- 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 .
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.
- Cover all your bases. If you're up to speed on the different ways to research Cyber Monday deals, then you'll be way ahead of the curve. Bookmark sites like CyberMonday.com, download apps like TGI Cyber Monday, sign up for newsletters to alert you on the upcoming sales, and follow stores on Twitter and Facebook for potentially exclusive social-media deals.
- Research products, not just prices. It may sound obvious, but researching items is essential before the big day rolls around. One of the downfalls about the Cyber Monday is that you can't test or see a product in person; knowing as much as you can by talking to friends who own the items or reading vetted online reviews is key.
- Take advantage of reward points. Last year, many companies offered ways to maximize travel reward points on Cyber Monday. Shop certain deals to get you that much closer to a much-needed vacation.
- Remember shipping costs. When you spot an amazing deal, it's easy to forget about the shipping fees. Make sure you know ahead of time which sites offer free shipping, or compare shipping prices so you don't overspend.
- Beware of scams. Cyber Monday isn't just a holiday for shoppers — scammers love it, too. Only give up your credit card information to trusted, established sites, and don't fall prey to any fishy emails that offer too-good-to-be-true deals.
With less than a month until Christmas, there will be plenty of holiday shopping in the coming weeks. Wise Bread breaks down the sensation of cash-back shopping and shares some tips for those wanting to sign up.
In the past 15 years, cash back sites have paid their customers hundreds of millions of dollars. Those customers shopped the same kinds of stores that you do: department stores, toy stores, pet stores, etc. The difference is that they stopped by a cash back site first and clicked a link. That one step — one that added only a few seconds to the shopping process — meant they were paid for their purchases.
RELATED: 5 Best Cash Back Cards
Too Good to Be True?
Some people think that cash back shopping can't be real, that it must be some sort of a scam. I'm here to tell you that it's a legitimate way to get more bang for your shopping buck.
It's all thanks to the wonder of affiliate marketing.
Cash back sites have affiliate relationships with the stores they list. The stores provide special links for each affiliate, so that they can track the origin of a purchase. Whichever site generated the order receives a commission.
It's important to note that rebate sites aren't stores' only affiliate partners. Most deal and coupon sites, many bloggers, and even some search engine results use affiliate links. Many product reviews also contain them.
The difference is cash back sites share a cut of their commission with you.
You could spend weeks researching your Black Friday hit list, but once you're past the doors, it's a whole different ball game. To ensure that you're as prepared as you possibly can be, we've put together some in-store shopping strategies that are essential for getting the best deals.
- Prioritize, and stick to, your list. Whether you use an app like Black Friday or prefer writing on a piece of paper, make a list starting with the items you want most. You'll be less disappointed if something runs out at the bottom of your list than at the top. And remember to stick to it. Once you're in the store, you'll be tempted by other too-good-to-be-true prices, but unless you absolutely can't live without an item, don't go overboard.
- Bring your own shopping bag. Grab a tote bag before you head out the house if you know you'll be shopping smaller items like jewelry. If hand baskets run out, which very well may happen, you don't want to be left with your hands too full to keep shopping.
- Involve friends and family. Not only will you be able to spread out and tackle multiple items, but also, you can count it as a bonding activity. Think of all the stories you'll be able to share after a crazy day of shopping.
- Pretend like you're going on a road trip. OK, not literally, but prepare in the same way you would for a long drive. Pack enough snacks and water for stamina, and make sure to dress appropriately and comfortably. Now's probably not the time to break in your new pair of heels.
- Check the return policy. Before you purchase, ask what the store's return policy is on Black Friday deals. It might be different than the store's policy the rest of the year, and you don't want to be stuck with an item you paid big bucks for and no longer want.
- Keep calm and shop on. We've all heard stories of Black Friday nightmares, but as long as you keep your cool and don't let the craziness get to you, you'll be on your best game and might actually enjoy it so much that you'll look forward to next year.
- Support the local mom and pops. Instead of going to the big-box stores, go to your local neighborhood store. "You never get service quite like you do by shopping local and you generally avoid lines," says Holliday, who does 30 percent of his shopping at these small businesses.
- Shop online. The price difference between in-store Black Friday goods and online discounts is small enough that it's worth skipping the crazy crowds "for the few cents extra you pay." The major day for online sales is still Cyber Monday, according to Holliday.
- Small selection of good deals. Keep in mind that the in-store Black Friday best deals are only for about "ten major items."
- Do research. If you are planning on going to a Black Friday sale, do your research ahead of time by going to sites such as TheBlackFriday.com to see what goods are available. Craft a list of things you want to get and make sure it's worth it before shopping Black Friday.
- Visit the target shops before Thanksgiving. Go to the shops (and don't pick more than four) you're planning on hitting for Black Friday and take notes on the layout. Ask employees where they are planning on placing certain items so you'll be one the first to snag the products. You should do it the day before Thanksgiving, which is today, because that's when the stores start setting everything up or "at least walking the floor in preparation."
- Don't fill the cart. " . . . there are like a handful of items sold on Black Friday that are truly 'deals'. So, don't do it." Focus on getting the great items you planned to purchase, and then leave as soon as you've accomplished that. The fillers can be bought another time.
Despite giving several in-store Black Friday shopping strategies, Holliday emphasizes that the smart thing to do is skip the Black Friday sales and buy everything online. Shopping from the comfort of my computer without having to deal with frenzied bargainistas? Sounds like a good idea to me!
