6 Ways to Stay Out of Debt this Holiday Season

Once the holiday season rolls around, chances are your budget changes almost immediately. There’s a lot more spending and a lot less saving going on.

 

Not only do you purchase gifts for loved ones, but you probably also buy extra food or specialty food, and spend money on entertaining and decorations. Everything about the holiday season invites you to spend more money. It’s easy to let things get out of hand and start racking up the debt.

You don’t have to, though. In fact, many of us plan to avoid debt this holiday season. If you want to join us, here are some of the best strategies for doing just that.

1. Set a Reasonable Budget

Many people start out by listing the gifts they want to purchase for everyone. This is a short road to frustration, throwing your hands up and pulling out the credit cards. Instead, figure out a realistic holiday budget for every aspect of your holiday spending. Make a food budget, wrapping paper budget, gift budget and decoration budget.

Once you have your budget created, you can fit everything into it. Don’t start out by listing what you think you need for the holidaysd. Instead, start out by acknowledging your financial resources. You might be surprised at what you can leave off your list.

For next year, start budgeting much earlier. If you find yourself in a bind this year, create a plan for next year and start implementing it early. Add up what you spent this year and add 10 percent. Make a plan to set aside money in a high-yield savings account each month from February to October. That way, when the holidays arrive next year, you have the money.

. Look for Good Deals

There are a number of tools that make price matching easy during the holidays. Smart phone apps, price trackers and price matching can help you find the best deals of the holiday season.

Go to the dollar store to look for deals on stocking stuffers, wrapping paper (and gift bags), decorations and greeting cards. You can also find great deals on tablecloths, disposable place settings and napkins — perfect for entertaining.

One of my favorite ways to save money on the holidays is to wait until January to buy decorations, wrapping paper and greeting cards. All of these items are drastically discounted after the holidays.

3. Be Grateful You Missed the Black Friday Hype

Did you know that one of the best times to buy small consumer electronics is early December? Making these purchases on Black Friday won’t help you much. In fact, shopping on Black Friday might be a waste of time. Many stores offer better prices on popular items throughout the year. Also consider staying home and shopping online. The deals are just as good — or better — and many online retailers offer free shipping.

Consumer Reports offers a great of the best times to buy certain items, Shop for the holidays year-round, and you might get better deals than you’d get on Black Friday.

4. Get Creative with Your Entertaining

You don’t have to put together a huge fancy party for the holidays. If you don’t want to break the budget on a sit-down dinner, have an evening party with dessert. You can consider such ideas as a potluck, in which everyone brings something, or a progressive dinner, in which a portion of the dinner is served at a different home.

In many large families, it is common to draw names for gifts, rather than require everyone to get gifts for everyone else. This can help everyone stick to a budget. Another fun way to approach gift-giving is to require a homemade holiday. There are many great ideas for homemade, heartfelt gifts that don’t cost much to make but that convey a lot of love.

5. Use Credit Card Rewards

Now is the perfect time to use your credit card rewards. You’ve been earning them all year, so use them now. Track all your spending, and stick to your holiday budget, but pay with your credit card. Redeem your rewards for a statement credit to help pay down the credit card. Of course, using your credit card only works if you can pay off the balance — through a combination of statement credit and cash on hand — without incurring interest.

Some credit cards allow you to redeem your rewrds for gift cards. If this is a possibility (and especially if you get a bonus for choosing gift cards), redeem your rewards and then do a portion of your holiday shopping with the gift card. For holiday travelers, now is a good time to redeem for airfare and hotel rewards.

6. Just Say No

The holidays do not have to be a reason to spend money you don’t have. Talk to relatives and agree either not to exchange gifts or draw names so that each person only buys one. Alternatively, you could refuse to celebrate the holidays by racing around looking for gifts at crazy prices that your relatives and friends probably don’t need in the first place.

With the right approach to the holidays, you can save money and avoid debt. Come January, you won’t have any bills to fear.

This insightful article was culled from Rob Berger, an attorney and founder of the popular personal finance and investing blog doughroller.net. He is also the editor of the Dough Roller Weekly Newsletter, a free newsletter covering all aspects of personal finance and investing.

