4 Ways to Save in January

The holidays are over and that means most of us are strapped for cash. January can be a tough month for many recovering from holiday spending. Here are four ways you can save a little this month as you work to get your finances back on track.

Winterize your home.
This is the coldest time of the year, so make sure your house is ready for the cool temps. There are a variety of things you can do to save this month by lowering your energy bills. Check out these simple tips for winterizing your home. Your wallet will thank you.

Eat what’s in season.
After all the groceries needed for preparing those holiday meals, it’s no wonder you’ll want to cut down on food costs this month. Check out the various fruits and vegetables that are in season in January, many of which are sold at a lower cost. Surprisingly there are a number of yummy seasonal foods that are at their prime in the dead of winter, such as: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, tangerines, and turnips.

New year, new budget.
Take a look back at last year, what worked for your finances and what didn’t? Learning from the past is an excellent way to make smarter choices this year. This month, take a look at the year ahead, anticipate months that will be more costly, and plan accordingly.

Shop sales.
After holiday sales can be an excellent way to save on items you need for the coming year. Check out reduced prices on everyday household items (like household cleaners, soaps, and baking supplies) that are marked down simply because they come in holiday packaging.

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com

Broke? 5 Basically Free Holiday Gift Ideas

Is your credit card maxed out and your savings account dried up? Don’t let a light (or empty) wallet have you saying bah-humbug. If anything, a shoestring budget opens up unique gift giving possibilities. Instead of searching online or fighting crowds to find just the right gift over the next few days, create your own.

A jar of gratitude: Think of this as an anytime mood boost. The container really doesn’t matter as much as what’s inside – all the reasons you love and appreciate gift recipient. So, the next time your friend or family member feels down, they can reach in and be reminded of all the ways they are awesome. It’s the gift that keeps giving all year long!

Regifting: How many items do you have in the closet that still have tags on them or may even still be wrapped? How about those gift cards to the movies or restaurants you’ll never visit? To avoid any awkward moments, be sure you know who gave you the gift, and if going the pay-it-forward gift card route, verify the expiration date and that it has never been used.

Be a game master: Laugh and reminisce while learning more about your family and friends by creating games about moments shared together. Create your own version of Pictionary to play based on family stories of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles. Or create a family version of Would You Rather, where players guess which family member would be more likely to do something. Try playing favorite songs and guessing which friend or family member is most likely to have it on their playlist. The possibilities are endless!

Create your own coupon book: Studies show that experiences deliver more lasting happiness than material items. So, fill a homemade coupon book with meaningful experiences. For some, that might mean breakfast in bed or sleeping in, for others it could mean a day of watching sports without any complaints. Give your kids coupon books to get out of chores, extra video game time and a day of yes (with the fine print disclaimer that sets a price limit for “asks”).

Recipe book: This one is perfect for the foodies in your life. Print out or make a PDF of your favorite recipes or new recipes that your recipient will enjoy!  Include notes, photos, or specific recipes tailored to the recipient’s taste to add a personalized touch too.

Never underestimate the effectiveness of a thoughtful gesture!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

What Not to Buy in December

December may be one of the best shopping months. No matter where you look, it is easy to find either a holiday or year-end deal or discount for almost anything you can imagine.

However, despite all of the December sales extravaganzas, not everything is a great deal. Here are few purchases Consumer Reports and NerdWallet say are worth postponing until the new year.

Jewelry: If you want to really get the best deal wait until late January to buy any diamonds or jewelry. That sweet spot between the end of the holidays and just before Valentine’s Day is generally when jewelers and department stores launch their deepest sales discounts.

Fitness equipment: The very best deals are in the warmer months – however, there are usually sales available in early January if your fitness goals simply can’t wait.

Bedding: Nothing beats 50-75% off deals during January white sales. If you can, hold off until then to buy blankets, sheet sets, and towels. Imagine how much better you’ll sleep knowing you got them at such a discount!

Winter clothing: The end of January through early February is the best time of year to get your winter gear for less.

Televisions: Black Friday deals are hard to beat. If you missed them, try shopping for your next high-end television in late January/early February (for upcoming SuperBowl deals).

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

 

5 Tips to Saving on Your Gym Membership Before the New Year

With all the excitement, festivities, and of course food around the holiday season, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is the gym. Most of us probably eat to our heart’s content over the holiday season and wait until January to deal with the aftermath. However, it might be worthwhile to start planning ahead now to get the best deals at the gym.

