Saving Money Tips – Don’t Get Caught Up in the Christmas Hype

Christmas is a very emotional time of year for most people. It is the big crescendo at the end of the year that people can spend months planning for. It is a time of year when people feel like giving to others and caring about others. Everyone experiences different feelings and emotions during this time and these can include feeling stressed, happy, excited, sad, joyful, lonely, depressed, elated, worried etc.

We all know is that modern day marketing is built around pulling on people’s heart strings and playing with their emotions. During Christmas we see a lot of this, especially with t.v., radio and print advertising. For example we have all heard lines such as:

“Show mum you love her by buying her . . . this Christmas”

“Give your children their best Christmas yet by buying them . . . ”

“The one you love deserves to be spoilt this year. Buy her a . . . ”

“Forget the socks and jocks, what he really wants from Santa is a . . . ”

“Don’t let YOUR children miss out! You must buy them . . . this year”

Have you ever noticed the gifts that they suggest you buy cost hundreds of dollars and sometimes even thousands of dollars? It is natural to feel guilty if you are contemplating spending say $30 or $50 on that person, when you see advertising telling you that if you truly love someone you will spend hundreds of dollars on them. The marketing guru’s have weaved their magic, and before you know it you have lifted your spending and are buying a more expensive present just so you don’t feel guilty!

You may also experience other emotions that give you a drive to go out and spend lots of money during this time of year. These may include feeling guilty that you haven’t spent enough time with someone during the year, feeling sad that a close family member is no longer around at this time of year, feeling depressed about life and in need of retail therapy.

What you need to do is to learn to control your emotions as best as you can by understanding your emotions and why you feel a particular way and then focusing on something else that you enjoy doing to lift you up and make you feel in control. You also need to ignore all of the propaganda, advertising and hype that makes Christmas a commercial enterprise. Focus on the true meaning of Christmas instead and make it a time of year full of traditions, joy, happiness, caring and sharing.

Here are some clues on how you can do this:-

1. Don’t go overboard

Write a list of who you would like to buy / make presents for
Put a limit on how much you will spend on each person
Write down some ideas of what you can buy that person. Ignore the advertising that tells you what you have to buy, and throw away the guilt you feel by not spending ridiculous amounts of money
Give gifts that have a special meaning rather than a set dollar value
Ensure you have the money to spend in your savings accounts, else cut down who you buy for or how much you spend on each person
Tune out and turn away from the marketing campaigns and advertising that encourage / tempt you to overspend
Keep your Christmas nice and simple and within your budget. This includes present giving, Christmas feasts, holiday activities etc.

2. Teach Your Children

Only buy your children a couple of gifts – don’t shower them with loads of presents especially if you have lots of family and friends who also buy things for them
Ask your children to choose 2 or 3 gifts that they want, advising them that if the gift is too expensive they probably won’t get it
Don’t be pressured into feeling that you are a bad parent if you don’t buy your children the latest gadget or toy that has been advertised to death over the weeks leading up to Christmas
Buy your children what you can afford and remember time spent with them is worth a million dollars to them
Help your children to write a present list themselves – who do they want to give a gift to
Teach children how to budget and ensure they have the money to buy what they want to give
Spend time with your children and encourage / help them to make gifts and cards for their friends / family

3. Spend time with your family instead of spending money

Take a walk / drive to see the Christmas lights in your neighbourhood
Have a sing a long and sing Christmas carols
Play board games or do jig saw puzzles together
Go to a Carols by candlelight
Read Christmas stories as a family
Watch Christmas DVD’s
Participate in free activities put on around your neighbourhood – church pageant, Christmas carols, lighting of the Christmas tree, Christmas parades etc

4. Start some family traditions

Decorating the house and tree with home made decorations / ornaments
Hanging some Christmas lights
Making Christmas presents for friends and family
Making Christmas cards
Making Christmas treats – mince pies, shortbread, cookies, cakes, chocolates
Hanging an advent calendar
Going to a service at your local church / place of worship

5. Give to others less fortunate

Buy a present and put under a charity tree
Give some time to help out a local charity
Help sell Christmas cards / products for your local charity
Send a card to someone in a nursing home / shelter / lonely neighbour
Make a monetary donation to a charity of your choice
Visit an elderly lonely neighbour

If you let your Christmas get out of hand all that you are going to do is end up feeling very depressed, stressed, worried and concerned when the big event is over and reality sets in.

