• Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

    How to Handle a Lingering Holiday Credit Card Bill

    by  • February 11, 2016 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    We might be a month removed from the holidays, but for many Americans, the effects of gift-buying, travel plans, and holiday feasts are still very much present. The average American carries around $15,000 in credit card debt, and that doesn’t even begin to delve into the hefty interest rates that will also require payment. If you find yourself facing ever-mounting holiday debt, use these steps to get yourself back on the right track.

    Plan a New Budget

    Before digging yourself out of a debt hole, you have to ensure you’re not worsening it in the meantime. The best way to do this is to create a 12-month budget that will take you all the way through the next holiday season to ensure you don’t find yourself in a financial pickle again. Use an online service like Mint.com to make it easier on yourself, or enlist the help of a financial planner if you’re in need of specific guidance.

    Use the Avalanche Method

    If you’ve got multiple debts, you’ll have to make some decisions on which way you want to pay off first. While you should always be sure to pay the minimum dues on every account, you’ll also want to start getting rid of accounts completely. Many experts recommend the avalanche method, in which debtors list their debts in order of highest interest rate charge to lowest. Whatever excess money you have leftover for bills after paying the minimums each month should be dedicated to the top account on the list. Once that’s paid off, move to the next, and so on. Not only will this help you avoid terrible interest rates, it will also give you more peace of mind when you have less debt accounts to worry about.

    The Great Purge

    You may have money sitting around in your closet—literally. Make sure you purge items you no longer need and hold a garage sale to make some extra cash that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. These items aren’t limited to clothing. Consider old furniture, appliances, and any other items piling up dust. The more you can part with, the fatter your wallet will be. If items are too worn to sell, consider donating to charity. Often, you may be able to use these donations and tax deductions. You have to stop spending until you have your finances completely under control. This doesn’t mean denying yourself the necessities, but it does mean cutting out the non-essentials, like your morning coffee or gym membership that doesn’t get used. Cancel any subscriptions you don’t use or need, and check on automated payments to ensure you’re not paying for things you don’t need to be.

    Put Your Card Away

    If you have an issue with spending, leave your credit card at home. Simple and to the point. It may be convenient and get you what you need right away, but it’s only going to hurt you in the long run. Delete your credit card information from your web browsers to avoid frivolous online shopping that might be done on a whim, and always take a minute or two to determine whether or not you truly need an item, even if it’s a small expense. Don’t let the siren’s call of rewards or points inspire you to pick up that card.

    Transfer Your Balances

    Some choose to transfer their credit card balances over to a zero percent interest rate card from a company like Citicards.com. Check to be sure that you qualify for such an offer, and if accepted, pay it off as quickly as possible. You’ll need to determine whether or not the balance transfer fees will be worth this step.

    Get Some Tax Help

    If your holiday bills are piling up on pre-existing debt, and you’re worried you may find yourself in hot water with the IRS, see what a tax professional can help you work out. Using the services of a company like www.communitytax.com can help you navigate the fresh start initiatives the IRS put in place a few years back and determine which course of action is best for your individual needs. Whether it’s an offer in compromise or an installment plan, tackling your tax issues head on is the best way to deal—ignoring them could result in some serious consequences.

    If you’re dealing with a financial hangover from the holiday months, now’s the time to start tackling your debt.

    The Trouble with Christmas

    by  • November 15, 2012 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments


    Merry Christmas!

    The title here is deceptive, because really, the obvious trouble with Christmas is that I’m Jewish, and don’t celebrate it. But! When you marry someone who does celebrate it, and you don’t have your own family competing to get you to celebrate it with them, then Christmas becomes your holiday too. No, the real trouble with Christmas is that it comes every year, and I am just not that good at coming up with things we need.

    I’ll explain – my husband’s family really, really does Christmas. It’s a giftapalooza, where you’re provided with not only the things you’ve needed for a while (new shoes, a suit, stuff for school, etc.) but all the things you want. There is a lot of gift-opening at their house. In my house, Hanukkah is a time for some latkes and some token gift-exchanging. My sister and I would get some candy, some fun things (pretty scarf! CD!) and that was it.

