- Do set a budget. Christmas isn't a time to go wild and spend money on presents you can't afford. Sure, it's a time to be generous, but remember to be kind to yourself first and don't empty out your wallet. Start making a list of people you're giving gifts to and set a cap on how much you're going to spend on them.
- Do consider giving homemade gifts. Personally, I tend to appreciate the gift more when it's homemade because it shows a lot of thought and effort on the gift-giver's part. Here are some incredible ideas.
- Do be smart about regifting. If you're planning on regifting, remember to avoid major no-nos, such as giving a used item and giving the gift to a friend of a friend. Regifting a bottle of wine is always your safest bet, but do remember to do it with a personal touch like a small card.
- Do get a gift receipt. If you're purchasing something for your friend, make sure you ask the salesperson to include a gift receipt. It's just a polite gesture, and you know your money won't go to waste because if your friend doesn't like the gift, she can just exchange it.
- Do put thought into your gift. If you like something, that doesn't mean that your recipient is going to like it, too. Take some time to really think about what she likes and what her interests are. Here are a list of thoughtful gifts that won't break the bank if you need ideas. Don't get her a generic gift, and reflect back on your previous conversations to see if she talked about a certain item she's been wanting to get. A good idea is to check out her Pinterest profile to see if she lists products she wants, and Etsy also has a great suggestions for gifts .
If you're trying to figure out what to fill someone's stocking with, why not save your money and make these stocking stuffers instead? And don't worry if you're not a crafter; many of these DIYs are easy and don't take up too much time.
- 20 eco-friendly ways to save money this holiday season — All You
- The best way to pack a suitcase — Real Simple
- Why self-employment can sabotage your retirement — LearnVest
- Ways to pass off store-bought goodies as homemade — HuffPost Women
- How to stay productive on a 4-to-6-hour sleep cycle — Lifehacker
- 50 ways to walk more — Wise Bread
- What to do when breaking your lease — The Billfold
- 10 habits of high net-worth women — DailyWorth
- Tip what you can afford. If you can't afford to tip, think about alternatives such as homemade gifts or baked goods to show your appreciate.
- See tip sheets. Unsure of how much to give? Check out online tip sheets. Consumer Reports has a brief list of tipping practices cobbled together from results of a holiday tipping survey.
- Who to tip. When thinking about who you should tip, you need to consider a couple factors — how much you interact with people, how long you've known them, and the quality of the service they provide.
- Check company policies. Even if you want to tip someone, you may not be able to because of company policies. Make sure you check with the firm about gift giving or tipping rules to see what's appropriate to give during this time. If it isn't allowed, be sure to just express your heartfelt thanks verbally.
- Add a note. Whether you're tipping or gifting, EmilyPost.com recommends to add a handwritten note of appreciation. Two to three sentences will suffice.
The holidays are a great time to acknowledge people's efforts and show gratitude so don't shy away from the opportunity to do so! Who do you usually tip during the holidays and how much do you tip?
The following guest post was written by Emily K. Wolman, the editor at large for Lonely Planet.
When people discover that I work at Lonely Planet, one if the predictable questions I get is, “Oh, perfect! I’m dying to take an epic trip next year… where should I go?” This usually sparks quite a lengthy conversation, but this time it’s simple, because we just released Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014, our ninth-annual hit list of places to go in the coming year. After some feverish debate, our travel experts have singled out the most essential global destinations and experiences for 2014.
What made the cut? Well, one of 2014’s most unmissable cities is Riga, Latvia, the cosmopolitan cornerstone of the Baltics. Over the past few years, hipster-chic cafés, savvy-gourmet eateries, and denizen-filled wine bars have invigorated the city center. Crumbling Iron Curtain–era facades are being restored to their brilliant, Art Nouveau luster, and Riga’s Unesco-protected castle core is being further protected. To top it off, the EU designated Riga the European Capital of Culture for 2014, which means it will explode with cultural events and festivals, and gain even more well-deserved international acclaim.
Weighing in at number six on the top 10 countries list is Mexico, whose global image is on the cusp of change as its economy continues to rebound, and it welcomes travelers with beauty, adventure, and optimism galore.
