Holidays

Love Birds Love Saving

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. It is not just the perfect opportunity by sweet candy and delicious chocolate for your loved one, it is also another chance to spend some money!  But here is the good news; you do not have to break the bank to show your significant other how much you care.  Give this list a good once over and you will walk away with some sweet ideas.

1. Be Crafty

Homemade gifts can mean so much more than something store bought, so be creative and get crafty!  Try using a free photo editing site to do something cool with a picture of the two of you. Make a coupon book of sweet and/or romantic requests.   So have fun with this one! Check out Pinterest for some other awesome ideas.

2. Bake Away!

I do not care who you are, cookies, brownies, cake, or any other sugary treat always hits the spot.  Break out a new recipe or an old favorite and bake up some love for your love.  Someone mind passing this tip on to my boyfriend?

3. Everyone Loves a Good Movie

You and your love bird have probably seen at least 3 movies together since becoming an item.  Renting a movie on Red Box or through Netflix is inexpensive and a great way to just spend some time together.  You will make popcorn, hot chocolate, and some great memories.

4. A Walk Down Memory Lane

This tip is definitely more for the couples who have been together for at least a couple months.  Take your significant other on a walk through your relationship. Go to the place you first met, then your first date, then to the last place you were together.  You do not have to buy anything, just talk about the good memories you have from those places. You will laugh, maybe even cry, but you will definitely make some good memories.

So happy early Valentine’s Day to all the loves birds out there and give these tips, one or more, a try. Let me know how it goes!

I Love It Not…

Valentine’s Day, for some, is fondly referred to as Single’s Awareness Day. So what do all singles people do on Valentine’s Day? Well, they can wallow in self-pity or bitterness, or they can do something that shows how much they care about themselves.  What is even better is that it can be inexpensive too.

1. Polish Party.

Get a few of your single girlfriends together, bring all the nail polish you have, and take turns giving each other mani’s and pedi’s while bad mouthing all the boys who have done you wrong and what celebrity got arrested the night before.  You will not only get some polish powered confidence, but some much needed girl time therapy.  What will this cost you? Nothing, unless you need to pick up some new polish!

2. Bubble Bath… That’s Right.

Stop by your local bath and body shop and pick up some bubble bath in your favorite scent.  Nothing says relaxation more than a bubble bath.  Now light some candles, grab a book, or just turn on some soothing music and take some time for yourself.  The max this one will cost you?  $15. Try it out, you will not regret it.

3. Need a Good Cry?

Pop in Dirty Dancing or Marley and Me and enjoy some of what I so fondly refer to as movie medication.  Get your favorite drink and snack ready. Put on those pajama pants that fit just right and those fuzzy socks that you love so much and over medicate yourself to your single heart’s content.  Using Red Box?  This one will cost you a max of $5 for the movie and $20 for your drink and snacks.  Indulge a bit.

4. Go Home!

If you are a college student like me and going home is a rare luxury, plan ahead and make the trek back home.  Be around people who truly love you, aka, your parents!  If your parents are like mine, they will smother you in hugs, candy, and free food (something every college student loves.)

 

Valentine’s Day does not have to be Single’s Awareness Day.  Make Valentine’s Day about you, and tell Single’s Awareness Day where to shove it.

Party On!

Do you have any big parties coming up? Birthdays? Social Events? Anything?  Well, whether you have a reason or not, throwing a party is always a great way to get together with some friends and family. Parties are not always cheap, but with a few of these money friendly party ideas you will have some great inexpensive fun in no time!

1. Game night!

Be a kid again! You would be surprised at how much fun those old board games or other games can be.  Apples to Apples, Monopoly, video games, even hide and seek all bring back some good memories and a lot of fun with them.

2. Creativity Time.

A few friends of mine came up with this idea.  We got together with our old bikes, searched Craigslist for other bikes, and went to pawn shops and looked for bikes.  In other words, we had a lot of bikes.  Each of us then bought a can of glow in the dark paint. We spent the day together painting the bikes, and then went riding through downtown that night.    It only cost us about $25 each to buy the paint and get used (or our old) bikes. So come up with something creative!  It might not be as cool as our glow in the dark bike riding crew, but that’s just how we roll. Pun intended.

3. Cookie Trade Off

This is a good one for those with a sweet tooth.  Everyone who is invited to the party bakes enough cookies for each person to have at least 2. They then bring a copy of the recipe and everyone tries each other’s treats.  You not only satisfy that sweet tooth that you undoubtedly have but you add to your cookie repertoire.   How much will it cost you to bake a batch or 2 of cookies? Around $20, unless you pay attention to stores with good sales who do ad matching!