    But at the same time, my mother-in-law is incredibly frugal, and a planner, so at the end of the summer (yes) we’re asked what we need so she can start scouting deals. This means I start brainstorming an answer to “What do you want for Christmas” in June. And the problem is, I’m not that good at it. Oh, I can come up with “wish list” type items – a new cashmere scarf from J.Crew! That Diane von Furstenberg dress I’ve been eyeing! That $800 chocolate vault sold by a fancy chocolate store in Boston! But these are not things I would ever actually request, because they are exorbitantly expensive and ridiculous. So instead I take stock of what we could actually use, but haven’t bought. This year, it’s towels, since we’ve been using my husband’s college set, and they are unspeakably old and tattered. I’m pretty pleased with this decision – we’re notoriously horrible at replacing household objects, and this is something that my mother-in-law can shop for well in advance, keeping an eye out for deals.

    Of course, I think the real trouble is that I wouldn’t mind if there were some kind of Secret Santa agreement, or “we really can’t think of anything so why don’t we not make up some stuff we don’t need and save everyone the time/money” agreement. It can get costly to shop for everyone in the family, as I’ve discussed. But then again, I never really grew up with the Christmas sentiment, and while I’d be happy to overstuff myself on ham and pie and sleep in until it was time to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, I think my husband feels differently.

    How do you handle different spending patterns between families at the holidays?

    image: New Internationalist Magazine

    Planning for Holiday Spending

    by  • November 7, 2012 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments


    These Are Essentially Piles of Money

    One of the most revolutionary things my young financial mind discovered upon entering the world of personal finance writing after college was the concept of early saving for holiday spending. I had always found myself unpleasantly stressed as the holidays arrived, particularly after I started spending Christmas with my husband’s family. They are a very generous, and numerous, group, and I felt compelled to have something for everyone (even if that was only a batch of cookies). But costs added up – travel, gifts, baking supplies, etc. – and I couldn’t get my mind around a way to offset the sudden spending.

    Until, that is, I read about a bloggers’ technique (sorry, can’t remember exactly who) for ending that exact stress. Rather than wait until November to think about cost, they put a small amount of money into a “holiday” account every month until said holidays, at which point, you have a small but healthy savings account to fund your spending.

    This, quite literally, blew my mind. I already had automatic savings withdrawals taken out of my paycheck each month for other savings accounts, and so I added a small sum – I think about $25 – each month to this fund. While it wasn’t quite enough to cover all holiday costs, it substantially offset an amount that would have otherwise stressed me out significantly. I also didn’t miss the $25 each month, especially as it was gone before I could notice it.

    These days, I employ a similar tactic; instead of a set amount each month, I tend to add lump sums of money when I can (after substantial overtime, for instance, or when I have a few freelance checks come in at once). This means that, while my husband mocks me for ordering holiday cards in October, I can take advantage of early bird sales because the cash is sitting there. I can also take money out of the fund to cover our plane tickets for holidays, and any other expenditures that come up. I don’t feel so cash poor the moment the stores pull out the holiday themed items (way too early, in my opinion), and most importantly, it alleviates stress during an already stressful time. Did the jam sandwich cookies I’d been planning to send to family turn into jam disaster piles? Not a problem, I can replace the supplies without stress. Find a good airline deal in July? Take advantage of it, because the money is there. It’s such a simple idea that I kick myself for not thinking of it earlier.

    How do you manage the stress of holiday spending?

    image: FutUndBeidl

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    by  • February 14, 2012 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Valentine's Dliema

    Yeah, that's about right.

    image: xkcd

    Riding in the car this past Sunday afternoon…

    Her: So, let’s talk about Valentine’s Day…

    Me: *Breaking into cold sweat* Uhhh…ok…

    Her: I’m screwed.

    Me: Alright, me too! *hi-fives Her*

    Her: Whew. I’m so relived. What should we do?

    Him: Make a box of Ghirardelli brownies and drink some wine?

    Her: Perfect!

    Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone, frugal or not.

    Bye Bye, Money, Time

    by  • December 30, 2008 • Tagged: ,  • Comments



    That’s how I would describe one of the gifts that Her gave me for Christmas.

    It was a Nintendo DS Lite.

    I have already spent $20 at a local GameStop to buy myself a game. At least I bought used. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever buy a new game. Only used for me. In doing so, I’ll end up “saving” much of my money.

