Category: Saving Money

Don’t be Scrooge: How to Set Up a Christmas Budget That Works

‘Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la, la la la.”  It is, right? If you don’t have money set aside for Christmas spending, the holidays are NOT quite as jolly.

A LOT of money is spent this time of year.

set up a Christmas budget title

Gifts for everyone on your list.

Buying Christmas cards.

Stamps to mail Christmas cards. Does anyone remember when a stamp was $0.25?

Ingredients for all the baking you want to do.

Food for dishes to pass for every party or family gathering you are attending.

Donations – it seems everyone wants a little bit of your money this time of year. The guilt I have every time I walk by a Salvation Army bell ringer (I promise I give, but not every time I walk by) or say no to rounding up on my bill at a store.

Eating out more because you have less time at home to cook. You’re spending more time tracking down gifts for everyone on your list.

Is there any limit to the spending we do in November and December?

There can be, and the answer is simple . . . A Christmas budget.

Oh boy, there’s that Big Bad B word again that I love to use so much.

Honestly, though instead of being restrictive, a Christmas budget can be freeing. It allows you to spend money and enjoy doing so.

credit cary paying for Christmas expenses

Follow my simple “steps” for how to set up a Christmas budget, and you’ll be singing Christmas carols right along with me all season next year.

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Deals After Christmas

Remember those great deals after Halloween. Well, they are back and even better. Now it is time for the deals after Christmas.

Halloween tends to be the preview of what is to come, but there are usually a lot more deals after Christmas.

If you have leftover money from your current year Christmas budget, you can use that to stock up on holiday products for next year. Maybe you have already set up your Christmas budget for the coming year. If you make purchases now for next year, you can easily deduct them from that budget and document what you bought. I guarantee in 11 months you’ll have forgotten what you bought.  We did this last year with LED lights for outside and containers for cookie gift giving. What a great surprise when I discovered the new items we had and that was already paid for and part of the budget!

The best deals after Christmas

So let’s talk deals and what you should be on the lookout for.

The discounts will start right away on December 26. Some stores will be busy with lots of people out seeking these discounts, but they will be more crowded at customer service with returns. (side note: if you have a return try to do it when the store is least busy and definitely not on December 26. Nothing says your return must be done the day after you receive it)

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What to Buy on Black Friday

Everyone knows Black Friday is a big day for holiday shopping, but I bet you didn’t realize the variety of things you can get deals on.

This doesn’t mean I think you should spend all your money or go into debt because something is a deal. However, if you were in the market for any of these items, now is the time to buy.

what to buy on Black Friday

7 Things to buy on Black Friday

  • Vacations—Yes, there are some great deals on vacations on Black Friday. All you have to do is book the vacation on that day. If I had the disposable income right now, I’d be booking a nice beach vacation for the dead of winter for Brian and I. Maybe next year when we’re, fingers crossed, debt-free.

beach vacation

  • Pictures, Holiday Cards, Calendars – Typically, Snapfish and Shutterfly offer great deals on Black Friday. Bonus both are on Ebates. In years past, Snapfish has been as much as 20% cash back on Black Friday. Be sure to plan and have your Christmas cards ready, your calendars made and your pictures uploaded. Then all you need to do is order them on Black Friday. This is also a great time to order any holiday picture gifts such as ornaments, photo albums, calendars, etc. A family favorite picture gift that we gave one year was a puzzle that had the image of my parents and all of the grandkids. Everyone had a great time putting that together.

picture puzzle from snapfish

  • Toiletries and Medicine – Seriously, check the CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid ads. You can get free or deeply discounted items such as toothpaste, razors and over the counter medicines. If there is a rebate, don’t forget to submit them before the deadline. Check your coupons because you may even be able to make money on some of those things.
  • Household Items – You may not be thinking about items for your house, but Black Friday is a great time to replace old Tupperware, towels, dishes. If you like Zak kitchen items like I do, they are offering my readers a great Black Friday discount. Be sure to check it out. Several years in a row we got the huge Tupperware set at Wal-Mart. The price was amazing (less than $10), and we love it. It stores nicely in my drawer, and it’s easy to find a lid. At the great price, I don’t even mind replacing it every couple of years if need be.                                      rubbermaid tupperware
  • Wrapping Paper – The best deal I have found on wrapping paper is Black Friday at Walgreens. If I know I will need more wrapping paper for the holiday, I stop by there and pick it up. The price is always the cheapest. I also look over the paper designs. Some are generic enough to use for other holidays or birthdays. I have found generic roles most years.
    wrapping paper
    This was “holiday” wrapping paper that can be used any time of year.