There is nothing worse than seeing the damage after the event. The credit card bills will flow in during the New Year, the bank account statements will be delivered in the first quarter of the year and you are likely to then see the trouble and grief you have caused yourself.

Why spend the next year or two suffering financial pain because you went over board and got caught up in the hype of Christmas. Make this Christmas an enjoyable one and spend your New Year relaxing and working on savings goals instead of struggling working out debt reduction strategies.

Buy the Best Kids Holiday Toys Online – Holiday Toys Shopping

Buying toys for the holidays for young children is one of the most fun and gratifying actions all year long. Even as you think of the list of kids toys for the holidays, you will get a smile on your face imagining them opening up a great present. Children are so innocent and are always surprised by the gift they open, even if they thought they were going to get a specific toy. For me, it is that look of pure elation that only occurs when a child opens up an unexpected gift during the holidays.

Another great joy in life is to watch children grow up and all of the different types of presents that they like at different ages. Toddler toys are very simple and often educational, but they give young children so much joy. Toddler Toys don’t always have to be flashy or even all that useful. As long as the child can learn or use the toddler toy in a pretend play situation, then you have made them happy.

Some popular Toddler Toys for the Holidays in 2009 will be Tricycles, Ride On Cars, Pretend Play Toys, Activity Tables, Art Supplies and Educational Toys. All of the items listed will aid in child development in one form or another. Mental and Physical Development for toddlers and children is crucial and it is important that toys for toddlers play a role in their developmental cycle.

As children get older, so do the complexity of kid’s toys for the holidays. In some cases, simple kid’s toys will still suffice, but more often than not, the older the child, the more advanced the toys that should be given to the child. Young children are always excited to receive Scooters, Trampolines, Pool Toys, Building Blocks, Action Figures and so on. A different kind of mental and physical stimulation is required for older children and your selection of kid’s toys must follow suit.

During the holiday shopping season you will be inundated with different marketing campaigns trying to sway you into getting the most popular kids toys for the holidays. The biggest effort of most companies is to get you to buy video games and other forms of mindless entertainment. This year, ignore major companies and their marketing campaigns and get your children toys with educational and developmental value. We invite you to look at our favorite toy company below. They specialize in toys that will aid your child’s learning, development and fun factor.

Buy Hot Toys Early This Holiday Season

With the country still in recession this promises to be an interesting shopping season for people who are planning to buy this year’s hot toys for their children. The best idea would be to buy gifts early to make sure you get the gifts your children are wanting this holiday season. The potential problem with finding the hot toys may come from the toy manufacturers this year.

The recession has made everyone who works in retail nervous for the upcoming season. Even with following past history of trends in shopping during different economical models, there is no way to predict how consumers will spend their money this holiday season. The big decision that toy manufacturers had to make was whether to gamble and make toys hoping that they would sell or play it safe and possibly not have enough toys available to meet the demand.

History has shown us that if there is a shortage of a certain type of toy, the real winners are the people who had the foresight to buy the toys and turn around to sell them online for a huge profit. When it comes to children and Christmas, parents will pay more than they retail price to get the perfect toy for their child.

Toy manufacturers can only guess where people will spend their Christmas club checks and bonuses. If they guess wrong they will lose out on potential profits and parents won’t be able to find the toys that they need for the children in their lives.

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends should consider doing their holiday gift shopping early if there are specific toys they know they are going to need to buy. The options are fairly limited:
• Buy the toy early and possibly at full price to guarantee that you have it
• Wait until closer to the holidays and risk the toy not being available
• Buy the toy from an auction site for more than retail because the toy is sold out everywhere

It is possible that there may be plenty of the toys available when they start to go on sale and finding them won’t be an issue. It will be up to the individual if they want to risk waiting for the best price.

Adults are far more likely to understand the true meaning of the holidays and the concept of supply and demand. Children are more interested in having fun toys to play with during and after the holidays. This will not be a normal holiday season for retail but it is too soon to tell if there will be enough supply to meet the demand.

5 Ways to Save Money When Shopping Online

We all enjoy the convenience of replacing crowded parking lots and shopping malls with the click of a button, and sending our purchases directly to our doorsteps. Online shopping also gives us the chance to buy products we may not have access to in our hometown, which happens to be the culprit of my love for shopping online. Aside from the obvious convenience and accessibility of using the Internet, shopping online can save you a lot of money when you’re aware of its advantages!

