Archive for November 2015

3 Ways to Avoid Financial Stress This Christmas

financial stress

paper-933661_640The Christmas season is finally here. Now that Thanksgiving is over it?s socially acceptable to put up your Christmas tree, decorate the outside of your house, sing Christmas carols and more. That also means it?s time finish your Christmas gift shopping too, if you haven?t already.

While Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time of year, for some it?s a time filled with worry and stress about finances. Instead of eagerly awaiting Christmas morning, some people are dreading their incoming credit card bills in January instead.

But Christmas doesn?t have to put you in debt, or ruin a joyous time of year. Here are three ways you can avoid financial stress this Christmas.

Have a Minimalist Christmas

This year will be my first minimalist Christmas. I?ve narrowed down my gift-giving list by quite a bit and I even got my family on board with having a much smaller Christmas this year. We decided to set a limit of one gift per person for our immediate family. I realize this tip won?t help some of you with very large families, but for us it works. There are only four of us, so a one gift limit is pretty reasonable.

The one gift limit we set will reduce the amount of money we spend on gifts, the amount of wrapping paper and other waste from wrapping gifts, and the amount of time spent shopping, wrapping gifts and unwrapping gifts. Instead, we?ll have more time to enjoy each other?s company and the gifts we do receive.

Set Spending Limits to Avoid Financial Stress

Another great way to avoid financial stress this Christmas is to set a spending limit. You can set a budget for yourself this Christmas for everything, including gifts, holiday groceries, decorations and more. But it can be harder to stick to a Christmas budget if those around you don?t seem to want to save money. This can cause you to want to blow your Christmas budget by buying more extravagant gifts, or by going over-the-top with other Christmas spending.

If you don?t think you can stick to your spending limit without some help, break down the financial barrier and tell your friends and family of your desire to spend less this Christmas. Chances are that they too are worried about their finances during this expensive time of the year.

Don’t stop at the spending limit either. Find ways to save, or get money back, on your spending. You can use TopCashBack?to get up to 8.5% cash back on all your Amazon purchases. You can also use a site like Swagbucks?to earn cash back if you go through their shopping portals.

Suggest a Secret Santa or Other Gift Exchange

For large groups of people, like extended family and groups of friends, you can suggest having a Secret Santa or other gift exchange so you don?t have to spend as much money or buy as many gifts. This will also help you to feel like less of a Scrooge and ease the financial burden of giving Christmas gifts.

If you don?t want to have a Secret Santa, there are lots of other ways to have a gift exchange. In years past, my extended family has had a gift exchange where everyone had to bring one gift with a spending limit of $20. Then we played a game to decide who got to keep which gift.

Another idea is to have a name drawing but not keep it a secret. Each person will be responsible for buying a gift for the person who?s name they drew, but it won?t be a secret. This is a fun way to see how well your family members really know each other.

Christmas doesn?t have to be a financial burden. There are lots of ways you can cut down on Christmas spending, and clutter, so you don?t feel a financial strain.


How do you avoid financial strain around Christmas??What ways do you use to save money on your Christmas shopping? Does your family set gift limits?


Photo courtesy of: tookapic

How to Dress Up for Holiday Parties on the Cheap

Holiday Parties

glasses-919071_640I know it?s just now time for Thanksgiving, but believe it or not, holiday parties are right around the corner. When I still worked full-time in my office job, I had at least four holiday parties to attend each year, not counting the ones that were only for my family.

My company had two Christmas parties, one with the board of directors and one with only the employees. I also had a Christmas party to attend for my part-time job, and the fourth party was one that became a tradition with my best friends.

Holiday parties are fun because they give you a change to dress up more than you normally would, and break out lots of bling. After all, it is a celebration! 🙂

That being said, the holidays can get quite expensive if you don?t pay attention to the costs of buying fancy outfits for all of your holiday parties. Luckily I found a few ways to keep my costs down and still like holiday party ready.

Mix and Match

It?s kind of taboo to wear the exact same out to more than one holiday party, at least in my book. It wouldn?t be nearly as big of a deal, but one of my friends also attends three out of four of the same holiday parties that I do.

It?s not too big of a deal to wear the same pieces if you mix and match them at different parties. For example, last year I wore a pretty lace shirt to more than one party. At one of them I paired it with a long black skirt and at another I paired it dark wash jeans. I also wore different accessories and makeup with each outfit.

These small changes gave each of the outfits a different look and I was able to wear essentially the same pieces more than one time, which really helps cut down on costs.

