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Music Mondays – Santa Baby

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Today’s song choice is not one that I actually like; I chose it as a precautionary tale for the holidays. The subject of this song has a very ambitious list for her “Santa” to buy for her. I know that most of us would not dream of asking for the following items:

1)   A fur coat

2)   A convertible

3)   A yacht

4)   A platinum mine

5)   Tree trimmings from Tiffany’s

6)   A diamond ring

However, sometimes I think we let our “wish lists” get a little out of hand to the detriment of those we love who want to give us what we want for Christmas. I have clients who put themselves in financial distress over the holidays to make sure their significant other’s wishes come true. This year, as you are assembling your wish list, think about this song and ask yourself if you sound like this singer or this one. If you sound like the Santa Baby singer, maybe you need to reflect more on your list. Think about the financial burdens that you may be placing on others who want to make you happy. A more “cost conscious” wish list will not only provide financial relief for those you love, but it will give you a better perspective on what’s important this holiday season. We all love getting gifts, and the holidays seem like a perfect time to go overboard, but we don’t want to feel good while someone else’s bank account doesn’t.

Top 10 Gifts for $10 or Less

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10) Mason Jar Shot Glasses – And if you have money leftover, you can infuse a cheap vodka with cherries or pomegranate to give along with these.

mason jar shot glass

9) Video Games – As parents, we don’t always love that our kids play games, but it is nice to find games for the family or at least affordable games. GameStop has a bunch of those.

Games

8) Custom Luggage Tag – I always hate updating those cheap ones from the airlines and having to change them if I use a different airline. I think this is something we would never buy for ourselves, but would love as a stocking stuffer.

custom luggage tag

7) Photo Calendars – Even though this is perfect for parents and grandparents, I know that I would love pictures of friends as well. With all of our pictures on our phones or computers, it’s nice to see them without having to turn anything on.

photo calendar

6) Pore Perfection Kit – Who doesn’t need to work on their complexion? And this travel set has all of the essentials.

Pore perfection

5) Candles in a tin – As someone who travels quite a bit, I love to bring candles like these with me to make sure the hotel room always smells nice.

candle tin

4) Tech Gloves – These are not only under $10, but available in a number of colors. Again, for those in cold weather climates, it’s nice to be able to play Candy Crush while waiting for the bus or train.

Tech Gloves

3) Wine Charm and Bottle Stopper Set – These are not only fun but great to have when entertaining more than a few people.

Wine charms

2) What I Love About You Book – I LOVE this book! It gives you a “fancy” way of sharing your feelings with someone you love.

Love Book

1) Bath Sets – These are available at Target for men and women. They are not “fancy” but they are practical and come with a number of useful products.

Bath Set

Free with Purchase

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Free with Purchase

Around the holiday season, we see this enticement a lot. This offer is probably the most tempting way to get us to spend money.  After all, we are getting “two for the price of one.”  We all get excited about free things.  The issue with this is when it drives our purchase choice.  It is only a good deal if we were going to buy one of the items anyway.  Unless the free item is something of significant value or something we needed to buy anyway, we need to “Just Say No” and walk away.

Just like my blog about impulse buying, this sort of advertising is aimed at making us do exactly the thing that we shouldn’t. Don’t be swayed by the promise of something free if you wouldn’t pay for it anyway. Put down the bottle of Romance perfume! Drop the four bottles of freesia lotion that will just collect dust under your sink! Your bank account will thank you later!

Have you ever been fooled by the free with purchase marketing?

Music Mondays – All I Want for Christmas is You

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I don’t know about you, but on a typical day, I receive about 10 to 20 emails regarding deals and specials that are for a “limited time only” and expire at midnight on the day I receive them. As of this past Thursday, my average has sky rocketed to 40+ with “deals” from just about every website I think I have ever logged into. Even my dentist’s office is offering a Cyber Monday deal today. It is easy to get “caught up” in all of the holiday marketing and overspend on our loved ones. With each coupon, doorbuster, buy one get one, 50% off notice to entice us, we feel as though we are even coming out ahead during the holidays.

