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  • How to Avoid a Total Cash-Trap of the Heart

    Just when you’ve gotten a fabulous start to your resolution to be smarter with your money… Cupid shows up. Yep, Valentine’s Day lurks just after the holidays, waiting to lure you backsteel trap money heart (3) into those bad spending habits. While I’m not trying to imply that you should shun the holiday all together and end up in the dog house, I AM recommending that you stay away from the usual clichés and be creative. Think of it as your first test as a fat wallet warrior. (Don’t worry, I have a cheat sheet!)

    First Trap: Roses

    Let’s face it, there are a lot of women who love to get an embarrassing display of long stemmed red roses at their workplace. This is expected behavior, and businesses fully comprehend the science of supply and demand. The cost of the flowers skyrocket, and sadly… they don’t live any longer. You can pay upwards to $50 and beyond for a dying collection of flora that will last about three days and maybe live in infamy on Instagram. It’s just not worth the hype if you’re really trying to make smart investments with your hard earned cash.

    Alternatives:

    Paper roses – There are a million DIY sites out there (and videos) that teach you how to create these fabulous things. You can use the pages from an old book for a vintage look. They last forever, and the labor of love counts far more than the click of that delivery button.

    Individual roses – If there is a sentimental attachment to the flower, why not visit your local florist or grocery store and pick up a few stems? A dozen roses just means you’ll have more dead flowers wilting around, and this option still gives you the opportunity to create an interesting vase, or even tying the stems with a bit of ribbon will create a very sweet touch.

    Chocolate Dipped Bouquet –

    Why not turn strawberries into roses and also enjoy the treat together? Dip the tips into white chocolate, place a kabob stick through the stems so that the tip faces upward. Arrange the “straw-roses” into a bouquet by tying a ribbon around the sticks.

    Second Trap: Dining Out

    Alternative: Dining In

    You can still have a romantic dinner in your own kitchen. A dozen scented or unscented tea lights from a wholesale or dollar store arranged in a dim room can create the perfect lighting without bruising your wallet. Cooking together is also a way to interact and have fun. Make sure to treat the evening as though you are going to that fancy bistro downtown, and have fun dressing up. Look up a favorite recipe, or maybe try something you’ve never attempted before. Perks – You can drink as much wine as you’d  like without worrying about a ride home, and you can skip the cheesy romance tunes for your own favorite soundtrack. Maybe make a dinner mix as an extra gift?

    Third Trap: Hallmark Cards.

    The joke that this holiday was created to sell cards isn’t so funny when you’re shelling out five to ten dollars per card to hand out to loved ones. Do you really remember little sentiments typed up in those things? Or… do you have a little chuckle, check to see if there’s money, and toss it? Be honest, there’s no shame here!

    Alternatives:

    Letter or note – If you want to give a gift or thoughtful token, why not actually take the time to write something out? It doesn’t have to be a poem or epic letter, so just jot down a sentence or two letting your recipient know that you’re thinking of them. In this tech-savvy time, that little effort really says something about how you feel. Include that $5 gift card for a coffee or such that can be enjoyed for a little bit longer than a skim and chuckle.

    There is a TON of ways to show people that you love that you appreciate them without breaking the bank. Get a little crafty. Fire up the grill. Do a load of laundry. Maybe send a few flirty texts or song lyrics  like you used to when you were first dating. With the convenience of online shopping and delivery, sometimes you wonder how much thought goes into the purchasing of these clichĂ©s. Why not invest more thoughtful romance into this holiday instead of money?

     Happy Valentine's Day!

     

    Do your financial woes go beyond cupid's demand for over-spending?  Have a heart-to-heart with a certified credit counselor now:

     

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  • Need fast Christmas gifts that are easy on your budget?

    If you are anything like me, I love the holidays! I love the traditions, the memories made, the food, and the time spent with friends and family. One thing I absolutely love to do is give gifts, but what happens when your generous heart does not match the measly amount in your savings account? How do you survive the holidays and still feel like you have given your all?

    I had this same dilemma over the past few years. My budget is tighter than ever, but I found a solace in amidst all the despair, and that my friend, is Pinterest. If you have not already heard of the online website Pinterest, then you are about to open a new world of possibilities. Pinterest is an online site that allows the user to “pin” pictures of other websites onto “pinpinterest resized 600 boards”, which in turn keeps all the websites you “pin” together in one spot. Why does that sound so appealing? Imagine being able to look at a short description of a website, see an interesting cover picture that corresponds to that site, and be able to become inspired from information you have just pinned. That is exactly what Pinterest does. It inspires. 