Stick to the Classics

As I mentioned, a long black skirt and dark wash jeans are part of my holiday party wardrobe, but I also wear them for lots of other occasions. This means they are not ?one hit wonders? that I only pull out of my closet for holiday parties.

It?s a lot cheaper per wear if you stick to basic items that can be worn the rest of the year too, or at least be worn for holiday parties on multiple years. That?s what I do with my lace shirt. It?s a little too dressy for normal office wear, but I have worn it for holiday parties for more than just one year.

Consider Your Accessories

I really love wearing bling during the holidays, but I didn?t want to buy an expensive dress or shirt with lots of bling that might come off the first time through the washer. Instead I add bling with my accessories to save money.

I have a pretty beaded scarf, a beaded belt, and some [easyazon_link keywords=”rhinestone jewelry” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”wisedollar-20″]rhinestone jewelry[/easyazon_link] that I use to add some sparkle to my outfits. None of these things is over the top so I can wear them during the rest of the year too, not just during holiday parties. But since they are things that aren?t subject to going through the washer and dryer, which is really hard on your clothes, I don?t have to worry about the bling coming un-attached from them anytime soon.


How do you dress for holiday parties on a budget? Do you attend more than one holiday party each year? Do you think it?s taboo to wear the exact same outfit at more than one party?


Photo courtesy of: Unsplash

5 Money Moves to Make Before the End of the Year

Money moves

money-652560_1280Time always moves fast, but the end of the year really seems to fly by once summer has come to an end. It seems as if one day you are sending the kids off for the first day of school, and the next day you are putting presents under the tree.

It is easy to let these autumn months get away from you, but they are an important time from a financial perspective. Before the year ends, you want to make sure you have everything in place to wrap up your finances as successfully as possible.

With an eye on the end of the year approaching, following is a list of five money moves that you should consider making before the calendar reads 2016.

Contribute to a Retirement Account

If you have a retirement account, consider making a contribution before the end of the year. Many of these contributions are tax deductible up to a certain threshold, so you could help yourself from a tax perspective in advance of April 15th rolling around. Of course, if you don?t yet have a retirement account in place, now would be a great time to get started.

Eliminate High Interest?Debt

To start off the new year with a great feeling of financial freedom, use the last few months of 2015 to work on eliminating any high interest debt that you may be carrying. Even if you can?t completely wipe out these debts just yet, making a couple of big payments will help reduce the amount of interest that you are paying on a monthly basis.

If you have multiple credit cards you might also want to consider an unsecured loan?to help lower your interest and reduce the number of payments you have to make each month. You can get rates as low as 9.95% through Avant, for example, and save significant money in the long run.

Donate to Charity

While working on your own finances, you probably aren?t too concerned with donating to charity ? but it is something that you should consider anyway. Giving to a cause that is important to you is a great feeling, and there are often tax benefits as well. Do your research ahead of time so you can dedicate your money to a cause that you truly believe in.

Get Everything in Order

Do you know where all of your money is going each month? If not, now is as good a time as any to get organized. Rather than ?flying by the seat of your pants? when it comes to finances, start tracking every dollar that you spend in order to optimize your budget.

There is a great sense of freedom and confidence that comes along with know just how much money you have at your disposal. You may wonder the best way to get everything in order and what kind of tool you can use. I personally use Personal Capital. Personal Capital is a free tool?that allows you to track spending, monitor accounts your investments all in one place.

Evaluate Your Income Options

Budgeting is great, and you can do wonders for your bank account simply by making good buying choices. However, there is nothing quite like making more money to ease the strain on your financial life. Prior to the end of the year, take a close look at what options you may have for increasing your income ? either though a raise at your current job, or perhaps through a secondary income stream, like a side hustle.


Which of these things are on your to-do list? Do you have other financial goals you want to accomplish before the end of the year?


Photo courtesy of: HeatherPaque

5 Delicious Pumpkin Recipes Anyone Can Fix at Home


fall-950443_640We all know that cooking and eating at home is way cheaper than going out to eat, but for the longest time I struggled with eating out. (Sometimes I still do.)

Part of the reason I struggled with this part of my budget more in the fall than any other time of year is because I?m obsessed with all things pumpkin.

I love pumpkin lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin doughnuts, and more. In past years I?ve gone out to eat to get those special pumpkin treats, which is not a very frugal way to satisfy your pumpkin craving.

This year I finally starting using all the pumpkin recipes I pinned on Pinterest and I?ve found at least a few keepers.

