Money-Saving Tips for Thanksgiving Day Dinner

For many people, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season – time spent with family and friends, celebrations, and if you’re one of the lucky few, a little time away from work. I’ll admit, one of the things I most look forward to is all of the delicious food associated with the holidays, especially Turkey Day.

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6 Common Credit Card Mistakes

When I was in college, there was no shortage of credit card representatives on campus, encouraging students to open a line of credit to build or improve on their credit scores. To entice us even further, every company offered a “free gift” when we signed up (and what college kid doesn’t love free things?). It seemed like a good enough idea at the time, so I opened my first account with little knowledge of how credit cards worked. This was mistake #1, and it led to plenty more until I realized how I should be using it, and how to manage my debt.

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Holiday Budgeting: The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

It’s starting. We haven’t even gotten to Halloween yet and I’ve already seen Christmas items for sale in stores. While part of me is secretly excited, the other half of me dreads what the holidays can do to my bank account. While all of the seasons we celebrate are really about being thoughtful and enjoying the company of the ones we love, gifts and celebrations are sure to sneak their way in, which can really start to take a financial toll. If you start to prep your budget now, you’ll find yourself a lot less stressed once the holiday season officially begins. I’ve learned from my past mistakes, and I think I’d like to consider myself well-prepared this year. Check out a few of the guidelines I followed for getting my budget holiday-ready…

Start planning now. Will there be any parties or celebrations you’ll be attending or hosting? Will you be giving any gifts? Will you be traveling? Thinking of these kinds of things now can help you plan your budget for the coming months and make adjustments as needed. Use your current budget to determine how much extra you can set aside to save for holiday spending, and adjust accordingly, if needed. For example, I like to trim back on my “going out” money and some of my vacation savings to focus more on season-specific things, like gift-giving.

Save a little at a time. This was one of the best decisions I ever made! I found myself in credit card debt every year from going overboard on gifts, and it would take me at least a month or so to dig my way out of it. This year, I set aside a little money out of each paycheck strictly for this kind of spending (I based my total goal on what I typically spend on Christmas presents, and I divided that number up by 11 for how many months I’d be saving for). While it’s a little late to start this now, you can do a mini-version of it by determining how much money you can set aside from each of the paychecks you’ll receive between now and the end of the year. Keep this in mind for next time!

Prioritize. Now that you know what you have to work with, decide where it’s going. Are gift-giving and party-hosting at the top of your list, or would you prefer to direct more of your holiday budget towards charitable giving? Divide up your holiday budget to give you more specific spending guidelines.

Start shopping early. If you have an idea of what you’ll be buying, it can be a great idea to keep an eye out for sales or deals on any of those items you might see available now! I’ve not only found that I can save more money this way, but it also allows me to make adjustments to my budget, based on whether I over- or under-spend. Saving money allows me to direct anything extra I have to other priorities on my list, or even better, come in under budget!

Do it yourself. Want to save a little extra? Take on a few DIY projects! You can choose to do a number of things on your own instead of spending money on store-bought versions – think gifts, decorations, homemade cookies, etc. These things often end up being more cherished anyways, and your thoughtfulness will be appreciated!

Have the holidays crossed your mind yet? Are you doing anything to better prepare for them?

40 Fun AND Free Things To Do Outdoors

We may be getting ready to say “so-long” to summer, but the weather leading up to the change of seasons is perfect for heading outdoors! This is one of my favorite times of the year; it’s not too hot, and it’s not too cold, but just right for being comfortable outside whether you’re doing something active or spending time doing something a little more relaxing. The best part about heading out is that it’s almost always budget-friendly… there are a TON of things you can do for cheap, or even better, for FREE! Check out some of the ideas and suggestions below to take advantage of mother nature before it’s time to break out the hats, gloves, and winter coats.

1. Check out a local festival or celebration.

2. Sample beverages at a winery. Most places allow you to bring a picnic lunch or snacks, as well!

3. Browse local yard and garage sales.

4. Attend a high school sporting event.

5. Meet a friend for coffee.

6. Explore the downtown area where you live.

7. Learn a new sport.

8. Join an intramural team.

9. Get up to watch the sunrise or sunset from the best view in town.

10. Have a bonfire.

11. Go camping.

12. Sketch or draw a scene from nature (or learn to draw!).

13. Attend an outdoor movie screening in the park.

14. Go to a local farmer’s market.

15. Read on your porch or at a local cafe.

16. Have a picnic in the park.

17. Explore new parts of your neighborhood.

18. Go for a scenic drive. (This is especially fun once the leaves start changing color!)

19. Ride bikes.

20. Get some exercise! Go for a run or complete your local park’s fitness obstacle course.

21. Do some amateur star gazing.

22. Collect wildflowers and make a bouquet for your home.

23. Window shop.

24. Attend a workshop at your local hardware store (Home Depot offers free classes!).

25. Take a peak inside Open House tours.

26. Visit a farm. We have a great one near our house where we’re allowed to interact with some of the animals!

27. Visit the zoo on discounted or free days.

28. Practice your photography skills.

29. Go swimming at a friend’s house before it gets too cold.

30. Fly a kite.

31. Watch planes take off at the airport (extra fun if you can get up close outside).

32. Go fishing.

33. Go geocaching.

34. Sunbathe and listen to music.

35. Stage a water balloon fight (or do it for a good cause!).

36. Break out your skates or rollerblades.

37. Check out local historical sites.

38. Explore local college campuses.

39. Take your dog for a walk (or a friend’s!).

40. People-watch in the park.

Be Smart About Social Spending

Many people feel pressure to keep their social spending in line with that of their friends, even if they know it’s something that’s out of their reach. No one wants to feel like the party pooper, or the boring old hermit that stays home all of the time. I know people that would rather put themselves in debt rather than miss out on something. Finances and budgeting are never the same for any two people, so you’ll need to decide for yourself what your priorities are. It’s important to be debt-free and have a savings cushion, but that doesn’t mean you have to bail out on everything else! The more you fine-tune your budget, the easier it will be to find where you can make room for something fun. Check out some of the tips below to help incorporate social spending into your monthly allowances without derailing your other plans.

Make room in your budget for social outings and celebrations. Special events are bound to pop up here and there – a friend’s birthday, a yearly trip, lunch with your sister, etc. Setting aside funds for these types of things makes it easier for you to participate when the occasion arises. It’ll also help you make the decision to say “no” if need be. You might consider setting aside money in a separate account for just this. That way, you’ll easily be able to see what’s available for you to use. But what happens if you don’t have enough? Use this as an incentive to save even more so you’ll be better prepared for the next time.

Don’t be afraid to say no. You’re the only one that can decide what does and doesn’t work for you financially. Don’t sacrifice your long-term goals (paying off debt and saving) for things that aren’t that important to you. Your friends and family will understand, and chances are, some of them are feeling the same way you are!

Spend time with likeminded friends. Last week, we mentioned that a great strategy for sticking to your budget is to surround yourself with support – people like you who are also trying to be smart about their spending.

Share costs. Tie this one in with the tip above; if you have friends that are thinking along the same lines as you, offer to split costs where you can so you can both save a little extra money. Give a group gift for that wedding you’re all attending, or share an entree at dinner and split the bill.

Working extra spending money into your monthly allowances allows you to spend it guilt-free, and you’ll be less likely to dig yourself into a debt hole, because let’s face it – if you really want to do something, you’re going to spend it anyway. Working from what you allow yourself will force you to further analyze your spending, and prioritize what matters most.

How do you make room for fun in your budget? What do you struggle with the most?