    So, what does this have to do with Christmas? Last year, my funds were tight. I was not sure if I was going to be able to afford to give many gifts at all. Therefore, I turned to Pinterest. I found inspiration on the site, and was able to turn that inspiration into inexpensive but handmade gifts for my friends and family! By utilizing Pinterest for inspiration and the dollar and hardware stores for supplies, I was able to create unique one of a kind gifts and only spend a fraction of what I would have normally spent while still feeling that wonderful feeling I get watching someone open my gifts.

    What I did for my friends and family may differ from the “Pin-spiration” you may do for yours, but if you are wondering what gifts, I was able to create for my friends and family you are in luck. I made each of my friends and family members their own gift basket. Each basket contained something personalized especially for them, along with items that were in everyone’s basket. Ok, here’s the list:

    Each basket contained:

    -One small basket from the dollar store

    -One coffee mug on which I wrote the person’s name in permanent marker and baked it in the oven to seal the writing

    -One set of alcohol ink coasters (Here’s instructions on how to make the coasters or you can find it on Pinterest:

     http://lifesacraftproject.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/how-to-make-coasters-with-alchohol-ink/)

    -One knitted coffee mug cozy

    -One homemade sugar scrub

    describe the imageNow, you can put into the basket whatever you like, but these particular baskets cost around $10 to make and I was able to give out seven of them, so I only spent around $70 for all my Christmas presents! This made it a little easier on my budget and I was able to afford to get a few special people in my life a little something extra.

    No matter what you decide to do, this Christmas remember: it is not the size of the gift or the cost; it is the giving of the gift itself that means the most. So think outside the box and get to “pinning”! 

     

    Don't wait under after the holidays to take control of your debt... we're here to help right now!

     

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  • Black Friday: To Shop or Not to Shop?

    So, are you ready for the big holiday this week?  No, not Thanksgiving- Black Friday! Although this year, Thanksgiving has gotten roped into the mix as well. Shopping has officially taken over as the objective for the entire latter half of this week.  We’re starting off the season of the highest retailer profits of the year with a bang- but at what personal cost?black friday resized 600

    I’ve already heard lots of people I know talking through their shopping strategy- which stores they’re hitting when, who’s offering the deepest discounts on what. Some people are making their plans to get up at 4AM to start shopping on Friday, while others are planning to start in as soon as they’ve downed their last slice of pumpkin pie tomorrow.

    Don’t get caught up in this frenzy.  Way too many people break the bank- or worse yet, the credit card- helping to make the holiday season more and more commercial every year.

    Whether they realize it or not, these people are making spending a small fortune their family tradition for the holiday. Is that really the kind of tradition you want to set? Think of all the ways you could spend this Friday other than shopping: Family Game Day, Bake Cookies Day or Watch Old Movies Day. The possibilities are endless when you make the day about spending time with loved ones instead of spending as much of your hard-earned money as possible.

    I understand the allure of Black Friday-there certainly are some impressive discounts to consider.  But think about this: how many of those items would you still buy at full price?  Is the fact that something is cheap a legitimate reason to buy it?describe the image

    Sadly, this type of mentality- paired with the hyper-excitement that builds during shopping on Black Friday in the first place- causes many people to spend money on things they normally wouldn’t (and shouldn’t.) It’s not a good deal if money is spent on something you didn’t truly want.

    When it comes to Black Friday (and Thursday) shopping one thing is clear- all reasoning goes out the window, even with the best intentions. 

    Remember, retailers are in the business of making money, not helping you save on your holiday shopping.  They offer these heavy discounts because they know once you’re in the store, you will spend far more than you planned to-often on items that aren’t even discounted. You’ll lose and the retailers will gain.  

    It’s your money and YOUR holiday- don’t make it about spending and presents. How about teaching our children that it’s about family and friends enjoying the most wonderful time of the year together? Now that would be a holiday to look forward to.

     

    If you'd like to go over a holiday budget or figure out how to get your spending and debt in check, call us at 800-994-3328 or chat with us now. 

     

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  • 10 Ways to Keep Your Turkey AND Your Wallet Fat this Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving is nearly here.  It's that special time to give thanks and spend the day with our loved ones...not to mention having panic attacks over the money you'll spend on one meal. This year, FCM is helping you keep the spending in line so you can focus on what really matters.

