10 Free Holiday Activities for Couples Paying off Debt

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

This is where it all started guys. On a quiet summer afternoon I hit publish on my first post titled 10 Free Activities for Couples Paying off Debt and the rest is history. I thought it fitting to do one for the winter as well, seeing how we spend more money this time of year than any other.

1. Christmas Lights Home Tour

Every city has a neighborhood that really goes all out with the lights. Take a drive to look at them or walk if the weather isn’t frightful. In Florida, the weather is always great this time of year so we have a biking group that does a huge ride through the neighborhoods and ends back at a bar for beers.

You can make a trip out of it too. A city near us was featured on TV for their light displays so I’m looking forward to seeing it this year. Sometimes houses do the same thing every year so it’s fun to switch it up from time to time.

2. Holiday Movie Night

Put on your pajamas and pour the cocoa, there’s nothing better than a Christmas movie! While I’m partial to all holiday Claymation movies I loved the resurgence of quality seasonal cinema of the early 2000’s. For those with Netflix (or borrowing from a friend) here’s a list of movies for your viewing pleasure.

If you don’t have Netflix, channels like NBC, ABC, Freeform, etc always have a good variety (I’m judging you if you even try to add Hallmark Channel movies to that list.)

3. School Holiday Production

Elementary schools always have some type of performance with oodles of cute awkward kids singing carols and dressed like elves. The best part, these events are usually free. If you don’t have friends with kids that can keep you in the loop find some teacher friends with connections. They’ll know when all the good shows are. But word to the wise, don’t do this one if you look like these guys:

Do the Creep

Do the Creep

4. Live Nativity

These things can range from “plastic baby in a manger” to “drive-through re-creation of the gospels.” Even if you get a bad one there’s usually hot cocoa and cookies at the end so you win either way. The good ones really do bring the Christmas story to life and it’s a pretty cool experience. I highly recommend it.

5. Star Gaze

Winter is a great time for star gazing. Taurus, Perseus, and Gemini are some of the constellations you can find in the winter sky. Yes, I did Google that, so even if you’re not a budding astronomer who doesn’t enjoy looking at shiny things in the sky?

Download an app like SkyView Free and find all the starry patterns. If you’re lucky enough to live by a planetarium see if they do free shows. Ours does two every Friday that the college is in session.

6. Holiday Parade

Was anybody else in marching band? I was and it was absolutely for the parades. There are a lot in December! We have our pick of morning or evening throughout the month. And since we live near the water we even have a few lighted boat parades! Check your cities events calendar and cities around you to fill your weekends with candy canes and Santas!

7. Photo with Santa

Speaking of Santa, how ridiculous are the prices for photos with Santa these days!? I don’t even have kids and I feel like I need to start putting away for their Santa pictures fund. That was until I found out about Bass Pro Shop’s annual Santa’s Wonderland. On select days you can get a free personalized photo with Santa, free wooden picture frame, free crafts for the kids, and more!

And even if you don’t have kids you should definitely put on your tackiest Christmas sweaters and make this years’ card something the family will be talking about til next year. Why not? It’s free!

8. Volunteer

I included this in my last list but the opportunities for giving this time of year are too numerous not to share again. Aside from soup kitchens and caroling you can hand out Christmas cards at Hospice, collect cans of food from your pantry to give to a shelter, or connect with your local foster care licensing agency to help out a foster family in need. Your money is valuable but your time is just as needed.

9. Go Outside

This is the obligatory “make a snow angel or sled down a hill” spot. But I live in Florida so I don’t know how to do that stuff. Whether you’re in blizzard country or it’s a balmy 70 degrees outside (sorry not sorry) get your butt outside and experience the free entertainment mother nature has to offer. I for one love walks downtown during the day and bonfires with s’more at night.

10. Stay Inside

Okay, outside not your thing? Stay inside… if you know what I mean. When’s the last time you pretended you were on your honeymoon or your favorite vacation with your significant other? There’s never a good time to put on those nighties from your lingerie shower so make the time! Get romantic and see what happens. Hey, it’s free. ?

Any other ideas for free activities this time of year? I’m always looking for new things to try and include in new posts!

Free Activities for Couples

Free Activities for Couples

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If you want to get out of the house this winter, check out these activities! 10 Free winter activities for couples paying off debt. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg every single time you leave the house. #freewinteractivities #freeactivitiesforcouples #freewinteractivitiesforcouples #cheapactivities

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Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.