 

10 Tips for Business Gift Giving

It's the holiday season, and for many of us that means considering gifts for employees, clients, referral sources, colleagues and others. Deciding on a gift for someone is a personal choice. Research and thought will make selecting a gift easier and more appropriate for the person and occasion. Remember the spirit of giving is what matters! Some gift givers spend time and energy trying to find just the right gift. The following are a few suggestions to keep the season jolly:

1. Check with HR before sending a gift. While there is little risk in sending someone a Christmas card, many companies have policies regarding employees’ receipt of gifts.Some organizations, including many government agencies, frown on gifts and maintain clear restrictions, most of which are designed to avoid the appearance of graft or special favor.

2. Use caution when giving gifts inside your company. While it may seem the most natural thing in the world, giving gifts to colleagues and staff presents noteworthy pitfalls.  For example, you can engender resentment if you offer gifts to subordinates or co-workers while neglecting others, or give one individual a gift perceived to be superior to those given others. The best solutions are to either 1) give everyone an identical item or 2) Establish a “secret Santa”-type gift exchange, in which every participant draws the name of a single recipient and there is a pre-set dollar limit for purchasing a gift.

3. Give fewer, nicer gifts rather than numerous cheap ones. There is no obligation to give a gift to anyone, and it can be stressful trying to find something appropriate for multiple individuals. Therefore, it usually makes sense to carefully consider your business relationships and identify a small number of high priority recipients (such as important clients).  Better to give fewer, nicer things to fewer, more carefully considered recipients.

4. Be careful with branded promo items .  There is a place for promotional items like tee shirts and coffee mugs, but not necessarily as a holiday gift. You want to actually touch someone emotionally by demonstrating thought and caring. You don’t want to risk having them feel like a communications channel in a marketing campaign.  There are exceptions, of course, such as if the branded item is rare or particularly special.

5. Avoid items such like wine, spirits or cigars…unless you know the recipient well.  Such a gift presents obvious risks, especially if you are unsure whether the recipient will truly appreciate it.  You also want to be sure such items are not considered inappropriate by the recipient’s co-workers or in violation of company policy.

6. Avoid the overly personal…and especially the suggestive.  These are business relationships, and should reflect a sense of professionalism. Perfume and lingerie are just not appropriate in a business context. They send the wrong message to both the recipient and his or her colleagues.

7. Consider how the gift’s packaging will reflect on you.  While the gift itself is the key consideration, high quality packaging can make a favorable impression and demonstrate your taste and discernment.

8. While food items remain popular, be mindful of spoilage.  Gourmet food, desserts, coffees and teas in gift baskets continue to be popular among both givers and receivers – especially if you confirm the recipient is an enthusiast of, say, pate or gourmet tea.  (Cookies and pastries are usually unobjectionable.) But be cautious with food items, especially if you plan to mail or ship them.  Make sure to choose items that won’t melt or spoil if they are not opened relatively quickly.

9. Strive for something unusual and personalized. Though it usually requires the giver to devote careful consideration or even conduct a little research, the best gift is one the recipient really wants to receive. “The secret to being a good gift giver…is to give them what they want,” says Dr. Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago and co-author of the study referenced in the Wall Street Journalarticle.

10. Consider gift cards if you have numerous recipients. While not particularly personal and unlikely to impress important clients or referral sources, these are often popular with audiences such as employees. Moreover, they won’t break the bank if you have a lot of people to recognize.

 

10 Creative Ways to Thank Your Clients this Thanksgiving

 

1. Stand out by stepping back from technology and sending a hand-written note

2. Showcase your customers on social media, in-store displays, or email

3. Give loyal customers an out-of-the-blue exclusive discount

4. Make a short video thanking fans and share it via social media and email

5. Host an exclusive after-hours shopping event for loyal customers

6. Organize a customer-appreciation event (Make sure there’s dessert!)

7. Offer top customers an extra 5 to 10 percent off existing sales

8. Respond graciously in person or online to customer comments

9. Hold an educational event about the most interesting parts of your industry

10. Celebrate customer milestones by sending them a note or present

 

Does 'back to school' mean back to work for you?

The end of summer can be tough for some entrepreneurs and business people — between the kids being out of school and the glorious weather that beckons you outside, it’s surprising that anything gets done. Now that the kids are back in school so it’s time to get back to business bigtime!

1. Start with a Clean Slate — Clean up your office, clear out your inbox, get your work systems running again. Don’t let this take forever though. Give it a day or two tops before you roll up your sleeves and really get down to business (you know, the stuff that pays the bills)!

2. Get Back in the Habit — Shift your thinking from the summertime “anything goes” mindset to “get organized so you can get things done” frame of mind. That means getting back in the habit of reviewing your schedule before the new wekk begins and scheduling your projects and tasks in your calendar.

