holiday gifts

The holiday season can get expensive and challenging to finance, particularly if you have children who you want to provide toys for. While there is more to Christmas then just gifts, it is certainly part of the equation and one that can be made more financially manageable with foresight and planning. This article will provide some tips for getting cheap holiday gifts.

One key to getting cheap holiday gifts is to think significantly in advance and be vigilant for deals. The holiday season, like the sale of all products, is governed by the same supply and demand decisions that govern all financial transactions. Demand for products is highest during the holiday season and many brands will adjust their prices upward to improve on their profit margin. Their ability to do so is limited by the number of suppliers who are trying to sell during the season, but by stepping outside of the holiday season and buying gifts out of season you can often find better deals. This means buying things in October and November before the holiday season really gets going. Start early and make a list of items that you are looking to buy. By getting your shopping started earlier you can often get great deals on products.

Next, be sure to track the daily deal websites and sites like Amazon Gold Box Deal, Woot, Slickdeals, Dealsea, as examples. The deals that are offered on these websites are constantly rotating and sometimes are of good value. By monitoring these websites you can often get lower prices on products that you put on your shopping list. These sites will offer deals for both virtual stores as well as physical locations, though some are specific to one form of purchase or another.

One of the best ways to save on your holiday gifts is by using the various rebate websites in your favor. As an example, rebate websites like ebates will pay you cash if you purchase through their website. Basically you simply have to visit the rebate website and search for the retailer you are interested in using. Some of the rebates offered, particularly for smaller online websites, provide great rebates, but even smaller ones from larger online retailers will provide you with small amounts of cash back. When these rebates are combined with credit card rewards your benefits will compound and provide you with big discounts on your holiday purchases. When you combine these purchases with retailer credit cards the savings can get even more significant.

Outlet stores also provide great options for those who are looking to save on holiday gifts. Many of these products are slightly damaged or irregular but many customers do not notice these differences and the products are available at sharp discounts. Visit a discounted factory store and try to find these deals on irregular or returned products. Online, the same options are available for refurbished or open box deals. Refurb products are often offered at significant discounts and with big savings and are often guaranteed by their manufacturers. Be sure the products have a warranty or guarantee associated with them though.

Holiday shopping can be expensive but by using the aforementioned tips there are many ways to save. Try mixing and matching these tips and see if the discounts can be combined together for greater savings.

If there is one thing I hate it is paying taxes! I am sure pretty much everyone agrees with me on this one though. I really hate the idea of having to send the IRS peeps money come tax day, so I have been looking for ways to lower my tax liability for this year.

See, when I was getting unemployment the amount was so meager that I did not have taxes taken out of it. That means come tax time I have to pay taxes on that unemployment income. I will also have to pay taxes on the online income from places like Associated Content. And when you add in the salary increase that I got with my new job, I am fairly certain I have to look forward to writing a check to the friendly peeps at the IRS  😀

I really do not want to do that. And I bet you do not want to either. So here are some things you can do to hopefully avoid that come tax time!

  • Contribute the max to retirement accounts. (I believe you have until tax day to fill up the IRA!)
  • See if you can pay some of next year’s expenses in December
  • Let’s not forget about charitable giving
  • If you are self-employed, stock up on supplies and equipment before the end of the year
  • Gift away up to $12,000 to your kids or other relatives

Those are some of the things I have discovered. However I am not a tax person, so please check with a professional if you are unclear on something before taking my advice.

And if you have any tips for me, feel free to share!


When you stop making your car payments you can expect to get your car repossessed. They don’t come out to your house the day after you miss a payment. So what do they do? What happens after you miss a payment and before they send someone to get the car? Is it possible to prevent the repo man from coming? It is, and here are a few steps to help you figure things out before you even get to the point of missing one payment:

Call your lender and find out if there is any way you can modify your repayment plan. Use the following as a guideline on what you should say. Every situation is different, so use what works for you.

* Tell them that you are unable to may a payment this month. (If this is the first time you are late do let them know.)
* Assure them that you will make a payment as soon as you can, but you would like to modify your payment plan.
* It never hurts to ask if they will let you skip this month’s payment, or possibly lower your payments for a few months.
* Ask them if they will waive the late fee.

Some lenders may let you pay less for a while, or they may even let you miss a payment (this is known as deferment). Any deferment will be added onto your loan balance, causing you to pay more in interest. More interest tacked on is a lot better than losing your car and ruining your credit score.

Refinance you loan. Doing so could lower your monthly payment. You have to have a good credit score to refinance, so keep that in mind.

What if you don’t think you can make any more payments – ever? People lose their jobs all the time and this scenario happens all too frequently. Your best bet is to sell the car if you can. Use the funds to pay off your loan.

The final option would be to give the keys back to the dealer. However, you would still be responsible for the balance owing on the car loan.

