8 Smart Tips for Budgeting for Holiday Expenses

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iStock

Unsure how much you spent during the last holiday season? If you don’t know definitively, there’s a good chance it was more than you bargained for. In fact, according to national polls, consumers spend an average of $750 on holiday gifts and entertainment each year. How do you budget for such a big one-time expense? Our good tidings to you are surefire tips to keep your celebratory spending in check.

1. BUDGET TIME JUST AS YOU DO MONEY.

It goes without saying that creating a spending budget is a key way to stay on top of your personal finances, but also scheduling when you plan to shop—and setting reasonable deadlines—will keep you on target. After all, the longer you wait, the higher the prices will rise and the more desperate you’ll be to buy products at a premium because you’re running out of time.

2. KEEP A RAINY DAY FUND.

It’s common financial sense to have an emergency fund for the unexpected, whether it’s a job layoff, a car repair, or a sudden medical procedure, but it’s also wise to have some funds tucked away for expected, but no less expensive, costs. When moving money into a savings account every month, consider also tucking additional cash away in an easily accessible account for annual birthdays and holidays.

3. CLEAR YOUR CACHE WHEN SEARCHING FOR FLIGHTS.

There are easily thousands of tips for scoring a cheap flight, but unless you want to wake up at 2:32 a.m. on a Tuesday, consider simply erasing your browser history before researching airfare. Many airlines track how many times you visit their sites, and in doing so, provide different offers and deals. The more they see you searching, the higher they’ll raise the prices.

4. CUT THE BOOZE.

It’s a lot less fun, sure, but consuming alcoholic beverages at restaurants and bars is a costly expense in general, never mind during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Not convinced? Consider this: By abstaining from just two glasses of wine or fancy cocktails, you’ll be able to afford one more substantial gift for a friend or loved one.

5. SET YOUR OWN PURCHASING WAITING PERIODS.

Instant gratification is one of the trickiest urges to overcome when trying to stay on budget. Just because it’s easy to find what you are looking for and order it right away doesn’t mean you should. Instead, mandate a waiting period for the bigger purchases on your list or at least double-check return policies.

6. APPLY THE SAME RULES TO YOUR GROCERY LIST.

Holiday spending isn’t just about gifts and decorations—it’s also about entertaining, and those costs add up just as quickly. If you’re baking or cooking for a family gathering, do your best to clip coupons or find other ways to save money on foods and beverages.

7. USE A CASH-BACK CREDIT CARD.

Although the benefits of a rewards card won’t benefit you immediately, it behooves you to shop with one. As long as you’re smart about paying off the balance so you aren’t faced with interest charges, you could save anywhere from 1 to 5 percent on each purchase in the form of either a rebate or a statement credit.

8. PAY WITH CASH.

If, however, you have a history of credit card debt, consider instilling a cash-only policy for all holiday expenses. When it comes time to shop, label envelopes with the name of the gift recipient and put the appropriate amount in each one. That way, there’s no possibility of going over your maximum, even by a few cents.

The 20 Best States to Retire in 2020

Robert Clay Reed/iStock via Getty Images
Robert Clay Reed/iStock via Getty Images

Spending your workdays dreaming of retirement? It’s the ultimate goal of any longtime office-dweller, but figuring out when you’re ready to finally take the plunge is one of many questions aspiring retirees need to ask themselves before quitting the 9-to-5 grind for good. Determining where to retire is equally important, as you’ll need to think not just about affordability, but quality of life and health care as well.

Personal finance website WalletHub crunched the numbers on all 50 states to come up with an official ranking on the best (and worst) states to retire. Their experts looked at 47 different factors and enlisted the help of a panel of experts.

Ultimately, it turns out that the idea of retiring to Florida is still very much alive. The Sunshine State took the top spot in the poll, largely because of its affordability (it came in second in that category overall, with only Alabama besting it). But spending your golden years on a beach somewhere doesn’t seem to be for everyone; while Colorado and New Hampshire certainly have their warm-weather seasons, they also accumulate plenty of snow each year—which didn’t seem to matter as they clinched the second and third positions on the list, respectively. Here are the 20 best states to retire:

  1. Florida
  2. Colorado
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Utah
  5. Wyoming
  6. Delaware
  7. Virginia
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Idaho
  10. Iowa
  11. South Dakota
  12. Montana
  13. Pennsylvania
  14. Massachusetts
  15. Ohio
  16. Minnesota
  17. Texas
  18. South Carolina
  19. North Dakota
  20. Missouri

The news was far less happy for Kentucky, which claimed the last spot on the list (followed closely by New Mexico, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and West Virginia).

You can view an interactive version of the map below, and visit WalletHub to see more detailed information on each state’s ranking.

Source: WalletHub

Handy Chart Tells You When It's Too Cold to Walk Your Dog

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iStock

Dogs have built-in fur coats, but they still get cold during their winter walks. Even if Fido isn’t hiding whenever you pull out the leash, you should still determine your dog’s tolerance for snowy romps, judging from this infographic spotted by Lifehacker, which is based on factors like size and breed (and not just enthusiasm for eating snow).

Infographic of the Tufts Animal Condition and Care (TACC) system, created by  Dr. Kim Smyth, a staff veterinarian with pet insurance company Petplan,
Petplan

Created by Dr. Kim Smyth, a staff veterinarian with pet insurance company Petplan, the chart is modeled after a scale developed by Tufts University that determines how canines respond to weather conditions depending on their builds. Before taking your four-legged friend outside, always check the temperature first (including wind chill), then reference the chart to gauge whether your dog can safely withstand the elements.

Small- to medium-sized dogs face cold-weather risks like hypothermia and frostbite when temperatures dip to 40°F. Larger dogs can tough it out for a little longer, but all pet owners should exercise caution and keep walks brief once the thermometer reaches 30°F. Canine accessories like sweaters or booties can safely prolong emergency bathroom strolls. Tiny pet shoes also protect vulnerable paws from sidewalk chemicals like antifreeze, according to NPR.

That said, no two canines—nor their fluff—are exactly alike. Dogs who are conditioned for the cold, or ones with heavy coats, fare better than older dogs or those with health conditions. Tiny, short-haired dogs may struggle too. Shivering is the first sign of hypothermia, Smyth told WBUR in an interview, so if you see your pups trembling, "you want to get these dogs inside, wrap them up in a warm towel or blanket, and get them to the vet if you need to," she says.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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