The tourism scene is booming: In addition to renowned attractions like Mayan temples, Caribbean beaches and Oaxaca's mole, there are major new Maya museums in Cancún and Mérida, plus the installation of Latin America’s longest ziplines above the Copper Canyon.
Of the world’s top 10 regions to visit, Hokuriku, Japan, is a place to experience the historic heartland of Zen Buddhism while breathing in culture, history, and striking natural beauty.
The city of Kanazawa and the surrounding area are filled with beautiful temples, castles, gardens, dramatic mountain scenery, and sumptuous onsen (hot springs). In 2015, Kanazawa will get a meteoric boost in visitation thanks to the region’s first shinkansen (bullet train) rolling into town. Until it arrives, the atmospheric city – second only to Kyoto for its population of authentic working geisha – and much of Hokuriku are affordable and light on tourists, so come experience it before you have to share it with everybody else.
When times are tight, look to our recommendations for 2014’s best value destinations. Wallet-friendly winners include:
• The Greek Islands, whose recent economic woes translate into lower visitor numbers and affordable prices – yet the same stunning beaches, sights, and cuisine as ever.
• While you can’t get everywhere in Ethiopia on $30 a day, you can see many of its highlights – Blue Nile Falls, Lake Tana monasteries, the rock-hewn wonders of Lalibela, and much more – by taking great-value and time-saving flights along its Historic Route.
• The Philippines’ most sparsely populated region, Palawan, is no secret, but it rewards those who visit with jungle rivers, limestone cliffs, stunning beaches, and standout attractions like the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Bacuit Archipelago, all available at competitive prices.
• And Bulgaria has managed to stave off the Eastern European inflation and tourist crowds, but not for much longer: The Black Sea beaches, unspoiled mountains, remote villages, enchanting monasteries and churches, ancient ruins, and rich traditions of religious art and folk music are being discovered. Go now!
Happy (travels in) 2014!
Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 reveals a year's worth of the world's best destinations, journeys and experiences, inspiring travelers to step out of the ordinary and into unforgettable experiences.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but you're not going to save by drinking vodka! However, the liquor actually has a couple of household uses that will come in handy. Not to mention, you won't be splashing unnecessary money on products, and you'll be doing the environment some good because it's less toxic. Invest in a bottle of cheap vodka to stretch your dollar in these ways:
- Remove a bandaid: Dab vodka onto a bandaid with a cotton swab, and you'll be able to remove it in no time.
- Clean your clothes: First, do a spot test on the piece of clothing just to be on the safe side. If the material stays in the same condition, spray vodka on the outfit. It'll keep your clothes fresh in between laundry loads and kill any lingering odors. The liquor is also a good stain remover, so dab some on stubborn stains before throwing your clothes into the washer.
- Get rid of mold: Spray it on the mold in your bathroom, and after letting it soak in for a good while, wipe it clean. The alcohol will kill the mold.
- DIY deodorant: Make your own natural deodorant with this recipe, which includes vodka, water, and essential oils.
- Prevent flowers from wilting: Add a few drops of vodka into your flower vase to preserve your lovely bouquet. Vodka lengthens the life of the blooms because it inhibits ethylene production, which is what helps the plant mature, according to the Scientific American.
- Repel insects: Use vodka as an ingredient for a bug repellent. DIYlife.com recommends to mix it with apple cider vinegar and drops of citronella or eucalyptus essential oil. Spray it on yourself or areas you don't want bugs to come crawling, such as your patio furniture.
- Linen spray: Make this easy and effective linen spray with vodka.
- Polish and shine: Take a piece of cloth, wet it with vodka, and clean your eyeglasses with it. Alternatively, you can also mix it with some water, then spray the liquid on windows and mirrors to make them shine. So long, Windex!
- Glue remover: Remove the sticky residue left from peeling the label off jars by rubbing the leftover glue with a soft cloth soaked in vodka. You can also use this to dissolve the sticky residue that Band-Aids leave on your skin.
- Preserve razor blades: After shaving, leave your blades in vodka for a while to disinfect and prevent them from rusting.