As you are shopping this year, though, listen to this song by Mariah Carey. I truly believe that anyone who would be on our shopping list feels this way about us. Every year my family asks what I want for Christmas, and I have noticed that the older I get, the smaller the list gets. We are so busy with our day-to-day lives that I sincerely believe the best gifts we can give people are ourselves. Our undivided attention is the most cost effective, but most valuable gift I believe we all have. I challenge you this year to not get caught up in the shopping experience, but get caught up in the people experience. Look at your Christmas lists and think of ways that you can give more of yourself to those you love. That time spent together will be better than anything you can find in a store or online.

Top Ten Holiday Shopping Tips

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Top Ten Holiday Shopping Tips

1)   Set a budget and stick with it – This is easier said than done, but budgeting is just as important during the holiday season as it is during the year. The holidays are filled with emotions, and because of that, we are more inclined to spend money irresponsibly. By sitting down and setting a realistic number limit on yourself, you will prevent yourself from getting too caught up in the emotions.

2)   Make a list and check in twice – It works for Santa, it should work for you. Making specific lists for what everyone is getting is a great way to not only stay on budget, but to make sure you don’t forget anyone.

3)   Secret Santa – If you have a large family or large group of friends that are on your shopping lists, create the Secret Santa system. This becomes increasingly more important as people marry and the family expands. The Secret Santa system is a great way to keep costs down and making your shopping experience less crazy.

4)   Make your gifts – If your budget is tight this year, don’t be afraid to make personal gifts for your loved ones. This will not only save you money and the headache of holiday shopping, but it will be meaningful to the person you are gifting to. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t appreciate a personalized gift.

5)   Never pay full price – I know this sounds like a message from Wal-Mart, but the holiday season is the number one time of year for retailers. It is important for them to show strong holiday sales numbers to their investors and the best way they can do that is by offering deals. Every store or website has deals around this time of year, and you should make sure you take advantage of those.

6)   Don’t forget about flex spending money – If you are someone who has set money aside for healthcare flex spending, make sure you submit your receipts and get your money back before year end. This “found” money is a great way to help offset holiday spending.

7)   Leverage credit card rewards points – If you are someone who has a rewards credit card, see if you can use your points to buy gift cards or other gifts for your loved ones. If you get cash back, you can use this money to help offset your holiday spending costs.

8)   Look online before you leave the house to shop – You will not only save gas money, but your computer gives you the best information on the best deals, and you want to make sure you leave nothing on the table when holiday shopping.

9)   Save your receipts and watch for price changes – If you are someone who is shopping today or this weekend, you may think you are getting the best deals; however, in a few weeks, if a store is still trying to make its holiday sales look better, they will offer new incentives, and you want to make sure you get those deals. Worst-case scenario, if the store does not price match, you can return the item you bought, and buy it back on sale.

10)   Just buy for the kids – As your extended family grows, and the next generation is born, rather than feel you have to buy for everyone, set a family rule that everyone just buys gifts for each other’s kids. This is a way to keep expenses down, and keep the holidays focused on the little ones.

As an added bonus – My number one holiday shopping tip for 2014 is to start saving for the holidays in January. If you know that you spend a significant amount of money in the last few weeks of the year for the holidays, rather than stress about it, alleviate the stress with a holiday savings account. Set up an auto-draft for $50+ a month that is earmarked for holiday spending. By the time you hit December of 2014, your account will have at least $600 in it and the holidays won’t seem as stressful.

Music Mondays – It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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Most Wonderful Time

This year, apparently a number of retailers are giving you the opportunity to begin your holiday shopping a day early by opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day as opposed to early in the morning the day after Thanksgiving. Either way, for the next few weeks, we will be inundated with numerous marketing campaigns enticing us to shop for our loved ones this holiday season. This is certainly the most wonderful time of the year for retailer’s bank accounts. However, the reverse is true for most people’s bank accounts. I have a number of clients who do not like to even meet with me between now and the end of the year because they know they are going to be “bad” and spend past their budgets to make the holidays “special” for those around them.