Source: modernfrugality.com

How to (Actually) Stop Overspending on Christmas Presents

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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

7 Mistakes That Could Keep You From Selling Your Home This Winter

Selling a house during winter comes with its own unique challenges. Snow, for one, can bury your home’s best features. Your normally lush landscaping may look drab and lifeless. And truth be told, all you want to do is cozy up at home rather than welcome buyers through your door.

Still, if you’re game to sell during winter, it’s essential that you put on your snow pants and put some effort into making your house shine. To help, here are some classic mistakes to avoid once the temperature drops, and why they can make such a difference. Just avoid making these all-too-common winter-selling fumbles in order to get top dollar.

Mistake No. 1: Setting down the shovel

You cleared off enough of the driveway for your car, but potential buyers won’t be entering through the garage like you do.

“Blazing a path through 3 feet of virgin snow makes a lousy first impression,” says John Engel, a Realtor® with Halstead Properties, in New Canaan, CT.

Don’t put away your snow shovel until you’ve cleared a path to your front door. Or save your poor back by hiring a snow removal company to keep your paths walkable.

“Not only does it make it more inviting for buyers, but it avoids potential safety and liability concerns,” says Massachusetts Realtor John Ternullo.

Mistake No. 2: Giving in to the winter blahs

Gray skies and barren trees make winter a particularly depressing time to sell. But you don’t have to let your home look as doleful as the weather.

“Pops of color by the entryway, like a seasonal wreath and topiaries, can add some interest to the front entrance as well as make it more inviting,” Ternullo says.

And don’t wait until buyers schedule showings to add some life: Colorful curb appeal transforms your listing photos from drab to dramatic.

Mistake No. 4: Not scrubbing your windows

Colder temps have robbed your trees of their leaves, leaving your home to look a bit sadder in winter’s wake. But that’s not the only problem. Those full trees previously shielded your home from direct sunlight. And now that it’s pouring in your windows, potential buyers will be able to see everything. 

Scuffs, fingerprints, and streaks are “never more apparent” than in the wintertime, Engel says, so you should make sure you’re vigilant about keeping windows clean. Alone, that grime might not be enough to turn off a potential buyer, but it might make them wonder what other details you’ve missed.

Mistake No. 5: Displaying outdated summer photos

Your Tudor looks particularly glorious in the summer, but if your only listing photos were taken in April, buyers will immediately suspect a problem.

“Nothing says ‘old, tired listing’ more than the photo you took nine months ago,” Engel says. Talk to your Realtor about taking new photos that make your home look festive and seasonal. Feel free to keep older photos in the listing—your buyers might want to know what the home looks like when the gardens are in full bloom—but updated photos will make your listing seem fresh.

Mistake No. 6: Turning down the heat

Don't give potential buyers a chilly reception.
Don’t give potential buyers a chilly reception.

Olivier Le Moal/iStock

“Frugality is great, but not when you’re trying to sell real estate for top dollar,” says Brian Davis, a real estate investor and co-founder of SparkRental.com.

Turn the heat up before you leave for showings, your utility bill be damned. Stick to 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep everyone comfy.

“It will make the house feel homier and more welcoming,” Davis says. “It also gives the impression that the house is energy-efficient and well-insulated.”

Mistake No. 7: Denying access

It’s New Year’s Eve and a buyer wants to stop by. How dare they! Shouldn’t they assume you have a fabulous party to prepare for?

Maybe. But if you want to sell your home in the off-season, the buyer has to come first. You’ll need to work with your Realtor to devise a strategy for squeezing in showings, even in between all of winter’s holiday events and family gatherings.

“While it may be inconvenient, it’s crucial not to deny showings, as that could be a missed opportunity,” Ternullo says. “There may be less buyers compared to spring, but winter buyers tend to be serious.”

Mistake No. 8: Leaving out your draft stoppers

Your hand-knit draft stopper might look adorable snuggled against your door, but it “sends a clear message to buyers,” Davis says. “This house is drafty and loses heat easily.”

Not that you should lie. But every home has hidden problems, and it’s best to let the buyers make their own assessments and discoveries during the inspection period. Don’t leave out little things that could sway their decision.

Source: realtor.com