    Make it a potluck

    Make everyone in your family responsible for at least one dish or beverage, and try to coordinate or assign so that Uncle Bob and Brother John don’t bring the same kind of mashed potatoes.  Not only will this save you some cash, but the variety will make the table more interesting. Picky eaters will tend to bring a dish they’ll actually eat, which cuts back on the waste of trying to find something to appease them. Even if someone brings $5 store bought cookies… that’s five bucks still left in your pocket! If you’re the guest, make sure you bring something to help ease the strain on your host or hostess.

    Skimp on tradition

    Yes, that turkey is the symbol of the holiday… but if your family doesn’t actually love it and pack it away it’s just not worth it. What meal does your family really dig into? The best meals are filled with laughter and conversation. Every family is different, so cater the day for the memory and not the overpriced commercial. I don’t care how pretty the cranberry sauce is, if you KNOW most of it ends up in the trash at the end of the day, don’t buy it! money turkey

    Look at the price, not the marketing

    There’s no shame in buying the grocery store brand. If the lack of a brand name bothers you, toss the food on your fancy plate and no one will be the wiser. A lot of those items are manufactured in the same place and just stuffed into different boxes. Ignore the ego and don’t buy into the advertising.

    Don’t go shopping unarmed

    Do a little research before you hit the grocery store. Write down the items you NEED for those recipes and try not to stray from the list. Everything is packaged enticingly and placed to catch your eye and wear down your frugal defenses. Be strong! It’s a jungle out there, and those little extras take a big bite out of your income.

    Deals are deceiving

    Even the “money savers” are out to get you. Many of the stores offer turkeys at a cheaper price to lure people into buying more for the extras. You could end up spending an extra $50 on the extras so that you can buy the turkey at $.49/pound when you could have bought the turkey at its regular price and all extras for a total of $20. Don’t just assume the stores are out to save you money-they’re out to make money for themselves!

    Tupperware is your best friend

    No matter how savvy you are, you’re still likely to spend more on this dinner that you usually do during the week. Supplement that loss by saving the leftovers and packing them for lunch or heating them up for dinner the following week.  Waste not, want not!

    That early bird always gets the perks

    Frozen turkeys are generally less expensive than the fresh and taste just as good. The catch is that you need about one day for every four pounds of meat thaw. So, my procrastinating friends, you’ll have to buy that bird early. If you’re dashing for that last minute turkey the day before… you’re usually stuck with the bigger and more expensive fresh birds. Desperate last minute shopping tends to be more expensive anyway, because those early chicks nip all the cheaper grocery brands and honest good deals on the shelves as well. Get in there! You’ll feel far less stressed if you’re prepared early and enjoy the holiday more.

    You’re paying for pretty

    Aren’t those prepared plates gorgeous? And if time is money, you’re actually saving some change by not having to slice, dice, and arrange all those little meats, cheeses, and fruits and veggies, right? WRONG. You’re usually paying twice as much for that labor. Get out your knife and start chopping! No one notices if the carrots aren’t all the same length, or if the cheeses are different thicknesses. Honestly, as long as people can tell there are different items, they usually don’t even notice the design, they just plop what they want on their plate.

    Bohemian is in

    Everyone wants a beautiful table. It doesn’t matter what your dĂ©cor style is, people want things to match and sparkle in some form or another. Usually everyone is so busy stuffing their gullet that they don’t notice… but the desire to impress is always there.  Luckily, if you’re potlucking, everyone will have mismatched dinnerware. Did you know that you can usually find all those little accessories at a dollar store, or other home discount store? Clear glass can match with anything. Discounted items in the same color family can create a mismatched and cozy look. Use colorful mixing bowls and grill platters as service ware. Use small pumpkins or gourds as inexpensive decoration. Be creative and you really won’t have to shell out for new tableware.

    Remember that Christmas is lurking...

    Every cent you save for this holiday can be used towards the one that’s just around the corner. Every step above can be re-used as well. Wouldn’t you rather skip the fancy cheese plate and buy that gift instead? Can’t you purchase the store brand and use the saved $3 to put toward a stocking stuffer? Use this holiday as both a practice run for smart shopping and budgeting (both in stress and money!). Also try and use this as inspiration to rein it in so that you can have a fabulous Christmas as well and keep your piggy bank happy.

     

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