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Tips to Maximize Your Finances This Christmas

Christmas comes earlier every year, right? Wrong! Despite the fact Christmas has happened on the 25th of December for the last few centuries, people still seem to panic and struggle to plan their finances to accommodate for the festive season ahead.

While money is not required to make a truly magical Christmas, the holiday still puts a strain on the purse strings of a budgeter. Without adequate financial planning you may feel that your Christmas doesn’t quite live up to your imagination.

Don’t panic, as the festive season hasn’t arrived just yet. There is still plenty of time to create a wonderful day without breaking your budget. Many people feel pressured to spend all they have over the Christmas period, yet we must remember that Christmas is only one day, don’t let it dictate the rest of your year.

Should we plan ahead?

People have been suggesting you should plan ahead the whole year, but you can find some amazing bargains on last-minute websites too.

Sometimes it pays to wait a little longer and grab a bargain, for example you could find some massively-discounted products on many websites during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you are visiting family and friends after Christmas Day you could even wait until the January sales have released their bargains and buy your gifts from those. Present them with a light-hearted IOU note letting the recipient know that their gift is on its way, Santa just got temporarily caught in traffic!

Buy your Christmas meal ingredients from a budget store

People are often snobby when it comes to Christmas food shopping as they associate Christmas with having fine-quality ingredients. However, you would be surprised at the quality of some of the budget stores nowadays, with many surpassing mainstream chains in blind taste tests.

If you cannot be persuaded on the price, why not ask everyone to help out with the meal by putting $5 in each and collaborating your efforts to buy really nice ingredients? Consider making your food from scratch as well, instead of splashing out on store-bought alternatives, for instance cranberry sauce costs next to nothing to make but can be sold for over $6 in stores due to the fancy packaging.

Focus on people, not presents

As mentioned before, Christmas shouldn’t be about commercial customs, it’s about spending quality time with loved ones and being appreciative for what you already have.

Keep it simple and don’t blow your budget for one day out of the whole year.

Learn From My Mistakes

I made a pretty rookie budgeting mistake this month.

I spent my money before I had it.  Terrible plan.  Counting chickens before they hatch and all.  And I overspent.

Let’s go back.  A few weeks ago, my boss told me I was receiving a small monetary award for a project I had managed over the past two years. It was a resounding success, and that was reward enough, so I was surprised and delighted to find out that I would be receiving a small bonus on top of that.  I wasn’t sure when it was coming, but I knew it was coming.  Mentally, I figured out how much taxes would take off of the top and started thinking about all the things I could spend it on.

The problem is, I didn’t deal in fact, only in dreams.  So while spending money this month, I thought to myself “Well, yes, this isn’t in the budget, but I have that bonus coming, so it will all even out.  I’ll probably even have leftover money to spend on things.”  I wasn’t doing the math though.  I was paying attention only to this magical money that was coming.

Last week, I sat down and updated my budget.  And there was no way that my bonus was going to cover my budget overages.  I had made a huge rookie mistake.  I had thought about the money that was coming and used that thought to justify my spending.

Now, it would have been okay if I had sat down and said “Okay, I have $100 coming to me this month, and I really want to buy those $100 shoes that are on sale.  I don’t have the money yet, but it will deposit, so I can spend it now.”  Not the ideal way to spend, but at least it would have been a rational way to go about it.

Instead, I just spent as if I had a small fortune coming to me.  And surprise, surprise.  When the money hit my bank account this weekend, it didn’t cover all of the budget overages.  It helped, for sure, but I definitely overspent this month.

Lesson learned.  I need to go back to my plan of only spending what I have and not deal with “When this money comes to me.”  I need to deal in hard numbers and not in wishful thinking.

I’ll admit – being responsible with money isn’t always fun.  But managing to budget so that I have reserved money for all the fun things I want to do?  Totally worth it.