Here are five delicious recipes to help you get your pumpkin fix at home.

White Chocolate Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Created by Sally from Sally?s Baking Addiction, these cookies have become a fall staple in my house the last two years. I started baking them last fall and made probably 10 batches between September and the end of November. I used them for everything, including when I needed to take treats to work or to a potluck. They are delicious!

Pumpkin Pancakes

This one is a bit of my own creation. I took several pumpkin pancake recipes and tweaked them to make my own thing. My favorite thing about this recipe is that it?s kind of a cheater?s recipe. It starts off with a pantry staple – baking mix or pancake mix ? and ends up feeling homemade because of the extra ingredients added to the mix.

These [easyazon_link keywords=”pumpkin pancakes” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”wisedollar-20″]pumpkin pancakes[/easyazon_link] turned out light and fluffy. They are also pretty sweet so they don?t really need butter and syrup. I actually use them as a grab and go breakfast whenever I?m in a hurry in the mornings.

Here?s all you need:

2 eggs, 1 c. milk, 1/2 c. cooked pumpkin, 1 3/4 c. Bisquick baking mix, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 tsp vanilla. Mix all together and cook on griddle until browned.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (Starbucks Copy Cat)

These things are amazing! I made them this weekend and while they didn?t turn out a symmetrical and pretty as Starbucks? muffins, they taste just the same. They don?t take too many ingredients and were fairly simple to make.

Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins

My best friend in college taught me this recipe and I?m not really sure where it originated from. If you are craving chocolate, you can make chocolate muffins a lot healthier by using only 2 ingredients: a chocolate cake mix and a can of pure pumpkin. Mix these two ingredients together, spoon into muffin tins and bake.

There?s just a hint of pumpkin taste through the chocolate and it?s a lot healthier (and more moist) than using vegetable oil.

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte

For those of you trying to be more healthy, here?s a recipe for a homemade, healthy pumpkin spice latte. I lived off this thing last fall when I was trying to avoid eating sugar. It?s tasty, healthy, and a lot more budget friendly than getting a pumpkin latte at any coffee shop.


Do you love pumpkin focused foods? What are your favorite pumpkin recipes? What are some other hacks you use to save money on foods you like but don’t want to buy?


Photo courtesy of: wokandapix

3 Reasons Why Black Friday Won?t Save You Money

Black Friday

stairs-906720_1280As a frugal person, you probably have become quite adept at looking for sales ? and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. There is no reason to pay full price when you could possibly shop around and find the same item on sale. Consistently shopping sales can save you money both in the short-term and over the long run. If you want to regularly stay within your budget on a monthly basis, you will find that sale shopping is a key part of the equation.

You might think, then, that the Black Friday sales that go on all over the country are a great opportunity to save some cash. Not so fast. Sure, you will see incredible prices posted for a number of quality goods, but those sales aren?t necessarily all that they are cracked up to be.

Here?are three reasons why you should think about steering clear of Black Friday.

Limited Supply

Usually, when you see a great price advertised for a product on Black Friday, there is a very limited number of items actually available at that price. So there might be a TV listed at $300, but there may only be five units offered at that price. Therefore, unless you get up very early ? or get very lucky ? you aren?t going to get that deal.

Missing out on the deal might not be the end of the world, but you may then feel compelled to buy something else because have gone through the trouble of getting up to go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. By avoiding the scene altogether, you will eliminate the risk of making a bad shopping decision.

Things You Don?t need

What are the chances that the items that happen to be on sale on Black Friday are actually things you need? More likely, you will end up buying something that wasn?t in your plans simply because it is on sale.

Buying stuff you don?t need is one of the fastest ways to blow through your budget. Stick to only buying things that have a specific purpose, and leave everything else alone ? even if it is on sale.

The Holidays Are Expensive Enough

November and December are an expensive time of year, even if you keep all of your money in your wallet on Black Friday. Don?t add to the cost of the holiday season by purchasing items that could have waited until the New Year ? if you even needed to buy them at all.

The reality is that, thanks to online shopping, you can almost always find a good sale when you do really need to buy something. Your best bet from a budget perspective is to ignore the Black Friday marketing blitz and simply stick to the shopping plan that has served you well throughout the rest of the year. Not only will you have more money in your bank account?by ignoring Black Friday, you will also be able to sleep in!


Are you going to shop or sleep on Black Friday? Do you think Black Friday actually allows you to save money? Do you go shopping on Thanksgiving?


Photo courtesy of: jarmoluk