Archive for Christmas

Tracking Holiday Spending Keeps Seasonal Stress Down

 

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Holiday Spending Hacks

Nothing is more heartwarming than seeing your loved ones’ faces light up when they open that perfect gift you (err, Santa) gave them.

Tyler’s new bike, Olivia’s new tablet and that gift card to mom and dad’s favorite steak place all add up to wonderful holiday memories… until the credit card statements show up.

The holidays will look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why most people will try even harder to make the season brighter for others. But, you don’t have to dip into Tyler and Olivia’s college savings to create a special time for everyone!

The most important thing to remember is to plan ahead: Have a set spending amount for gifts, wrap, entertaining, donations and travel.

Make a list and check it twice

Many are struggling financially this year, so it will be no surprise to those outside your family if your gift-recipient list is shorter this year. Once you trim your list, make a holiday treat or handmade token for those who got the cut. It really IS the thought that counts.

Once you have your list complete, figure out a realistic amount to spend on each person. Jot down a couple of gift ideas in your price range for that person.

Try the 705 budgeting tool to keep your spending in check. Click on “Trends” within Online Banking for regular monthly budgeting, but it also allows you to allocate more funds for holiday purchases. Using graphs and reports, it shows how much you’ve spent and how it will affect your budget in the months to come.

Shopping

Due to the pandemic, holiday shopping is already in full swing. Most people want to avoid crowds, so they are already hitting the malls. Retailers are well aware of this trend, and are offering pre-Black Friday sales and discounts.

Spreading out your holiday shopping over several weeks also makes it easier on your budget. Always shop with a list and keep track of your spending. As you buy your gifts, subtract from your total budget.

In addition to shopping the sales and collecting coupon codes for online purchases, know when to buy. December is the best time to buy cars, appliances, winter clothing and electronics. Also, know how much items cost before a markdown to know if you’re really getting a deal.

It is expected that online shopping will increase by 35% this year because shoppers don’t feel comfortable being in stores. Some states still have restrictions limiting retail establishments’ capacity and store hours.

If you’re shopping online, order early and expect delays in shipping. Increased shopping during the holidays will affect already-strained delivery companies. To avoid shipping delays and higher shipping costs, shop at stores that offer “buy online, ship to store” service. This service is free at most retailers, some of which offer curbside pickup.

Get the best deals on cards, decorations and gift wrap during the days right before and after Christmas. Discounts of up to 75% off can shave a lot off your holiday budget for next year.

Entertaining

Still reeling from the pandemic, most folks will host smaller holiday gatherings this year, which will save tons on food, treats and adult beverages. Many people are still working from home, so work parties and gift exchanges also will be virtual or postponed, keeping cash in your wallet.

If you’re hosting guests, keep costs down by asking everyone to bring their favorite side or dessert and include festive recipe cards with the chef’s name.

For the adults, serve a warm mulled wine or holiday punch or make one festive signature cocktail.

Use DIY decor featuring natural items, like holly and pine cones. Gather the kids and go on a hike to find outdoor holiday decorations. Not only will it save you money, but it will also give you some stress-free outdoor time with your family.

Save more by partying without plastic. Disposable plates and dinnerware are not great for the environment or your budget.

Travel

If you must travel home for the holidays, don’t forget to figure in other incidentals beyond gasoline and the cost of a plane ticket.

If you’re traveling by car, gas prices have luckily seen a steady dip. Still, the GasBuddy app can help you find the best prices for gasoline wherever you are, and you can even pay from the app. Don’t forget to figure in tolls and any emergency costs that may come up.

If you’re flying, consider baggage fees, parking and shuttle costs and the expense of ground transportation once you arrive.

And don’t forget Fluffy! You’ll need to pay someone to take care of your furry friends. The Rover app can help you find pet care options near your home.

Charitable giving

The holidays are a time for goodwill toward all. But if your budget cannot accommodate a monetary donation, volunteer your time. If you are able to make a financial donation, be sure to check that the charity you are supporting is legitimate by consulting Charity Navigator.

Keep your holidays dollars in check, and you may have some holiday spirit left over even after the last elf is packed away and the January bills start rolling in.

We at 705 FCU wish you all a happy, healthy and stress-free holiday.

Resources

https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2020/10/26/5-ways-holiday-shopping-will-be-different-in-2020/?sh=2def7bdd1558
https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-stick-to-your-holiday-budget-2385688
https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/60171/11-innovative-ways-track-your-holiday-spending
https://www.hgtv.ca/entertaining/photos/holiday-entertaining-on-a-budget-1922279/#currentSlide=1
https://www.moneycrashers.com/create-holiday-budget/

8 Ways to Beat the Holiday Stress

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‘Tis the season to be merry-except sometimes, it’s not.