3. Set and Stick to Due Dates — Hold yourself to a timeframe for each and every task. Yes, it was nice to let things go and dilly-dally through your to-do list all summer long, but now it’s time to get back into your get-it-done pace.

4. Review you Why  — Revisit your goals! Why are you building your business to begin with or work at the job that you do? Is it to be able to be in control of your own time?  Is it to create financial security for yourself and your family? Remembering your purpose is the best way to move from where you are now to where you want to be.

5. Refresh Your Relationships - Haven't seen Bob since early June? Haven't spoken to Jody from Blumfield Inc. recently? Now's the time to refresh those business relationships that may have lagged and share a few summer vacation galavantings with your clients and colleagues.

 

3 Sweet Wedding Colour Combos

Orange + Green Color Scheme

This classic and bold color pair is perfect for any time of year. For a summer wedding, white accents will keep the color scheme bright; add in brown hues for a winter wedding to create a warm and pleasant color scheme. In this color combination, orange flowers will stand out. Our favorite picks are roses, calla lilies, and dahlias.

 

Light Pink + Brown Color Scheme

This light and neutral color scheme is perfect for a wedding any time of year. Use brown as the foundation color for table linens and bridesmaid dresses; accent with pink flowers such as roses, peonies, and ranunculus. Both of the colors will look great on stationery; to create a classic look, use brown paper with a pretty pink monogram.

 

Purple + Blue Color Scheme

These pretty colors will add the perfect touch to a spring or summer wedding. We suggest mixing deep purples and light blues for an elegant color combo; don't be afraid to mix both colors in your bouquets. When figuring out which blues to use in your color palette, lay them out side by side to ensure everything is cohesive.

Gift Ideas for an August Birthday

Finding the best gift ideas for an August birthday can put you in a tight spot particularly when you just don't know what to get someone.However there are a few solutions that could work since it is summer. As simple as this may be, you can show that you car by planning a delivery of or sending a bouquet of fresh cut flowers or a live plant. Plants are widely popular August birthday gifts because they can last for quite some time and are a "natural" reminder of your thoughtfulness.

Green is all around us during the summertime but it is a special hue to those born in August as their birthstone is the peridot, an olive-green gemstone. As one of the few gemstones in nature to appear in only one colour, the peridot is as special as the people it represents.

Consider buying jewelry or collectibles with an August birthstone in modern peridot or jade; the traditional is the sardonyx; and the mystical stone is the diamond. These are meant to represent courage for those born in August.

If all else fails, you can also send the birthday boy or girl a bouquet of poppies in honor of August's official birth flower.

Summer Safety Tips for You (Yes, You!)

I know what some of you may be thinking: what does summer safety have to do with gift solutions and vice versa? Well, as a 15-year health and safety veteran, the subject is never far from my mind. Now that summertime is here, there are a few things you should remember about staying cool, healthy and safe while enjoying the season. 

The following information is from Toronto Public Health and the 
Emergency Medical Services (EMS): In the summer, the combination of 
high heat and humidity can be very dangerous. 
People at risk during these weather conditions include: 
• People with disabilities and/or people who have diabetes, heart and 
respiratory conditions
• The elderly
• Infants and preschool children
• People taking certain medications, for example, mental health 
conditions. For partial list of medications that may cause higher risk 
for heat-related illness please see 
Tips on how to avoid heat-related illness: 
• Drinks lots of water and natural fruit juices even if you don’t feel very 
thirsty.
• If you don’t have air conditioning, keep drapes drawn and blinds 
closed on the sunny side of your home, but keep windows slightly 
open.
• Fans alone may not provide enough cooling when the temperature is 
high.
• Go to air conditioned or cool places such as shopping malls, libraries, 
community centres or a friend’s place.
• Spend some time near the lake or waterfront where it is cooler.
• Wear loose fitting, light clothing.
• Keep lights off or turned down low.
• Take a cool bath or shower periodically or cool down with cool, wet 
towels. 
• Avoid alcoholic beverages, coffee and cola.
• Avoid going out in the blazing sun or heat when possible. If you must 
go outside, stay in the shade as much as possible and plan to go out 
early in the morning or evening when it is cooler & smog levels may 
not be as high in the afternoon. Wear a hat.
• Avoid heavy meals and using your oven.
• Avoid intense or moderately intense physical activity.
• Never leave a child in a parked car or asleep in direct sunlight.
• Consult your doctor or pharmacist regarding the side effects of any medications you may be taking
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