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How to Lower Holiday Spending

October 18, 2019

Stay thrifty while keeping the holiday spirit

Holiday spending is often a budget-buster. The expenses can be numerous: presents, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, food, and travel, to name a few; and very few people have an unlimited holiday budget. If you don’t have the funds to buy everything you want, not to worry. A little bit of creativity and energy can get you through the holidays without draining your wallet.


Homemade Gifts

If you have the skills, making your own gifts is a great way to save, since supplies usually cost less than the finished product. Not only are homemade gifts cheaper, but many people appreciate them more than store-bought gifts because of the effort that goes into making them.

Not an experienced crafter? Write a letter or make a collage representing what the person means to you, or frame a memorable photo. If you can bake, standard cookies or brownies can be dressed up with sprinkles and ribbons in holiday colors. You can find great ideas on sites like YouTube or Pinterest. 

Offering your services is another great cost-saving gift, since it only costs time. Offer a free night of babysitting, or a month of lawn-mowing. Create a coupon the recipient can redeem at a later date.


Give the Gift of an Experience

Plan an outing with your family members or friends instead of a gift exchange. Everyone pays their own way, and you can keep the experience as simple and fun as the group’s budget can handle. Outdoor activities, or a local play or museum are a few examples. If you don’t want to strain anyone’s expenses, have a cozy potluck gathering at home. Remember to take fun photos, which can make great framed gifts in the future.


Gift-wrapping

People underestimate the cost of wrapping gifts. Skip the fancy wrapping paper and bows, and find alternatives. Newspaper (especially the comic section) can work, as can computer paper, or paper shopping bags. Use inexpensive craft supplies, such as glitter, paint, or pattern stamps, to add decorative touches.


Cards

Store-bought cards can cost $4 or more each. Sending them to 20 people would cost you $80, not including postage! Create your own cards using simple supplies, or create and send cards electronically to avoid additional costs. Make your own or use one of the many free services online. If you want to send physical cards, consider trimming your mailing list to save, or hand delivering them for a personal touch.  


Decorations

Save on store-bought decorations by seeing what you can use from around the house. Make a garland out of popcorn, and use local natural supplies like pine cones and acorns. To save on store-bought decorations, plan ahead for next year and only buy them after the holidays, when they’re at a deep discount. Garage or yard sales and thrift shops are also a great place to find discounted seasonal decorations throughout the year.


Food

If you host holiday dinners or parties, you may find yourself spending significant money on food. Potluck dinners are an easy way to shift some of the burden of buying all of the food yourself. If you don’t want to ask your guests to bring food, consider options like eliminating a full dinner and having only appetizers and desserts. Shop for less expensive food, available in some bulk-food stores.


Travel

Airfare is generally more expensive during the holidays, since that is when everyone flies. To save, consider having a “holiday” dinner during an off-peak time of the year, when airfare is cheaper. Whenever you do fly, being flexible can usually help you save; you probably won’t have to spend as much if you fly at night or have a layover.


You can have a great holiday season without spending a great deal of money. Be creative with your purchasing and avoid straining your finances, so you can celebrate during the holidays, and afterward as well. Still need some assistance with your seasonal finances? Start by learning about a Holiday Loan.
 

Learn More: Holiday Loan
 

Article adapted from BALANCE Financial Fitness

Posted in: Holiday Loan

5 Steps to Creating and Staying True to a Holiday Budget

October 18, 2019

Enjoy the holidays by planning ahead

The holidays are a time for seasonal cheer, catching up with family, and for some—financial panic.
If you recently looked at the calendar and realized gift-buying season is closer than you thought, don’t worry. You can organize your finances by making an effective budget. Follow these 5 steps to better avoid going into debt this season.


1. List All of Your Expenses

Are you buying presents for everyone? Hosting a party? Attending a holiday concert or event? Write a list of everything you intend to spend money on (and how much each costs), then prioritize. You don’t have to cross anything off just yet, but make a mental note of which items are more important.


2. Set a Limit

Next, review your income and any money you’ve set aside for holiday expenses. Your goal is to figure out what you can afford without going into debt. If you have to dip into your savings, make sure to keep a cushion for any emergency costs that might come up. Now you can decide which expenses are important, and which ones can be crossed off your list.


3. Research Seasonal Sales

Sales go hand in hand with the holidays. This is when many retailers make a large portion of their annual revenue, so they want to attract as much business as possible. Find the best deals by signing up for email alerts and following brands on social media. You’ll be among the first to find out about those special seasonal sales. Also watch for Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions.


4. Comparison Shop

Unless you’re searching for a unique gift, your desired item is probably available from multiple retailers. Fortunately, the Internet makes comparison shopping easy, especially during the holidays when every company is trying to compete for your business. Make sure you visit different websites and do some research to find the best deals.


5. Pros and Cons of Payment Methods

Shopping online can make it easier to track your purchases afterward, though spending cash gives you immediate feedback about how much (and how often) money is leaving your wallet. During the holidays, when you’re purchasing many items at once, the cash method helps you realize how much you’re spending, though online shopping gives you an easier way to see all your purchases at a glance. Try using cash for some of your shopping, and see how that affects your budget. You’ll have the chance to shop in person, support local businesses, and possibly reign in some of your impulse purchases.


Follow these simple rules, and keep your holiday spending in check. If you still need some assistance with your seasonal finances, start by learning about a Holiday Loan.
 

Learn More: Holiday Loan
 

Article adapted from BALANCE Financial Fitness

Posted in: Holiday Loan

6 Tips For Giving On a Budget

November 21, 2018

First Source Member managing their holiday finances by getting creative.Manage your holiday finances with a little thought and planning

Start by giving yourself a limit: a fair amount you’re comfortable spending that makes you feel good about giving, but not over-taxed. Remember that simple, heartfelt gifts are much more appreciated than a large quantity of high-priced trinkets. These simple tips can help you make the holiday both rewarding and less of a financial burden. 