1. COUPON CODES can save you a ton of money, and many people don’t use them!
Most online stores offer coupon codes somewhere on their homepage, but many shoppers don’t take advantage of the discounts. I am amazed at the amount of customers who purchase from my store and don’t enter the 10% discount code at checkout. Who doesn’t want to save money? I’m sure you do, which is why you need to pay attention to these offers. If you find something you like on a site that does not have a discount code displayed, search the site on RetailMeNot.com or FatWallet.com. These are awesome sites that allow you to search stores by name to find current coupon codes they’re offering, and most stores do offer them. You can also submit codes that you have found on your own if they’re not already listed.

2. COMPARE PRICES
When you find something you love online, take a second to check and see if you can get it somewhere cheaper. Chances are you can. The Google Shopping tab is an excellent tool to use for comparison shopping. Most of the stores that show up on the first few pages of Google’s search results are larger, more established stores. Smaller boutique-type stores may offer the same products at lower prices, but don’t have the luxury of showing up higher on the results list. Many small stores take the time to upload their products to the Google Shopping feed (a tedious process if I might say so myself), which allows you to search the product by name and find the best price. Google does not allow unsecured Websites to show up on the feed, so you know you’re safe. And don’t forget, if you find it cheaper elsewhere, check to see if the store also has a coupon code! Double score.

3. Find sites that offer DAILY DEALS for huge savings
Many stores are now offering Daily Deals to their online customers. They typically offer 20-50% savings, which can add up to hundreds of dollars depending on the purchase. Run a Google search with the name of a product you’ve been eyeing followed by “daily deal” or “deal of the day”. If any site happens to be offering a deal that day it should show up in the search results. This trick takes about 30 seconds and can potentially add to hundreds in savings.

4. Take advantage of GROUPON and LIVING SOCIAL discounts.
Before you go out to eat, to an event, or to do just about anything; why not check out Groupon beforehand? Sites like Groupon and Living Social feature discounts on things to do, eat, see and buy in your area. If you’re going to the movies, enter your area code and check for discounted tickets near you. Buy them online through Groupon and save time and money. There’s no point in paying full price for something that we smart people are using Groupons for!

5. Find sites that offer FREE SHIPPING
If you find a deal on a site that does not offer free shipping, make sure the amount you’re saving is more than the cost of shipping, otherwise there’s no point. Many online stores offer free shipping on purchases that reach a certain amount of money, but you can also find a wide variety of sites that offer free ground shipping on all orders. If you are an avid online shopper, you may want to consider purchasing a membership with a service like ShopRunner.com. Shop Runner offers unlimited 2-day shipping and returns for $79.00 per year. It only includes participating merchants, mostly big-name corporations, but it’s worth it if you buy from those stores often.

Online Shopping – The Answer to Convenient and Efficient Holiday Shopping

Yes, it’s here! It’s that jolly time of year when we spend more money on family, friends and ourselves that we should. BLACK FRIDAY is upon us. Some of the big box stores are reported to be opening early on Thanksgiving Day. It seems to start earlier each year. There will be people waiting in lines to get in the stores, aggressive parking lots and crowded shopping aisles.

These are some of the reasons why each year more and more people are turning to online shopping in the comfort of their home and even while at work. As reported in Booz & Co 2012 Holiday Retail Outlook report, “Consumers are increasingly viewing Black Friday as irrelevant: They start looking earlier and buying later, and are moving online.” The online shoppers are avoiding the crowds, saving gas and getting great prices, which includes free shipping and no tax purchases. Online shopping is always open, 24/7. It can be accessed any time of the day. Obviously, consumer confidence in the security and reliability of online shopping has grown tremendously over the past several years.

We usually think of using PCs for online shopping, but the use of tablets and mobile devices are making online shopping more convenient and portable. You can research and easily make a purchase anywhere you happen to be. Shopping for out of town friends and family has become much easier with the ability to ship directly. This eliminates that extra time and cost of shipping the gifts yourself. Take a moment to browse the net from your PC, tablet or mobile device to find the perfect gift for everyone on your shopping list. You will be surprised how much you can accomplish in a short period of time.

Grab that shopping list and here are some ideas to help get you started.

For centuries, games have made great gifts for children and adults as well to enjoy anytime anywhere for great entertainment that brings out the competitive spirit in everyone. Family games for tailgating or in your own backyard such as Cornhole, and Washer Toss. Beach games to enjoy on vacation such as Bocce Ball, and Volleyball. There are many sites where you can find a great gift for someone on your shopping list, and it is very possible to find that one site where you can put a big dent on that list. Without leaving home you can visit these sites and start checking names off and find something for you too. Hope this has been helpful information.

