wall or a set of cool containers for serving drinks.

If your money’s on Tom Brady to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the championship this year, outfit your den with these bright tumblers. Beverages stay cold for a full 24 hours thanks to double-wall insulation ($30, Macy’s).

5. Air fryer

A toaster oven and air fryer in one sleek device
A toaster oven and air fryer in one sleek device

Kohl’s

Homemade mac and cheese balls are cheaper (and possibly even more delicious) if you prep them yourself. But the best home cooking perk comes from using an air fryer, which yields healthier results.

If you can swing it, this high-end appliance is a workhorse that air-fries, bakes, broils, and toasts all of your snacks and breakfast foods in a stylish, stainless-steel package ($250, Kohl’s).

6. Floor pillows

Choose from 10 shades and striped combinations
Choose from 10 shades and striped combinations

Wayfair

“Since this year is all about staying safe at home, I think football fans should get cozy with big floor pillows, and this way, everyone has a direct line-of-sight seat for the game,” says DeMorrow.

This twill fabric features a simple color palette that’ll mesh with most decor schemes ($97, Wayfair).

7. Mini fridge

Smart door storage keeps soda cans secure.
Smart door storage keeps soda cans secure.

Wayfair

What’s the one thing you can’t run out of during the Super Bowl? That’s right, cold beer. To ensure easy access to your suds, consider a mini fridge (especially in this sea-foam shade) for your den or rec room. This little guy pulls its weight as it also includes a freezer compartment ($180, Wayfair).

8. Panini press

A press that comes in chrome, red, or stainless-steel finishes
A press that comes in chrome, red, or stainless-steel finishes

Amazon

Wonder why those subs taste so good at the bar? They’re crisped on the outside and melty between the layers—and you can achieve this same hoagie nirvana in a panini press.

“I love to lay out cold cuts, bread, and condiments, and then each person can make their own hot sandwich at halftime,” says Gray-Plaisted.

Thick paninis are no challenge for this nonstick press, which is also aces at griddling quesadillas ($50, Amazon).

9. Cheese tray

Perfect for charcuterie or a pile of brownies and whoopie pies
Perfect for charcuterie or a pile of brownies and whoopie pies

Wayfair

Aww, did you think we wouldn’t give the Kansas City Chiefs equal time? They’re in it to win it, too, this year. Plus you can’t have too many trays and serving platters during the Super Bowl.

This well-priced choice comes with its own nifty cheese knife with a handy pick at the end for spearing the fattest piece of brie ($53, Wayfair).

Source: realtor.com

How to prepare your home for a winter open house

The winter season can be a great time to sell your house, but while your competition is reduced, success during this time can still depend on a successful open house. To help make your open house as effective as possible, follow these tips.

  • Take down your decorations. The holidays are over, but if you’re the type that likes to leave the decorations up for a time, taking them down before your open house is a good idea. Prospective buyers may not celebrate the same holidays as you and you don’t want to alienate them.
  • Clear the clutter. If you haven’t put those holiday gifts away yet, now’s the time. Prospective buyers should be able to focus on your home instead of the collection of things crowding it. Give them nice open spaces to move about and they’ll be appreciative.
  • Turn up the heat. Warm and cozy is more than a catch phrase during the winter. Bring the temperature up in your home slightly during your open house to keep your guests comfortable. If they are too cold in your home, they aren’t apt to stay long.
  • Plan for winter apparel. Be it jackets or boots, take extra steps to prepare your entryway for the added material your buyers will bring with them. A designated spot to place these items can make guests feel welcome and keep your home cleaner during the showing and beyond.

Source: century21.com

Mvelopes Review: Digitize the Cash Envelope Method With This App

The cash envelope budgeting method can be a very effective way to control your spending.

The premise is simple. You come up with spending limits for your variable expenses, like groceries, eating out or entertainment. Next, you fill up envelopes with cash to match what you’ve budgeted for each category.

