In the craziness of last-minute holiday preparations, your health care coverage is probably one of the farthest things from your mind. Nevertheless, December is a very important month for some financial to-dos, and one of them is your flex spending account.

If you’re someone who signed up for an FSA during your annual benefits enrollment period but then pretty much forgot about it, you’re not alone.  After all, since it’s funded with before-tax payroll deductions, it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” Unfortunately, it’s also “use it or lose it,” and December 31st is the deadline (although some allow either a three-month grade period or a $500 roll-over allowance). Some statistics indicate roughly two percent of FSA contributions are forfeited this way every year. Since the maximum contribution is $2,500, there’s a potential for this much of your hard-earned money to be ‘donated’ back to your employer for FSA program costs and losses.

If you haven’t engaged with your FSA since signing that form, you may not know what your balance is, how to redeem the funds, or even what you can use it on. Those answers will vary depending on the specifics of your employer’s FSA, but here are some guidelines to help you “use it” to your advantage and avoid losing this valuable tax offset to the rising cost of health care.
[ continue reading… ]

At some point during a job hunt, you will be asked to share your current salary, or to throw out a number for what you would like to make.

In many cases, talking about salary during a job interview can be a daunting task — and it could be detrimental to your long-term income prospects. If you didn’t negotiate for a higher salary on your first job, sharing that in a job interview for a new job could mean you’re setting yourself to keep under-earning.

On top of that, sharing a salary requirement could mean that you are dismissed for budgetary reasons. You might throw out a slightly high number, willing to be negotiated down, but never get the chance to do so because the employer moves on.

Instead of just sharing a number, it can help to try to dodge the question a bit. Here are some things you can do if a prospective employer asks for a salary requirement:
[ continue reading… ]

black friday
Whether you chose to wait in long lines before dawn or sit in your pajamas while shopping the deals online, Black Thursday/Friday may have gotten the best of you already. In spite of your best intentions, you overspent, you’re full of regret, and you’re getting a headache just thinking about your next credit card statement. Now what?

Recovering your finances after a major blowout isn’t instantaneous or easy, but it’s definitely possible. The faster you can put spending mistakes behind you, the better, but first you have to be willing to face them. Here’s how.
[ continue reading… ]

Now that my son is 14 and getting ready for a driver’s permit, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about buying a car. (Yes, you read that right. In Idaho, you are eligible for a permit at 14 and a license at 15.)

It’s a few years since I’ve bought a car; I tend to buy something late model that I like and then drive it for as long as possible.

As I get ready to move forward with a vehicle for my son, here’s how I’m preparing to make the decision:
[ continue reading… ]

christmas card
Black Friday is approaching, so if you’re among the majority of Americans who waited until this month to do your holiday shopping, it’s time to formulate a game plan. One reason we tend to put off shopping is that we don’t know what to get for the people on our list, as trying to find that ‘perfect gift’ for everyone is one of the most stressful aspects of the gift-giving season. It’s also one of the reasons some families choose to avoid the tradition altogether (it certainly saves on the holiday budget!).

To make your shopping a little easier, a recent survey released by the National Retail Federation shows exactly what’s on most people’s Christmas list: gift cards. Gift cards? Yes, gift cards. 69 percent of women and 53 percent of men say gift cards are at the top of their list this year.

If you’re like me, I tend to consider gift cards a last resort for those hard-to-buy-for people. You know – the ones who have ‘everything’ or don’t want anything. But as it turns out, people actually want them. Why do you think that is? Are people thinking more practically? Getting pickier? Trying to be less wasteful? Tired of getting gifts they can’t use and don’t want? It’s probably a combination of all of this, but the bottom line is that it could make your holiday shopping a whole lot easier! Still, there are ways to buy gift cards more effectively, efficiently, and even save money while you’re at it.
[ continue reading… ]

I am a huge fan of discounts, especially stores that are full of discounts. That’s why I love the .99-Cent Only Store, which a great place to go for inexpensive essentials. I’m going to share with you my favorite things to buy from that store, as well as tips on what to avoid.

Hair Accessories

Skip the hair brushes and weird looking hair products and go straight for the hair accessories. I usually buy bobby pins, the 500-packs of small elastics, and decorative hair accessories from the .99-Cent Only Store. I just look for name brand items. If you have ever visited the hair section at Target, then you know how amazing the .99-Cent Only Store hair finds can be. Target charges $3-4 for bobby pins, elastics, and hair accessories, which sounds inexpensive until you realize it’s 300% or 400% of $0.99.

Just today I found cute Goody hair clips for my two little girls, and in the past, I have found adorable Cherokee hair clips (with the Target price sticker of $5 still on it).
[ continue reading… ]