Holiday Wishes

Revisiting a holiday post from a previous year, and renewing happy holiday wishes for all!

For all you readers who celebrate ANY of the December holidays, today is probably NOT a day when you’re looking for a message or tip about wise use of money.  In my experience, by this point in the holiday season the die is cast — the money is pretty much all spent, or at least the decisions are made and the funds are committed. There’s not much I can say that will matter for now. (In a week or two it may be time for a clear money message — time to start new habits and/or address existing problems – but not now).

For now, in the midst of celebration and family time, now is simply the time to enjoy what life brings. To me, the key is to recognize that the most important gift you or anyone else can bring to holiday festivities is a gift of good cheer.

  • That means not comparing how much you spent with how much someone else spent on a gift. Instead, simply trust that you and everyone else gave with good intentions; this will bring the most joy to your celebrations.
    Note: this includes not judging yourself, as well as not judging others.
  • It means giving the best possible interpretation to the contributions and comments of others. Holiday festivities can bring stressful situations and poorly-thought-out comments; for everyone’s sake, this is a time to tune in to the positive to keep celebrations bright.
  • It means that maintaining and building relationships is more important than any detail that is amiss or any aspect of the feast that is less or more than past celebrations.
  • There is always something to enjoy or be grateful for. Bring a grateful or joyful attitude to celebrations, meals, and to giving and receiving.

No matter how much money you spend on holidays, it is gifts of good cheer, kindness, friendship and joy that will mean the most to you and all those in your world.

We at MoneyTip$ wish you very happy holidays!

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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Holiday Spending: How Not to Blow Your Budget

Christmas-gift-couponAlmost everything you see this holiday season will encourage you to spend money. You may feel pressured to buy the “best” gift. In fact, according to the Consumer Federation, 1/3 of us plan on spending more during the holidays than last year.

Are you looking for ways to not blow your budget this holiday season? Make a commitment right now to be smart in your spending and keep to your spending and savings plan. Say it with me: “I will not break my budget this holiday season.”

So — HOW to make that happen.  Hmmm…

Take a look at your financial situation and your goals:

  • Focus on your needs and priorities – Not holiday presents or decorations; put your focus on priority items like a down payment for a house, saving for a child’s education, or building the emergency fund.
  • Create a spending and savings plan to reach your goals –Do it now before you start holiday spending or incur any unnecessary debts.

Once you know how much you have to spend, use these tips to keep spending within your budget:

  1. Form gift exchanges (in other words, draw names within a group, so each person buys only one present instead of many) – Not all families may want to do this, but it should definitely work with friends. After all, reducing the number of your gifts you have to buy can save you money.
  2. Make homemade gifts – Make a food dish, movie night packages, remote holders, or candles. There are great ideas available on-line and in magazines and books to inspire you. You can knit, sew, glue, fold, stir, or recycle to create a handmade gift that keeps your spending low and your personal investment high.
  3. Share a skill –Give a coupon for one dog walk or one house cleaning; offer to teach your grandmother how to use the computer; or arrange to teach a niece or nephew how to cook a meal.

Don’t let this holiday season break the bank.

~Susan

Susan Taylor

Susan Taylor

Resources are important whether you are looking to rent your first apartment, pay your bills, buy your first home or send your child to college. There are many ways to save money to reach your goals, and hopefully ISU Money Tip$ will be one of them. I enjoy traveling, needlework and am a novice gardener.

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Gifts for Those Who Have Everything

giftWhat do you give to someone who has everything?  I frequently struggle with that question, and I know I’m not alone.  For these situations I’ve come up with three ideas I have found useful.

The first idea I turn to is to give them something they can use up.  Something consume-able, such as:

  • Wine, or baked goods, or specialty cheeses
  • A nice meat bundle for the oven and grill
  • Restaurant or theater gift cards

Sometimes, though, those ideas have all been used, and I want a new idea.  In recent years, I have tried a different gift-giving approach for people I care about who already have much: instead of giving them something, I’ve given a gift to a charity in their name.

If I know of a charity they really care about, then that has been a good option.  But another fun option has been to buy a certain farm animal for people in a third-world country.  This is an option I’ve found through a reputable religious organization.  They offer a catalog with gifts available at many different price levels:  ten baby chicks are inexpensive; a cow is quite expensive (I’ve never bought a cow).  One year I “gave” my parents a pair of goats.  These goats went to a developing country where they were designed to enable a family to improve their economic well-being.  In addition to farm animals, I’ve also seen the option to buy school materials for communities in need, or malaria nets or malaria medicine.  Many options exist.

A third idea that I really like applies to children who have everything.  Sometimes the best gift is a gift of savings – for college or other education after high school.  When you put money aside for a child, you are giving them the gift of a future.  This is especially valuable for children whose parents are unable to save for the child’s future.  When you put money away for education, you are saying to the child “I believe in you.  I believe you will do something excellent when you grow up.”  You might also help the child (depending on his or her age) think about saving some of their own money too.  Helping them learn to plan and dream and save for the future is a great gift to a child.

What gifts do you especially like to give?

Barb

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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Wedding Gifts

giftIt’s wedding season again!  This year, I don’t personally have any wedding invitations in store for this summer (that I know of), but it’s on my mind due to an article I saw today which mentioned weddings as teachable moments for financial skills.

Not surprising. We certainly encourage couples and families to use financial skills in planning weddings.  Making a financial plan and staying within limits are invaluable when planning a high-cost event.  Wedding guests can also benefit from financial planning.

But this article went down a path I had never explored:  ways wedding gifts can help couples build strong financial habits!  The author explained that she has adopted the practice of giving a good quality shredder as a wedding gift, sometimes accompanied by some cash and a book of financial tools and worksheets.  A shredder is a brilliant wedding gift, really.  She said it has been very much appreciated by many of the couples who have received it.

So I tried to think of other gifts that would be appreciated or enjoyed by couples and could also encourage good financial habits.  It was tough, actually.  I didn’t come up with many.  But here are a few:

  • Shredder (as mentioned above)
  • File cabinet
  • File container for emergency files (the files you would want to take with you if you needed to evacuate in a hurry).
  • Financial management software
  • Financial books or subscriptions
  • How-To books – how to fix things, how to garden  (which would save them money)
  • Cook books (cooking/eating at home usually saves money and promotes health)

None of these gifts is romantic.  Some of them, however, are actually items that couples might register for – the article mentioned that the author sometimes sees shredders on bridal registries!  Not everyone chooses a “practical” direction for their wedding gifts.  But most couples do appreciate practical gifts, so the items listed may be worth considering.

Can you think of other money-conscious gift ideas?

~ Barb

p.s. the article that prompted this came from Susan Sharkey of the National Endowment for Financial Education.  Their “Smart About Money” website is a fine source of financial information!

 

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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