    Appliances –Not many people think about buying appliances on Black Friday, but they are usually on sale. If you are remodeling, buying a new house, or just need a new appliance, this is a great time to consider making that purchase. This is both small kitchen appliances (mixers, blenders, crockpots, etc.) and big household appliances (washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, etc.). In fact, if an appliance is on its last leg and you can swing waiting until Black Friday, it’s not a bad idea.

  • Electronics – They are usually discounted very well on Black Friday. The products on the front page of the ads, the door buster sales, are not always the best purchase. They look the same as something that is good quality but they are low-quality. They are made cheaply so they can be sold cheaply to lure shoppers in on Black Friday. The better deal is the rest of the electronics that are on sale. One year we got a great deal on an iPads from Target online.

I hope this list has helped you to consider some new things you may want to buy on Black Friday. Buying now could save you a lot of money later. December is also a great time to save money all year on gift cards and certificates.

*Planning to shop on Black Friday, be sure to check out “7 Tips to Make the Most of Black Friday Shopping.

*Remember if you plan to shop online you MUST sign up for Ebates.  If you don’t, you are throwing money away.

What other things should bargain hunters buy on Black Friday?

For special discounts just for my readers check out my Black Friday and Cyber Monday page.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you; I will earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. Thank you for your support in this way!

 

 

7 Tips for Black Friday Shopping

Black and Friday

Two simple words that when put together cause much debate.

Whether you like Black Friday or not, you have to admit there are some good deals to be found.

I’m not saying that you “need” these deals, but they do exist.

The key to successful Black Friday shopping is to know what you want and not get sucked into spending on things you don’t need or want.

tips for Black Friday

Worse yet is buying something that isn’t in fact on sale, but retailers lead you to believe is a great sale.  To better help you prepare for Black Friday, I have six tips to make the most of your Black Friday shopping.

You could just go and shop, but following these tips could save you money, headaches and time.

Trust me Black Friday can even be fun, especially when you get free money afterward just for shopping on Black Friday (Ebates, Kohl’s cash, gift cards).

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What To Buy in December To Save Money All Year

Did you know there is one thing you need to buy for yourself in November and December that can save you money all year long?

I bet you didn’t because even the best of bargain shoppers overlook it.

Are you ready for it?

What to buy in December . . .

Gift Cards.

Yes, if you buy gift cards around the holidays you will likely receive free “money.”

Say what?!

Free money that can’t be right Megan.

How does that work?

Well, it’s easy and just requires a little extra cash. If you don’t have it now, plan for next year. You can save up just like you do for your regular Christmas savings.

Start to pay attention to the places you usually go to (i.e. restaurants, spas, car wash, stores).

This is how it usually works:

Chili’s offers you a free $5 gift card if you purchase $25 in gift cards.

Culvers offers you a free value basket if you purchase $25 in gift cards.

Maggiano’s offers you a $20 gift card if you purchase $100 in gift cards.

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Halloween Deals

Did you know there are great deals to be had the day after a holiday?

Yes, the stores immediately mark down items for quick sale. The markdowns typically start 50% and may get as high as 75% or 90% if you are willing to wait.

Everything that is related to that holiday goes on sale.

Halloween deals

As we gear up for several holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s), there will be several opportunities for stocking up on items at discounted prices.

Here is your guide for what you can be stocking up on after Halloween.

Costumes:

If you have children or grandchildren or are a teacher with a dress-up area, you will want to check out the discounted costumes. Target has some great quality costumes that we have bought over the years.  They are great for playing dress up all year long. If you plan to go to Disney World within the next year, it is the perfect time to get character costumes for your children. Last year we bought an Elsa and Belle dress for our daughters. We put them away and surprised the girls before we left. I guarantee we spent far less money buying them after Halloween on discount than if we had bought them in June before our trip.