 

These are a few simple ideas that will get you started.  Do you have any ideas for awesome parties? Comment below and let’s hear ‘em!

Five Smart Financial Moves to Begin the New Year!

It’s a new year and with it of course, come some new resolutions on how to improve our way of life. A chief aspect that governs our lifestyles is our finances, and so outlined below are five suggested steps or areas which we need to either initiate, maintain or improve on in that particular regard.

Champagne

Savings

It would surprise many people to discover this but saving is not something that many people do. Like all good things that improve us, for saving to be effective, we need to adopt it as a habit, a mindset of sorts. Deciding that every income we get will be levied by a certain percentage which goes into untouched savings is a great first step. Follow this up with something methodical, for example, installing a standing order on your banking account so that every inflow of income that goes through it has a percentage deducted to a fixed deposit account. You will be impressed at how quickly you build your nest egg, and best of all, once the process is a habit, it simply gets stronger, securing your future.

Fiscal Planning

It is important to make sure you have filed all your tax returns, whether it is on income, property, or any other dues. This is vital because improperly filed taxes have a nasty habit of coming back to haunt you, and tend to gain interest as well. Make sure you do not owe the tax man anything.

Debt or Credit Management

Just like unpaid taxes, bad debt can be a terrible burden, particularly with rising interest rates. Calculate your total debt and start dealing with it promptly. Know to what extent you are in the red. It will give you perspective let you have a handle on what your next move should be, and it will also help you monitor interest and keep a decent credit rating, which is vital.

Investment

You will also need to look more carefully at how to invest whatever you are earning. Investment involves risk, of course, but calculated risk into assets and blue chip stocks are a safe way of managing your investment efforts. Look at solid and credible mutual fund managers as well, but do find a way to grow your hard-earned income that is significantly more effective than the comparatively low interest it will earn sitting in the bank.

Diversification of Income

Because of the current economic climate, never has the importance of income diversification been so high. Even when things improve with the global economy, having a diverse income base is always beneficial to ones lifestyle and welfare. It might not seem such a straight-forward option but you would be surprised at the areas that you can delve into and add to your own personal cash flow just by setting a few hours aside to develop a skill that is marketable or that fills a demand in the economy. Never has the proverbial statement “do not put all your eggs into one basket” been more relevant.

This Holiday Seasons Most Popular Gifts

As the Christmas and New Year holidays drew near, certain products started flying off the shelves, or more accurately, getting ordered online. In no particular order, these include:
holiday gifts

“Steve Jobs”, a book about the late Apple guru that passed away on October 5th, 2011. His impact on the world of computing and mobile devices was totally unprecedented and it was no surprise that this book, written by Walter Isaacson, was particularly popular, retailing at $17.49.

Amazon’s Kindle was another popular Christmas gift, with shoppers not being daunted at all by its $199; indeed, most considered it a steal for the tablet, despite it’s relatively short-time span on the market.

Nintendo surprised everyone with the game Just Dance 3, a sing and dance video that could also double as a cardiovascular regime guide. Unlike the usual role-playing or first shooter videos, this broke from the norm and was an instant it at $29.96.

Olay put out a cut price beauty product called the Olay Professional Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System that was hugely popular with the ladies. At only $ 26,it claimed to compete solidly with similar product packages used by professionals and was ten times cheaper. It would seem they were telling the truth, because it simply flew off the online shelves.

Apart from topping charts, Adele’s sophomore album “19”, sold at $9.99 was also a huge hit with Christmas shoppers with the singer-song writer from England making a mockery of poor CD sales in the industry.

Toys and holidays are synonymous and the Alex Toys Friends 4 Ever Bracelet Making Kit, handy for making friendship bracelets using beads and floss was a hit with children, selling at $20.47.

Movies also were best sellers during the holiday, and true to tradition, one of the best- selling movies was from Walt Disney Studios. The help, sold at $16.99 compared to traditional favorites from the industry in terms of sales.

Levi, the jean making brand, is a traditionally strong selling item all year round and sales shot up during the holiday season, with the jeans available in a conveniently wide array of sizes and selling at $39.99.

Beads seemed to be a central theme this holiday and the affordablely priced jewelry from Heart Mother & Daughter Beads Charm, selling at $9.99 worked as the perfect mother and child holiday gift as well.

With the holidays and a White Christmas comes the inconvenience of using a touch screen. Well, along came Agloves with the Agloves Original Touch Screen Gloves which made using a touch screen during winter for phones, tablets and other media much easier.