- Soothe stings: Pour vodka on stings ranging from poison ivy to jellyfish.
- Treat dandruff: Mix one cup vodka with two teaspoons crushed rosemary, then strain the mixture through a coffee cup filter and let it sit for two days before applying it to your head and letting the solution dry.
- Air freshener: Make air freshener with vodka as the base. Start spraying away to get rid of any odor in the room.
Remember, getting an inexpensive brand is key — you don't want to shill out big bucks and waste money on something you'll be wiping your windows with!
Here are the materials you need:
- Jar: you can use a jam, olive, or salsa jar.
- Gift card
- Hot glue gun
Along with discovering eco- and budget-friendly ways to make your life easier, I spend countless hours testing each and every DIY. Some I only use once, while others are made over and over — and over again. Here are seven that I simply can't live without.
Garbage Disposal Refreshers
I keep a stash of garbage disposal refreshers under my sink and use them all the time. OK, I use them every day. And you can mix things up and use orange or lime instead of lemon.
Once I experimented with this smart trick, I couldn't stop. Now every box of tissues in my home is wonderfully scented. And you can use essential oils other than eucalyptus. I love orange, lavender, and rosemary for a nice, uplifting smell. And, I'll be honest: I usually use at least 10 drops of essential oil for a strong scent.
Square Canvas Prints
Yes, this isn't an essential DIY, but I make these square canvas prints all the time. I use personal pictures and display them around the home or give them as gifts to friends and family. They're so easy to make, and you can use basic printer paper with great results.
I'm a busy girl, and sometimes I, um, am not the freshest. This DIY spray deodorant is my go-to when I need a little refreshing. I have a small spray bottle in the bathroom, one in all my bags, and a bottle in the kitchen (really).
This easy air freshener makes your space smell amazing in seconds. And you can personalize the scent with your favorite essential oil.
I love how cute this hand sanitizer looks in an upcycled perfume bottle, but this spray is a winner, because it cleans my hands in a pinch. And it's made with natural ingredients that do a great job of cleaning without drying my skin.
These dryer sheets come together with only a few ingredients and leave my clothes so soft — without any lingering vinegar scent. I find myself refreshing the jar every couple of weeks and often experiment with different essential oils. So far, tea tree and lavender are my favorites.
- What to buy (and avoid buying) in December — Wise Bread
- This woman went from stealing food to making six figures — DailyWorth
- Jay Z's productivity hacks — Lifehacker
- Could a common medical mishap bankrupt you? — LearnVest
- Google shares the top searched-for toys this holiday season — All You
- Simple energy-saving home fixes — Real Simple
- Feel-good gifts for the women in your life — HuffPost Women
- What DuckTales taught me about inflation — The Billfold
Remember when you were younger and you gave "coupons" to your parents for things like a free car wash? Well, this holiday season, it's time to bring those back, except in a more sophisticated, grown-up way. There are still things you can do to help your family or friends, either by taking a family portrait or booking their next vacation, at little or no cost to you. No doubt they'll appreciate the sentiment, no matter how old you are.
When it comes to enrolling for health coverage, a lot of questions may spring to your mind. LearnVest shares some tips to help you figure out which policy is best suited for you and your health needs.
Scott Kraft, a 40-year-old marathon enthusiast, spent more than a decade covering health care policy in the Washington, D.C., area as a reporter before transplanting to Portland, Ore., a few months ago with his longtime boyfriend.
But while he knows the insides and outsides of the Affordable Care Act, and appreciates that he can get access to the same insurance as his friends without asthma (a pre-existing condition), he is having a hard time making the commitment to enroll in a plan through his state’s health care exchange website (a handful of states launched their own health care exchange websites when HealthCare.gov launched, as part of the ACA).
The problem: He doesn’t know what kind of access to doctors and primary care he’ll have whether he enrolls in a premium “platinum” plan, a “gold-level” plan, a “silver-level” plan, or a basic “bronze-level” plan.
