For those of you looking for a little reading beyond persona finances with the holidays now here may be interested in the Carnival of Christmas – while I do have an entry about money, most are far off the subject (as would be expected of a carnival of christmas;) . Enjoy!
I know, Christmas hasn’t even arrived, but if you want to make next Christmas a lot less hectic, it’s worthwhile to take a few minutes and go through the areas that caused problems or extra spending this Christmas while they are fresh in your mind. Since retail stores usually have limited storage space, they want to sell out their Christmas stock as quickly as possible which means great deals for you. Here are some after Christmas preparations tips that can help save money:
– Stock up on Christmas wrapping paper, bows and ribbons – most can be picked up for 50% – 80% off the retail price they were selling for the week before – and simply save them until next season. Also look for “generic” holiday paper that can be used at other times of the year besides Christmas.
– While switching all your holiday greetings to electronic cards would be the ultimate goal for card savings, there are still probably a few people on your list to whom you will want or need to send a real holiday greeting. After Christmas you can find boxed holiday cards at deep discounts which will save you significantly over individual cards.
– Take an inventory of Christmas lights to see if any of the strings needs to be replaced. When replacing them, opt for LED lights (they cost a bit more, but use significantly less energy and last much longer than standard holiday lights). These lights should be heavily discounted after Christmas.
– If any Christmas themed decorations need to be replaced, this is also a good time to get them at 50% or more off retail. This includes candles, small display items, etc.
– After Christmas is also a good time to pick up ornaments for the tree at great discounts.
A little preparation now can save you quite a bit of money and frustration next Christmas.
With the holiday season also comes a lot of opportunities to get 0% financing on a variety of high ticket items. While these can be great ways to save money if you were planning to purchase the item anyway, they come with pitfalls for many others. It’s important to remember it isn’t a deal no matter what the price if you really don’t need it.
One of the biggest problems that consumers have when using the 0% financing is that they opt to upgrade the item they’re purchasing – spending more on it than they had planned or budgeted for it. The other is that even though they have the best intentions to pay off the item before the 0% offer expires, they often don’t follow through and end up with a balance that has an interest rate at 20% or more.
Stores offer these 0% deals because they know this will happen. They don’t offer the 0% incentive because they are nice, but because they know that it will earn them money in the long run. They have models that can predict approximately what percentage of the people taking the 0% offer will end up paying interest on the offer because they can’t pay off the amount before the 0% offer expires.
If you do decide to take advantage of one of these offers this season, make sure not to fall into the 0% financing traps. Stick with what you originally planned to purchase and don’t spend more or get something fancier due to the free financing. If you have the money already, stick it in an online bank and don’t use it for other expenses so that it is there when the 0% financing expires. If you don’t have the money, divide the number of months by the price of the item you purchased and make sure to set aside this amount from your budget each month so that you have the full amount to pay off the purchase when the 0% offer expires.
Much like credit cards, these 0% offers can be used to your advantage as long as you take care and make sure that you pay off the purchase in time. If not, you’ll find that your purchase wasn’t near the deal that you thought it was and may cost you hundreds more than you ever expected.
I came across an article in usatoday about the city of San Francisco renting Christmas Trees. The trees aren’t your typical Christmas evergreen, but a variety of different trees that will be taken from your house and planted after the holiday season.
The program is being marketed as an environmentally friendly way to celebrate Christmas with a tree (no petroleum based artificial trees or real trees that need to be taken to the landfill once the New Year arrives). It’s a great idea although the cost of the program is a bit steep – $90 per tree.
Interest doesn’t seem to be a problem as all the 100 trees for the launch this year were claimed within a week of the city’s announcement. It would seem like there would be a potential business in something like this.
In fact, there is a company that does just that in Oregon (and where San Francisco got the idea for their program) called the “Original Living Christmas Tree Company” that has been doing this for the past 14 years. They charge from $55 on up and then get paid again when they plant the tree in someone’s yard.
It’s been awhile since I’ve spent a Christmas in the US, but I assume that $55 for a tree is pretty competitive with purchasing a standard Christmas tree. I’d love to see something like this expanded – it just seems to make a lot of sense.
The people who came up with the names “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” have done an excellent job of marketing, but the truth is that both are myths according to this piece over at CardWeb. The truth?
“Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday’ are figments of the media’s imagination. Truth is: last Thursday (December 1) was the hottest day for online shopping and last Friday (December 2) was the hottest overall shopping day.
Online purchases made with VISA-branded cards peaked on Thursday, December 1st, hitting $575 million, a 41% increase over the same day in 2004. The figure topped Monday’s so-called “Cyber Monday” by more than $75 million…
Meanwhile, VISA also reported that total activity on its cards in the USA for last Friday, December 2nd, was $4.02 billion, compared to $3.91 billion for Friday, November 28th.
Came across this study on giving money to children that was done in England, but I’d assume that the numbers are probably similar in the US:
A study by the Building Societies Association (BSA) showed that 40 per cent of adults had considered giving a child money instead of or as well as a gift. This figure rises to 60 per cent among parents.
However, very few parents actually request that friends and family contribute to a savings account for their child at Christmas or on their birthdays.
“These figures are very revealing,” Brian Morris, head of savings policy at the BSA. “Clearly, many people are happy to contribute financially to a child’s future, but only a small proportion of parents have ever asked for money for their own child.
“Christmas is a perfect time to kick-start a savings habit for your child or grandchild and parents should think about asking friends and family to help build a nest egg.”
There are a wide variety of ways that you can give money to a child. I would suggest that it is done in conjunction with some type of account or financial instrument so that the child can actually learn about how different systems work (whether it be a banking account, a bond, stock or something else). It’s a wonderful opportunity to give and teach at the same time.
I also think it’s a perfect time to open an online bank account with your child. Having the child go through the steps to open the account will be a great educational experience and you can teach him/her about checking accounts (free, minimums, fees, etc) and online banks (interest rate differences, how it works, etc). It’s also nice that in the end the child will get a $25 bonus for the effort of doing so.
And while we’re on the subject, another story about teaching kids about finances that may be of interest.