Hope for your financial life and beyond

10 Last Minute Gift Ideas For Him This Christmas

Do you have trouble shopping for that special guy in your life? Let’s face it, men are tough to shop for. It’s not easy to crack our code and find out what we’d really like to receive as a gift.

last minute gift ideas for himWaiting until the last minute to shop of course adds even more pressure. You’ll probably panic and end up buying him some socks. Not that we wouldn’t appreciate it – we’ll love any gift we get (or at least pretend to love it). In the interests of helping my men-fellows though, here are some last minute gift ideas for him that we’d appreciate even more.

Last Minute Gift Ideas For Him

Of course you know your man best. Some of these last minute gift ideas for him may not work. Additionally, you may have financial limitations that prevent these purchases. But I’m pretty sure, if you can afford it, he’ll absolutely love these items:

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SMART Goal Examples For Your Money This Coming Year

smart goal examplesThis year is rapidly drawing to a close so what better time than to think about some financial goals for 2016. I’ve set and achieved many goals over the years. The best tool I’ve used to help me set goals is the acronym SMART. Today I’m going to outline what that means and give you some SMART goal examples for your money so you can see how it works.

There really is no debate that setting clearly defined goals will help you reach a target. Without something to shoot for how will you know if you’ve achieved anything? And what goals could you possibly set for your money? This is where the SMART acronym is useful.

What Are SMART Goals?

We often make mistakes when creating goals. This leads to frustration when we can’t complete them. Ever say you are going to save money but then never save any money? There are many factors that contribute to why that happened. One reason is that it’s not a very good goal to start with.

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5 Money Saving Questions to Ask Before Buying Christmas Gifts

My wife and I never go shopping for Christmas gifts on Black Friday. I don’t care how good the deals are the crowds are just too much for us. We are more Cyber Monday or wait until the last minute type of people.

christmas giftsBuying Christmas gifts is always fun for us though because we love to spend money on the people we care about. It’s become even better recently since we’ve learned how to save money throughout the year to spend at Christmas. Now all of our Christmas gifts are paid for in cash and we never see a credit card bill come January.

While we all get excited about spending money on the people we love, it can get seriously out of hand. What happens in December can have short and long-term financial consequences if you don’t keep your spending on Christmas gifts in check. So before you make any purchases this year here are five simple questions you should ask yourself as you buy Christmas gifts for those special people in your life.

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10 Can’t Miss Warren Buffett Quotes On Life and Money

warren buffett quotes on lifeWhere do you seek out sound advice?

Your parents?

Friends at work?

A counselor or pastor?

The Bible or other religious literature?

As I see it, the problem with a lot of advice is threefold:

  • It’s not actually helpful…
  • It’s given by someone who has a damaging, personal life issue that clouds their bias and…
  • It’s coming from a person who has an alternative agenda (i.e. they are driving you to a decision that benefits them)

This makes it extremely hard to find advice that you can run with. Put the wrong advice in your head and hands and the results could be disastrous.

When it comes to money, perhaps no businessmen and investor has achieved more in his lifetime than Warren Buffett. From humble beginnings of selling chewing gum, Coca-Cola and magazines door-to-door as a kid, he has become one of the wealthiest men in the world. People pay money to sit at his feet for a few minutes so they can pick his brain about life and money.

So when I ran across some Warren Buffett quotes on life and money awhile ago, I couldn’t help but pause and reflect on how I felt about a few of them.

Famous Warren Buffett Quotes On Life and Money

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When to Avoid Zero Percent Financing Offers On Cars

At some point we’ve all run across an advertisement on TV from a car dealer pitching some form of incentive. Manufacturer incentives are special offers designed to entice you to buy a car. Overall they have been found to be very effective in drawing consumers to car lots.

zero percent financingThese deals usually come in the form of rebates (cash back) or a low annual percentage rate (APR). The APR is the amount of interest on the loan that you will pay during the year. Of course lowering the interest rate reduces your monthly payment. The lowest APR a manufacturer could offer would be zero percent, which means you pay no interest on the car loan.

Zero percent financing on a car sounds like too good a deal to ignore. Who should pass up free money, right? However, you may want to think twice before signing on the dotted line. There are several reasons these deals could be bad for the consumer.

The Story on Zero Percent Financing

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Customer Service Training Ideas: No Comments on How Much Food I Buy

I love good customer service. When you find a store that consistently provides it for you it’s a thing of beauty. It’s obvious their employees have been through customer service training because they consistently focus on it day in and day out. I find it really makes shopping at their establishment enjoyable.

grocery cart with healthy foodOn the other hand bad customer service turns me off. What’s frustrating is when it happens at stores I frequent because of a) their location, b) their superior products or c) their prices. I intentionally go to these stores for one of those reasons and to shop elsewhere would be inconvenient. So I’m forced to endure the annoying service at times because those other reasons win out.

I took over the majority of the shopping last fall when I quit my job to be a stay at home dad. In the past year I’ve noticed some of the worst people at customer service are the ones I have the most contact with: the checkout clerks. The ones who have me riled up right now are those I find at the grocery store.

“Yes, I Know My Cart Is Full”

It’s a constant chore to manage the food budget, especially for large families. We have four kids so with six mouths to feed each week I’m buying a lot of food. It doesn’t matter how much I plan or try to cut back, my grocery cart is always full – or overflowing – by the time I roll into the checkout line.