    But I want more.

    I crave more.

    But for now, back to playing Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.

    (Hey, look at that! I saved 50% buy buying used!)


    Merry Christmas, I’m an Enabler!

    by  • December 25, 2008 • Tagged:   • Comments

    Merry Christmas, from both of us at Make Love, Not Debt.

    Among the gifts that I gave Her this year, one of them is a $20 Starbucks gift card, to fuel her latte factor.


    Forgive me personal finance blogosphere, for I have sinned.

    Enjoy your Holidays!

    Group Gifts: Tap Your Resources!

    by  • December 22, 2008 • Tagged:   • Comments

    If you’re part of a group that’s planing to give a group gift this holiday season (a gift for a teacher, building manager, friend, etc), one way to maximize your gift is to tap your resources. Inquire among the group members to see who may have access to special discounts or preferred rates, and consider appointing that person to purchase the gift using their discount. Then you have the option of spending less, or getting a better gift for the same price.

    For example, several parents decide to purchase a group gift for a teacher. One of the other parents works in a salon and can purchase gift certificates for 25% off. Pool the group’s money and appoint that person to purchase the gift certificate.

    What gifts do you have access to at a discount?

    The Gift Tax, Student Loans, and How It STILL Doesn’t Apply to Us (or YAY for Unified Credit)

    by  • September 5, 2008 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    Eh, so in my last post I may have very liberally applied some IRS rules to our (well, the donor’s) situation.

    Let’s go over the exemptions of the gift tax again, shall we?

    • Gifts, excluding gifts of future interests, that are not more than the annual exclusion for the calendar year,
    • Tuition or medical expenses you pay directly to a medical or educational institution for someone,
    • Gifts to your spouse,
    • Gifts to a political organization for its use, and
    • Gifts to charities.

    See that part in bold? Yeah, I may have left that out of my last post. After some exhaustive googling, it seems that there is indeed a difference between paying a student loan to an institution who gave it out (eg, bank, Salle Mae) versus paying the tuition directly to an educational institution (eg, college, preschool).

    While reading more about this whole gift tax thing, I came across something called the Unified Credit. I had a little trouble wrapping my head around this, so I hope to be a little clearer than mud when explaining it to you.

    In 2008, an individual can gift up to $12,000 to any number of individuals without any tax implications – it doesn’t even have to be reported. Any amount over $12,000 given to anyone would have to be reported and is subject to the gift tax.

    Each individual is given a $345,800 “unified credit” on gift taxes throughout his lifetime (which equates to $1 million of gifts over the annual exclusions). When a person applies this credit to gift taxes, the amount is reduced for the lifetime of the individual. Thus, if a person is taxed $1,000 on a gift and applies the credit, that person would have $344,800 remaining to apply for his lifetime.

    The credit is called “unified” because any amount that is used to credit gift taxes is then subtracted from the credit given for estate taxes. If an individual dies in 2008, he gets a $780,800 credit on his estate tax (which equates to a $2 million estate). Using the example in the last paragraph, if he applied $1,000 of credits over his lifetime to cover his gift taxes, then he would be left with a $779,800 credit on his estate taxes.

    Since the credit is subtracted from lifetime use, a person can choose to not use the credit towards the gift tax and save it for his estate. That is pretty complicated stuff that I won’t go into any more detail.

    Whew. Still with me? So what does all this mean for us?

    Not a thing. We still are not responsible for any taxes as the recipients of this gift.

    Her’s relative who gave us this gift would be responsible for reporting the gift because it is over the $12,000 annual exclusion. Of that gift, $38,000 is subject to the gift tax. Her’s relative can apply whatever remaining unified credit to that tax and probably wipe it out completely, or can pay the gift tax if she is doing some advanced estate planning.

    Her’s relative is a smart enough woman to know what she was doing – I’m pretty sure that she thought this out or at least discussed this with a tax professional.

    So, will anyone owe taxes on this gift? Probably not.

    We are NOT tax professionals so please don’t take this as advice. Seriously, we’re just bloggers. See a tax professional for a definitive answer.