As you shop throughout the month, you can only spend the amount of money in your envelopes. Once you’ve run out of cash, you’ve got to freeze spending until it’s time to fill the envelopes again.

There’s one significant flaw in this budgeting method though: What if you don’t shop with cash? Many people opt for online shopping or use a debit or credit card rather than dollars and coins.

Fortunately, there are ways to adapt the cash envelope budget for cashless shoppers. One of the solutions is to use a budgeting app, like Mvelopes.

In this Mvelopes review, we’ll explain how this app works to help you keep your spending in check.

What Is Mvelopes?

Mvelopes is a budgeting app from Finicity, a fintech company owned by Mastercard. It’s based on the cash envelope system, so all of the categories you set up in your budget are essentially your digital envelopes.

Mvelopes syncs to your financial accounts, so whenever you pay a bill, shop online or swipe your debit card, that transaction shows up in the app. The app uses bank-level encryption to keep your information safe.

Once you assign the transaction to its appropriate envelope, you’ll automatically see how much money you have left to spend in that category. And if you do happen to use cash for something, you can manually enter that info in the app.

How to Get Started with Mvelopes

You can download the Mvelopes app for your Apple or Android mobile device — or you can create an account and manage your money straight from your computer.

Mvelopes offers three tiers of service. Mvelopes Basic costs $5.97 per month or $69 per year and lets you set up your budget by syncing to all your financial accounts. The next step up is Mvelopes Premier, which costs $9.97 per month or $99 per year and includes access to the Mvelopes Learning Center and Debt Reduction Center.

The Mvelopes Learning Center has online video lessons on topics like mastering your spending, creating an emergency fund, insuring your future, home buying and how to have stress-free holidays. With the Debt Reduction Center, you get support to create a tailor-made debt payoff plan.

The app’s top tier of service is Mvelopes Plus. This plan connects you with a real-live personal finance trainer for one-on-one virtual sessions four times a year. You’ll also get higher priority customer service support. Mvelopes Plus costs $19.97 a month or $199 a year.

Although there is no free version of Mvelopes, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial of Mvelopes Premier — the app’s most popular option — to test out the service with no financial commitment.

The Pros and Cons of Mvelopes

Mvelopes can sync with over 16,000 financial institutions, so most users can track their spending with minimal effort. Keeping your spending in check means you can free up more money to go toward saving or debt.

According to the company, Mvelopes has helped users save an average of $6,175 and pay off an average of $17,425 of debt.

One disadvantage of this app, however, is that it’s not free, like the budgeting apps Mint or Clarity Money. Also, if you’re looking for a tool that tracks more aspects of your financial life, such as your net worth and where you stand with your investments, you might want to consider an app like Personal Capital.

Who Is Mvelopes For?

The Mvelopes app is a great option for fans of the cash envelope method who are looking to digitize their money management.

It is also a good choice for people looking to nix overspending, because the app keeps you up-to-date with how much funds you have left to spend in each budget category.

Additionally, Mvelopes can help you boost your personal finance knowledge via online courses or pay down debt with a tailored payoff plan.

By signing up for the free 30-day trial, you’ll have a month to decide whether Mvelopes is the right choice for you.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

15 Lessons From Regular People Who Achieved Financial Independence

To gain financial independence for retirement, use the lessons of those who have retired early.

total financial independence

The Big Takeaways…

    • Financial independence can be achieved, but it’s about combining lifestyle ambitions with reasonable financial strategies.
    • Financial independence comes with some sacrifice, so it’s important to consider the consequences before committing yourself to an early retirement.

Most people struggle and worry about being able to retire in their mid to late 60s. At that point, you are expected to have hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions) of dollars in your retirement accounts, get additional money from Social Security, and also get some government assistance with healthcare insurance. Even then, retiring securely can feel impossibly hard. What you really want is total financial independence – forever.

Maybe you are already retired and have a dreadful feeling that you simply don’t have enough.

