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6 Ways to Find Deals and Save Money After Black Friday and Cyber Monday

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Mark Barrera is a deals shopper and online reseller who enjoys sharing tips related to smart shopping and frugal living.

If you did everything you could to find deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but still have a few holes in your shopping list, don’t panic. There are plenty of great deals still to be had both in-store and online – as long as you know where to look and how to shop. The holidays don’t have to be a mad dash to the finish line, so take a look at the following shopping strategies, and get all your gift-buying wrapped up in no time.

1. Sign Up For Deal of the Day Websites
Use deal of the day websites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Half Off Depot to your advantage. They all offer significant discounts year-round, including in the days and weeks after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Most of the time, discounts are 50% or more – just make certain that whatever you order ships in time for gift giving.

2. Subscribe to Deal Sharing Websites
Websites such as SlickDeals and FatWallet take a lot of the legwork out of finding deals after Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, as they send out a roundup of opportunities via e-mail. Of course you can also peruse retailer websites on your own if you don’t feel like signing up, but deal sharing websites do make the job of searching and browsing for offers a lot easier. Check out deals on items including electronics, clothing, and accessories.

3. Wait Until the Last Minute
Although this is always a risk if you’re after a popular product that could sell out, a lot of stores do hold Christmas Eve deals. By that point, retailers are looking to unload leftover inventory and you may score some steep discounts. Approximately 17 million Americans said they planned to shop on Christmas Eve, according to a 2012 Consumer Reports survey, so join the army of savers and snatch up some last-minute gems.

4. Use Your Best Credit Card
The Discover Card offers 5% cash back on online purchases all the way through the end of December, and the Chase Freedom card features 5% cash back at select department stores as well as purchases made at Amazon. The RedCard from target also gets you a 5% discount on all purchases applied at the cash register, if you’re shopping in-store. Just because you might not see a discount up front, doesn’t mean there aren’t effective ways to save.

5. Bundle Purchases to Avoid Shipping Costs
No matter where you shop online, you always want to try and avoid shipping charges. Group your purchases together in order to qualify for free shipping, and pay attention to the spending level at which it kicks in. For example, the threshold is $25 at Best Buy and $50 at Target. If you don’t need to spend that much, you can check out websites like DealCatcher or RetailMeNot for promotional codes for free shipping.

6. Keep Up the Research on Gifts You Already Purchased
Many retailers have price match programs in place where if you purchase an item and then find it at a cheaper price somewhere else, the store refunds you the difference. However, each retailer usually has certain restrictions in place, so do your homework beforehand. Wal-Mart does not accept online ads, and at Staples you only have 14 days after you purchase the item. Also, the lower-cost item must have the identical model number as the one you purchased.

Conclusion
There’s no reason to go into debt just because you want to please the folks on your gift list. Sure, almost everyone would like a new iPad for Christmas but that doesn’t mean it’s your responsibility to purchase one. Focus more on your budget than the expensive gifts that people want, and save yourself the headache of huge January credit card bills.

What ways can you think of to find deals after Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Photo from Flickr

Setting financial priorities: Savings or Debt?

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Good morning Loves and happy Hump Day.  What better way to get over the lull in the middle of the week than to get focused on our goals?!  I like to evaluate my accomplishments and set my new goals on my birthday – which just happened to be October 9th.  I reflect on what I did the past year and focus on what I want to do for the upcoming year.

My goals usually involve saving money in the short term and using it to travel as often as possible.  However in 2015 my priorities are changing just a bit.  BF and I just moved into a fantastic apartment in a great neighborhood and I’m hating my life here a lot less.  Last year I would travel at any opportunity because it let me escape from my tiny apartment and noisy neighbors.  But next year I think I’ll stay put and enjoy my new living space.

Paying off debt

We just got into $5000 debt furnishing our new apartment so I think it’s safe to say I won’t be travelling any time soon.  Of course I would like to take my time and pay off the debt over several years but that’s just not smart.  I’ve learned from past mistakes that procrastinating on debt repayment only leads to more debt and it becomes a vicious cycle – a cycle that I no longer want to be a part of.  With aggressive monthly payments, cutting eating out expenses (my biggest monthly expense besides rent) and no travel plans I expect to have the debt fully paid by May 1, 2015.

Saving for a rainy day

Many people think you shouldn’t (or can’t afford to) save at the same time as you are paying off debt.  I tend to disagree depending on your income.  If you don’t have a lot of wiggle room in your disposable income then I would say always pay off your debt before saving money – that is only if you don’t accumulate more debt in the meantime.   However I can also argue the other side of the case.  I can tell you that you should always save on a regular basis regardless of your financial obligations because you’ll always have debt whether it’s in the form of credit cards, a mortgage or student loans.

Getting rid of student loans

I will never forget the day I paid off my student loan.  I actually still have the letter – yes that’s really my student loan statement above.  I took seven years to pay off my student loans because the payments were low and the interest was tax deductible.  However now looking back at the situation I wish I took a more aggressive approach to paying off my student loans.  The truth is that $250 monthly payment (for seven years) could have been better spent, let’s say on saving for the down payment on a home.