Understanding the determination of interest rates and how prone it is to changing is good before going for a credit card. The initial interest rate is affected by three major factors:
1. Promotional offer.
2. One’s credit score
3. The ‘prime interest rate’
The factors are covered below:

1. The ‘prime interest rate’
Not everyone understands what ‘prime interest rate’ is. This is a form of baseline interest rate which can fluctuate with time dependent on specific economic variables. It has a relationship with the federal funds rate. The federal funds rate is that rate that which banks have to pay for when they borrow from a Federal Reserve for a short-term period of time. When compared to the federal funds rate, the prime rate is normally 3 % higher.
Presently, the prime rate is at 3.25 % and the federal funds rate is at 0.25 %. By signing a credit card agreement, one commits to paying the rate of interest which the credit card company has set; though it is prone to change together with the prime rate. For instance, should your current rate be 15 % and then the following month your prime rate is increased from 3.25 % to 6.25 %, it likely that your interest rate will have increased by 3 % points.
2. One’s credit score
Different rates of interest are awarded to different people. The credit card company checks the credit score of the person who applies for the credit card. Those with good scores are awarded the best (lowest) rates of interest. Though, those with average or bad credit scores are not eligible to the aforementioned rates.

3 Credit Card Promotional offers
Credit card providers are known to come up with special promotional offers which can attract people with the lowered rates if interest. This is normally as a startup for the first 6-12 months. Balance transfer offers are normally associated with this as people are offered zero percent interest rates for 6 months and after that the rates of interest increase. This is a good deal for those who want to make use of it so as to pay off their existent balance. Should that fail to materialize, you will be charged retroactively on the entire by your credit card company.

This leads us to another important factor.

4. Your credit card payment behavior
This factor only affects individuals who have signed their credit card agreement. Your interest rate is likely to be increased by your provider should you fail to pay your bills within the stipulated time. The increased amount can be a lot dependent on your current situation. Should you be having many credit cards, missing to pay for one, is likely to impact all the others.

None of us like to have a large amount of debt hanging over our heads. It makes us feel nervous, and adds to our fears about the future. It’s no surprise, then, that most people want to pay off their debt as soon as possible, and are waiting for the day when they will get a large windfall to make that happen. This is called a debt snowball. It’s a large amount of money that accumulates over years, or that you get at one time, which is used to pay off a debt.

The problem with debt snowballing is that most people don’t win the lottery or inherit a large amount of money. Saving up large amounts is difficult, too, in today’s economy. While you are saving up, your debt is also accumulating, and in some cases, skyrocketing.

Then there is always the problem of getting your spouse to agree that a large amount of money should be used to pay off a debt, when so many other things look so much more attractive to spend it on.
There is another kind of debt payment system that can solve this problem, called debt snowflaking. What is it, and how does it work?

Small Extra Payments

In debt snowflaking, You use small extra payments, and apply them to your outstanding debt. The first step before you do this is to write down all of your debts, from the smallest amount to the greatest. Then plan how to accumulate small amounts of money that can be applied to the debt in a frequent payment program, over and above the minimum payment due on the debt. Be sure to pay at least the minimum on every debt.

The extra money may come from weekend jobs, selling something online, birthday money, or any other source. It could also be a small amount taken out each week from a paycheck. For this payment system to be really effective, it should be deliberate and intentional. Your goal is to make small extra payments frequently, starting with your smallest debt first. When that debt is paid off, you continue up the ladder till you get to your largest debt.

Benefits Of Snowflaking

Obviously, snowflaking is easier than snowballing for many people to do. It also has the positive result of making you feel successful about paying off a small debt. Many people need that positive reinforcement to keep going until all their debt is paid off.

The shock of throwing an entire large amount of money down the debt tube is avoided. So you probably won’t have to fight with your spouse about it!
Snowflaking can be combined with other forms of debt payment, such as snowballing and debt stacking, when the opportunity becomes available.

Don’t wait for a large windfall to start paying off your debt. Start where you are now, and begin paying off that debt in small extra increments. You’ll be surprised at how effective it can be, and how good it feels.

If you are an individual facing bankruptcy then you need to know that Chapter 7 for liquidation and Chapter 13 for reorganization are the two types of proceedings that apply to you. You will need Chapter 7 if you have assets than can be liquidated. No two people are the same bankruptcy will not work for some people but maybe the best way round a situation for others.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Proceedings
Chapter 7 is the most common proceeding for individuals and this proceeding determines how much property you can keep and what should be liquidated. In order to claim under Chapter 7 you can’t have a lot of money sitting in your bank account as you’ll be required to pay this to your creditors. What property and how much of it you can keep will vary, depending on the asset laws of the state that you live in, as well as your circumstances. In many states you would retain assets such as your family home but you need to enquire into how the ruling works in your particular state. Some debts cannot be discharged no matter what state you live in, these include income tax, child support and outstanding student loans.