1. Make a Plan

Suggest what or how much to exchange, and decide together on a gift limit. You could also exchange something simple, like cookies; or give to charities in each others’ honor. You might even learn that you’re not the only one looking to save.


2. Play Secret Santa

In a larger family or group of friends, everyone can save when you choose names and give to just one person instead of every member of the crew. This method also allows for setting ground rules to save even more, such as limiting the value of the gift. It might even kick off a new tradition for every gift-giving event.


3. Purchase Fewer Items in Larger Quantities

To save both money and time, find a sincere, useful gift, and buy enough for everyone in bulk. You may save on the purchase price, and can sometimes find ways to personalize each one to give them more meaning. Get creative by putting together “gift baskets” for each person full of small, thoughtful items, and personalize each with a note.


4. Enjoy Experiences Together

Suggest a family or friend outing instead of gift exchanges. Everyone can handle their own expenses, and you can keep it simple and fun. Consider an outdoor activity that includes treats, a local play, or a visit to a nearby attraction. Or have a cozy get together at home to save even more. You could also find photos of your experiences from the past year to frame and give.


5. Give the Gift of Your Time

An even better money-saver and a really nice thing to do: volunteer your time in a meaningful way, such as helping on someone’s DIY project, fixing an item they can’t repair themselves, babysitting, or helping out with a big commitment. Make sure it’s something you’re good at, and remember to follow through on the promise to help.


6. Take Advantage of Specials 

Find stores that offer discounts or bonus gifts if you purchase a certain amount, like gift cards (e.g. “Buy a $25 Gift Card and receive a Free $5 Gift Card”). You can apply the bonuses to gifts for others, or put them into your own budget for your needs once the holidays are over. Don’t forget to take care of yourself!


Remember that giving gifts is all about the spirit of generosity, and doing something kind for the receiver of your gift. Pay special attention to their wants and needs, and you’ll always find something special and meaningful to them. Most of all, embrace the joy of giving! 

Have tips you’d like to share? Help others on a budget with your ideas. 
 

Posted in: budget, gifts, giving, holidays, tips

Holiday Loan: Is it Right for You?

November 16, 2016

Mother and daughter buying Christmas itemsThe holidays are coming, and the expenses can add up. Presents for family and friends, out of town travel, extra groceries for the big family meals, and even wrapping paper and shipping costs, all add up. We don’t want you to stress about the post-holiday credit card bill surprise. A Holiday Loan could be the answer, allowing you to focus on what matters most: your loved ones.

If you’re considering applying for a Holiday Loan to help cover your expenses, review this list to help you decide if it’s the right choice for you. If you have any questions, simply make an appointment with us, and we can help you work through the entire decision process.

1. Have you budgeted properly?

It’s always helpful to have a budget for your holiday spending. Make sure to include not only gifts, but travel, food, decorating, and other relevant expenses. If your budget is sound and you’re still not able to cover expenses, a Holiday Loan may be the answer.

2. Do you know how much you’re able to repay?

This one seems obvious, but some people don’t consider it: you should only borrow as much as you’re able to repay. Borrowing can save your holiday, but taking on too much debt won’t help. Make sure you know how to accommodate the new loan in your monthly expenses. If you’re not sure how to figure this out, we can help!

3. Do you know exactly how much you need?

Another pretty obvious one. It’s tempting to consider borrowing more than you need, so you can have a little extra funding for the unexpected, but it’s never worth it. Figure out what you’ll need to cover your holiday expenses, and stick to that amount. Again, if it fits into your repayment budget, consider a Holiday Loan.

4. Do you have a spending plan for the loan amount?

Have a spending plan in mind, and resist impulse purchases. Know what you consider acceptable, and what’s not part of your plan, and stay within the limits of your available funds.

If you’re ready to apply, it’s time to plan ahead and get started. That way you can apply, and if approved, get your cash in time for everything you need, well before the last minute! Call us today at 315.735.8571 to make an appointment.

Posted in: Blog Posts

Vacation Savings for Next Year: Strategies

August 18, 2016

Family in car on vacation

When you’re ready to start saving for next year’s big dream vacation, keep your goal in mind to stay disciplined and on track! Whether it’s a trip to the Adirondacks, a cross-country family adventure, or an international escape, make a plan to save, and stick to it.

1. Get Everyone Involved. If you have children and are planning a family trip, let them help earn and save spending money for the vacation. Odd jobs, sales, allowance savings, you name it. They’ll learn about saving for goals, how small amounts can add up over time, and feel a rewarding ownership of the entire experience.

2. Save Before Spending. The easiest way to save is by setting aside a set amount before allocating the rest of your weekly expenses. You can set it up automatically with a regular transfer from your checking to savings account, or depositing a set amount from every paycheck into the vacation fund. It adds up quickly!

3. Have a Plan to Pay for it All. In case your saving plan doesn’t accumulate the entire amount in time, have a plan for paying the rest off after you return from your trip. Set aside so much a week (or month) so you don’t forget about it. Try to pay it off in less than a year.

4. Spread the Cost. If you must put expenses on credit, spread them across multiple credit cards to avoid approaching the credit limit on any one card (which can have a negative effect on your credit). Smaller amounts are also easier to pay off.

5. Plan for the Extras. If you’re planning an all-inclusive vacation, you won’t really need to worry about the “extras”. If not, think about what you would normally spend at home on groceries, recreation and entertainment, and budget for that plus a little more to cover the “extras” on your trip.

Need a little help? Make an appointment to meet with one of our Member Service Representatives to help you with your plan!

Posted in: Blog Posts

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