In about five seconds, all of the Halloween costumes and decor will be whisked off to the clearance aisle and stores will become one big explosion of red and green. Wasn’t it just summer?
The holidays sneak up on us faster than the sudden emergence of pumpkin spice in September so it’s important to start planning for them now.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they fail to budget properly for the holidays.
And for a lot of people, this means going into debt. Consumers who went into debt last holiday season racked up $1,054 in new debt on average.
The majority of this overspending is due to gifts. While it’s nice to give, most of the people you love wouldn’t want you to go into debt because of them.
Here are a few tips to prepare for the holiday season so that you can close out 2018 with some financial success instead of money stress.
1) Start saving early.
The average American spends nearly $1,000 on holiday shopping. For most people, that’s a significant chunk -- if not all -- of what’s left over after you pay your monthly bills. That means, if you wait until December to start shopping you are much more likely to spend money you don’t have.
Instead, start saving now. Set up a separate savings account specifically for your holiday fund. That way you won’t be tempted to spend it on something else. Saving $333/month over three months is a lot more achievable than coming up with $1,000 on the spot.To make saving as easy as possible, set up automatic transfers on the day you get paid. That way, your money will be transferred to your holiday savings account before you even have the chance to spend it on something else.
2) Avoid the last minute scramble.
When people overspend on gifts it’s usually because they are strapped for time. Don’t be the guy running around the mall with bags full of cable knit sweaters and peppermint bubble bath. When you wait until the last minute, finding a meaningful gift at an affordable price is pretty much impossible.
To avoid spending twice as much for a half as good gift, open the notepad on your phone right now and list each person you need to buy a gift for and how much you’d like to spend on them.
As you think of perfect gift ideas, jot them down. In fact, start buying gifts as you come across them. By planning ahead, you’re much more likely to find deals on items that the people in your life will really love.
3) Budget for self-gifting.
Nearly a quarter of adults say they usually buy themselves gifts over the holidays. This can be good or bad depending on how you approach it so “treat yourself” with caution.
If you usually end up buying random items just because they’re on sale, then you are falling victim to the retail industry’s tactics to get you to spend more. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s going to make you happy or be worth what you spent.
Combat temptation by first acknowledging that retailers are actively trying to tempt you when you are shopping. Then, plan to self-gift the smart way.
Keep a list for yourself where you write down items that you really want or need. Then when holiday sales come around, use the list to guide your purchases.
Waiting to buy items at a much lower price point that you were planning on purchasing anyway is a really smart money move. Going into debt for a bunch of impulse purchases definitely is not.
A rise in consumer cost of living suggests Americans may be earning less than they were a year ago, but spending more on housing. The Department of Labor found that consumer prices climbed 2.9 percent in July – the fastest rate in 10 years – and most of this increase was reflected in higher housing costs.1
One new report asserts the median rent nationwide is now $1,445.2
For middle-class Americans living predominately paycheck to paycheck, that’s not good – considering that the cost of housing generally takes the biggest chunk out of a household budget.
If you’re feeling the pinch of too-high housing costs, here’s what to do:
Did You Know That Most Americans Said That They Would Give Up Social Media To Get Rid Of Credit Card Debt: Would You?
If you could erase your credit card debt by giving up Facebook for a year, would you do it? Most Americans said in a survey they would give up social media – among other things – to get rid of their debt.
Credit card debt has continued to climb over $1 trillion, with the average cardholder having a balance of $6,375, according to a report by Experian. One in three Americans is losing sleep over their debt, and one quarter report that debt has hurt their relationships with family, according to a survey by Mr. Cooper, a non-bank mortgage servicer and lender.
The survey was conducted online in April 2018, and questioned 1,054 adults with more than $500 in credit card debt.
Those with debt said they would do extreme things to erase it, even before seeking out financial advice, the survey found. Even though 68 percent of those with credit card debt are concerned about how they will pay it off, very few have plans in place to get rid of it.
More than two-thirds said that it would take them more than six months to pay off existing card debt, and 8 percent said they would never be able to pay their debts off.
Nearly 20 percent were not aware of the interest rate on their credit card, and 77 percent carry a balance from month to month instead of paying their bill in full.
Consumers often don’t fully understand how to use credit cards in their overall financial plan, said Josh Harris, a faculty member at Clemson University and financial planner at Signature Wealth.
“We see clients when they need help getting out of a financial hole,” said Harris. “Or when they see one coming on the horizon.”
More homeowners leaving home equity untapped 3:31 PM ET Mon, 9 July 2018 | 01:22Very rarely do people ask for help proactively to avoid debt, Harris said. When they do start feeling the pain and stress of their financial situation, that’s when they seek advice.
