How to Actually Stick to Your Holiday Budget

It’s almost that time of the year again, and the holiday season is right around the corner. While the last few months of the year are usually all about laughter and celebration, it is also one of the most expensive times of the year as well. With traveling expenses and gifts, your budget can quickly get out of hand.

Before you get stressed out about holiday budgeting, start a plan. The earlier you begin thinking about holiday spending, the more time you’ll have to actually enjoy the season. Here are five tips to help you stick to your holiday budget:

Start Early

The early bird gets the worm! While you might think it’s too early to start planning for the holidays, think again. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself scrambling for last minute gifts. Start your planning now before you stress yourself out. Begin making your list of people you need to get gifts for and jot down ideas of what you might want to get them. Once you have your list ready, you can start hunting for steals and deals well in advance. You might even get your shopping done early!

Tackle Black Friday Deals

You either love Black Friday or you hate it. If you plan to Black Friday shop this year, then prepare yourself for the big day. Many retailers will release a list of their sales the week prior so you can start making your list ahead of time. Be sure to research when stores open as you might want to get there early in case inventory sells out. If you don’t get exactly what you want on Black Friday, there’s always Cyber Monday – when you can find plenty of deals online without the crowds.

DIY Your Gifts

Store-bought gifts aren’t always the best. Homemade items carry a lot of significant value and you can personalize them and make them exactly how you want. Consider DIY-ing your gifts if you have the talent. Not only will your friends and family appreciate the thought and effort you put into their gifts, but you’ll also save a significant amount of money.

Set Limits

It would be amazing if we could buy all our loved ones the perfect gift, but most of us can’t afford to do that. While you’re making your list and shopping, be sure to be realistic with what you can afford. Decide what your limits are for each person and stick to it. Even if you find the “perfect” gift for someone on your list, it’s not going to work if it will break your budget. It’s the thought that really counts, so don’t worry about buying the most expensive gift.

Spend on Experiences

Most of the time it’s better to gift an experience if you can’t find the perfect gift for someone. Think about what they really enjoy doing. For instance, tickets to a local play or a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant can be great ideas. Plus, you might also be able to tag along – so not only do you get to enjoy the gift, but you also get to spend time with the recipient too.

The holidays are quickly approaching. While shopping and sticking to your budget is important, also remember to take a few moments to enjoy time with family and loved ones this season.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

3 Easy Ways to Make Some Extra Holiday Cash

Black Friday has come and gone and Cyber Monday is in the past too. Did you take advantage of any big sales? Did you overspend on your holiday shopping budget? Whether or not you spent too much over Thanksgiving weekend, it’s always nice to have a few extra bucks in your pocket over the holidays. Here are three ways you can accumulate some extra money for the holiday season.

Keep the change: A piggy bank is a very simple item, and that’s what makes it so genius. You need $100 in a couple of months? Start putting away your spare change now and by the time that day arrives, you’ll be ready to go. The best part is, you can find the money without having to budget it and then cash in all your coin for dollars.

Answer some questions: Taking surveys online or at the mall may not seem like the best way to spend a couple of hours, but it can put a few extra bucks in your pocket. Check out Make Money Taking Surveys and discover some easy ways to make $25-$50 a day.

Go into sales: People love yard sales. It’s a great way to get something cool at a great price. You probably won’t get rich from having a yard sale, but you can definitely make $50-$100, depending on what you’re willing to sell. Ready to part with that drum set that’s been collecting dust? Put it on Craig’s List or use an app like Let Go, and see what happens.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

3 Tricks to Save Money for the Holidays

If the holidays have crept up on you, then you probably haven’t started your decorating or shopping yet. If you’re in need of a few extra bucks for the holidays, here are three easy tricks to cut back for the rest of the year.

Cash only: We’re living in the world of Apple Pay and Venmo, which makes spending money easier than ever. If you’re not the cash type, just remember that it feels a lot more personal (and sad) every time you complete a transaction with paper money. It’s enough to make you second guess handing over your cash.

Bundle up: If you want to save a few bucks the “very easy” way, turn down your thermostat. It’s getting colder, but it’s an easy fix and it will save you money. Grab a blanket and some wool socks. Having a few extra bucks to spend will be satisfying when you get ready to buy your niece that karaoke machine she’s been wanting.