Buying a home

Having student loan debt prevented me from doing other things and apparently I’m not the only one.  According to recent data from Credit Karma “57% of millennials who do have mortgages do not have a student loan.”  Even more shocking their data indicates “that only 8% of millennials who have student loans also have a mortgage.”  Getting into debt over education is a good cause but based on personal experience my advice is to pay it off as soon as possible so you can use that money towards other things like buying your first home.  It’s nerve racking to have two major financial commitments at the same time and if you’re like me you don’t want to gamble with your living situation.

What is your financial priority?

5 reasons you don’t need a car

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Good morning Loves.  I don’t actually have a car, I used to but I sold it and that was the best financial decision I ever made.  I bought a brand new Honda Civic in 2007 and I sold it three years later with less than 30,000 miles on it.  All that to say I didn’t use the car a lot; not only that but I didn’t need it.

Car payments are very expensive

BF and I live downtown in a big city and we bought the car for the sole reason that we didn’t have one.  We quickly learned that the benefit of the car wasn’t worth the $800 cost.  Yes you read that right.  With the car payment, and insurance costs along with the gas and parking expenses we were paying $800 a month for our car.  I admit it was nice to have when we wanted to take a weekend road trip to Boston, New York or Toronto but the overall benefits weren’t worth the monthly expense.

You can take the less convenient route

Some days I miss my car; I miss it when I have to walk home in the rain, I miss it when I need to get somewhere really quickly and walking there is going to take me more time than I’m actually going to spend at the destination and I really miss the car when I have a lot of groceries to carry.  Although the convenience of having a car is nice, I just can’t justify the costs and other headaches that come with the car.

There’s a cheaper option

I liked having the car over the last two weeks because we needed it for a specific purpose, it was super convenient to drive around town and the neighboring suburbs going to Target, Wal-Mart and grocery shopping.  The entire two week car rental only cost us $360 plus $140 in gas and $30 in parking; that’s a lot less than the $800 we were paying when we had the Honda.

Think about the environment

I’m a very impatient person and there’s nothing I hate more than wasting time.  I don’t like sitting in a traffic jam with the car running or sitting at a red light waiting for my turn to turn left.  Not only is it a waste of time but it’s also a waste of gas and it’s incredibly bad for the environment.  As I sit in a car with the engine running, not moving I can’t help but think about all the pollution I’m sending out into the air as well as all the money I’m wasting on gas.

It’s OK if you need it for a specific purpose

Don’t make the same mistake I did and buy a car just because you don’t have one and think you should.  With our move October 1st BF and I rented a car for two weeks.  Our new apartment is a lot bigger than our previous living space so we knew we’d have to run a lot of errands to run such as groceries, furniture and household supplies.  It was really nice to have a car over the last two weeks but at the same time I was happy to return it Sunday night.

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Why emotional spending is OK (sometimes)

Emotional spending

Good morning loves.  Well my 11 day vacation is officially over and I’m back at the office.  Even though I’m working away I am definitely still in vacation mode.  I spent five days of my vacation in New Orleans and before that I kicked off all the festivities with a little shopping celebration.

After scouting deals online I set my budget at $100 to spend on myself to celebrate the beginning of, not only my vacation but a new phase in my life.  Here’s a little rundown of what’s coming up in my life aka all the reasons I need o celebrate: we are moving.  That’s about it.  We are moving to a new apartment and starting a new phase in our lives: that’s definitely a reason to celebrate.

Emotional spending is not compulsive spending

Now here’s my point, it’s OK to splurge every now and then if a) you can do it without using your credit card and b) your spending is controlled.  Now let me ask you this, do you spend money when you want to celebrate something great in your life?  I used to be a compulsive spender, spending money when I was both happy or sad.  Now I only spend money on myself occasionally and never in excess.

After I paid off my debt I was afraid to spend money for a long time because I didn’t want to go back to being broke.  Now I allow myself to spend money occasionally, but within a budget and never on anything I don’t need. That’s the key to emotional spending – keep it in check.

Emotional spending can be controlled

I say that I spend  money emotionally but that’s only partially true because my expenses are always very calculated.  The intent to spend money is based on emotion, but the amount I spend and how I spend it is always based on my budget.

The season is changing so my happy emotional spending came at the perfect time.  I bought basic items I need for fall such as black tights, new black dress pants for work, a new dress for my trip to New Orleans.  In total I only spent $80 and I got absolutely everything I need.  Now that is controlled emotional spending.

How often to you spend money emotionally?

Think about the last time you bought something, anything, was it emotionally initiated?  Did you buy ice cream the last time you were having a bad day?  Did you buy a bottle of win the last time you wanted to drown your sorrows?  Or did you buy yourself a new outfit to celebrate a new job?  The truth is a lot of our spending is emotionally based.

I have to be honest I’m not sure what it is about spending money, but it can be gratifying, consoling and uplifting all at the same time.  I don’t know any other activity that has the same effect on people.  Do you?

How to spend wisely when emotions are involved

The old me would spend money on anything, and I mean absolutely anything from meals to home furnishings just so I would have something to do.  My money and my life were ruled by emotions; but not anymore.

The pain, tears and stress that come with being in debt are heartbreaking.  Now I spend money based on emotions but not as I’m feeling them.  If I have a bad day I go home and wallow, sometimes I eat cookie dough.  I think about how much money I can spend and how much I can afford to spend without feeling guilty.  That’s how I control my emotional spending and I never feel bad about it.

Photo from Flickr