While the entertainment industry would have us think the holidays are always full of good cheer, lots of laughs and warm feelings, the reality can, unfortunately, be otherwise.

Sometimes, all that frenzied consumerism, party-hopping and crazy schedules can bring out the worst in the people we love. Other times, a challenging life situation, such as a recent divorce, death in the family or financial struggles, are painfully magnified when everyone around you seems to be in such wonderfully high spirits.

No one wants to be the Grinch on Christmas. So, if you tend to feel stressed or down when the holidays roll around, here are eight tips to help you turn that frown into a genuine smile.

1. Watch the buck

Nothing kills the holiday cheer like a mountain of debt. Stick to a budget when doing your holiday shopping and only spend what you can actually afford. Be extra careful not to overspend as the holidays draw near, and you’re experiencing pressure to finish your shopping in time. If you find yourself running low on funds, consider arranging a gift exchange, like a Secret Santa, or giving some homemade presents this year.

2. Give back

The holidays can sometimes leave us feeling down because of all that emphasis on the perfect gifts. Opening up a present is always a thrill, but giving to others creates lasting joy. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, one of the best ways to reduce stress is to give back to your community.
Beat the stress this season by sharing holiday cheer with those who are less fortunate. There are so many ways to spread joy! You can bring some toys to the children’s ward at the local hospital to brighten up a sick child’s holiday. Use your time off from work to volunteer at a soup kitchen. Dress up your family in their ugliest Christmas sweaters and holiday hats before visiting the closest nursing home to put a smile on the residents’ faces.

When you give, you always give most to yourself.

3. Stick to a schedule

Part of the holiday experience is enjoying late nights and/or early mornings. Sometimes, though, all that lazing around and lack of quality sleep can make stress levels soar. There’s no need to be a stickler for your regular routine on the holidays, but it’s a good idea to keep some sort of schedule. Make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye, and if a physical workout is part of your daily routine, don’t neglect it over the holidays. You’ll always feel better when you’re taking care of your body. And, if you’re mindful about your habits, you may not even have those extra pounds to work off in January!

4. Party smart

Cheers! Can I pour you another glass of … soda?

If you like to party, you can end up getting sick over the holidays. All that heavy drinking and loading up on refined carbs can really do your body in. Do yourself a favor this year and watch what you imbibe. Enjoy a glass or two of your favorite alcoholic beverage, but try to keep the drinking to a minimum. Similarly, it’s OK to break your diet over Christmas, but it’s best not to go overboard. You don’t need to feel bloated and sick to enjoy the holidays. Keep the stress out by treating your body well.

5. Delegate

Are you hosting a crowd this Christmas? Guests can be great fun, but all the extra work can bring your stress levels through the roof. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to do it all! There’s nothing wrong and there’s everything right with asking for help. Don’t feel bad about having your guests and family members pitch in with cooking and cleaning. They’ll feel better, too, when they’re sharing the workload. Plus, everything is easier when there are more hands on deck.

6. Take some “me” time

Whether you’re a closet introvert or you just need some time alone each day, the nonstop partying and a house full of guests can get to you after a while. It’s always a good idea to take care of yourself, and in the chaos of the holidays this need is often neglected. Consider running out to get yourself a manicure, taking a solitary half-hour walk or just locking yourself in your room after a long and loud day to savor the peace and quiet. You’re not being an antisocial snob if you need your “me” time; you’re just being human.

7. Give up the guilt

If you tend to overanalyze every interaction you have with family and friends, you can really beat yourself up over the holidays questioning everything you’ve said. Try to relax and to let go this season. So long as you’re reasonably pleasant and agreeable, you can give yourself a break.

8. Lower your expectations

A common cause for holiday stress is unrealistic expectations. It’s best not to build huge castles in the air by keeping your expectations to a minimum. There will probably be some minor, or even major, stressors this holiday, and not everything will turn out exactly as planned. All of that is OK. If you don’t expect perfection, you won’t be struggling with mountains of disappointment this holiday.

Beat the blues and put the cheer back into the holidays this year!

Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas from all of us here at Section 705.

Sources: 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/life-without-anxiety/201212/10-tips-surviving-the-holidays
https://www.symptomfind.com/health/holiday-stress-management/
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/holiday-stress-tips_b_790222
https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/parents-holiday

Help! I Overspent On Christmas!

Buyer’s Remorse after Christmas?