Happy Online Holiday Shopping!

Saving Money with Online Coupon Codes

What are coupon codes?

You will come across two main categories of online promotions when shopping. One of them is the “coupon code” otherwise known as the “promotional code” and another is a “link only” promotion. Either of these options may be offered by online merchants as promotions.

How do I redeem a “linked” coupon or product?

These do not contain an actual coupon code and have to be activated through the special link. You get the discount after clicking this link (which will take you to the online store) and will obtain the discount as you check out.

How do I redeem a “coupon code” coupon?

It may differ from one merchant to another. There are a number of different places where the coupon code may be entered. In some instances the coupon code could be entered in the shopping cart itself.

At other times the coupon has to be entered on the order review page just prior to checkout. Keep a lookout in the coupon “submit” area the first time you purchase from any website.

What if I don’t see any place to put the code?

Check the FAQ (frequently asked questions) page of the website. This is usually found on the “customer service” page. In case you are unable to locate it in the site itself, call and ask the merchant how the coupon codes on their website should be used.

How do I know if a “coupon code” is working?

The merchant will usually have a page where the amount you are charged is indicated, the amount being discounted after submitting your discount code and any shipping fees that applies. All these details maybe showed on an order page before you submit approval of the charges. If you do not see the discount upon entering the coupon code on the review page then do not place the order.

How do I know if a “linked promotion” is working?

Usually a linked promotion takes you directly to the product itself which is being promoted either at a special price or to the page that is advertising your discount. If this is not the case look for it on the order page before accepting the transaction as a purchase.

Why doesn’t the coupon work?

Most times the merchants omit an expiration date which allows them to monitor the promotion and discontinue it in the event it receives more responses than planned for. Online merchants alter or will discontinue any promotion at any time they want to and therefore it is almost impossible to know 100% of what so many merchants are actually doing with promotions. In the event your coupon doesn’t work, it is best to search for another one on the same site or on any of the many other coupon sites online.

Can I use inline coupons in my local stores?

Physical stores (brick and mortar stores) are not obliged to honor online deals unless the promotion categorically specifies that they will. However, some stores will honor it anyway as a courtesy to you even if you print out the offer and take it to the store. This may depend on the kind of deal and the merchant concerned but it never hurts to ask!

Can I double up on coupon deals by using more than one at time?

At most times it is specified on the coupon code itself that only one promotion may be used per transaction or per purchased item. However, you may get additional savings by looking for a rebate on item purchased with a coupon code. These rebates are available a plenty on electronic devices, computers, software and home improvement items.

This sounds great! But how do I find out about the really good online deals?

A great way to find out about the latest deals is through the forums of coupon sites. By visiting these sites you will be able to get a great deal of information posted on the boards. Remember though it is necessary to act fast too.

Using coupon codes is a great way to save money while shopping!

Popular Christmas Toys Versus Less Expensive Toys – Need Some Ideas to Keep Costs Down?

Well the season is upon us and it’s about time to see long lines forming around 4 a.m., lines full of weary parents trying to find the latest gadget for their kids, those popular Christmas toys that everyone and their brother is asking for this year.

Will you be one of these parents, dashing out before the sun is up to wait in a long line just to be allowed to hand over large amounts of money for a Nintendo Wii or the latest and greatest toy or game? Or would you rather explain to your kids that this year, with many families suffering due to the economy, you would like to tone it down a bit?

Let’s face it, the kids for the most part, unless they are a little older, are not going to understand. But there are some lower-cost alternatives if you set your mind to the task. There are lots of things your kids can receive at Christmas that will be a big hit and also not cost nearly as much as the popular Christmas toys that may or may not be worth the money anyway.

If your child loves crafts you can buy them a kit from the craft store. There are lots to choose from, whether they enjoy painting, beads, sculpting, or woodworking. Most kits can be purchased relatively inexpensively and will provide many many hours of enjoyment, possibly for many years to come. And something like working with clay is very cost effective because there really aren’t any extremely costly things to buy, and you can even have your pieces fired at a local shop if there is one near you. This is usually only around 10 or 15 dollars to have this done.

Model kits are also very entertaining and, for the hours of fun they give, are not very much money at all.

