holiday gifts
‘Tis the season of giving, and not just presents for loved ones and friends. Whether you’re picking up giftables or baking holiday treats, don’t forget to appreciate those who provide services and personal care for you all year long.

Although it might seem like our culture is becoming more narcissistic by the moment, a recent survey indicates that 70% of American families plan to give between $100-$250 in special holiday tips. Of these, 41% budgeted for this giving, and 18% plan to give more than they did last year.

In some settings, tipping has become almost obligatory. For instance, many upscale restaurants automatically add a 15% gratuity to your bill now. Still, holiday tipping is a whole different situation. That same survey also shows that 85% of those who plan to give holiday tips are doing so out of a desire to express gratitude to those who provide consistently great care or services, while only 21% do so because it’s expected. This leads to my #1 tip for holiday tipping: make sure you’re giving from the heart. It’s not so much about how much you give, but the spirit behind it. With that in mind, let’s look at a few more practical guidelines for holiday tipping.
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getting a job
Job hunters often fixate on salary when looking for a job. After all, income is a very important piece of your financial puzzle.

However, the reality is that salary isn’t everything. Sometimes good benefits are worth a little bit of a salary cut.

I recently signed on for a “real” job with Student Loan Hero — my first such job in more than a decade.

Before I made the leap back into the world of salaried employment, though, I looked at the benefits and perks.

Does it mean a slight pay cut for me to do this job? The answer was yes, but the benefits far outweigh what I’m giving up in income.
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From flights to hotels, everything related to travel is in high demand and consequently expensive during the holidays. This is why you should book these services months in advance of November and December. Still, there are times when we’re forced to make last-minute travel plans during peak season. Luckily, it’s not impossible to save money on travel expenses when you book at the last minute. Here are a few ways to make your money stretch a little farther if you’re frantically scrambling to put together your holiday itinerary.
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taking notes
I don’t know about you, but December crept up on me. How is it the end of the year already?

As I consider what’s next and get ready for the coming year, I’m aware that there are a few things I haven’t taken care of with my finances. In fact, I’ve been borderline neglectful of my finances because of the crazy nature of the last six months.

Take the time to review different aspects of your finances before the end of the year arrives. Here are five financial reviews for the end of the year:

1. Your Spending

What have you been spending money on? Does it match your priorities? Did you overspend more than you should have? Are most of your purchases planned, or do you make a lot of impulse purchases?

If you want to get your finances under control, it’s essential to know where your money is going. Personal finance software is a great way to keep track. All you have to do is run a report to see which categories get the most attention from your pocketbook.
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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.
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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:
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