Many people have been there, done that, and retired. Some even have a passion to teach others how they did it via their writings in books, blogs, and online courses.

This past week, I read through hundreds of articles from dozens of blogs to discover 15 of the top lessons from regular people who have achieved total financial independence.

If you save 50% on an item, that sounds pretty impressive. But if that item was a bottle of $1 shampoo, you really only kept 50 cents in your pocket.

J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly explains that if you want to retire early, you’ve got to focus on your high-cost items. Namely, your:

  • Home
  • Car
  • Food

The average person will spend over $2,000 a month on these categories alone. If you want to retire or retire early, the solution is simple: spend less. And, you can do it easily by focusing all your efforts on reducing the big dogs – home, car, and food expenses.

Need more inspiration? Here are 8 ways to save BIG. Or, listen to the podcast interview with J.D. Roth.

When do you want to retire? In 5, 15, 25 years? The math behind how much you need to save to achieve these targets is shockingly simple. Just ask Mr. Money Mustache – an engineer that retired when he was only 30.

Even though the math is supposedly simple, MMM made it even simpler by putting together a target savings rate table.

If you currently have zero and want to retire in:

  • 5 years, you’ll need to save 80% of your income
  • 15 years, save 55% of your income
  • 25 years, put away 35% of your income

Most of you have already been working for a few decades, so these numbers might not mean as much as it does for those that are just starting out (especially if you haven’t been putting 80% of your income away all your life). So, what numbers are relevant for you?

If you have consistently put away:

  • 10% of your income, you’ll likely have to work for 51 years before you retire
  • 15% of your income, your time in the workforce is 43 years
  • 20% of your income, you’ll probably have enough money to retire after 37 years in the workforce

Want to retire sooner? Simple. Just up your savings rate.

Try different scenarios in the top rated NewRetirement retirement planning calculator.

When most people retire, they assume they’ll never work another day in their lives, and, if they have to, they consider themselves a failure in retirement.

Jonathan Clements, from HumbleDollar, disagrees.

According to Jonathan, “Working a few days each week could greatly ease any financial strain, while adding richness to your retirement.”

So if you have to (or want to) work in retirement, don’t sweat it. There are countless others that do the same.

Explore 14 reasons retirement jobs are the best and listen to our interview with him on the NewRetirement podcast where Clements discusses money, behavior, and happiness.

Before putting together a complex assortment of facts and figures, Darrow Kirkpatrick (retired at 50 years old) champions the idea of keeping things simple.

“The best way to get a useful model going is to input a small number of initial assumptions, then calculate and check the results carefully, year by year. Once you are certain those initial numbers are behaving as expected, you can begin adding more data, more financial events, and refining your model.”

He compares retirement planning to constructing a puzzle. You don’t try to put all the pieces together at once. You start with a corner, add a piece, add another, and then slowly put together the entire puzzle one piece at a time. The same should be true with your retirement planning.

Instead of putting all your numbers into a complex tool right off the bat, put in only a few, confirm the number, and then go back and model in other likely scenarios. In the end, you’ll be much more confident in your number and you’ll understand it completely.

This approach is fully supported by the NewRetirement retirement planning calculator. Users start by inputting a relatively simple set of data – estimates are okay. You can view results and start building a more complete plan. Or, simply run different scenarios and keep your information updated over time, making adjustments as necessary.

When was the last time you updated your numbers? We recommend quarterly at least. Want ideas for scenarios to run? Try these.

There are tons of people today that have absolutely no idea how much they spend from month to month. And, not only do they not know the amount that they’re spending, they probably couldn’t even tell you where half of it is going.

If you have absolutely no idea where your money is going today, you have little chance of grasping where it will go ten to thirty years from now.

In Darrow Kirkpatrick’s book, “Retiring Sooner,” he discusses several ways to assess your living expenses quickly and easily. So if you’re one of the people who doesn’t know where your money is going, take some notes from DK and get a handle on your spend today so that you can have a blissful, easy retirement.