Honorable mention also goes to the following gifts: Janae cuff links, the ultimate in statement cuffs; gift-wrapped pistachio cookies; classy but affordable earrings from Mark; the hugely popular HoodieBuddie With HB3 Technology Sweatshirt, a hit with husbands all over the country and finally comfy Minnetonka Men’s Slippers, all of which retailed affordably at stores during the holidays.

Five Great Gifts that Cost Less Than $5

During the holiday season, like Christmas and the New Year holiday, and in fact, during any other occasions that give cause for celebration, like birthdays, finding a gift can be quite the task, especially when you consider the different considerations of what the person may actually want or like. Apart from this, in today’s difficult economic climate, or if you are a prudent person regarding spending, you might want to be interested in something that is tasteful but also still cost-effective.

Here are some suggestions that just might fit the bill.

SE Mini 45X Brass Microscope w/Illuminator

This toy is ideal for children between the ages of six and ten, especially those with a scientific leaning of sorts. At just $3.18, it can be used to examine plants, devices and anything your young aspiring son might be interested in. It has proven to be a particularly popular toy, especially with boys that age that typically, always want to take a closer look at the world around them.

Coffee Mug with an Imprint

A coffee mug with a name or an image that represents the person or something important to the person is a great gift, especially for an adult. If it is a special occasion, like a graduation or something similar, this would carry even greater weight if an insignia representing this is printed onto the mug. The cost you can expect for something of good quality? About $4.10.

A Picture Frame

A picture frame is always a great gift, especially for a female recipient. Retailing for about $4.50, picture frames vary, and you can make some excellent selections depending on the age of the person receiving the gift. Go with something bright and fun for a female child, something trendy and zany for a teenager, something urbane and sophisticated for a young female adult and something ornamental for anyone older.

A Classic Book

Some of the older classics, especially from the thrift stores make delightful gifts, especially for young adults interested in reading and who have not been exposed to some of this great work. Luckily, one has a great selection to choose from, from Lord of the Flies, the works of William Shakespeare, Lord of the Rings, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, the list is endless. Retailing at just under $5, these make a really great and thoughtful gift.

Oven Mitts or any Kitchen Accessory

Oven mitts make a great holiday gift and are also great for birthdays or celebrations like Mother’s Day. Indeed, kitchen accessories can be a touching fit of sorts especially if your intended target is a dab hand around the kitchen. They combine practicality with elegance and have the benefit of being available in festive colors as well. Other kitchen accessories that would work quite well include kitchen towels. All these retail at just under $5 as well.

How to Pick Charities to Donate To

The decision to donate to a charity is not just a noble one; it is a reflection of empathy on one’s part and an understanding that where one has been blessed by fate, others have been less fortunate. So for those seeking to improve the lot of humanity, to give back, for those seeking to “be the change they seek”, there are a number of pointers that can ensure that their gestures actually have the impact they have in mind and reach their intended target.

Choose a charity

The method of choosing which charity to donate to that are outlined below are not perfect methods but they will offer a guideline that can help one make an informed decision on how to impact the world around them.

(Credibility. Efficacy. Community Neighborhood. Immediacy. Passion. Anonymity)

Credibility

It is important that you choose a charity that has gone through a vetting process of some sort. This process varies from one area to another but certain aspects of the vetting process are fairly easy to spot: the charity should be registered, and have a recognizable board and patronage of standing within the community; it’s activities and how it puts it’s resources to use should be transparent, and easily accessible financial records play an important role in this; it’s impact should be visible, and not simply at a PR level but intrinsically, in line with it’s stated vision and goals.

Efficacy

The charity should be able to actually effect change in the individual lives and communities it works with. It is all very well to provide shelter for the homeless, but alongside this, those sheltered should find a system that helps them better themselves so that they move on to a way of life that helps them earn a living and provide for themselves so the shelter can help another lost cause.

Community

The charity should be impacting directly on the community it exists in. Global charities naturally have global reach, but to actually work, charities need to experience the reality of the people whose lives they are seeking to have an impact on.

Immediacy

There are sometimes situations that demand an instant response from the community, whether local, nationwide, or even globally. These often occur during natural disasters like earthquakes, outbreaks of disease and tsunamis. In this particularly situation, creditable organizations like the United Nations make impromptu calls for immediate help and these are calls that one should respond to when seeking to donate. In this particular scenario, every dollar counts, and the immediacy of the situation also validates it.

Passion

One should also find a charity that appeals to one’s passions, or beliefs. It is easier to relate to a cancer charity, for example, if you have suffered from the disease or have known somebody who has been ravaged by it. The things we are passionate about are often the ones we are also most effective with.

