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6 Ways to Save Money During the Holidays

'Tis the season for giving, but the costs for giving can add up quickly. It’s also very easy to get carried away with your spending. But shopping for the holidays doesn’t have to be a huge financial burden. To keep your spending under control this year try making a plan. Here are some tips on how to holiday shop on a budget.


Set a Budget and Stick to it

The first question you should ask yourself is “how much can I afford to spend on gifts?” It’s important to set a realistic spending limit and a budget will help you do that. A budget is a great way to allocate funds and track spending. Make sure you make the budget specific. Try breaking down your budget into spending categories, then set spending goals for each. Track the amount you buy to make sure you don’t overspend. Budget categories should include:


  • Gifts
  • Gift wrap
  • Postage and shipping costs
  • Christmas cards
  • Holiday meals
  • Entertaining
  • Decorations
  • Travel expenses
  • Holiday clothing
  • Charitable donations


There are a variety of online sites like queenoffree.com offer free budget forms to get you started.


Prioritize Your Gift List

When shopping on a budget, you should make a list of the people you want to give gifts to, in order of priority. Start with those you most want to shop for and work backward. Immediate family will usually top your list first, followed by close friends, relatives and co-workers. Not everyone on your list should receive the same level of gift, so it’s okay to set different spending limits for each. Once you have a list of gift recipients, add ideas for potential gifts for each person and keep track of costs.


Avoid Impulse Buys

Many people get swept up in the holiday spirit, especially when everything is discounted. Try and avoid the temptation to buy extra items for people on your gift list or, more importantly, for yourself. Stay on list so your spending doesn’t spiral out of control.


Search for Discounts

Sticking to your list doesn’t mean you have to avoid sales. Many stores offer deals on the items you’re looking for during the holidays. Popular online stores like Amazon.com, for example, offer daily bargains if you look for them. The Amazon Discount Finder tool can help you save quite a bit of money.


Avoid Unnecessary Expenses

You don’t have to buy expensive wrapping paper, bows, ribbons or other embellishments. Sure, those add-ons look fancy and they might not seem like a huge expense, but the cost adds up quickly and all that extra bling just ends up in the trash. Keep your giftwrapping simple and save yourself a few bucks. 


Plan for Next Year

After the holidays, consider getting a jumpstart on next year by taking advantage of post-holiday sales. The weeks after the holidays are a great time to stock up on wrapping paper, decorations and other items because retailers are looking to move their holiday stock at huge discount prices.


4 Tips to Avoid Winter Workout Blues


Winter means colder temperatures, inclement weather, darker days and a natural urge to forego regular exercise to avoid snow and cold in favor of hot cocoa and the warmth of wood-burning stoves. But you don’t have to retreat from the change in season. With a few simple tips you can keep exercise a priority this Winter.


Make The Season Work for You

There are a number of outdoor activities in Winter that you can’t do any other time of the year. Skiing, snow-shoeing or sledding are all unique forms of quality exercise that you should consider. Ice skating is also a popular and excellent way to burn more than 450 calories per hour, indoor or out. For a more intense workout try running in the snow. You can also shed calories simply by playing. Get your heart rate up and have a laugh by making snow angels, building a snowman or challenging a friend to a snowball fight!


Set Reasonable Goals

Setting big and small goals in Winter can help you find the motivation to exercise even on the coldest, darkest days. Create an overall goal that you then break down into smaller, achievable steps. If you’d like to run a 5K in the Spring for example, start with shorter jogs in the Winter months and increase your distance as the weather warms.  If you’re really busy or just on a tight schedule, remember that you don’t have to set aside a huge chunk of time to exercise. You can set exercise over the course of the day. Exercising for shorter periods a few times each day can even be better for your heart rate variability.


Try Something New

Think of Winter as an opportunity to do something you haven’t done before. Sign up for a new class at a gym or join an indoor sports team. There are many indoor sports like volleyball, basketball, soccer and racquetball that you may enjoy without having to go outside. A new activity may also help motivate you to stay active and teach you useful skills. Joining a team may even be a great opportunity to make some new friends.


Motivate Yourself with New Workout Gear

If you plan to exercise outside, you need the right clothes. Acquiring new equipment can be a big motivation because you’ll want to use or wear what you buy. Just make sure to cover your skin properly to keep out the cold and wind. Sweat-wicking layers will help to keep your muscles warm. Dress for weather 25 degrees warmer than the actual temperature to compensate for the rise in body temperature when you run Wear the right shoes to navigate slush, ice and snow.


5 Tips for Eating Healthy On a Budget


Healthy eating doesn’t have to come with a heavy price tag. Not when there are a variety of cost-saving tricks that will help you make good choices without straining your wallet. Here are 5 helpful tips for eating well on a budget:


Buy Fruit and Vegetables in Season

Fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season often cost less than those not in season. Your local farmer's market is a good choice for fresh, seasonal produce. You can also freeze fruits and veggies for a later time, so don’t be afraid to stock up.


Buy Ingredients Instead of Products

The more food you cook from scratch, the more money you’ll save, so buy raw ingredients instead of prepackaged foods. It may be tempting to get pre-made meals, but by taking the time to cook, you’ll end up eating a lot healthier and spend a lot less.


Search for Sales

Check the local circular at your local grocery store every week to see what's on sale. Most grocery stores also have cards you can sign up for that will allow you to save additional money. You should also look for coupons. You don’t have to find them in a local paper these days because there are many websites that offer deals on items. You don’t even have to print most online coupons out because they have bar codes that can be scanned from your phone. Try TheCouponClippers.com or TheCouponMaster.com to start. You may also want to try planning your meals around sales to save additional money.


Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

Preparing food in advance is a good way to make sure you eat healthy and it offers you a way to budget and plan for leftovers on busy days. Try making a grocery list that covers only the meals you plan to cook for the week. It will help save money by limiting you to what you need and help prevent extra purchases.


Download Free Health Apps

There are thousands of free iTunes applications that will help you plan healthy meals, offer tips for cooking, and track calorie intake and calories burned. Fitness apps can get you on an exercise program that will track your progress.



6 Ways to Save on Retirement Travel


Travel is far and away the number one goal for retirees. But experiencing adventures on the road and abroad in our golden years can be expensive. Fortunately, there are many ways you can prepare to travel affordably. Here are six suggestions to help you see the world on a budget:


Make Travel Plans Before You Retire

Thinking about where you’d like to travel and when before you retire is a good way to ensure you go on the adventures you’ve dreamed of. Making specific travel plans will make you more likely to prepare for them, motivate you to get up and go and help you save money in advance. Early preparation will also help you travel earlier in your retirement before you hit your advanced years. As a retiree you probably won’t be able to travel throughout your retirement. Unfortunately, we all slow down as we get older. 


Budget with a Cushion in Mind

The cost of travel is typically underestimated, so it’s a good idea to budget high and plan for extra costs. Calculate expenses by doing research and creating a spreadsheet or log of how much you might spend of lodging, food, airfare, admissions to sites, souvenirs and more. As you get older, you should also consider travel funds for health care. When you make your budget give yourself a cushion of at least 20 percent and make sure to factor in inflation. If you end up with too much money, you can always upgrade your trip.


Swap Houses

You can save a lot of money on lodging by swapping houses with someone who lives where you’re visiting, especially if your trip is long-term. For a small membership fee (less than $100), you can join Home Exchange or Intervac International Home Exchange, and browse houses around the globe. Make sure you get a signed exchange document that lays out house rules before committing.


Manage Travel Rewards

Using a rewards credit card to pay for your vacation is a good way to earn cash back or travel rewards that you can use for your next vacation. Just make sure you pay for your trip in full after it ends so you don’t incur interest. Along with credit cards, many travel industry businesses like hotels, airlines, rental car places and restaurants have a rewards program. Sign up and every time you travel, you'll earn discounts and even free travel. If you're a member of AARP, AAA or you are a veteran make sure you mention that when you book to get discounts as well.


Travel in the Off-Season

Now that you are retired you can travel at any time, so take advantage of less expensive, late morning or afternoon flights when pricing and travel times are lower. It’s usually cheaper to fly between Monday through Wednesday, instead of Thursday through Saturday. You should also book a hotel when tourism is low and there aren’t holidays around the corner. 


Consider Travel Insurance

Travel insurance should be something you consider when you’re going on a long trip. As an older traveler you could experience health issues that may prevent a trip or derail it. Travel insurance can help you recover some of the costs if you have medical reason.



How to Host Thanksgiving on a Budget

How To Host Thanksgiving on a Budget



Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate family and be grateful for everything and everyone in your life. But the big feast can often be expensive and stressful if you don’t plan for it carefully. It is possible to host a Thanksgiving on a budget. Here are some tips to help you think about the gathering ahead of time and get organized so you don’t go broke before the next big holiday


Craft Your Budget

It’s a good idea to sketch out a basic budget for Turkey Day so you know what to expect and can make informed decisions on what to spend on food, entertainment and activities, and decorations. Make a list of everything you need and how much it will cost before you take a trip to the grocery store. Really plan your menu out in your budget and stick to it.


Ask for Help

Now that you have a preliminary budget, you may want to cut back on some of the costs by asking your guests to contribute. You don’t have to do it all yourself. A potluck-style dinner is a good way to accept help, get everyone involved and keep costs low. Split up some of the prep work, ask guests to bring side dishes or desserts, or have them create decorations. Sharing the responsibilities for the festivities may even start a few new traditions, so don’t be afraid to give in to the spirit of Thanksgiving.


Make Dinner from Scratch

Don’t buy anything canned or in packages because pre-made items usually cost more. Instead, use the spices you have at home, buy real potatoes instead of a box of instant, make your own pie crusts, or make your own stuffing with leftover bread. You get the idea. Also consider trimming your menu down. Hopefully you’ve already asked for friends and family to contribute to your meal. But by cutting back on what you make, you'll be more likely to spend the time creating fresh, high-quality dishes and less tempted to buy, pre-made options.


When it’s time to purchase all the fresh ingredients take a moment to look through your local paper or online at places like Coupons.com for any deals that might be available for items on your list. Check to see if your local stores are having sales as well. Grocery stores often run special holiday promotions.



Drinking is a tradition at Thanksgiving, but buying alcohol can become expensive very quickly. Ask your friends and family to bring a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine to dinner. If everyone contributes the costs will be minimal and the booze will be plentiful.


Decorate with Nature

Buying decorations can get just as expensive as the food items if you aren’t careful. Try purchasing a few set pieces that you can use every year and fill the rest of your home with free or inexpensive items from nature like dried grasses, herbs, leaves and gourds. You can even enlist help from your kids or your guests’ kids by having them create holiday decorations. That can be a really fun activity at Thanksgiving for the little ones.


Thanksgiving doesn’t have to break the bank. With some planning, budgeting, sharing and a little frugality, you can make this year’s holiday fun and festive. 



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