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Create an Early Holiday Shopping Budget

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FCM_holidayshopping_headerIt’s the perfect time to plan your gift list and save money this holiday season. Taking just a few minutes now can save you a lot of stress, money and time.

While you might have your sites set on getting through the next major holiday, Thanksgiving, savvy shoppers are already planning for the holidays. Yes, we know thinking about holiday shopping now seems too early, but by taking just a little time now (even just an hour) can save you a lot of stress, money and time.

Are we starting to pique your interest? Read on for some tips on how to get organized and start saving:

  1. Review last year’s shopping list. Pull up last year’s shopping list and take a look at who you shopped for the previous year and how much you spent. This review can refresh your memory and kick-start your new shopping list.
  2. Create a budget. Compare last year’s budget with your current financial situation to see how much you can afford to spend this coming holiday season. Also, see what expenses are coming up and make sure you have a cushion for emergencies.
    • When creating a budget for the holidays, give yourself a spending limit for gifts and don’t forget to account for entertaining and party hosting, decorations, and travel costs.
    • Consider setting up a separate savings account, just for holiday shopping. That way you can avoid overspending.
    • For even more control over your budget, you can narrow down a budget per person on your shopping list.
  3. Download a holiday planning app. To prepare for this expensive time of year, you should start saving and planning now. There are a bunch of apps out there that will help you track your gifts, set budgets, and find the best deals.
    • Santa’s Bag (iTunes) – Input every person you’re buying for, what they want most, gifts you’ve gotten them, and your budget. Then, check off as you go and enjoy a more organized holiday.
    • The Christmas List (iTunes) – Keep track of stores where you’re doing holiday shopping, so you don’t waste money on shipping or trips out. It also lets you set a max spending budget and allocate how much to spend on who—so you stick to your financial goals. The lists you create are shareable so that you can loop someone else into the shopping plan too.
    • GiftPlanner (iTunes) – Track gifts for any event with GiftPlanner. Send gift cards straight from the app, bookmark online shopping items through a widget, and stay on top of your finances by balancing your budget.
    • Christmas Gift List (Android)  This app lets you budget, buy and manage your holiday shopping list. If you use it year to year, you can look up past gift history to make sure you don’t double up on the same gift. It’s also just a convenient tool to monitor your spending and gift list.
    • Christmas Gifts and Budget (Android): With this application, you can track gift ideas and your budget as you do your Christmas shopping.
    • Slickdeals (Both) Do you love a good deal? Get deal alerts to your phone on items you’re searching for, and displays handpicked deals from the Slickdeals team and deals from sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to make sure you don’t have to break your budget this holiday season.
  4. Prioritize your shopping. Now that you have a good start on your shopping list, you might notice there are a few gifts that are more specific than others. Your wife might be hoping for a new cashmere sweater, but your daughter has that particular new smartphone in mind – plus, she’d love it in that hard-to-find color. For gifts that will fly off the shelves early, make a priority to get these first. Of course, waiting for the week of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday will give you the best chance of finding a deal, but you may want to keep an eye out for savings starting now. Note which gifts on your list need early attention and which ones are more generic or flexible that can wait until later.
  5. Subscribe to stores and coupon websites. Now is the perfect time to get on the email lists of the stores where you know you’ll do most of your shopping. You’ll be first to know when they have flash sales or free shipping days. You can also follow the accounts of your favorite shops on social media for exclusive sales and promotions. Subscribe to coupon and cash back websites and sign up for alerts now, and you’ll have all the best deals hitting your inbox directly – the perfect solution when you need an idea for the sibling who has everything.

See, that wasn’t too hard. Now that you spent a little time getting organized for the holidays, you can go back to enjoying fall.




Squash Marital Money Squabbles

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Couple having not enough money for bills

According to a Money Magazine poll of married couples over age 25 with household incomes of $50,000 or more, 70 percent of couples argue about money more than other topics. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid common trip wires and help defuse money arguments before they blow up.

Money talks. Personalities, childhood experiences, spending and lifestyle habits all create differences in attitudes and behavior with money. Discuss these differences openly to deepen understanding.

No secrets. The most common money secrets among couples include hiding cash, minor purchases, and bills, as well as setting up secret bank accounts or credit cards. Keeping secrets creates stress. Maintain transparency to keep your relationship healthy.

Budget building. Budgeting — and sticking to the budget — is one of the best ways to prevent arguments and avoid too much debt. Since an agreed-upon budget is an objective measurement, budgeting can help establish a financial foundation, foster teamwork, promote living within your means and create goals. Ease the process with budgeting tools and apps.

Make allowances. Like budgeting, joint bank accounts foster openness and teamwork. But sharing every penny, especially when you have different spending habits, can cause problems. Budgeting a little every month for each person to spend on “whatever” promotes a sense of personal freedom.

Manage together. Sharing the responsibility, rather than one partner handling the finances, helps avoid misunderstandings and mistrust. Moreover, if an illness or death occurs in a couple, the remaining partner is acutely aware of how to manage the household finances.

Get advice. The perspective of a professional financial advisor or coach can help you set realistic goals, educate on options, promote collaboration, diffuse potentially tense conversations and often save you money in the long run.

Everyone has a unique way of looking at money, so remember to see discussions as an ongoing opportunity to deepen your perspective about each other and your relationship, not as an opportunity to prove a point.

Sources: Reader’s Digest, Psychology Today
Some of the material contained in this newsletter has been prepared by an independent third-party provider. The material provided is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment, financial, real estate and/or mortgage advice. Although the material is deemed to be accurate and reliable, there is no guarantee it is without errors.