Saturday, November 29, 2014

Is Cyber Monday Worth It


Each year Americans accumulate the largest amount of debt during the holiday season start on Black Friday. If you don't have money to buy holidays gifts be honest with yourself, don’t go into debt to please someone else. Americans accumulate the largest amount of debt during the holiday season.  January and February have the highest number of bankruptcies and divorces filed.

Being in debt is no fun and makes you feel lousy.  If you go into debt every year during the holidays – now is the time to stop.  Repeating the same mistake over and over again and expecting a different result is "insanity".  Don't let the media, advertisements or other make you feel guilty for not buying a gift or for buying an inexpensive gift. 

The holidays are not about how much money you spend or about giving gifts, it is about celebrating the spending time with family and friends.  Most times people buy holiday gifts for someone they don’t like or buy gifts that are returned. Many shoppers wait until Cyber Monday to shop online and find bargains. However, use Cyber Monday with caution. Here are some things to consider when shopping on Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday Good for Budgets
  1. The best bargains are for electronics and large items such as TV’s and computers. 
  2. Ability to purchase items online which offers you more time to comparison shop.

Cyber Monday Bad for Budgets
  1. The worst bargains are for toys, HDTV’s, jewelry, clothing and luxury items.
  2. The online sales use gimmicks, marked up prices and false advertisements.
  3. Layaway is debt – 5% of total price, cancellation fee, and 5-10% price markups.

Here are 15 tips to help you when shipping on Cyber Monday.
  1. Do research.  Buy your local newspaper, watch your local news to hear about store sales and specials or watch social media websites for deals.
  2. Make a list.  Make a list of what you are going to buy and from what store.  You can get overwhelmed by all the sales and end up spending money you don't have.
  3. Pay with cash.  Don't buy items with credit cards.  Purchase items with cash, check or debit cards.  Make sure you don't go over your limit with your debit card and end up overdrawing your account.
  4. Rain check.  If an item is out of stock ask for a rain check and be sure that you can get the item for the same price.  Find out if an out of stock item will arrive to the store before Christmas.
  5. Store gimmicks. If the store says "Limited Supply" it usually means there are 4-6 items in stock. If an item is out of stock be sure to get a rain check and go after the New Year to buy the item at the discounted price.
  6. Free shipping.  Many companies offer free shopping starting on Black Friday through the holiday season.
  7. Stock.  There are more items in stock online that in the actual stores.
  8. Clearance. Shop clearance racks or clearance bins.  Most people will overlook these and focus on buying electronics and big ticket items.
  9. Use Credit Card Rewards. Use credit card rewards such as cash back or points to buy holiday gifts. I earn points on my credit card and at the end of every year they expire. I use the points to buy gifts for the holiday.
  10. Comparison Shop. Go to at least 3 stores to get price quotes to help you find the best deal. Some stores offer better deals during the Christmas holiday.
  11. Online. Shop online to find better deals.
  12. Price match. Ask about price match guarantees that honor competitor prices.
  13. Returns. Verify the store return policy.
  14. Early. Shop early to beat the crowd.
  15. Save money. Look for items that have rebates or use coupons to save even more money. Follow companies on social media for alerts about discounts and specials.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why You Should Say No to Black Friday


Approximately 84 million Americans shopped online from the middle of November to the middle of December last year for gifts.  According to, last year, Americans spent over $1.9 billion online shopping on the Monday after Thanksgiving, $12.3 billion on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day combined.  

Many of the best bargains are for electronics and large items such as tv's and computers purchased online.  Some companies are offering pre-black Friday sales and in some cases prices are better than black Friday sales. Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy are offering online discounts on electronics that match or beat black Friday sales. will have a one day sale on black Friday.  Several websites, like Amazon, DealNews, RetailMeNot and DealDump, create online shopping bargains all in one place so shoppers can find them easily. Also look for black Friday sales on Twitter and Facebook.  Here are 12 reasons to shop online on black Friday instead of going to the stores.