You can’t file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy until you have completed an online government run credit counselling course, which takes up to an hour to complete. Once you have actually filed, you have to take another online government course. Once you have filed for bankruptcy, stop is put on any proceedings there may be against you. Around four to six weeks later you will have to attend a meeting with an assigned trustee and your creditors. You don’t need to go to court for this short, ten minute meeting and creditors rarely attend this.

Providing there are no particular problems or objections to your filing then after 60 days the authorities will put in an Order of Discharge. The bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for ten years and you won’t be able to obtain credit during that time. After two years, however, you may be able to apply for an FHA mortgage.

Chapter 13 Proceedings
Chapter 13 is quite different from Chapter 7 and you have to provide a proposal for repayment of some of your debts. The repayment schedule and amount will be set by the court. The payments would go to an appointed trustee and this will last for about five years. Unlike Chapter 7 you need money coming in to make the repayments and there are limits on the debt $365,475 of unsecured debts and $1,081,400 secured debt. Reasons for filing under Chapter 13 include earning too much, falling behind on mortgage and car repayments and unpaid taxes.

You repay your debts in order of their importance so car, mortgage and tax repayments will come before any unsecured debts, for example, credit card debt. How much you have to repay will be determined by your specific circumstances and this ruling will stay on your credit report for seven years.

Making One Extra Payment a Year Makes a Difference

Monthly payments are expensive enough, the thought of making extra payments can be overwhelming and stressful. However, if you take your monthly payment of, let’s say $360.00, and you divide it by 12, the total number of payments per year, you would get $30.00. If you add that $30.00 to your monthly payment, at a total of $390.00, you would make one full monthly payment early. In comparison to the $360.00 monthly payments, $30.00 isn’t much, but little figures over an extended period of time really stack up and lower your total vehicle loan balance as well as reduce interest payments.

Rounding Your Payments Up Can Help

Another method you can use to pay off your vehicle loan a little faster, is to round your payments up. Assuming your budget allows it, you could add an additional $40-$50 to your monthly payment, reducing the principle balance each month by that little bit extra in your payment. For instance, using the example given above, and assuming that your monthly required payment was $360.00, you could round that monthly payment up to $375.00 or $400.00, effectively reducing not only the principle balance of the loan, but also the interest payments. This may seem like a stretch, but consider the fact that this method allows you to pay off the balance of the loan 2 months early.

Refinancing Strategies to Lower Your Interest Rates

One of the fastest methods of saving money on interest and lowering your car loan payments is to refinance your car loan. Larger commercial banks and financial institutions usually offer refinancing options with higher interest rates than most local community banks and smaller credit unions. Researching and comparing the available resources in your area allows you to determine whether you will be able to refinance for a lower interest rate or not. Generally speaking, a 1% reduction in your interest rate would be worth taking when you factor in that you could maintain the same monthly payment total and ultimately reduce the time it would take to completely pay off your car loan.

Make Bi-Weekly Payments of Half Your Monthly Payment Total

Some lenders and creditors will allow you to make payments every 2 weeks rather than making the once-a-month payment. If your bank or credit union offers this service, take the advantage and use it. By increasing the frequency of your payments, the principle balance of your car loan is credited faster than by making less frequent, or once-a-month, payments. Verification that your lender doesn’t charge extra for this service, and that your contract has no other payment requirements, grants you the ability to save a lot of money on interest payments.

Doing Side Jobs to Generate an Extra Income

Extra income is another great efficient way to pay off any loan a little faster. Putting in overtime at work, offering services on sites like Craigslist, or Fiverr, to tutor, to landscape, paint, or any service you’re good at on the weekends are all good choices, but remember, you’re not restricted in options. Keep in mind that, while working extra hours or weekends for a little more money may be overwhelming, it’s only temporary until you can pay off your car loan comfortably. Also, as a note, think of all the time and money you can save by combining extra income with one of the previously mentioned methods to pay your loan off faster!

Not matter how punctual you can be, there is usually a time when you are late paying for your car payment. You have to learn the consequences of making a late payment.

The outcome of missing one car payment

To begin with, if it is the very first time to miss this kind of payment, your lender is likely to give you a call reminding you of the same. He or she will like to know when you need to make the payment. Should you set a date which is not far away, he may end up helping you make some adjustments to your payment plan.

Is a penalty or rate fee likely to be charged?

You ask yourself whether your credit score is likely to be impacted. In most cases, most lenders do not report their clients to the credit bureaus that soon. This gives you a grace period of ensuring your credit core is in order. Though that is the case, it is not likely to last for a long time.

What are the consequences of delaying the Car Payment for 30 days?

Serious consequences are accorded to those who exceed paying for more than 30 days. You may risk being reported to major credit bureaus such as: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Additionally, your lender may give you a number of calls persuading you to pay the due amount.