When you think of regrets in retirement, you might only consider the regret of retiring too early and running out of money, but that’s not the only outcome you should fear.

Physician on FIRE (retired at age 39) warns us also of retiring too late.

If you run all the scenarios in all of the models and you’re safe in every one, then you waited far too long to retire. You’re not going to:

  • Get cancer
  • Have Alzheimer’s
  • Get into a car accident
  • Experience 3 stock market crashes
  • Lose your pension, and
  • Get sued

If all of those things happened to you, it honestly doesn’t matter if you can cover all the expenses. Your life is going to be difficult regardless.

The point of modeling is to protect yourself against the likely fears, not every one. Wait too long to retire, and you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life. Sure, your kids might enjoy the millions that you’ll never be able to spend, but I bet they’d much rather have your time instead.

The Wealthy Accountant, Keith “Taxguy,” is certainly a guy you want to listen to. He’s worth over $12 million and hasn’t held a conventional job since he was 22 years old…

He says it plain and simple:

“When you are in debt the clock works against you. Every morning when you wake—weekends, holidays, sick days, birthdays and work days—you are already behind. The mortgage, credit card, car loan, et cetera, all tacked on interest the second after midnight. Long before you rolled out of bed and poured your first cup of coffee you need to work to pay the interest before you have money for food, clothing, shelter or entertainment.”

The takeaway is that debt is just adding to your expenses. Pay your debt off as fast as possible and invest heavily once they’re gone. It’s easy to do once you don’t have a payment in the world.

Most people go to the bank and ask the question, “How much will you lend me?” The bank tells them the maximum that they’d be comfortable forking over, then the borrowers go out and find the best house for that amount of money.

Without realizing it, these folks just became house poor. Hopefully, they really love the house, because they won’t have enough money to do anything outside of those four walls for many years to come.

Passive Income MD gives us a great rule of thumb when it comes to getting a mortgage – never exceed 3 times your annual income.

If you are currently in over your head, downsize. You won’t regret minimizing your debt down the road.

You hear this all the time, but are you actually doing it? Are you putting the maximum amount allowed into your 401(k) each year? Joe Udo, from Retire by 40, admits that he didn’t max it out every year, but he only missed his first couple when he relented to his high-performance, stock chasing mentality got the better of him.

By maxing out his retirement nearly every year, he was able to build up a $640,000 nest egg before his 40th birthday. Not too shabby.

If you still haven’t started to max out your contributions, it’s better late than never. Do nothing and you’ll have way more regrets than if you get started today.

If you’re over age 50, be sure to use catch up contributions (whether or not your employer offers a program or not).

In 2012, Justin, from Root of Good, earned $140,000 and paid just $600 in taxes. In 2013, he did even better. He earned $150,000 and paid $150.

“We didn’t go anything sneaky or illegal,” Justin explained. He and his wife simply invested in all the tax-advantaged accounts:

  • 401(k)s
  • Traditional IRAs
  • Health Savings Accounts
  • 457
  • And a 529 College Savings Account

That, and they paid for childcare with a Flexible Spending Account through his wife’s work.

His motto is to keep things simple, but also to keep the government’s hands off his money. If you can do this just half as well as Justin, you’ll be well on your way to total financial independence.

“Saving a high percentage of income is only half the battle. You can’t just put fat stacks of cash under your mattress and expect to get rich.” – Go Curry Cracker

If you can earn 10% a year, it takes approximately seven years for your money to double. In another seven years, it would double again. Wait another seven, and it doubles again.

You’ve actually got $800,000. ($100,000 becomes $200,000 which doubles to $400,000, and then doubles one more time to make $800,000). If you could hold off another seven years, you could have yourself a cool $1.6 million. Not too shabby when you consider that you only had $100,000 28 years ago. That’s the power of compounding.

Put that money under your mattress and you’d have just $100,000. That is, unless you had a house fire.