Once the new year arrives, people seem to turn to “get in shape” mode, which means hitting the gym hard. You definitely see the best deals at the end and beginning of the year, so be proactive now. Here are some tips to getting deals at the gym in the new year:

1. Sign Up for a Trial

It’s hard to commit to a gym membership without testing it out first. Almost all gyms offer free trials, some for a day and others for up to a week. Use your trial pass to get a feel for the gym, what equipment they have and whether or not it’s the right place for your workout. Also, be sure to visit during the times you would normally workout, to see what the crowd is like.

2. Pay Upfront

Most gyms will bill you month-to-month with charges based on the level of access you want to the gym. However, if you offer to pay upfront, you might be able to score a better deal. Many gyms will have promotions that may include anywhere from one to three months free if you pay for a year in advance. Yes, it’s a large sum of money initially – but doing so can save you money in the long run.

3. Be on the Lookout for Offers

Of course, the biggest way to save money on your gym membership is to take advantage of offers and promotions. And the best time to do so is during the new year. January is the busiest time of the year for most gyms and they’ll be offering many different deals and incentives to get more people to join. Look out for discounted monthly fees, waived enrollment and processing fees, and other perks.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

As with almost anything in life, don’t be afraid to negotiate. There are so many gyms to choose from and all of them are competing for your business. There is almost always wiggle room to negotiate your membership. You never know until you ask!

5. Create a Gym at Home

Don’t worry if you still can’t fit a gym membership into your budget, because you can create a gym at home. All you really need is a set of dumbbells and an imagination. Look to Youtube for free exercise videos and tips, or on warmer days go out for a run. You can definitely accomplish a lot without having expensive equipment.

The biggest key to getting in shape is willpower, and you don’t need to pay for that.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

Important Holiday Shopping Tips Everyone Should Know

The gift-giving season is in full swing. Here are some tips to help you shop wisely and protect your personal and financial information at the same time.

  • Make a list and a budget. Remember incidentals, like cards and wrapping paper. Your local dollar store is a great place for these types of items too!
  • Check out websites that compare prices for things sold online, and at stores in your area. It can help you get the best deal.
  • Make sure the scanned price is right. Overcharges cost you money and time, especially if you don’t notice them right away.
  • Look for rebates. Some can be redeemed at checkout, but most require you to send documentation to the manufacturer to get your rebate. Either way, you’ll be getting money back on your purchases.
  • Read reviews and recommendations to see how the product performs — or people’s experience with an online seller. But remember to consider the source.
  • Be aware that shopping apps can collect a lot of personal information. Look for apps that tell you what they do with your data, and how they keep it secure.
  • Check the terms of the deal when buying online — including delivery dates and refund policies. Will it arrive in time? And, if it’s not what you thought, can you send it back?
  • Save receipts. When you’re shopping online – keep copies of your order number, the refund and return policies, shipping costs and warranties.
  • Giving bling? Take some time to learn the terms used in the jewelry industry so you can get the best quality and value.
  • Shipping to loved ones overseas? Check the US Postal Service’s calendar for holiday shipping deadlines.
  • Have packages delivered to a secure location. If you won’t be home, have them delivered to work, or see if a neighbor can be on the lookout for deliveries. Consider requiring a signature for delivery — or look for options to pick up your shipment at a local store or mailing center.

Happy Holiday Shopping!

Article Source: Colleen Tressler for the FTC

Winter is Coming: Time to Ready Your Home and Wallet

We are in the midst of the holiday season and that means the temperatures are steadily dropping. As we reach year’s end, it’s time to take a hard look at how you can prepare your home and your wallet for the winter months ahead. Here are four tips for winterizing your home and saving some extra cash.

Keep it low.

Instead of turning up the heat every time you feel a chill, grab a blanket or put the fireplace on and save some cash. Also, take a good look at your heating system and find out whether there’s a programming option. This will allow you to set times when you want the heat to click on (in the morning when you’re getting out of bed, for example) and times when it should remain low (while you’re at work and no one is home).

Let sunshine in.

Many of us like the privacy our drapes and curtains provide us. But, when it’s cold out, open up your blinds and let the sun in. You’ll be surprised how much the natural sunlight will help heat up certain areas of your home.

Freshen up your filters.

It can be very easy to forget about those air filters, but keeping them clean is key to good quality air in your home. Filthy filters not only limit the airflow, but they also up the energy demand (which means more expensive bills). So, make a note in your calendar to check on them monthly to ensure they’re in good shape.

Turn the fan around.

Many people associate ceiling fans with cool air when actually, with just a minor adjustment they can help warm your home as well. Most ceiling fans come with a small switch that allows you to change its direction. A clockwise rotation will push warm air back down into your living space, which can significantly cut your heating costs too.

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com