Tuesday Tip #26: Tips to Smart Holiday Shopping

Black Friday and Cyber Monday has come and gone, but nearly a month remains of the Christmas shopping season. The early birds may have bought, wrapped and mailed all of their gifts by now, but many of us still haven’t set foot in a store. So I offer these consumer tips — courtesy of consumerreports.org and the National Retail Federation — in the spirit of the holiday shopping season:

 

  • Make a list and check it twice. Write down the names of everyone on your gift list, the naughty and the nice, and how much you plan to spend on their gifts.
    Creating a list helps you budget your holiday expenses, reduces the chance you’ll forget someone, and makes it easier to find ways to save money by making the best use of stores’ buy-one-get-one-free offers.
  • Surf the Net before you visit the store. Go online and check out the websites and Facebook pages of your favorite retailers to see what specials they offer.
  • Sign up to receive e-mails from retailers. They often contain special offers and coupons.
  • If you know exactly what you are buying someone, price the item at two or more online sites before heading to the store. It can save you time and gas money.
  • Shop the night before a sale begins. Many stores program their registers each evening for the next day, so a sale price might come up if you shop after 6 p.m. even if the sale price isn’t posted yet.
  • Ask a sales associate about any upcoming sales, especially on big-ticket items
  • Don’t get distracted. Stores entice you with “doorbuster” specials, especially on TVs and other electronic items. If that’s what you want, don’t let the salesperson steer you toward a more expensive item. If you are looking for a better quality TV or computer, however, know that the higher-priced ones might have more wiggle room for negotiation.
  • Check the store’s return policy. Not only do return policies differ from store to store, they also might also be different this time of year. Some items purchased during Black Friday weekend might not be returnable, or have a shortened return period. Also, ask whether a store has a restocking fee.
  • Don’t park in the dark. If shopping after 5 p.m., make sure you park in a well-lighted area of the parking lot. Keep the items you bought in the trunk of the car and out of sight. If you drive a hatchback, cover your purchases with a blanket.

Tuesday Tip #25 – Thanksgiving Safety Tips

  • To avoid a fire, stay in the kitchen while cooking. Check on the food throughout the day. If deep-frying a turkey, keep the fryer outside and away from walls, fences and other structures.
  • If you thaw your turkey at 40° F or higher, salmonella and other bacteria could grow. Thaw your turkey in the fridge. The general rule is one day for every 5 pounds. Or, thaw your turkey underwater – 30 minutes for every pound. Change the water every 30 minutes.
  • Give the juices time to set after it’s done cooking by letting it rest for a bit.
  • Cook the turkey right after thawing. Check the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest breast area to see if it’s finished. The temperature needs to be least 165° F.
  • Put your leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of serving the food. If you are not going to eat them within 36 hours, put them in the freezer.
  • Keep turkey bones, fatty holiday foods (turkey skin and gravy), chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, alcohol, and anything with caffeine away from your pets.

Tuesday Tip #25: Get Creative this Holiday Season

Get creative with your gift giving: Handmade gifts and personalized coupons can be the most thoughtful gifts.  Think about your own talents as well as what the person may need.  For example: knit a blanket or sweater; bake some cookies; create a photo album of your favorite pictures (decorate the cover of the album with a colorful title); make a music tape with their favorite tunes; or give them a coupon for a special dinner at your house, baby-sitting time, or even a house cleaning – the list is endless.

Tuesday Tip #24: Budgeting on Holiday Shopping

Develop a budget and stick to it: Write a list of everyone on your gift list and determine how much you want to spend on each person.  You should also include costs for cards, postage, gift-wrapping, holiday meals out, parties, travel, and any other miscellaneous items.  Bring your list when you hit the stores, as it is easy to shop impulsively during this time of year.

Tuesday Tip #23: Graduating Sooner Can Save You Thousands

By taking heavier course loads or attending school year-round, many students are graduating from college in three years, saving them thousands of dollars. Students may have to shell out more for additional courses, but they’re saving a year of university fees and room and board costs — not to mention avoiding potential tuition hikes. Many universities are even offering special three-year college programs for driven students, which allows them to save about $10,000.

Tuesday Tip #22: Save for the Holidays

The holidays are appproaching soon, and buying gifts for your loved ones can take a large toll on your finances. But, it doesn’t have to if you save money. The best thing to do is to continue adding to your holiday fund each week.  If your budget is tight, find ways to cut back on your daily spending (e.g., no morning latte, bring a lunch to work, give up your weekly movie, etc.), and put that extra cash toward gifts.

Tuesday Tip #20: How to teach kids to save.

Keeping good records of money saved, invested, or spent is another important skill young people must learn. To make it easy, use 12 envelopes, 1 for each month, with a larger envelope to hold all the envelopes for the year. Establish this system for each child. Encourage children to place receipts from all purchases in the envelopes and keep notes on what they do with their money.

Tuesday Tip #11: Plan your meals around your grocery store’s flyer.

Plan your meals around your grocery store’s flyer. Instead of just planning your meals based on a cookbook or whatever you can dream up, plan all your meals around what’s on sale in your grocery store’s flyer. Look at the biggest sales, then plan meals based on those ingredients and what you have on hand, and you’ll find yourself with a much smaller food bill than you’re used to. Do you know of any other ways on saving money in the kitchen?

Tuesday Tip #10: Save $ and still have fun this summer!

Summer is right around the corner which makes it easier than ever to have fun with your friends and also save a little more. Bike Ride. Walk. Run. Play tennis at the park. Play basketball. Whatever sport gets you moving, head outside and do it… you can do all of it for free if you have the equipment needed. Even if you don’t, chances are you can borrow it from someone you know.