As Bill Bernstein said in his NewRetirement podcast interview:

“I’m going to sound kind of insensitive and cruel, I suppose, but when someone tells you that [that they are not invested and are holding cash], what they’re effectively telling you is that they’re extremely undisciplined. And they can’t execute a strategy and that’s the kind of person who probably does need an advisor. If you sold out in 2007 or 2008 and you’ve been in cash ever since, you’ve got a very seriously flawed process and you’re probably managing your own money.”

You have got to be invested in order to get ahead.

If you retire at age 60, you could easily have 30 years or more of retirement life ahead of you. When you were 30, could you have predicted you’d be where you are at age 60?

Of course not.

The same is true for your retirement years, “And that’s okay!” explains Steve from Think, Save, Retire (retired at age 35). You can do all the planning and forecasting your want, but you’ll never be able to predict what will happen to you personally, professionally, relationship-wise, or financially over the next 30 or more years.

In early retirement, Steve thought he was going to:

  • Exercise more
  • Blog more
  • And read more

He doesn’t, and for good reason. All reasons he hadn’t thought of when he handed in his two weeks’ notice.

Be ready to be flexible and able to make updates to your overall financial plan.

Sam at Financial Samurai is a smart guy. After all, he worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs for 13 years. Very few have those credentials on their resume.

After all that experience and knowledge of the markets, his advice to achieve early retirement is not a stock tip and not even a sector analysis. His advice:

Keep it simple.

Spend less, earn more, and invest all you can. That’s it. There’s power in that message, especially considering the source.

ESI Money retired in his early 50s and has practiced exactly what he’s preaching today. His message:

“Invest for growth and then income.”

What does that mean? He goes on to explain and outlines the following:

  1. Max out your 401(k) and invest in index funds (growth)
  2. Invest in rental properties (a combination of growth and income)
  3. Consider person to person (P2P) investing (income)

Also, option three could include annuities – another tool that helps build up a consistent income for your retirement years.

Why growth, then income? Simple. You first want to get your nest egg going and grow your investments quickly out of the gate so you can capitalize on compound interest. Then, in order to retire early, it’s best if you invest in multiple income sources that can float you until you hit the magic age of 59 ½, when you can start withdrawing from your retirement accounts without penalty.

Try out his formula in your own plan with the retirement planning calculator.

Even if you hate your job and have a “countdown to retirement” clock on your desk at work, you’ll still likely have difficulty when you finally give them the old heave-ho.

Jacob, from Early Retirement Extreme, likens it to a long-term marriage. A break-up from your long-time spouse is sure to be difficult. You think the escape will be nothing but sunshine and rainbows, but it’s not always that easy.

The same is true of your job. Expect it.

Better yet, set up a future for yourself in other areas – self-employment, volunteering, or starting that part-time gig we mentioned above. When you’ve already moved on to the next thing mentally, letting go of the old boat anchor becomes that much easier to do.

As with almost anything, you dive into something expecting to find the hidden secret or the magical takeaway and the results are quite obvious and underwhelming.

This analysis was no different.

If you want to retire well and retire early, you should simply live modestly, get rid of all your debts, earn a solid income, forecast what you need (but be flexible) and invest heavily. That’s really all there is to it. Dig any deeper and you’re just wasting your time.

The most valuable information here were the items that hardly anyone talks about:

  • Being willing to work after retirement
  • Having an understanding that even the best-laid plans are futile – you’re never going to predict exactly what will happen over a 30-year span. It’s impossible.
  • Retirement is not all unicorns and angelic choirs. It’s just the next challenge in life worth conquering.

Go in with the right mindset, understand what happiness truly means for you, and never stop working toward the goals that will take you there.

We hope the NewRetirement retirement planning calculator can help you.

Source: newretirement.com

Tips for Dealing with Difficult Relatives | ApartmentSearch

Older woman talking to girl with cookie in mouthIf you’ve been living solo for a while, the holiday season may mark the first time you’ll see your extended family in a long time. You may already be dreading spending your long weekends cooped up with nosy aunts and spoiled cousins!

