How to Be Financially Prepared for the Holidays

For many of us, the holiday season is a time of joy and rest. However, planning for the season’s festivities can feel hectic and create financial stress. According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, top holiday stressors for Americans include gift shopping, crowds and long lines, traveling and taking on some level of debt. … Continue reading “How to Be Financially Prepared for the Holidays”

For many of us, the holiday season is a time of joy and rest. However, planning for the season’s festivities can feel hectic and create financial stress. According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, top holiday stressors for Americans include gift shopping, crowds and long lines, traveling and taking on some level of debt. So how can you give generously but not go overboard on your budget? Here are five ways to keep your cash outlays in check while still having a fun and memorable holiday season:

1. Set a budget

One way to keep tabs on what you spend during the season is to set a limit and try to stick with it. Start by looking at what you spent last year and use that as a baseline for this season. Did you spend more or stay on budget? While gifts and travel may the first items that come to mind, also consider what you’ll spend on food, decorations, charitable giving and traditions, such as sending holiday cards.

2. Use your credit card wisely

Gifts, travel and festive meals can add up. If you are going to charge expenses over the holidays, try to spend at a level that enables you to pay the bill when it arrives. Otherwise you’re “borrowing” the money by using your credit card and slowly paying down the debt you’ve accumulated with high interest costs. If you have multiple credit cards, think about using one for holiday purchases that will give you cash back for savings or airline miles for an additional perk.

3. Focus on more than the price tag

Most of us would appreciate a smaller but more meaningful gift over something expensive that we will likely regift. One way to do this is to give experiences that create memories. For example, consider bringing your family to a holiday play or making reservations for a special dinner you can enjoy together. If you have a large family that tends to give gifts to each other, you could suggest drawing names to make the process a bit less demanding on everyone.

4. Shop carefully

Getting a head start on gift buying usually results in savings. It gives you time to explore options and compare prices from different retailers. Planning ahead can also help you avoid expensive costs for rush shipping. If you’re an online shopper, consider sending gifts directly to the recipient’s home so you won’t have to ship the gift a second time. If you prefer to shop at the mall, look up each item online while waiting in line to checkout. Many stores have a price-match policy, so it’s worth your time to do your research.

5. Consider an alternative to a pricey party

If you typically host a seasonal bash for a bunch of friends, consider another option – inviting that group to volunteer together instead. Contact your favorite charity or search volunteer sites such as All For Good (allforgood.org) to find opportunities that would allow your group to spend time together without the big cost. If festive parties help you get in the spirit, put a spin on tradition by asking guests to bring their favorite holiday dish or suggesting a round-robin dinner. With either option you’ll enjoy the party without the big price tag.

The Trick to Generating Income

You should have seen the look on my wife’s face.

Not one, not two… but three new credit cards rolled into our house.

My wife despises everything related to debt. To her, any debt is bad debt, and credit cards are the worst kind of debt. So for her to find three new credit cards in the mail… you could say she wasn’t very happy.

While I understand her concern, I didn’t open these credit cards to rack up debt. Instead, my plan is to use them to generate cash in the form of cash-back rewards – the only proper way to use credit cards.

Investing can be thought of in much the same way.

Like using credit cards to go into debt, you can lose a ton of money in some investments, depending on your strategy.

Or you can invest wisely, and turn the market into your own personal cash-back credit card – but one far better than any offer you will ever see in your mailbox.

Let’s use my credit card analogy to help bring the point home.

I don’t use those cards to buy unnecessary items. Instead, I use them for everyday items that I would have purchased anyway – like gas and groceries – and receive cash back for doing so. It’s as simple as that. The key here is that these were items I would have purchased anyway, regardless of the method. So I might as well get paid to do so, right?

That’s the approach I take in one of my investment philosophies.

If you are already looking to own stock in a large, stable dividend-paying company, then why not get paid to do so?