Halloween deal on costumes
The girls in their dresses at Disney World. Both bought 9 months before our trip for less than $30.

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Save Money on Your Grocery Budget

Do you want to save money?

Have you cut back on your budget and feel like there is nowhere else you can save?

What if I told you, you could save hundreds of dollars a month?

If you are like most people, the food portion of your budget is probably a place you can still do some work.

shopping deals

It’s no secret that I’m a frugal shopper, I use coupons, and I try to save money wherever we can. However, no matter how hard I tried, I still struggled with cutting down our food budget.

We do not eat out that much and we menu plan. However for some reason, our food budget has always been a struggle.

We tried so many different things, so when I came across Erin Chase’s Grocery Budget Makeover Course I was intrigued, but skeptical.

I desperately wanted to find ways to cut our food spending down, because I knew it was the last area of our budget that I could control month to month and try to save more. I was skeptical because I knew that we were already pretty frugal and I didn’t know how much new information this course would give me.

We are now saving $50-$150 a month on our food spending thanks to lessons I learned in this course.  That’s $600-$1800/year. Every family is different; you could have even larger savings. (more…)

Coupon Clipping for the Ordinary Mom

simple couponingYou’re a busy woman with a lot on your plate, but you want to save money, right?!

One of the oldest ways that people saved money on the home front was through the use of coupons.

There were years that coupon clipping wasn’t “cool,” but then TLC introduced people to the world of Extreme Couponing in 2010.

On that show, cameras followed extreme couponers to see how many groceries and products they could get for little to no money. It was an interesting show to watch, but most people aren’t going to, nor do they need to coupon to that level.

I do not need a stockpile of hundreds of boxes of Hamburger Helper in my garage. In fact, I haven’t even eaten Hamburger Helper since I had kids.

There are a lot of great coupons that you can use to get products for free or deeply discounted; however, if you don’t have a good way of organizing your coupons you will never use them.

As a busy mom, it is even more important that my coupons are organized SIMPLY and can be found easily.

Time is a hot commodity in my life, and I need to make sure that the money saving methods that I use are a good return on my investment. Remember I’m the one who doesn’t even recommend having a garage sale to everyone.

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Cars: Do You Really Need an Upgrade?

Do you really need to upgrade your car?

Cars can be a status symbol. They can also be a HUGE money drainer.

To me a car is a practical item that makes life easier and it doesn’t matter to me how nice a car is as long as it meets my needs.

The first car that I ever owned was a 1989 Plymouth Acclaim that I affectionately called “lil blue.”  I bought her for $500 from a car auction the summer before my junior year of college. She was already 12 years old at that point. She had paint chipping all over and manual windows (yes, I had to actually roll down the window—which I did often because her air conditioning was broke), but she ran and she was affordable.

I loved that car.

Not my actual car. I can find no pictures of her. Lil Blue had a whole lot of paint missing.

A couple of months before our wedding, she finally died.

She served me well for 4 years and I can say I ran ‘lil blue into the ground. I knew she was on her last leg, but wasn’t really prepared to buy a new car.

We were saving to pay for our wedding, I was living at my parent’s house and working at a day care center as I tried to find permanent employment.

Eventually we did buy a “new to us” car with payments (because that is what everyone does –right?)

We got married and were a two-car family for about a year and a half.  In that year and a half our “new to us” car turned out to be a lemon. We replaced it with a 2005 Toyota Corolla and then Brian’s old car from high school, 1990 Buick Century, which he had been driving all along, finally died as well.

Not his actual car, because apparently I didn’t take pictures of cars back then.

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The ONE thing sabotaging your budget and how to fix it

1 budget sabotage

There are many things that can sabotage a budget. However there is one universal thing that is sure to wreak havoc on anyone’s budget. In fact you can spend hours every day creating the best budget the world has ever seen, but if you forget one simple detail your budget is worthless.

Here it is– tracking each and EVERY expense.

If you don’t have a way to capture every expense you make – yes even that $1.25 energy drink my husband occasionally buys on particularly slow nights at work—your budget will fail. At the end of the month your budget may balance on paper, but in real life it won’t. You will forever be wondering where the money went or worse yet, you won’t even notice it’s missing.

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