“The X Factor has been network availability,” says Kraft, who is unable to get insurance through his domestic partner’s employer because the two are not married. “I’m fairly new to Oregon, so I don’t have a network of doctors. I don’t have to worry about, ‘Will I lose my provider?’ But for all the information I can get on the site, I am struggling to find out, ‘What if I can’t find a plan … with a good doctor with an open panel?’”
Kraft’s anxiety about the actual “coverage” that comes with these plans—how easy it will be to find a doctor, make an appointment to be seen quickly and related needs — is at the heart of the uncertainty surrounding the enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange plans. So far, about 100,000 consumers have already enrolled.
Still, many of those who have or plan to soon enroll may be in for a shock when they realize that finding a great doctor and getting the care and services they need may not be as easy as picking a plan on a website—or as “affordable.”
According to a recent survey of more than 1,000 medical groups (representing more than 47,500 physicians) from the Medical Group Management Association, an organization that represents primary care physicians, 14% of physician practices currently say they won’t participate in the new health insurance exchange plans, while only about one in three practices say they definitely will.
Another 40% said they are still evaluating whether or not they will participate with health insurance exchange products. One of the biggest reasons doctors don’t want to participate: Financial burdens such as the pain-in-the-butt task of collecting payments from patients with high deductibles.
Doctor interests aside, for consumers like Kraft who want to get the most for their money when it comes to affording health care, this begs a few questions: What kind of health care coverage are you actually buying into when you purchase an exchange plan? And could it change overnight?
Here’s a closer look at coverage issues, and how to figure what insurance policy makes sense for you financially.
- Over-the-counter items: We're not allowed to spend our FSA dollars on over-the-counter medicines without prescriptions but there are plenty of nonmedicinal products that we can still use the FSA money for. For example, band aids, crutches, first aid kits, reading glasses, sunscreen, and wound are all covered under the FSA.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is covered by your FSA, so if you have a condition such as pain, consider acupuncture.
- Chiropractic: Your FSA also covers chiropractic visits, so now may be the time to schedule an appointment with your chiropractor.
- Birth control: Many contraceptives are now covered by insurance, but your preferred brand may not be. Use your FSA if your insurance doesn't cover it.
- Glasses and contact lens: Schedule a vision exam and use your FSA dollars to buy a new pair of glasses or supplies of contact lenses.
- Prescription medicine: Buy prescription medicine if it makes sense for you to do so. Most insurance policies will only let you buy a month's supply at a time, so you can't exactly stock up on medicine.
- Copayment: Your FSA will cover the copay for your prescription medicine, doctor's visit, dental visit, and vision visit. So try to go before the end of the year to spend your FSA dollars on copays.
- Laser eye surgery and Lasik: If you've been meaning to get your vision corrected with laser surgery, it's worth considering using your FSA account to do so.
- Medical monitoring and testing devices: If you need a gadget to measure and monitor your blood pressure or ovulation, perhaps it's time to buy one now. Pregnancy and glucose test kits also qualify.
- Therapy. FSA covers therapy if it's for treatment of a medical disorder.
- Massage. Your FSA may cover massage if it's for a treatment of a medical condition, so check with the FSA administrators to see if you qualify.
For a more detailed list on what's allowed, check out this list by WageWorks, and remember to always check with HR just to make certain your expenses qualify. FSA is best used when it covers items that your health insurance doesn't generally pay for. Remember to use them or you'll lose them before the year's up!
- Five ways to make your showers more productive — Lifehacker
- Rules of etiquette everyone should know (and follow!) — Wise Bread
- Holiday gift guide: 5 best mail-order companies — LearnVest
- The truth about regifting: is it ever OK? — All You
- What’s the best way to use credit card points? — Real Simple
- Credit card rewards mistakes holiday shoppers make — Credit Sesame
- Why unpaid internships negatively impact women — HuffPost Women
- Paying extra for a flight for the convenience of a better seat — The Billfold
It's always sad to see a company we love or a well-known personality go bankrupt. However, filing for bankruptcy doesn't always mean that the companies and people won't ever recover from the financial setback.
Many companies rebound after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which just means they need a little time off for some financial reorganization. A Chapter 7 filing is the one we should all be mournful for; it's the final nail in the coffin for firms. We've also seen plenty of people bounce back after bankruptcy, such as Donald Trump, who filed for bankruptcy four times but is a billionaire today.