Budget Tip – Frivolity Fund

I use the YNAB method of budgeting, which means that every dollar has a job.  All of my money goes into various budget categories and I work to stay within those budget categories.  Some of those categories are the more serious ones, the ones where I have to budget a certain amount.  Serious categories include the mortgage payment, gas and electric bills, taxes, etc.  Once I’ve gotten the big things budgeted, I figure out what to put in the more flexible funds.  These funds include things like vacation and entertainment.

One very important fund is my Frivolity Fund.  I do my best to have a little bit of money in this fund every month, though it doesn’t always happen.  In terms of priority for my dollars, it’s probably last on the list.  But in terms of how it helps me stick to my budget, it’s very important.

My frivolity fund is money that I can spend on whatever I want.  Sometimes it gets added into another fund.  I only have $5 left in my entertainment budget for the month but I really want to buy that book?  Take some money from the frivolity fund.  Sometimes I use it to go out to eat.  Sometimes I just spend it on something ridiculous, like the plastic dinosaurs for my air plant terrarium at work or the inflatable unicorn horn for my cat to wear.  Totally frivolous, but it makes me happy.

I’ve found that having money in my budget that I can spend on anything has really helped me stick to the budget.  While making sure your bills are paid is important and paying down debt is important, having fun is also important.  And yes, many fun things are free, but when you’re working so hard, you do need to have a bit of fun money in your budget.  Otherwise, I’ve found it becomes all too easy to say “Forget the budget, I want to buy this!” and suddenly you’re budget has been blown to smithereens.

Now, you have to be reasonable with the Frivolity Fund.  And it shouldn’t have a lot of money in it each month.  Mine usually has around $20, though if I don’t spend that $20 in one month, I can add it to next month’s fund.  Some months it has less because I need to put that money elsewhere.  This has to be money you can afford to spend on something pointless.

I know people who make a point to keep their Frivolity Fund in cash.  For me, cash is incredibly hard to track, so in my budget, I just have a line item for cash.  I’m not good at saving receipts and categorizing them.  I know it’s not hard to do, it’s just something that I’m not good about doing.  So this would work for me.  The money that I take out in cash can be spent on whatever I want and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

The big key to the Frivolity Fund?  No regrets. This money is designed to be spent on whatever floats your boat at any particular time.  Yes, the money you spent on that comic book could have been spent on something more important.  But you’re allowed to have fun.  You should have fun.  You set aside this money to be used for fun, and that’s its only purpose.  While paying down debt feels good, it’s not exactly fun.  And while you might be able to go one month or maybe even a few months without any silly expenditures, it will happen, and you will feel guilty because that money was earmarked for something else.  Let the Frivolity Fund take care of that stress for you.

And go buy an inflatable unicorn horn for your cats.  It is the funniest thing you will see all day.

Money Saving Tips – Don’t Go Crazy, Folks

I read a lot of blogs.  Currently, in my blog reader, I have blogs in the following categories

  • Fitness
  • Entertainment
  • Personal Finance
  • Decorating/Crafting
  • Celebrities (Yes, I know)
  • Comics
  • Friends (these being the blogs of people I know and love and the ones I’m sure to always read)

And I’ve learned a lot from all of these blogs.  But the most important thing I’ve learned?

Take everything you read with a grain of salt.

There are a lot of great tips out there of ways that you can save money in your everyday life.  But there are also a lot of absolutely horrible tips.  Or tips that are just not practical.  For example, one tip I see a lot is “Reduce your living costs and find somewhere less expensive to live.”  Well, first, this probably only works if you rent and don’t own.  I mean, you could always sell your house and buy something smaller, but that’s not a cheap endeavor.  And it’s also dependent on where you live.  I live in the Washington, DC area.  There is tons of housing here, especially if you’re willing to live further out from the city (assuming you have a vehicle if you live outside of the area where public transportation runs).  But if you live in a small town, cheap housing isn’t as easy to come by.

Okay, this isn’t a totally terrible tip.  I’m just trying to avoid outing a blogger who I do enjoy reading.