But it gets even better…

The strategy I’m about to explain isn’t just getting paid to possibly buy something you were already looking to acquire anyway – you also get to name your own price. And if you don’t get the price you want initially, you can repeat the process again and again, getting paid each time and essentially creating your own cash machine.

Here’s how it works…

Put Cash in Your Pocket

It’s the only investment strategy I have ever seen or heard of that offers such a win-win scenario.

It’s easy to implement, and it is probably already available in your brokerage account. Just sign a few simple forms, and you’re on your way to controlling your own stock market cash machine.

The strategy is simple: Sell to open put options.

Unlike a normal put option, where you buy a put option to gain the right to sell the underlying stock at a certain price, this strategy takes the other side of that trade. When you sell a put option, you are assuming the obligation to purchase the underlying stock at a specified price – i.e., the strike price.

This is what makes put selling a win-win scenario.

To keep it short, here’s exactly how it works.

The Path to Steady Income

Let’s say you want to own stock in a large, stable dividend-paying company like AT&T (NYSE: T).

Instead of paying the market price to acquire AT&T stock, and watching the shares bounce around, you can sell a put option at a lower strike price – i.e., the price you wish to pay for the shares.

In doing so, you are effectively getting paid to name your price. And you don’t even have to buy AT&T stock until the shares fall to your target.

But it gets better. These sold put options have an expiration date.

In other words, you can pick an option with a one-month, two-month, three-month, etc., expiration date. If the stock trades below the strike price, you get to buy a stock you were already looking to acquire at a bargain price. If the stock’s price stays above the strike price, you never have to purchase the shares.

In both cases, however, you get paid! What’s more, if you still want to own AT&T at that price, you can repeat the process over and over again, collecting income every time.

If you go in with the intention of owning the underlying shares, there really is no downside to this strategy.

This brings me back to the trio of credit cards I mentioned before.

By taking this same cash-back logic and applying it to the investing world, you can achieve a greater than 90% win rate and essentially create your own cash-generating machine – who doesn’t want that?

How Corporate Credit Cards Work

When used wisely, corporate credit cards can definitely help businesses simultaneously achieve career goals and reap personal perks. On the contrary, this can lead to a corporate free-fall when used poorly.

Corporate credit cards are different from both personal and small business credit cards. These are offered only be a few issuers. Generally, such accounts are established by businesses by utilizing a banking relationship or through a deal negotiated directly with a card issuer. In order to develop such kind of relationship, the company’s credit will be considered.

Companies may give their employees with corporate credit cards for the payment of business-related expenses, which are often travel-relation. Though it is often issued in the company’s name, be aware that it can also display the name of the employee cardholder.

They are categorized into 2 – individual payment cards and company payment cards. Those who opt for individual payment cards, they will be the ones responsible for submitting their own expense report. Also, they will be paying the issuer directly for any charges. On the other hand, the employer will pick up the tab for all company-sanctioned changes with the company-payment cards. But for any personal or unapproved charges, the employee will still pay the issuer directly.

Tips When Using These Cards

Be aware of your company’s policies – Cardholders must familiarize themselves with the reporting and spending rules provided by their employers. Also, they must educate themselves about the policies specific to their position or department. They need to know the types and limits on making charges. It is highly recommended that cardholders must attend training sessions and be updated on the policies.

Learn how to avoid pitfalls – There are indeed a lot of pitfalls cardholders must avoid. These will include the unapproved charges that can end up hitting your wallet and combining personal expenses with business spending that may put you on a collision course with the management.

Use your common sense – The lack of simple common sense is indeed among the biggest dangers from having corporate credit cards. Prior to swiping it, ask yourself if such expense is directly related to your job.

Always secure your card – Be sure to keep your card in a safe place to avoid theft or loss. Immediately after noticing that you have lost it, report it to the authorities. This will help prevent fraudulent charges. Cardholders must be aware that when they have lost their card, they can be provided with a new card or new account number immediately during emergency cases.