This year, saw a drop in bankruptcies. In fact, there were 12 percent fewer commercial and personal bankruptcies in the first nine months of 2013 compared to the same period a year ago. This is definitely good news; we haven't seen as many household names on the brink of financial collapse this year compared to last year.
What was the saddest bankruptcy in 2013?
It's always nice to have a small gift for a coworker or a neighbor (like that cute guy down the hall). And this collection of $5-or-less Etsy finds is perfect for giving little trinkets this holiday season. If your gift-giving isn't limited to Christmas, then you can stash these tokens of appreciation and dole them out anytime of year.
Perfect for guys, girls, or even moms, click through for a seriously budget-friendly collection of small presents you'll love giving to others.
If you're planning to work with a tax preparer, it's important to always be honest about your money moves. Business Insider has compiled seven examples you'll want to share next time tax season rolls around.
When it comes to making your money work for you, transparency is key. Just like it's important to disclose potentially embarrassing life events to your wealth adviser, it's equally, if not more, important to be honest with your tax preparer.
However, that's not always the case. In a 2011 IRS report, twice as many Americans (eight percent) believed a little fibbing on tax returns is "fine," compared to the same survey issued in 2010.
And although it's true that the IRS doesn't exactly go after "small potatoes" taxpayers for fibs (generally, you'd need at least $1 million in assets to interest them), even a few missing details could put your refund in jeopardy.
Here are seven confessions we recommend making:
"I made a nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA."
"While nondeductible contributions have no impact on your tax liability in the year they are made, by not reporting these contributions on your return, it’s more difficult to claim these same amounts are not taxable when they’re later withdrawn from the IRA, usually many years later," says Tim Steffen, CPA and director of financial planning at Baird.
"I've earned income outside of my regular 9-to-5 job."
Whether it's a lawn-mowing service you keep on the side, or a freelance writing gig at your local newspaper, any additional income will need to be reported on your tax forms.
We know. It's a pain to gather all your 1099 forms and keep track of every dollar and cent that you've earned yourself, but it's a big red flag to potential auditors if you don't. At least 4 million people were audited in 2010 for underreporting their income, according to Minyanville.
The IRS uses document-matching programs that let agents cross-check income reported on tax returns against what is reported on forms like a W-2, 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, and 1099-B.
Now that Black Friday is finally over, it's time to take advantage of Cyber Monday sales. Check out what's in store for consumers today (keep watching this space as we continue to update the list):
- Orbitz: 20 percent off the best hotel deals with the code CHEERS. Promo ends Dec. 3.
- Travelocity: Save up to 50 percent on hotels and flight and hotel packages. Get $100 off $1,000 toward a flight and hotel package with the code TURKEY100. Promo ends Dec. 2.
- Alaska Airlines: One-way fares start from as low as $49.
- Southwest: $100-or-less one-way tickets for travel Dec. 24, 25, and 31, 2013, and Jan. 1, 2014.
- Virgin America: Book today with the code GAMEPLANE, and you'll get up to 20 percent off main cabin fares for travel between Dec. 18, 2013, and March 6, 2014.
- Priceline: Save up to 55 percent on hotels. Save an extra 10 percent off hotels with the code CYBER13.
- Shopbop: From Nov. 26 to Dec. 2, Shopbop and its menswear counterpart, East Dane, are offering a tiered promotional sale. A $250 purchase will get you 15 percent off, a $500 buy will save you 20 percent, and if you drop $1,000, you'll get 25 percent off.
- BaubleBar: Enjoy
20 percent off sitewide if you head over to BaubleBar on Cyber Monday.
- : Shop online with 1960House of Harlow 1960 through Dec. 2, and you'll get 25 percent off with the code BLACKHOH.
- Rebecca Minkoff: Shop sitewide to participate in Rebecca Minkoff's tiered promotional sale. Spend $200 for 20 percent off, $400 for 25 percent off, and $600 for 30 percent off, plus receive a special gift with your purchase!