  1. Store gimmicks. If the store says "Limited Supply" it usually means there are 4-6 items in stock. If an item is out of stock be sure to get a rain check and go after the New Year to buy the item at the discounted price.
  2. Save gas.  You can shop in your pajamas instead of waiting in line at 6:00am or in the cold trying.
  3. Free shipping.  Many companies offer free shopping starting on Black Friday through the holiday season.
  4. Stock.  There are more items in stock online that in the actual stores.
  5. Easier.  You can take your time and in some cases chat with online representatives to answer questions.
  6. Stress.  Shopping online is less stressful than running through the stores, fighting for parking spaces, fighting over items on sale and waiting in long lines.
  7. Safer.  Shopping online is much safer and you don't have to worry about getting elbowed or trampled over while shopping.
  8. Prices.  Some black Friday prices are not really bargains.  Just because a store advertises an item for 50-60% doesn't mean you are getting a deal.  Comparison shop to ensure you are getting the best deal. 
  9. Security.  Don’t shop with companies you never heard of or with sites that don't have a https or shttp on the payment page, a mailing address and contact phone number. 
  10. Payment. Shop with a credit card.  If you are a victim of identity theft you will not be held liable for charges reported within a few days.
  11. List.  Stick to a list.  Don't get enticed with advertisements for something not on your list.  Don't buy items on impulse.  If you get emotional about an item you see on sale wait 30 minutes and ask yourself if it is a need or want.
  12. Set a budget.  The holidays should be more focused on spending time with family and friends and not about buying a gift.  If you have to buy a gift for a parent and child consider just buying a gift for the child.  Let the parent know you are cutting back this year and really can't afford a gift right now. 
Black Friday shopping has resulted in violence such as: fist fights, trampling, smashed glass doors, shootings, pushing of employees, calling the police, and even death.  If you insist on going to a store, ask yourself, if buying an item that may or may not really be a bargain worth getting injured for.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

17 Ways to Save Money on Thanksgiving Groceries


During the holidays it is extremely easy to spend money with all the advertisers, family and friends asking you to buy this or buy that. Resist the temptation to spend money that you don’t have, buy more than you need, or buy something you probably will not use simply because it is on sale. Many times items that are on sale are not really a bargain. 

Remember the real reason for the holiday and focus on giving and being with your family. If you have to go shopping do comparison shopping to see if you can find the item for a cheaper price at another store or online.  

If you love the Thanksgiving meal but don’t enjoy the money spent from your wallet, you are not alone.  The added cost of decorations and feeding family and friends can be overwhelming and full of peer pressure. Saving money during the holidays may seem like an impossible task but saving money on your holiday meals is not as difficult as it may seem. Here are 19 effective tips to save money during Thanksgiving. 