Another idea is the little Hot Wheels cars with the orange track. I remember playing with these when I was a kid and we had so much fun. No, it is not terribly high tech but we sure loved it. We’d spend the better part of a day constructing tracks and having a ball with those little cars.

If your kids are not going to be happy with anything other than the latest and hottest popular Christmas toys, don’t worry too much because you can probably find some deals if you keep a close eye out. Try an online auction site like eBay and see if you can find someone who is selling the toy a little cheaper.

Holiday Food – Find Easy Christmas Cooking Tips

Christmas is a hectic and busy time of the year filled with its fair share of stress. Add to that is finding the time to cook suitable dishes to be enjoyed by family and friends. With this in mind and to allow you to spend more time with family and friends and less time worrying about holiday food, find easy Christmas cooking tips in this article.

We all want to present a beautiful and delicious holiday meal that will be enjoyed by all. This may be a problem if you are not that great in the kitchen, or if you are pressed for time and so forth. There are many meals that are superb that can be purchased and prepared for the dinner guests for a stellar Christmas dinner. It is okay to do this.

You do not need to slave in the kitchen or commit hours that you do not have in order to appear to others as the “hostess with the mostest”. This is not a competition. You do not need to be perfect at everything. Getting help may be the best alternative to having a great holiday season and being the “hostess with the mostest”.

If you still want to show off your cooking skills (or lack thereof!), you could prepare Christmas meals such as casseroles and other family favorites months ahead of time and simply freeze and store them. Most food items can keep for several weeks and months. Since holiday food cooking is such a great chore, this may be a great alternative to a stress free holiday season. This could also work very well for Thanksgiving meals.

Another great and superb alternative is to use the services of companies that prepare and assemble holiday meals that are then delivered to your home for your holiday entertaining. Although this isn’t quite home made, most of these meals are just as good if not better that some home cooking while affording you the opportunity to spend more time with the things that matter such as spending time with your family and friends. Christmas should be more about relationship building. Everything else should take a back seat.

There are many businesses that offer this meal assembly services that you can contact. When you contract this chore out to these businesses, all you need to be on top of is to ensure that the menu is to your specifications and that they can provide the holiday food within the time budget. You may need to ask them for references in order to avoid problems later on.

Another alternative is to purchase the prepared meal from your local grocer’s freezer section. Another great way is that several well known and well esteemed food companies are providing their services online and can provide prepared holiday food items that a simply delicious. All you need to tell them is the date that you need the holiday food delivered and it will be at your door. The items are usually overnighted to you to keep the freshness of the food items. Most of these companies adhere to strict quality control conditions so you can rest assured that the food will be impeccable. All you would need to do to enjoy a great holiday meal is to heat the meal.

Another way to cut out the time spent on holiday cooking and reduce your stress while still allowing you to prepare something and add a personal touch to the holiday meal, is to purchase part of the meal while preparing certain portions of the meal. For instance, you could purchase a fully cooked turkey or ham and simply personally prepare desserts or other family favorites.

Do All-Inclusive Holidays Really Save You Money?

How can you give your family a wonderful holiday and save money while you do it? Over recent years, all-inclusive package holidays have become increasingly popular. The attraction has been in the potential savings that can be made from not having to spend additional money on food, drinks and entertainment. The question is; do all-inclusive holidays really save you money?

Initially, all-inclusive holidays were part of the thrill of a long-haul package holiday to places like the Caribbean, Mexico, or the islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Now they are a standard offering from even the most budget holiday destinations. Holidays to Turkey, Spain and Greece are increasingly being offered with all-inclusive options. They are being marketed as the best ways to save money on a family holiday. So, is it a marketing ploy or are there real savings to be made?

An all-inclusive holiday means the inclusion of all food, drinks, entertainment and accommodation. So what you are getting is everything. For a family of four, paying additional costs for several meals a day, drinks, and additional activities can take its toll and add approximately £200 per day to a credit card bill! So an all-inclusive package does appear to be a much cheaper, money saving option. But always read the small print.

All-inclusive very rarely means all you can eat whenever you want to eat it. These package deals usually involve breakfast, some form of lunch and an evening meal at set times during the day. They are usually buffet style meals from set menus of local produce. Eating from an a la carte menu will most likely involve an additional cost. Likewise, free drinks will usually mean a selection of locally sourced drinks, and it will not always include the standard choices of alcoholic and soft drinks you and your family may normally choose like spirits.