It’s easy to go overboard for Christmas. Giving extravagant gifts to your family members seems like a great idea…until you’re facing a huge credit card
bill in January.
 
However it happened, approach this problem rationally. Blaming yourself is pointless; the important thing now is to right yourself financially.
Fortunately, you’re not facing this alone. Section 705 Federal Credit Union is here to help. Check out these four ways you can patch up your finances and have things right before summer.

1.) Budgeting adviceYour CU: personal loans, budgeting advice, debt counseling, and refinancing major purchases.

It’s very tempting to make only the minimum payments on the credit card you used to buy Christmas. Unfortunately, it’s also the best way to ensure you’re in debt for every Christmas to come.
 
Making minimum payments on credit cards prolongs the length of time you’re in debt and spikes the total amount you pay, adding an extra $175 to a $10,000 balance at 21% APR.
 
What you need is an aggressive debt repayment plan. Instead of looking to pay the smallest amount possible, identify the most you can afford to pay. Section 705 FCU can help with informative guides and worksheets on household budgeting.
 
Commit to an extreme budget until you make headway on the debt. Coming up with an extra $35 or $50 a month is tough, but it’s the easiest way to get things moving.

2.) Refinancing major purchases

If you splurged on one or two major purchases, it may not be credit card debt you’re facing. Slick car dealers offer crazy-sounding incentives to entice people to give cars for Christmas. Unfortunately, when you realize you’re in over your head with a car payment, there’s no undoing the deal.
 
Section 705 Federal Credit Union can help. Our auto and other major purchase loans often feature rates that are better than dealerships. You may need to finance the purchase over a longer term, or you may need to restructure the loan to pay less now. Either way, you’ll find more favorable and flexible terms at with us than you will at the dealer.

3.) Debt counseling

Does reading those credit card statements fill you with despair? The credit union can help you make sense of them.
 
Make an appointment to speak with a debt counselor through Section 705. You’ll learn about your rights and responsibilities and create a realistic plan to pay off your debt and avoid falling into the same trap next year.

4.) Personal loans

Instead of making dozens of minimum payments, focus your debt into one manageable plan through a debt consolidation. Amazingly, taking this step can save you money in the long run by lowering your interest rate and monthly payment commitment.
 
Collateral isn’t necessary. All you need is some basic personal information and a willing partner. Our loan specialists can help you organize and simplify your payments, working toward a debt-free life.
 
 
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How Not To Bust Your Holiday Budget

Christmas tree with presents underneath it

Holiday Budget Tips

According a T. Rowe Price survey, more than 50% of parents will aim to get everything on their kids’ wish lists this year. Many of these parents will be paying for these gifts for months, or even years, afterward.

There’s a better way, and it’s simple: create a budget, and make informed decisions about your spending before you hit the shops.

Short-term effects

Tipping your budget just a bit every once in a while isn’t a disaster. But the spending hangover many parents face after holiday shopping is too large to be easily forgotten.

Over half the parents surveyed will pay for their holiday gifts with credit cards. Just 61% of them plan to pay off their spending within three months, and 16% say they will pay it off over the course of six months or more. That’s half a year spent catching up on holiday spending!

Think carefully this shopping season before you drop another item into your cart. Is this gift really worth trimming your budget for the next three – or six – months?

Long-lasting effects

11% of parents use money from their retirement accounts, 14% have taken funds out of their emergency savings and 11% have taken out a payday loan.

While their kids may be delighted with their loot, parents can be paying for it for longer than they think.

Taking $500 out of a 401(k) at age 35 translates into giving up $6,000 that was earmarked for retirement. Parents are forking out additional taxes and penalties to gain access to the money, and are also losing the opportunity for that money to grow.

Life Lessons

There’s nothing quite as exciting as unwrapping a present. Kids wait all year for the holidays and as their parents, you want to make them happy. This is why 60% of the parents surveyed claimed they try to check off every single item on their child’s wish list.

Aside from the financial drain, purchasing every gift your kids have their hearts set on teaches them a host of lessons they’re better off without. Do you really want your kids thinking they can always have everything they want? Do you want them to feel that everything they own must always be the best and most expensive?

This holiday season, teach your kids that true happiness can’t be bought.

Be proactive

Try saving up for the holiday season throughout the year. While it may be too late for this year, it’s never too early to start thinking about next season. Sign up for our holiday club accounts, and put money aside each month!

Be an informed shopper this holiday season and your decisions will pay off in more ways than one.

Your Turn:  How will you fund your holiday spending? Do you plan to buy your kids everything on their lists? Why or why not?

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SOURCES:

 
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