And oh, you should see the looks I get.

But the worst part is the comments.

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This Is What Happens When You Don’t Pay Back Student Loans

Student loans have helped many pay for the expenses of a college education. Of course you need to pay back student loans those even if you don’t graduate. Fortunately student loans have what’s known as a grace period – a set time after you graduate, leave school or drop below full-time student status before the loan repayment begins. The grace period gives you time to find a job or deal with a difficult life issue before you have to pay back the student loan.

pay back student loansIf you can’t or choose not to pay back student loans, you risk going into default. To default on a loan means you did not pay it back on schedule according to the terms of the promissory note ­– the legal document you signed when you received the loan.

The good news is you don’t have to panic if you miss one payment. Going into default won’t happen right away. If you miss a few payments your student loan will first be tagged with a delinquent status. It won’t officially go into default until 270 days have passed without a payment.

At that point, you will face some serious consequences. The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid office lists these possible actions that may be taken if you default on your student loan:

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How to Prioritize What’s Important When You Make a Budget

I remember the first time my wife and I really tried to make a budget. So many expenses were coming to mind it was difficult to prioritize which ones were most important. We messed up many things in that first month’s budget and felt really frustrated at our efforts.

make a budgetIt didn’t deter us however from trying again…and again…and again. We found that after several months of trial and error certain expenses always drifted to the surface first. It was apparent that we were drawn to some expenditures more readily than others because they represented fundamental needs for our family each month.

So what expenses go first when you make a budget? Then how do you determine what comes next? Today I’m going to outline our five-step thought process as we make a budget each month. Hopefully it will give you some direction as you try to figure out how your hard earned dollars will be allocated.

Process to Make a Budget

When you begin the process of putting a budget together, start with the highest priorities and work your way down. It should look something like this:

Budget Priority #1 – Necessities Above All

Put simply, you have to survive. Nothing else can happen in the budget before your basic needs are taken care of.

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Americans Share Their Biggest Financial Worries

When it comes to your money, what are your biggest financial worries?

Paying the bills?

Retirement?

That massive chain of student loan debt wrapped around your neck?

There is no shortage of issues to worry about. At each stage of life we face something that puts us on edge. This anxiety about the present and the future drives our choices for good or for bad as we attempt to solve the problems that keep us up at night.

Over the years I’ve learned how to let go of the worry that can so easily bind me up. There is a fine line between worrying about the future and planning for it. Planning for it is prudent and wise. Worrying about it robs us of living in the present and maximizing all that today has to offer.

Whether you are a worrier or not the fact remains we all face financial challenges. Even the wealthy have problems they must deal with. What’s dominating your thoughts? See how you fit in with the rest of Americans in the infographic below.

Americans Deepest Financial Worries

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How to Save Money Without Losing Track of What It’s For

One question I routinely get asked by friends and readers of this site is, “Can you teach me how to save money without losing track of what it’s for? How do you account for your money when you are saving for an emergency or for a future need?”

how to save moneyThe problem boils down to this issue: you have to keep track of what money is to be used for what purpose. When money is deposited into a savings account it gets mixed in with all the other money in the savings account. How do you keep the boys separated and make sure the money designated for the new dishwasher actually ends up going for the new dishwasher and not the car insurance or the baseball card fund?

Now in the old days you might find yourself reaching into the desk drawer, pulling out an envelope and stuffing cash in it. Then you would write on that envelope “Dishwasher Fund” and hide it away in your house somewhere. You’d do this for any and all items you’d be saving for – vacations, the health insurance bill, groceries, gas and anything else you might think of.

This describes the classic envelope system way of saving money for what’s coming down the road. Doing it this way keeps monies in the envelope they belong and makes sure they get used for their intended purpose.

The envelope system is still a valid tool for managing cash payments for items. However, we’ve moved into the digital age where all banking can be done online, transactions can be downloaded to computer programs and apps have been developed to keep track of your spending on the go. Money is more likely to be direct deposited in the bank rather than kept at home in large sums awaiting use.

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How An Expensive Camera Purchase Ended Up Being Worth Every Penny

Like you I enjoy summer vacations and think travel should be a part of any budget. Actually vacations at any time are great. We just end up taking most of ours during the summer as a reward for my wife making it through the busy tax season. Come the first of June we are (she is) ready to head somewhere.

This summer we had our sights set on a brand new destination – Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We’ve done Disney before and the beach and the cruise ship – all multiple times. So, with the kids getting older, we wanted to venture into new territory – places with new scenery and new adventures to create new memories.

We knew heading out West (from Georgia) would be expensive. Plane flights for six, rental car for 10 days, hotels, meals, activities…you can see this is adding up quickly. We also knew though the West would provide incredible scenic views – mountains, rivers, wildlife – all of which we would want to capture. However, all we had to use were the cameras on our iPhones and an older Canon PowerShot Elph 110HS.

There is nothing wrong with either of those for capturing basic pictures. But neither of them would do for bringing out the most vibrant color in images nor for when distance from an object or its movement is a factor in the quality of the photo.

So as part of our vacation budget, we saved to make a camera purchase. The one we chose was pricey but as you will see it was worth every penny.

Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words

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