Anonymity

As much as possible, do seek a charity that ensures the donor remains anonymous. It gives real meaning to your offer; the reward is in you yourself knowing.

Four Great Graduation Gifts

Graduation is right around the corner and that means the parade of graduation parties have only just begun. For many of you, this also means time to begin picking out graduation presents. Here are a few no fail gift ideas that are sure to help make your graduates first year of college a little easier.

Graduation Gifts

1) Gift Cards

Though this may not seem like an exciting gift, gift cards actually can be one of the best gifts for a busy college student. Going off to college opens up a new world of expenses for the student. Anything from rent to gas money can take a huge chunk out of anyone’s income, let alone a student. Grocery store gift cards, gas gift cards, restraunt gift cards, target gift cards, and more allow students to get what they need, when they need it, and not having to worry about the whether they will have enough money for rent at the end of the month.

2) Dorm Room Accessories

Dorm life can be one of the hardest things to get used to in the transition from high school to college. A good gift idea for a graduate is anything that can make life a little easier, such as accessories for their dorm room. Printers, mini fridges, microwaves, towels, toiletries, lamps, even stock piling the student with granola bars, water bottles, chips, soup, and ramen noodles will always be much appreciated and very important.

3) How To Books

This may seem like a boring gift that will get you a fake smile and forced thank you, and at the time, this may be true. But a how to book on resume writing, essay writing, or scholarships could become invaluable to a college student. Many students will begin applying for jobs, internships, and scholarships all that will require resumes, essays, or both. All the help available on topics such as these comes in handy.

4) Alarm Clock/Watch

When Mom is not in your dorm room waking you up every day, an alarm clock can be the difference between making it to class or failing. Get an alarm clock with the biggest and brightest digital screen possible and tell the graduate to plug it in across the room from their bed. They’ll have to get up and get in and, in the process, wake up! Watches can be a great gift as well. Nowadays, students check the time on their cell phones. College professors, however, do not allow cell phones in their classes and will often times ask a student to excuse themselves when they see them paying more attention to their cell phones and not the class. Watches are a much easier and college approved way to go.

Take some time to look into these gifts before you begin hiking through the mountain like pile of graduation parties that are sure to be heading your way. These gifts are guaranteed to help make the first year of college life successful. Your graduate will thank you!

Holiday Shopping: The Season Comes Around Again!

It’s that time of the year again, a time when all is good cheer and free spending. It is, of course, a time that retailers look forward to, and for possibly slightly different reasons, shoppers as well. Spending and general expenditure goes up considerably during the holiday period, and the inevitable January slump is almost typically predictable as disposable incomes have had a bite taken out of them by that point.

Holiday Gifts

The question we are attempting to answer, is, what makes for reasonable spending during the holidays? What would be the wise thing to do with regards to one’s budget and finances, while at the same time ensuring that one gets to enjoy the holiday as well?

Before letting the bewildering frenzy of advertising, sales and seemingly amazing store deals get you into buying what you did not necessarily need in the first place, take stock on your situation and think through it carefully. Certain aspects need to be examined:

1. What do you really need, in the medium and long term? You will usually have a list of these items anyway. Are they part of the current sales promotions? Then getting them at discounted prices may be worthwhile.

2. What will actually be needed for the holiday season? Certain items, like gifts and food and drink are a no-brainer, as are decorations (or the children will never forgive you!) but these should be itemized specifically in an itemized list, to avoid impulse spending.

3. What can wait till after the holiday season? There are a number of obvious reasons for this perspective. One is that it will free-up some cash flow so that the sending that is necessary is actually done for the holidays. Another is the inevitable sizable discount process that happens in retail outlets across the country after the holidays are over. It certainly makes budgeting sense to wait until prices sky-dive before deciding to spend on that wide-screen TV you had been hankering after.

4. What can be bought in bulk? A lot of bulk sales actually go on during the holiday season, and these, as well as coupon sales, are often ignored or overshadowed by the retail sales blitz. Soft drinks, clothes, dry food items as well as fresh foods that require cold storage can easily be found at really competitive prices if one bothers to look carefully. And after the last two years, one lesson learnt is that it does pay to be careful with your money.

5. More importantly, holiday requirements rarely change drastically. A plan where you controlled or managed your spending from last year will, with a few alterations, fit into what you have this year, assuming of course, that your income has not fluctuated drastically. Thus, a good spending plan is like a good habit. If it worked the last time round, pull it out, dust it off and give it another go. That will have you actually looking forward to the traditionally lean periods after the holidays.

Most importantly, be wise with your spending, as cautious with your money as you have been all year. The holidays are simply no excuse to let your guard down.

Happy holidays!