Find a way out of debtThere are ways to pay off your card debt that don't include giving up something you love.
1. Look for money in your home
If you own a home, you might consider tapping your equity, which likely comes with a lower interest rate than your credit card. Thanks to the new tax law, however, the interest you pay on that loan typically isn't deductible unless it's used toward qualified home improvement expenses, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
“Millions of American homeowners are sitting on a hidden source of wealth – their home,” said Kevin Dahlstrom, chief marketing officer at Mr. Cooper. “As consumer debt continues to reach all-time highs, tappable home equity is also at its highest level on record.”
2. Follow a strategic payment plan
Two popular methods for paying off debt are the “debt avalanche” or “debt snowball.” The avalanche prioritizes paying off the highest interest loan first, while the snowball says to pay off the smallest debt first. Find a plan that works for you and stick to it.
3. Negotiate your rate
In some cases, you can negotiate for a lower interest rate. In addition, you can also consider consolidating your debt either with a personal loan or a low-rate transfer.
4. Pick up a side hustle
Having a second job could bring in enough extra cash to make a huge dent in monthly bills. The average person with a side hustle made $686 per month, according to a recent study by Bankrate.com.
5. Actively stick to a budget
Over half of the respondents of the Mr.Cooper survey said that even though they had debt, they did not have a budget. To eliminate debt, it’s important to have a basic financial plan in place, and the first step is looking at your expenses to determine where you could cut back.
“Focus on what behaviors brought you to this situation and what steps you can take to eliminate the stress and debt going forward,” said Harris.
Everyday life is far more expensive today than it was even 20 years ago. The rise in prices can't be attributed to inflation, either.
In 1940, the median home value in the U.S. was $2,938. By 2000, it had risen to $119,600 and today it's just over $200,000. Even adjusted for inflation, the median home price in 1940 would only have been $30,600 in 2000 dollars.
Home prices aren't the only skyrocketing expense for today's young people. Education costs have risen at an alarming rate as well. College Board's "Trends in College Pricing 2017" report examines changes in tuition rates over time, showing how much more the class of 2018 is expected to pay than their parents did.
It's a lot.
This NYU student paid his four-year $200,000 tuition bill on his own and without student loans — here's how he did it Students at public four-year institutions paid an average of $3,190 in tuition for the 1987-1988 school year, with prices adjusted to reflect 2017 dollars. Thirty years later, that average has risen to $9,970 for the 2017-2018 school year. That's a 213 percent increase.
The difference is stark at private schools as well. In 1988, the average tuition for a private nonprofit four-year institution was $15,160, in 2017 dollars. For the 2017-2018 school year, it's $34,740, a 129 percent increase.
Here's College Board's breakdown of how tuition has changed by decade, with all figures adjusted to reflect 2017 dollars:
Private nonprofit four-year institution
That makes the current cost more than two-and-a-half times as much as it was in 1988 — a markup of 163 percent.
The plan for Bill and Melinda Gates' $1.7 billion investment in America's public education system More likely, the hypothetical child would pay the tuition bill themselves, as the rising cost of higher education has led Americans to struggle with a collective $1.4 trillion in student loan debt.
In 2012, 71 percent of graduates from four-year colleges carried debt, with students at public schools owing an average of $25,550 and those with degrees from private colleges owing an average of $32,300,Student Loan Hero reports.
Whether you’re a millennial parent or a Gen X parent, teaching your kids money skills is a valuable lesson ALL parents say should happen sooner than later in life. A recent survey found that many parents these days think instilling financial how-to’s in their children ought to happen at age 12 or younger.*
Here are seven great ways to help acquaint younger kids with personal finance topics:
1. Invest in play money. Introduce the concept of money to your children as soon as they are able to count. Buy a play money set so they can actively use it while playing.
2. Open a savings account. Start a savings account for your child to instill the importance of regular saving and saving early.
3. Start a library. Reading about money management is a great way to introduce your child to personal finance at a young age. There are countless fun and educational books about money for kids.
4. Write checks. Teach your child the art of writing a paper check. Use your own or try one of the plenty of online tutorials available on the Internet.
5. Collect coins. Becoming a numismatist can definitely peak your interest in money matters! Check out the United States Mint for Kidswebsite for free games, activities and resources on coin collecting.
6. Pay for good grades. Pay your child an allowance for getting good grades. For example, pay $5 for an A and $3 for a B. Triple the money if your child brings home all A’s and double it for A’s and B’s.
7. Play the Stock Market Game. Teach your child the fundamentals of personal finance and investing while working together to build and manage an investment portfolio.
*USAToday.com, “Is 12 Years Old Too Young to Talk to Your Kids About Money?,” July 25, 2018