Keep tabs on yourself: Every single time you make a purchase, write it down. By physically jotting down every dollar you spend, you’ll quickly realize just how much money you spend on the “must-haves” in your life. This may be just the wake-up call you need to start cutting back on some of the not-so-necessary things you regularly purchase.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

5 Ways to Make Budgeting Easy Even Around the Holidays

Business man with a santa hat isolated, santa's budget

A budget is essential because having a budget is the first step to achieving financial success. “It’s the backbone of everything else that you do financially,” says David Weliver, founder of financial blog MoneyUnder30. “It all comes down to that golden rule of spending less than you earn. A budget is how you control that.” Think you can’t budget around the holidays?  Think again. You can use these helpful budgeting tips all year long!

Follow the Rules

One guideline of budgeting is the 50/30/20 rule. In the simplest terms, 50% of your income should go to your needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for savings.

What’s a need? For most people, that will include housing costs, whether that’s rent and rental insurance or mortgage payments and homeowner’s insurance. Beyond that, spending priorities can vary greatly. Essentials also might include groceries, car payments, cell phone bills, and utilities.

Wants would fit in the flexible spending category. They might include eating out, going to the movies, buying clothes, or other day-to-day expenses that can vary greatly from month to month.

Finally, the 20% you save should go to your financial goals, whether it’s short-term goals, such as saving for a vacation, or long-term goals like funding your retirement.

These guidelines can be adapted to your personal situation. “It’s okay to set your own ratios,” Weliver says. “But the goal is to try to live so that your essentials are 50 percent or less of your income, and then you have money left over.”

Organize Your Money

Once you set your budget, there’s a good chance you’ll need help tracking your progress. You may want to do so using an Excel spreadsheet, a pencil and paper or an online budgeting tool like YNAB.

You may even try the envelope method, for which you use cash that you divvy up between a number of category-labeled envelopes. Once an envelope is empty, you’re done spending for that category that month. It’s an extreme strategy, especially in today’s world of plastic and online payments, but it really works.

Mvelopes digitizes the envelope strategy. It offers a free version, as well as a premium option for $95 a year that comes with additional features, such as the ability to link more than four accounts and create more than 25 envelopes.

Weliver suggests a twist on the envelope method: Try using different bank accounts for different types of spending. One account can be reserved for your fixed essential costs, another for groceries, another for dining out and so on. Of course, you need to make sure you are using fee-free accounts.

Focus on Repaying Debt

If you’re carrying a lot of debt, it can quickly consume your budget.

The minimum amount due on any debt you have must count among your essential expenses. Ideally, you want to pay more than the minimum, even if it means socking away less in savings and investments. “Paying down debt is a form of savings,” says Weliver. The faster you pay off your debt, the more you save in interest charges.

There are two common approaches to paying off debt. With one, you tackle the balances with the highest interest rates first. This one will save you the most on interest charges in the long run. The other strategy, often called the snowball method, involves paying off the smallest debt first, which makes you feel good and encourages you to keep rolling until your debt is gone.

If you are carrying a lot of high interest debt across multiple accounts, it may make sense to consolidate or refinance those loans.

Go Digital

Mint is the reigning king of free budgeting sites and apps, but there are tons of other options that work pretty similarly.

The big idea: You connect the site to your accounts with other financial institutions. The site then tracks all of your money’s movements in one place, automatically categorizing each transaction and organizing your expenses into colorful charts and graphs to help you identify spending trends.

Set Spending and Saving on Autopilot

Once you have your budget in place, setting up automatic contributions for your savings and automatic payments for regular bills can make it a breeze to stay on track. Some companies even provide discounts to people who sign up for automatic payments.

Two apps can help you automate your savings further:

  • Acorns rounds up to the nearest dollar on every purchase you make with a linked checking account and automatically invests the change into a diversified portfolio for you. You can customize your risk tolerance and adapt your investments based on personal preferences.
  • Digit monitors your spending habits and, when it determines you can safely afford it, transfers a small amount of money (typically between $5 to $50 every few days) from your linked checking account to a special Digit savings account.

Automating your budgeting and spending will encourage you to save more and make it easier to achieve your financial goals, even when you’re holiday shopping too!

Article Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomanderson/2016/04/05/5-ways-to-make-budgeting-easy/2/#11f576f1558c