The frequency of the calls increases till you have accumulated more than 30 days.

What are the consequences of delaying the Car Payment for 90 days?

You may be declared by your lender to have defaulted a loan once 90 days are over. Once the loan is in default, it may be handed over to a debt collection agency. This means that the collection agency will be entitled to some fraction of the total amount you owe your lender. At this situation, you may end up loosing your vehicle since the repossession process has begun.

Should your vehicle be repossessed, you have to remember that all belongings in the car still belong to you. The lender will still give you your possessions even if the vehicle was taken while you were away.

What option do you have if you still are not in a position to pay for you car once it has been repossessed? You have to research the number options available to get out of debt. Various options are usually dependent of the amount of debt. You can file for bankruptcy or save a lump some amount of money a clear the debt at once. This is when you need the services of a reputable credit counselor.

When it comes time to create the budget for a little weekend trip or longer vacation, those travel costs can really start to add up. And while some of them can be reduced, not all of them can. So, let’s look at some of the more costly areas of travel and a few ways to reduce them so that you travel budget does not get maxed out before you even leave home.

Transportation is probably the biggest of the travel expenses. At least if you are not single. Think about it – there are lots of ways to travel but what is most expensive really varies by family size. For instance, flying is very costly for a family of five while it may be the cheapest for a single person. So, you need to add up the costs to see which is cheapest for you. For most people, the transport ways to choose from would be:

  • car (road-trip style)
  • plane
  • train
  • bus

If you are leaning towards driving your own vehicle, then do not forget to include the cost of gas and any tolls – as well as wear and tear to the vehicle. I like to use the Gas Buddy website to get an estimate of fuel costs for a potential road trip.

If you are flying, then you can use sites like Travelzoo to look for any airline discounts that you can use for some low airfare. You can also use the same site for hotel deals, if you plan on staying in a hotel.

Speaking of hotels, lodging is probably the next biggest area for people’s spending when traveling.  While you can find great deals on rooms using sites like the one mentioned above, you do not actually have to stay in a hotel when traveling. You might prefer to spend less and stay in a hostel, a vacation rental or even do a bit of camping. Each of these can offer substantial cost savings depending on the number of people in your traveling party.

Food is another one of those big budget areas when taking a trip away from home. This is because most of the time you do not have access to a stove, refrigerator or any other way to make some of your own meals. That leaves you to dining out, which is usually overpriced compared to grocery store prices. However, you can save money on food a few different ways.

Pack a cooler with cold items that won’t spoil like salad stuff, bite size veggies and bottled waters. This is a great way to have snacks and drinks on hand without having to spend anything else. And if you end up staying in a place with a mini-fridge, then you can transfer stuff from the cooler to the fridge.

If you’re a coffee drinking, then those coffee shop visits will really add up and bite a hole out of your budget. Instead, check out some of the best portable travel coffee makers so that you can make your own cup o’joe and save a lot of money in the process. Or, book a room at a hotel with a coffee maker!

If you are doing a hotel stay, then you can opt for one that kitchenette so that you can do a bit of cooking. Or, just a simple microwave gives you an easy way to heat up some soup or other food on your own.

I hope that these tips have made your travel planning a bit more affordable. If you have some tips of your own to share, just leave them in the comments below.

It’s that time of year again – the time when the summer starts to wind down and the kids and teachers have to return to those early morning alarm clock calls for the back-to-school routine to set back in.

And with the return to school comes an increase in the expenditure for most families. This can be anything from just your normal school supplies like notebooks, pencils and backpacks to things like special uniforms for school and high tech gear like scientific calculators

One thing is certain though – you can end up spend a lot of money during this time of year if you do not keep your spending in check. Fortunately, there are some great ways that you can keep those costs down and stay in budget while getting everything that your child needs for the new school year.

Probably the biggest way to save money and get cheap school supplies is just by watching the sales ads each week to see if there is anything at a fire sale price that you need to buy. Often the office superstores, like Staples and Office Depot, run penny sales where you can get things like notebooks and for just $0.01.  Sometimes the sales are at a higher price, but almost always they are well under a buck. I do not even have kids but still use this time of year to stock up on office supplies at a steep discount.

Buying only what you need is another way to save money when back to school shopping. For me, it is hard to not buy lots of the stuff under $1.00 just cause it is so low priced and there is the chance (small chance) that I might need something like it before the same sale rolls around next year.  But buying things that you do not need does not make good financial sense. For me or for you! So, create a list of things that you need before you leave the house and stick with it. Most schools these days offer parents a list of supplies that are needed, which makes it super easy to do your shopping from a list.

Shopping around also saves you money. By comparing price and selection between different stores, you can determine who has the lowest price and the best products. You’d be surprised how effective this is at lower your overall spending amount when shopping like this.

What are some ways that you and your family cut costs when doing a little back to school shopping?