- Max it out: Plan ahead by determining how much you feel comfortable spending on hosting Thanksgiving and stick to it. Cut back on items that may be a splurge, such as specialty ingredients or expensive table decorations, and focus on what is essential for the holiday celebration.
- Delegate: When inviting friends and family, ask them to bring something that enhances the meal — and also cuts down on your spending. From a bottle of wine to a purchased pumpkin pie, requesting guests to provide Turkey Day essentials lets everyone feel as though they helped make the day special.
Saving for retirement takes time, commitment, and of course, money. LearnVest shares how one woman managed to max out her retirement savings on a salary of only $28,000.
After my first summer job as a day-care assistant in high school, I followed my father’s advice and opened a Roth IRA with a $250 deposit and rosy dreams of retiring at 30 years old (hey, I was 16!).
Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I didn’t take this responsibility lightly. I knew from my dad’s ongoing retirement lectures that to retire at all, I would probably have to contribute significant money for years to come.
With that in mind, I made a promise to myself: As soon as I got my first salaried job (that would of course net me six figures per year and be hopelessly fabulous), I would start maxing out my Roth IRA. Between the time I opened the account and the time I started that job, I would contribute what I could, which ended up being another couple hundred dollars each year. While it wasn’t much, every dollar was a dollar closer to being able to retire.
Flash forward seven years, when I landed my first salaried position as a PR associate for a gross income of $28,000—which, after taxes, left me with just under $2,000 per month to live on. Needless to say, my career was anything but “six figures and hopelessly fabulous.”
It’s hard enough to just get by on $28,000 per year in Atlanta—even harder to save the just around $420 a month it would take to max out my IRA at $5,000 per year. (The 2013 limit is now $5,500 per year.) I knew that I’d have to put forth herculean effort to achieve this goal, but I somehow made it happen, and I’ve managed to max out my Roth IRA three out of the past four years. And, despite the fact that my salary is nearly double what it used to be, I still live my life by the principles I share below.
If you feel like I did—like you couldn’t possibly save for retirement, because you just don’t have any money—you aren’t alone, and it isn’t impossible. This is how I did it, and how it may be possible for you too.
1. Change Your Priorities
The truth about living on a small salary is that you should prioritize what you truly need and want, because a limited amount of money only goes so far. If you don’t prioritize actively, you will probably do it subconsciously, meaning you’re likely to prioritize what feels good and is convenient, rather than things that require greater planning.
For my first year in my salaried job, my priority was to max out my Roth IRA. This was no mere dream, or a hope that the money would show up somehow. It was a deliberate choice. Making saving a priority (the priority) meant that not only did I cut back on the obvious financial drains like dining out and clothes shopping, but I had to overcome my subconscious priorities, the ones I didn’t even realize I had—like maintaining appearances.
Six months into my new lifestyle, one of my girlfriends got married out of state and invited me to the nuptials. I totaled up the cost of the weekend affair, including plane tickets, hotel room, rental car, food and gifts: roughly $1,500. It would have been so easy to say yes, suck up the costs and go have a good time. I wanted to do what was expected of me by the bride, my friends and my ego. But I also knew that it would take away from honoring my priorities.
So I didn’t go. I saved instead. The bride was understanding, but it didn’t soften the blow I felt to my ego. With mixed emotions, I sent along a card and a gift certificate to a store on her registry, knowing in my gut that it was the right thing to do. When you have decided that saving is a priority, your goal may come at the expense of some obvious—and some not-so-obvious—lifestyle choices. You should prioritize saving anyway.
We don't blame you if the thought of Black Friday induces feelings of sheer panic, what with all the crowds and the chaos. But taking part in the shopping holiday comes with benefits other than getting a huge discount on coveted items. Here are a few reasons that might just change a skeptic's mind.
- It's a tradition. These days, Black Friday is as much of a ritual as having Thanksgiving dinner. The day only comes around once a year, and for all the planning and research that goes into it, it should be something to look forward to. If you're not someone who shops most of the year, this is your chance to go a little retail crazy.
- Go for the bonding. Chances are you go Black Friday shopping with your closest family and friends. That gives you plenty of time to spend together: chatting while you wait in long lines, asking one another for opinions, and sharing stories once it's all over. Let the day create a sense of togetherness.
- All about the rush. Let's be honest: there's something exciting about snatching up a great deal before anyone else does. A dose of friendly competition every now and then is perfectly healthy.
- Knock out holiday gift shopping. Braving the crowds is a good decision, if for no other reason than you can buy presents for family and friends in one outing. Shopping in store means you can see and try out items yourself without worrying about how they're going to look when they come in the mail. More likely than not, you'll find gifts for everyone from grandma to your best friend at a great price, and afterward, you can cross shopping off your list.
Shopping for the holidays can easily become an expensive endeavor. Business Insider has compiled five tips to help successfully stay on budget as you buy gifts for your loved ones this holiday season.
This year, holiday sales are expected to climb 3.9% to $602.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
With spending estimated at about $800 per person — a full week's pay for most Americans — it's important to get started early and come up with a plan for staying on budget.
Below, we've excerpted five simple shopping tips from the NRF:
1. Plan ahead. Make a list of absolutely everyone you need to buy for and how much you plan to spend on them before visiting any store. Be sure to remember any co-workers, teachers, and other non-family and friends. If you know who you need to buy for and how much you can afford to spend, you can make the best use of retailers ‘Buy Two Get Third Free’ type deals.
2. Comparison shop. Use the Internet to compare prices and products before setting foot in a store. Not only will you save time by researching ahead of time, you’ll also save money on gas by not driving all over town.