I encourage you to re-think your holiday shopping strategy this year. Take the time to review your financial situation and adjust your holiday shopping lists accordingly. If 2013 was a rough year on your finances; please do not make it even more painful by overspending at the end of the year. Do not be afraid to “scale” back this holiday season. Most of the people you shop for love you and want the best for you. And the best for you is to not put yourself in financial hardship just to buy gifts. Even if you had a great year financially, I think it makes sense to not overspend during the holiday season. I am sure there are a number of goals you would like to achieve in 2014 and holiday savings will get you closer to achieving those goals.

If you would like to scale back, and you are not sure how, here are a few websites to help you plan for less expensive gifts. Instead of falling victim to compelling holiday marketing campaigns, take the time to focus and plan and make sure that this truly is the most wonderful time of the year for you and your bank account.

25 Handmade Gifts Under $5

20 Awesome Gifts Under $25

25 Office Gifts Under $25

Top Ten Things I Am Grateful For In 2013

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Top Ten Things I Am Grateful For

In honor of Thanksgiving next week, I thought I would take this time to share with you what I am most thankful for this year.

10) Getting to see Bon Jovi in concert – It’s my all-time favorite band, and they never disappoint.

9) TJ Maxx – I honestly do not know what I would do without such an awesome store that helps me look great whether for work or the weekend and at such amazing prices!

8) Sephora – I just turned 35 this year, and I have people tell me I have great skin all the time. It is only because I partake in regular and “free” facials at Sephora.

7) Becoming a better cook – My husband has historically been the family “chef,” but over the last year, I have challenged myself to create new, yummy and affordable meals, and I have done a good job of it! In fact, look out in 2014 for my Financially Fit Foodie series.

6) My first book – I can’t believe I wrote a book! It’s not War and Peace or anything, but I have had a number of people tell me that it helped them, and that means the world to me.

5) My new company – I feel so blessed that I get to help people and do what I love every single day. There is nothing greater than to love what you do!

4) My friends – They make my life more rich just by having them in it. I am constantly learning from them, impressed by them, and amused by them.

3) My family – We had a number of deaths in my family this year, and as we are winding down to the end of the year, I am extremely thankful to those who are still with me, and for continuously showing me how to move on in life no matter what hardships may come your way.

2) My funny son –  He has his challenges and struggles as a child with ADHD, but he works hard and with humor to be successful in anyway he can be. I almost put a bag in the trash that had money in it (I was unaware of the money), he found the money and told me it would not be very “financially fit” to throw away money. Touché!

1) My supportive husband – It’s easy to love and support someone in the good times and when everyone is “at their best.” But it  takes a true man and partner to love someone through bad times or when she is at her worst. Thank you Bill!

Is Groupon Just a Glorified Outlet Mall?

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Have you ever been to an outlet mall?  I have gone to them for years and each time I pull into the parking lot, I get excited about the prospect of getting great deals from brand name stores.  Over the last 10+ years, though, I have become increasingly more disillusioned and less satisfied with the outlet mall experience.  Rather than providing heavily discounted “store” items, it seems that they have become the place where stores can get rid of items no one wants by trying to convince you they are a deal. They offer low-end labels that may be less expensive but they are also significantly less quality.  A “Brooks” label shirt at a Brooks Brothers outlet will typically start to fall apart after two trips to the washing machine.

I feel as though I’m having a similar experience with Groupon.  When it was first introduced, I felt like I was getting a great deal on items that anyone would want.  Now it seems that the “deals” are items that no one would want or you have to read the fine print because if you think the experience is too good to be true, it probably is.  A great example of this is with laser hair removal.  I have a friend who purchased a Groupon for this.  It seemed like a great deal because it was almost half off what you would typically pay; however, the offer was only good for 6 months and according to experts, it usually takes at least a year to complete the full laser hair removal process.  So this Groupon deal would leave you with some wacky looking body hair and the need to spend even more money after 6 months.

How do you feel about Groupon or other deal sites?  Have you gotten great deals? Do you use them? Have you been happy with a Groupon purchase or gotten buyer’s remorse? Let me know!