- Century 21: If you're a loyalty customer, you're in luck! You can score one already-discounted designer piece for an additional 25 percent off through Dec. 2.
- Bluefly: A $200-or-more purchase will get you $40 off your entire order plus free shipping.
- BeachMint: From Black Friday through Cyber Monday, receive 50 percent off sitewide.
- TUMI: Cyber Monday is the only day you can purchase your suitcase in this limited-edition camo print.
- Urban Outfitters: On Cyber Monday only, Urban Outfitters is offering a tiered promotional sale. A $75 purchase will get you $15 off, a $100 purchase will get you $25 off, and a $150 purchase will get you $50 off plus free shipping.
- Rent the Runway: In need of a holiday dress? Enjoy 20 percent off your purchase. If you spend over $150, you'll also receive a pair of Moschino headphones, designed exclusively for Rent the Runway.
- Yoox.com: Shop the Fall and Winter Collection now through Cyber Monday with up to 40 percent off pieces by Lanvin, Emporio Armani, Valentino, and many more.
- DVF: Get 30 percent off wear-now styles from the Fall 2013 collection through Cyber Monday. And take an additional 10 percent off on Cyber Monday using the code EXTRA10.
Vince Camuto: Take up to 40 percent off regularly priced items and 50 percent off sale items with code BFRIDAY online through Cyber Monday.
- Diesel: Take advantage of up to 40 percent off select items from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
- Urban Outfitters: Stop by today, and take $50 off $150, $25 off $100, or $15 off $75 plus free shipping on all orders; no code necessary.
- Express: Take advantage of 40 percent off sitewide plus free shipping; no code necessary.
- Alice + Olivia: Take advantage of an extra 25 percent off sitewide through Cyber Monday; no code required.
- Forever 21: Get 50 percent off sales items and 50 percent off all boots and bags.
- ASOS: 30 percent off everything with code GIMMEMORE.
- Modcloth: Get 30 percent off sitewide with code ROBOPUG.
- Ahava: From Nov. 27 to Dec. 2, you'll get 40 percent off sitewide. You can also get a hand-cream gift set for $18 (originally $42).
- Birchbox: When you buy $55 worth of full-size products, you can get an exclusive Rebecca Taylor makeup bag for free. Just type in REBECCAGIFT.
- Bliss: Save 20 percent on full-size bottles of Elemis and Remede products.
- Bobbi Brown: You'll get five free samples with any order on Cyber Monday only.
- The Body Shop: Save 50 percent on the entire site, and get free shipping with a purchase of $30 or more.
- Chanel: For Cyber Monday, Chanel is offering a special set of polishes.
- Clarisonic: Pick up the new Mia First for only $99 from Nov. 26 through Dec. 5 as well as on Dec. 9, Dec. 26, and Jan. 5.
- Dr. Brandt: It's all about the eyes! With this deal, you'll get 40 percent off eye cream and a bonus BB or CC cream when you spend $150.
- Drybar: All bundles are 20 percent off!
- Elf: 50 percent off any purchase of $30 or more.
- First Aid Beauty: On Cyber Monday only, get free shipping and 30 percent off your purchase.
- FragranceNet.com: New shoppers can get 20 percent off your purchase plus a free gift with purchase if you like FragranceNet.com on Facebook.
- Go Smile: Buy the Smile Whitening Light System for only $69 (originally $129).
- H2O+: With any purchase of $100 or more, you'll get $25 off. Plus, receive a free gift with purchase when you shop from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.
- Make Up For Ever: Get two full-size Aqua Shadows for $10 at Sephora.
- Prescriptives: 30 percent off sitewide and free shipping.
- StriVectin: With the code CMJINGLE25, you can receive 25 percent off a cart of $200 or more.
- Shu Uemura: Treat yourself to an extra 20 percent off and free shipping on orders over $50, and get 25 percent off orders over $100 through Cyber Monday. Don't forget to use the code SUGAR.
- Urban Decay: The brand is bringing back a fan-favorite book of shadows from 2011, and it will only be $25.
Check out POPSUGAR Beauty's full list for a more extensive array of Cyber Monday deals.