    Shower Gifts, Oh My!

    by  • August 18, 2008 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Recently Him’s mother and my bridesmaids hosted a bridal shower for me. It was really lovely and was attended primarily by family friends of Him’s mother. These women are very close and I’ve gotten to know several of them well over the years. All the same, I was completely floored by the lavish gifts they presented me with. We were very careful to register for lots of items in a variety of prices, expecting to receive the smaller items (kitchen utensils, cutting boards, etc) as shower gifts. But we received only two of the affordable items. The rest were very expensive pieces like crystal, china, and kitchen appliances. I would guess that the average gift we received was well over $100. I’ve been a guest at many showers and usually spend $35-$60 on a shower gift, depending on how well I know the bride. Now I’m wondering if I’ve been a Scrooge all this time! Either way, I’m hopeful that my gifts have shown the brides as much love as the gifts we received.

    How much do you typically spend of a shower gift?

    Lack of Time = Crappy Christmas Presents?

    by  • December 12, 2007 • Tagged:   • Comments

    With all of the commitments that I have this holiday season, from long hours at work to doing long homework assignments for school to volunteering, I’ve come to the realization that Christmas is rapidly approaching. Usually by this time of year I’ve completed my Christmas shopping by getting the people on my list thoughtful, locally sold gifts.

    As Christmas approaches, I’m realizing that my commitments aren’t likely to die down that much, or are going to be replaced with other duties such as getting the apartment ready for family who will be staying with us for the holiday. I’ve done the goofy-clueless-guy-Christmas-shopping-on-Christmas-eve thing, and it wasn’t fun picking through the leftovers to give as gifts.

    How have you managed your holiday craziness? Any tips for last minute shopping ideas?

    At least tell me it’s not too late.

    Non-Corporate Christmas

    by  • December 1, 2006 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    Last year I set out do do what I thought was impossible: buy all of my Christmas presents at locally owned businesses in Chicago.

    Fortunately, local culture blog Gaper’s Block showed me the way: they published a 2005 holiday shopping guide. It featured 12 different independently owned stores in Chicago. While I didn’t totally succeed in my holiday mission, I did by a good portion of gifts from thse vendors.

    Fortunately, this year will also be a great year for buying locally-made goods. Gaper’s Block and Time Out Chicago have tons of listings of stuff that’s going on.There are a plethora of crafty type shows, happenings, and bazaars going on this weekend in Chicago.

    Why local businesses? I like putting money into the hands of people in our neighborhood. I appreciate the personal “thank you” I get from owners and craft-makers. I like getting unique gifts for people that aren’t from nationwide department stores. I like that I’m even helping the environment a little by buying locally so that goods don’t have to be transported over long distances.

    To me, putting smiles on peoples’ faces and helping out is what the holidays are about.

    Spontaneity, Surprises and the Joint Account

    by  • November 30, 2006 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Yes, the holidays have descended upon us, meaning the purchasing of gifts. This is probably the one time of the year that Her and I like to get something expensive special for each other.

    But when you share an account, how do you keep purchases secret? Both Her and I check our checking account on a daily basis, so any unexpected purchases need to be thoughtfully explained. It’s not really a secret if the online ledger says VICTORIA’S SECRET BATH AND BODY WORKS. How do I explain that?

    “Uh, my skin is really dry. And I really need to exfoliate. A lot.”

    “This lingerie is for…my boss?”

    This doesn’t just apply to holidays, though. Birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

    If you share a joint account with your partner, how do you remain spontaneous? How do you surprise your significant other with a gift without raising red flags?

    Wedding Budget Panic: We’ve lost $10,000

    by  • April 27, 2006 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    We know you’d love to just jump right in and leave a scathing comment, but please read our responses to this post as well. Thanks.
    Read His response.

    Read Her clarification and response.

    This week our wedding budget suffered a huge blow. My parents reduced the amount they are offering to pay for our wedding from $10,000 to….zero. To be fair, my parents never actually promised us the $10,000. When we got engaged, I told my mom that I would like her to tell us how much they would be willing to contribute by April 15. Between then and now she has repeatedly said she would like to give us $10,000 but that she and my father were having trouble agreeing on an amount. April 15 came and went with no mention of the money. So a few days later I called my mom and reminded her that we will need to know exactly how much they can give us and when, so we can accurately plan our wedding budget. She seemed to have forgotten all about the April 15 deadline and sounded a little put off by the request. Still, she promised to give me an answer soon.