Though we can’t give you your PTO back, we can help you maintain your sanity during family festivities. Keep your holiday season delightful— not dreadful — with these tips for dealing with difficult family members this holiday season.

Step up your self-care before, during, and after family time.

No matter how much you love your family, dealing with difficult relatives can be draining. Make sure you’re not pouring from an empty cup, so to speak, by giving yourself extra time for self-care practices in the time leading up to, during, and following family gatherings.

Step away from the group to do something that recharges you, like journaling, calling a friend, or taking a walk by yourself. The more depleted your mental energy becomes, the less likely you are to handle sticky family situations with grace, so make it a habit to check in with yourself and take a few minutes to recharge whenever you need to.

Steer the conversation with neutral topics and questions.

Maybe you don’t want to spend holidays with extended family because you know you’ll be dealing with your uncle’s political banter or listening to your cousin rehash the drama that happened at her sister’s wedding last summer.

Now is not the time for confrontation or “family therapy,” and fortunately, you can play a big part in keeping things light and fun. If you make an effort to steer the conversation, the likelihood of controversial topics arising in your discussions can diminish — at least somewhat.

Here are a few questions to ask your family at dinner to get things going (and stay in a safe conversational territory).

Neutral conversation-starters for family gatherings:

  • What’s your favorite memory from a past holiday?
  • What was your first job?
  • What was your wedding day like?
  • What do you remember about the days your children were born?
  • What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
  • Have you seen any good movies or shows lately?
  • What’s something you’re excited about over the next few months?
  • What’s your favorite holiday tradition (or movie, or food, etc.)?
  • What’s something you’re grateful for?

If things still take a turn for the worst, you can say something like, “Let’s give the rest of the family the gift of a break from that topic, what do you say?” or be even more direct with “Let’s change the subject; I don’t want to discuss this.” Don’t be afraid to speak up!

Think about a response to personal questions in advance.

Your family is well-meaning, but sometimes they can ask questions you don’t want to answer. How are you supposed to reply to, “When are you getting married?” anyway?! While you can’t always anticipate what family members will ask, you can develop an effective way to divert nearly any personal question.

Think of a few things in your life that are going well right now — or at the very least, some topics you’d be willing to talk about with family — and change the subject to those things. For example, if someone springs a personal question about why you aren’t dating someone, you can chuckle and respond, “I don’t know about that. Hey, I got a promotion at work last month. I really love my work right now. How’s your job going?” If they persist or bring it up again, you can be more direct with a response like, “I’d prefer not to talk about that,” or you can remove yourself from the situation entirely, which leads us to our next tip…

Have an exit plan.

Sometimes, when you’re dealing with difficult family members, you need to step away. If you’re anticipating stressful situations, plan your getaway in advance. This can mean excusing yourself for a few moments of solitude in the bathroom, knowing when to return to your hotel for the night, or even being prepared to leave the situation entirely by packing up and heading home early. It’s okay to need some separation!

Limit or avoid time with family during the holidays altogether.

Speaking of separation, here’s the thing: if you don’t want to spend holidays with extended family, you don’t have to. You always have the option to do something completely different, like hosting a holiday dinner with nearby friends or neighbors. Of course, making your own plans for the holidays may come with consequences you don’t want to deal with (like hurt feelings), but in the end, it truly is YOUR decision whether you attend family gatherings.

If you’re not ready to give a big, hard “NO” to your family gatherings, consider a compromise. For example, you don’t have to schlep half your belongings to your parents’ house and essentially move back in with family for a week or two. Instead, cut your trip down to 2 or 3 days. You’ll still get to see everyone and celebrate, but you’ll save yourself from the depletion that comes from dealing with difficult family members for long periods.

Create a safe haven for yourself.