Here’s another bad tip I read recently.  “Save money on pet food by buying the cheaper brands or what’s on sale.  I’ve found that my pets love the cheap brands even more than the expensive brands!”

Well, sure they do!  You’re feeding them junk food!  You too could save money on food by buying all your meals from the McDonalds dollar menu, but it wouldn’t be good for you.  Buy a decent quality food for your pet and save on vet bills.  Please.

Some tips are probably decent ones, but they aren’t things I plan to try anytime soon.  Such as “Check the curbs on trash day for thrown out furniture!”  I am no longer willing to pick up a couch off of the curb.  I do not know what is wrong with it or if it has bedbugs or a family of raccoons living inside of it.  Thank you, no.

And don’t even get me started on the whole Freegan movement.  Dumpster diving for my meals?  No thank you.  Do I think that stores and restaurants probably throw out food that’s just fine?  Yes.  Do I want to eat it?  No.  No no no.  No.

These are all extreme examples.  But what I’m getting at is that not every tip you read is a good one, and even if it is a good idea, it may not be an idea that will work for you.  For example, I love DIY blogs.  I read This Old House magazine.  But I am not a DIY-er.  I don’t own a saw, so I’m probably not going to be building my own table out of wood.  Yes, the tables others have built are gorgeous, but I know my limitations.  While buying a great old dresser from the thrift shop and refinishing it seems like a good idea, I have no place to work on said dresser other than my backyard.  And unless I set up some sort of tent to keep it dry, that’s not the world’s best plan either.  Plus I would just end up with bugs in my varnish.

So pick and choose what works for you.  Don’t feel like you have to do something because everyone else is doing it.

(And please don’t eat dumpster food.  At least not because you think it’s a good way to save money.  If you like adventure, sure, go for it.  But don’t come crying to me when you feel awful.)

How Much Can You Save with Sears Coupons on Kenmore?

We’re all accustomed to staying with specific brand we already trust, and we’re also accustomed to staying with the store we trust. Combining those two with the specific savings can be a real win-win situation. If you have been using Sears offersbefore, you already know about the great discounts that can be found there. If you are also a Kenmore appliances fan you should definitely check out what savings can be made at this time in Sears web store, even if you’re not planning on buying straight away, price drops and some great offers may change your mind with a up to 35% general discount coupon present at this time.

Over $200 Savings on Kenmore Microwave Ovens

In the Sears store, there are more than twenty models present all with various discount attached. If you are in need of a new microwave oven checking out Kenmore may not be a bad idea, as one of their models that was priced above $400 earlier, costs just under $200 now. There are of course some models under a $100 on which you’ll still be able to snatch about 20 bucks if you don’t need a top of the hill microwave oven.  Not all models are discounted in this way but they are worth taking a look at considering the amounts that can be saved.

Save Over $100 on Dishwasher

Dishwasher is a lifesaver for any mom. Not only it keeps them away from the kitchen sink, it also gives more time to be spent on other more important things with the rest of the family. There are a few of those just under $300, and with an average savings on all other models above a $100 getting yourself one at this time may be worth thinking about. If you are looking for a high tech top priced dishwasher, you’ll be able to get one for exactly previously mentioned $300 less than you expected.

More than a Few under $600 Quality Refrigerators

There are over a hundred models offered in Sears store at this time. Most of those have a discount attached and should you decide to buy one your savings here could be going over a $200 margin. Not that we are pushing things here, some newer models have “only” 50 bucks price reduction but thanks to a discount coupons for sears you will be able to get it with one third of its original price “chopped off”. So, if you pick up a $1000 fridge, with the code you can get it at under 700 dollars, delivered right at your doorstep.

There are plenty of other appliances from Kenmore with great prices and all can be found with a Sears discounts tag on them. What’s most important is that you can save not only with the regular price drop attached to a microwave or refrigerator. If you can get one of the Sears coupons anything you buy that has Kenmore written on it, will cost you up to 35% less than its price tag says. And it will be delivered to you for free.