  1. Plan ahead. Don't wait until the day before Thanksgiving to go shopping. Lines at the register are longer and the selection of items is limited. Try shopping at least a week in advance or early in the morning.
  2. Sale cycles. Every grocery store has a sale cycle. During the holidays turkeys, Cornish hens and other poultry go on sale in early November. In December, prime rib, hams, and roasts go on sale. Buy your turkey or big meat items at least 2 to 3 weeks prior to Thanksgiving to get the best deal.  
  3. Sides. Buy side items at least one week prior to Thanksgiving to get the best deal. Spirits and non-perishables items such as stuffing mix, cake mix, and other packaged items can be purchased at least a week in advance.
  4. Budget. Create a food budget and avoid going over your budget.
  5. Menu. Create a menu ahead of time and stick to it.  Consider making low cost items for the menu such as potato salad, salads, sweet potatoes, casseroles, etc.
  6. Shopping List. Use a shopping list and stick to it. Buy items in season. Make a list of what you need and can afford to buy. Make a list of what you need but can’t afford to buy and ask attendees to bring those items.
  7. Coupons. Know your prices and when items go on sale.  Use coupons to save more when buying items on sale items. Shop at stores that offer double coupons or honor competitor price matching. Check your local Sunday or Wednesday newspaper. Visit coupon websites, online coupon clubs, and manufacturer websites for additional coupons.
  8. Condiments. Buy spices and condiments at the dollar store.
  9. Salad Dressing. Use olive oil instead of salad dressing.
  10. Meat. Buy meats from local farms or Omish markets. Consider buying either a turkey or ham but not both.
  11. Verify. Verify quantity and prices during checkout.
  12. Make from scratch. Make you own bread, pasta, soda, jelly, preservatives, canned fruits, etc.
  13. Local shopping. Visit local farmers or farmers’ markets that sell their food directly to customers.  Purchase fruits, vegetables, meats and deserts directly for much less than you would pay at a grocery store.
  14. Ask for help. If you are having breakfast, brunch or dinner at your house ask friends and family to bring a dish to help cut down on costs.
  15. Decorations. Make your own decorations or shop online to find inexpensive decorations. Buy plastic flowers instead of fresh flowers which can be reused. Pack and store decorations carefully to reuse next year.
  16. Monitor. Monitor the amount of leftovers each person takes.
  17. Leftovers.  Freeze leftovers, take to work for lunch or eat the rest of the week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Considering Filing Bankruptcy – Here Are Some Hidden Secrets to Assist You

Over a million Americans file for bankruptcy every year. Many people think that filing for bankruptcy will solve all of their debt problems. On the surface it seems that if you file for bankruptcy all of your debt will be eliminated and you can start with a clean slate. Unfortunately it is not that simple. 

To file for personal bankruptcy you must reside in a state for 90 days prior to filing and have a total unsecured debt less than $290,525 or secured debt less than $871,550. Debtors (consumers) who earn less than the median income in their state are entitled to file under Chapter 7 Debtors who earn more than that and who have the ability to repay at least $6,000 over five years would have to file under Chapter 13, which requires a repayment plan.

You must provide proof that you are unable to pay your bills and have sought additional help in the past. You must provide documentation such as: tax returns, paystubs, bank statements, mortgage statement or rental lease agreements, detailed list of monthly expenses including, a list of all debt, amount owed, interest rates, canceled checks and credit card statements, retirement accounts, business income and debt, and child support. If you decline to provide all the requested documentation required by the Bankruptcy Trustee your bankruptcy filing may be dismissed. Mistakes in your documentation can cause delay or a dismissal.  If you do meet the income requirements there are additional criteria you have to meet such as: 

  • You must take a credit counseling class 180 days before filing for bankruptcy.
  • If you have enough income to pay some of the debt you may be considered for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

The following debt is not included in Chapter 7 bankruptcy: taxes and tax liens, student loans, child support and alimony, debts for fines or penalties to governmental agencies, debts for judgments in wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits, and condominium or townhome association fees. The following debt not included in Chapter 13 bankruptcy: some taxes, student loans, child support and alimony, debts for fines or penalties to governmental agencies, debts for judgments in wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits, debts incurred after filing your case.

To file for bankruptcy you can do it yourself which will cost between $200 - $600 in court fees and filing fees or you can hire an attorney which will cost between $1,000 - $3,000. Once you file for bankruptcy you will receive a slew of credit cards offers in the mail because companies receive alerts on recent bankruptcy filings and want you to get in debt again so they can make money off of you. If you file for bankruptcy it remains on your credit report for 7 to 10 years.  

Although it is true that after you file for bankruptcy you can purchase a house or a car or apply for a credit card, what debtors don’t realize is that you will be offered a high interest rate due to filing bankruptcy which can lower your credit score by up to 200 points. It can take up to 5 years before you can achieve a good credit score. Here are 3 tips to ensure approval of your bankruptcy filing:

  1. Do not make any large purchases before filing because this will decrease your chances of being approved.
  2. Don’t transfer credit card balances or make payments on any debt because this may decrease your chances of being approved.
  3. Don’t apply for any loans or open any new credit accounts.