cheap holiday gifts

The holidays can be some of the best times of the year, and a tremendous way to close the calendar, so long as you don’t allow the stresses that come with too much family, food, and gift giving to fill you with unnecessary and unwanted anxiety.

Most holiday stress originates from gift giving, which feels all too frequent by the end of the year. When you have a lot of family and friends, almost no budget seems big enough to amply satisfy everyone.

But who wants to spend the first half of the following year paying off presents?

Big-ticket items are at the top of everyone’s list—iPods, iPads, and the Kindle Fire. But big doesn’t necessarily mean better. You can give a gift that’s meaningful, without breaking the bank.

Here are 7 small gifts that will make a big impact this year.

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family money problems
We all have the best of intentions when it comes to our families. We’re often willing to offer money to help each other out in situations when we would never do it for a stranger. But this also means that when we accept financial help from a family member, the rules can be very different than when we borrow money from a bank or some other impersonal lending institution.

The potential for problems resulting from a loan or a gift are very different when we’re dealing with family—to the point that it’s often better to just refuse the generosity even it seems like the easiest choice. Here are five scenarios where it’s probably better to politely say no.
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how to get rich

As Dave sat down to work on his bills Monday morning, he found out how badly he was mismanaging his money.

Dave wasn’t mismanaging his money like everyone else. Dave was different. He wasn’t throwing away money on the lottery or going on wild shopping sprees for fancy cars and electronics he couldn’t afford.

Dave is different because he’s 30 years old, with no kids or debts, and an extra $4,000 a month. It’s hard to feel sorry for Dave, I know, but let’s look at what he could be doing better.

Right now, Dave’s missing an opportunity to become very wealthy and have a retirement he can enjoy. If he doesn’t use his money well, he’ll be stuck working past the ripe young age of 59.5, just like the rest of us. [ continue reading… ]

holiday planning guide
We’re down to the last few pages of the year, and almost everyone agrees: they’re the most fun. Between trick-or-treating and “3…2…1! Happy New Year!” we bounce from party to event to family gathering and back again. But while these months are the year’s most festive, they can also be the most sneakily expensive.

Here are three ways to combat the leaks the season can poke in your wallet.

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vacation on a budget

At the end of the month, my boyfriend Aaron and I are taking a vacation that is sure to be special for a couple of reasons. Aaron has not been on a vacation since 1998, and neither of us has been on a vacation as an independent adult, which means that we will get to make all kinds of decisions about where to go, what to do, and how much to spend, for the very first time.

Even though we’re excited that this is our first real vacation and that we have new found autonomy over our travel decisions, we’re also a little concerned. We hope that in our excitement we won’t overspend and break all of our usual frugal habits, and we also hope that as vacation newbies we’ll make choices that won’t break the bank but will still make our vacation a trip to remember.
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With the holidays around the corner it’s time to start getting our act ready for some festive shopping. Below are a collection of shopping tips so we can all enjoy a happy, sensible, and responsible holiday season.

  1. Make a Shopping List – Write down everyone that you plan to buy a gift for and how much you plan to spend.  It’s not just to save money, it’s so you don’t miss anyone too.
  2. Be Patient and Look for Deals – The bad economy means that all retailers are marking down their merchandise in a huge way.  Shop around at different stores and chances are you will find what you are looking for at a lower price.
  3. Plan Ahead – Make sure you call the store to see if the item you want to buy is in stock.  Otherwise, you would’ve wasted your time and gas.
  4. Organize Your Trip – Group your gift list into different categories and plan your route.  Trust me, it will save you so much time.
  5. Buy Online – If you still haven’t bought anything online before, you are missing out because online retailers like Amazon often give huge discounts.  Remember to also calculate shipping into the total price before committing (better yet, find one that offers free shipping).
  6. Don’t Buy More than You Need – Never fall for those offers that seem like a bargain but need you to buy additional products.  If you need only one, never go for the “buy one get one free” offers.
  7. Clip Coupons – Go out of your way to find coupons.  It might be a hassle but it is time well spent.
  8. Find Alternatives – When a similar product goes on sale, try to see if the savings is worth the trade off.  Sometimes, the product on sale might be selling for less and be even better than the one you were going to get.
  9. Gift Receipts – Always ask for one just in shopping tips
  10. Get the Items Shipped ASAP – It’s the holiday season so shipping may take longer than usual.  Remember to get everything shipped to you in ample time or you might not have a gift to give during Christmas.
  11. Beware of Your Belongings – Holiday shopping usually means long lineups and crowded malls.  Watch your belongings and be careful.
  12. Try Using Only Cash – If you know that you are those people that can’t control yourself, use cash.  Having a limited supply of funds will surely help tone down the spending.
  13. Credit Cards Might Be Good Also – If you use your credit card, find one that has the best reward program for retail goods.
  14. Reward Points – Remember your reward points?  Maybe you can use some of it to get some gift cards this year to buy gifts.
  15. An Activity Could Be Worth Even More – Gifts are not just tied to an item.  It could be a favor, an event or an experience so use your imagination.
  16. Taking the Experience a Step Further – Perhaps it makes more sense for you and your friend to go out on a dinner or trip together instead of buying each other a gift.  It could be more fun and more financially sensible at the same time.
  17. Don’t Buy Extended Warranty – Instead, buy the product with a credit card that offers double the warranty period.
  18. Avoid Credit Card Advances – Always.
  19. No Store Credit Cards – In fact, don’t apply for any new credit card during the holiday season.
  20. No Interest Till 2020 – Don’t fall for this unless you already have the means to pay it off and you will pay it off immediately.
  21. It’s Not a Competition – There’s no need to try getting the biggest or most expensive gift.  Try something sensible and personal.  The best gifts are ones that come from the heart.
  22. Online Deal Sites – There are tons of sites that gathers all the great bargains available.  Check them out to save time and money. (One I’ve been using for years on electronic products is Ben’s Bargains.
  23. Online Promo Code – Most online merchants have coupons and promotion codes all the time.  Before buying anything online, always Google to see if that particular merchant has a coupon code available.
  24. Ask for a Discount – Cashiers often times have the coupons right in front of them to save time.  Always be friendly and ask if there are current coupons that apply to your purchase at checkout.  It won’t always work but it’s so easy that it’s worth a try.
  25. Find a Shopping Buddy – True shoppers will look in every aisle and find amazing deals.  If you are one of them, you can save so much time and cover more territory by teaming up.
  26. Have a Secret Santa Amongst Your Group – Instead of everyone buying a gift for everyone else, play the Secret Santa game and cut down on the number of gifts everyone needs to get.
  27. Bring Your Own Shopping Bag – Why be environmentally unfriendly?  Bring your own bag and ask the cashier to save some plastic.
  28. Avoid Crowds – Shop during early and late store hours.  You will thank me after 🙂
  29. Free Gift Wrapping – If the store offers this, remember to take advantage of it.
  30. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute – Chances are you will be in a rush and all the budgeting tips will be forgotten.
  31. Remember Yourself – It could be small but remember that you deserve a gift as well.
  32. Use Common Sense – If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  Use your judgment and remember to enjoy the holidays.