You can get through almost anything as long as you have something — or somewhere — else to look forward to, right? If you’re exhausted after spending the holidays with difficult relatives, ensure you’ll have a welcoming spot to come home to with ApartmentSearch. Use our apartment finder tool to claim your perfect place, complete with amenities, parking, and PRIVACY! Now, that’s fa-la-la-fabulous.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

5 Tips for a Memorable Holiday Card for Your Business

In a time when most communication takes place online, receiving a personal holiday card in the mail is a welcome treat—and one that can help build stronger business relationships while supporting your company’s brand.

So how can you be sure that your company’s holiday card earns a place on the mantel or card display and isn’t just tossed in the recycling bin? Start with a high-quality card from a well-known stationer like Crane, and then remember these tips.

1. Reflect Your Brand

Although sending a holiday card spreads cheer and acknowledges the spirit of the season, it’s a marketing tool ultimately, giving you a chance to thank your customers for their business and maintain top-of-mind awareness. Therefore, it’s important that the design you choose reflects your company brand and sends the right message to customers. Try to choose card designs that align with your brand colors, imagery, fonts, and overall corporate identity. That doesn’t mean you have to stick to boring or conservative designs, but you should consider the message you’re sending. Even conservative businesses like accountants or attorneys can incorporate whimsical or colorful designs into their cards when done appropriately.

2. Consider a Photo

Photo cards are among the most popular design choices for holiday cards. After all, who doesn’t love seeing the smiling faces of friends and family that they might see all that often? Photo cards are also appropriate for businesses and are likely to get the recipients to look more closely at them. Photo cards work well both for businesses where customers have regular contact with your team and for those where your customers might not see you and want to put faces to names. They are also a great choice for family businesses. Including a family photo on the holiday card supports your “family-owned” brand and a personal touch to the card.

3. Make it Personal

Speaking of adding a personal touch, the most memorable holiday cards are those that have a personal touch. Nothing will send your card to the bin faster than a preprinted card that was clearly a mass mailing. People want to feel special and acknowledged, and adding a personal touch to the card creates that feeling. Hand-signing cards is ideal, but not always practical, but many printing companies can add digital signatures that mimic the look of a signature. Another option is to have your team send cards to specific clients with a personalized message thanking them for their business or mentioning a specific memory or project.

Sending business holiday cards is a key part of your marketing, so take the time to do it right.

4. Take Care with Messaging

Understanding your customer base and being culturally sensitive is important all the time, but in particular during the holidays. It’s important to choose holiday cards and write messages that are sensitive to your customers' religious and cultural preferences. This means avoiding cards with overtly religious messages or focused on the religious aspects of the season, instead opt for more neutral designs and greetings. The primary exceptions are if your business is devoted to a specific religion (eg. a Christian bookstore), if you are certain that your customer base is of a specific faith, or if you’re sending greetings for a holiday you celebrate (for example, if you’re of the Jewish faith and sending cards for Hanukkah). Even then, it’s best to opt for cards that have more subtle religious imagery and messages. If you’re unsure, choose a more universal “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” theme.

5. Mail Carefully

There’s no point in putting time, effort, and money into your holiday card only to have many of them returned undeliverable because you have incorrect addresses. Devote some time to updating your mailing list, adding new contacts, removing old or outdated addresses, and removing duplicates. If you’re sending cards to contacts and clients at other companies, make sure that the recipients are still with the company and that you have their titles correct.

This means that you should begin working on your holiday cards well in advance. You might not be thinking about the holidays yet in October, but it’s best to get your company cards in the mail as close to Thanksgiving as possible. Not only does getting your card in the hands of your contacts early make it more memorable—it’s not going to get lost in the pile of cards filling mailboxes the week before Christmas—but it also ensures that people receive them before they head out of the office for the holidays. Many people take time off in the days before and after Christmas, and if your cards are mailed late, they won’t be seen until after the New Year. If you are running late with your holiday cards, consider sending New Year’s greetings instead.

Sending business holiday cards is a key part of your marketing, so take the time to do it right. Your customers will be happy to receive them and remember your company in the year to come.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com