    On Sunday night, she called. She sounded more chipper than usual and made some small talk before announcing that she and my father had decided on their wedding contribution. Then things started to take a turn downhill. She began by stating some facts:

    They are 70 and 72 years old. They are still working, and cannot stop working because they do not have much money saved for retirement (I do not know how much but it isn’t more than $50,000). Their health is failing and they are afraid they will be forced from their jobs. They have borrowed the full amount available from their home equity loan (not for any sort of emergency, but for Christmas gifts and the like) and they will have to make monthly payments of $1500 for two years in order to pay off that debt. They have no money set aside for our wedding. And they cannot give us any money for the wedding.

    Part of me feels abandoned. They have made bad financial decisions their entire lives, and did not plan for their retirement or our wedding. I feel like if they cared about me, they would have saved some money for our wedding. My mom even had the nerve to suggest we should elope. How could she so easily say she doesn’t care if she’s at our wedding?

    Part of me feels angry. How can they be surprised that I would expect them to help pay for our wedding? We’ve only been out of college for two years and are already burdened with $1000 a month payments for the student loans my parents forced me to take out (because they saved nothing for college, either). I’m angry that my mom kept hinting at a large gift, than cheerily told me we’d be getting nothing.

    Part of me feels relieved. I am aware of their financial situation and know that they really cannot afford to help us. This is probably the first financially responsible decision they have ever made. I foresee that I will be expected to care for them when they run out of money, so this thrift will help delay their dependence on me.

    Most of all, I feel panicked. The typical wedding costs around $25,000 and I don’t see how we can do it for much less, especially in Chicago. Of course there are ways to cut costs, but it takes a lot of cutting to halve the budget. We have $4,000 saved up for down payments and a quarter of that will go to reserve the church. That doesn’t leave much for reserving the reception hall and everything else. We both agree we do not want to take on any more debt to pay for the wedding, and estimate we can save up around $15,000 ourselves if we try very very hard.

    On the phone with my mom, I couldn’t help but cry. I didn’t want to say anything I would regret so I told her I had to go. Then she heard me crying and sounded shocked. “You expected us to pay for your wedding?” she exclaimed. I told her again that I needed to go and I hung up. I have not called her back yet. I don’t know what to say to her. I’m just so hurt.

    Any suggestions from our readers would be appreciated.

    Stocks For Babies

    by  • March 24, 2006 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    After reading Laws of Finance’s post, Starting Them Off Young today I was curious enough to do some research. LoF wrote a pretty persuasive piece on why stock is a great gift for babies and children. My cousin just had a baby last weekend and we haven’t yet bought a baby gift, so this sounded like a really innovative idea. I googled “buy stock for baby” and lo and behold, someone has created a business to do just that. www.oneshare.com sells stocks as gifts. You purchase one share in your recipient’s name (for gifts to children, their parent must be named as a joint owner) and receive one stock certificate, matted and framed, with an inspirational message. Some of the stocks for children include Pixar, Disney, and Dreamworks. They sell about 150 different stocks in all. The concept is really fun, but it’s also pricey. You pay the going rate for the share of stock, plus a $39 fee, plus around $50 for the frame. This puts the total price of a $25 share at around $115. It’s a good thing the kid has plenty of years for the stock to gain value, because it’s going to take until they’re 105 just to break even! In addition, high-risk/high-return stocks such as small cap companies aren’t offered by oneshare, as they deal in popular large cap stocks. It’s highly unlikely that a single share in a large cap company could become a golden ticket to wealth. So really, these kinds of gifts are more of a novelty than a serious investment.

    However, this could be a fantastic investment for two other reasons.

    The stock certificates are often lavishly illustrated with characters from the company. I’ve heard that in some cases these “collectible” certificates can be worth more than the stock they represent. A particularly rare certificate could end up increasing in value.

    The other way the certificate could be of value is as inspiration. If the parents of the child hadn’t considered making investments in their child’s name, this could be a fun push in that direction. And of course, the framed certificate could inspire the child to take an interest in finance and lead to life of fiscal responsibility. Now that’s a good investment!