Before you book, check the information and feedback about the standard of local cuisine that is provided as part of the package. And remember that it is usually local cuisine so if you and your family have particular tastes or dietary needs they may not be catered for. Also find out what drinks actually are included. Remember, going all-inclusive will only be a saving if you actually don’t need to pay for anything else.

This is also true for the free entertainment that is offered. Check what this is. There may be additional charges for kids’ clubs, water sports and organised tours. The included entertainment tends to be what is made available within the complex like evening dances or discos, games, cinema rooms and so on.

Many families want to explore and experience their holiday destination. One complaint of all-inclusive holidays is the feeling of being stuck to the same routine every day for two weeks. People like to explore, and visit different restaurants, bars and attractions. If this sounds like your family, maybe buying an all-inclusive holiday may not prove to be as much of a saving as you had hoped.

If however, all you want to do is spend time on the beach and relax within the complex as the kids play in the pool, it may be the perfect way to enjoy the luxury of a two week holiday for a reduced amount of money.

The best advice is to read the terms and conditions of the all-inclusive package carefully. Calculate approximately how much your food, drinks, and entertainment will cost you, and compare the prices with a non-inclusive holiday. You may find that there are many family package holidays at half board that will save you just as much money while giving you and your family the flexibility to enjoy, explore, and fully experience your holiday resort outside of the hotel complex.

Using Coupon Booklets to Save Money

The recession has hit everyone hard. People are struggling to make ends meet. In this current atmosphere of financial instability and struggle, people are getting creative about the way they save money. One of the ways of saving that people have hit upon is using coupon booklets to save money.

When you look at coupons, you may think that you won’t really save much by using them. Many view coupon cutters with askance, especially at the checkout counter. This quickly changes to amazement when the final tally comes up. Coupons can save you a lot of money when used properly. When used creatively, coupon booklets can save you even more money.

Doing your grocery is one of the best ways to take full advantage of coupons. However, the grocery is not the only place for you to use your coupons. You can use travel coupons, entertainment coupons and restaurant coupons to save a lot of money. There are many ways for you to cut back a little on expenses through using coupon booklets.

If you are going travel, there are travel coupons for specific places that you will be visiting. Usually, these booklets will include coupons for restaurants and festivals if there are any. Many of these vacation booklets offer an array of discounts for activities available in the area. If you’re going on vacation, check first if there are vacation coupons for the place you’re going. You can have more fun during your vacation if you have extra spending money.

Another great way to use coupon booklets is for restaurant deals. If you eat at restaurants a lot because of work or business or pleasure, cut back a little on your expenses with restaurant coupons. You can discreetly insert the coupon along with your credit card when your server hands you the bill. There are many restaurants you can choose from. This way, you can have your pick of restaurants.

Even if you don’t regularly go to restaurants, the coupons will still come in handy when you do decide to treat your family to a nice meal. Even though frugal philosophies espouse cooking and eating at home, a good meal once in a while at a nice restaurant can be a wonderful treat. You don’t have to spend a lot to treat your family or friends to a wonderful restaurant meal.

You can also get coupon booklets for the Christmas seasons. Retailers and merchants send out these booklets as a way to increase their sales. You can get sweet discounts on popular items. Some of the coupons are for specific products while others are more general in nature. Some companies will give a discount after you purchase a certain amount. While straight discounts on an item is preferable, you can still save money if you use a general coupon.

There are also coupon books that you have to buy to enjoy the discounts offered within. Some argue that this goes against the free coupons principle. However, consider that the overall savings you will get from buying the coupon book will offset the cost of the book. Weigh the pros and cons before buying a coupon book. Make sure that you will be able to use all or a majority of the coupons to make it a good buy. If you get less savings than what you paid for it, it defeats the purpose of using coupon codes.

How to Use Budget Catering With Christmas Party Food

The holiday party season is here so what I thought I would do is suggest some party appetizer ideas for your Christmas party food. What you want to keep in mind to maintain a low-cost budget catering menu is to incorporate easy finger foods along with your holiday buffet.

As the party host, be creative with your presentation of your Christmas party food and make it easy for your guests to pick up and eat. Create an interactive buffet station by using skewers for your vegetables at the crudites station. Make a vegetable garden presentation using skewered vegetables “planted” in wheat grass.

At the dessert station, build your own fondue station. Again using skewers, offer strawberries, bananas, rice crispy treats, Oreos, marshmallows, to name a few easy finger foods your guests can choose from. If you are trying to watch your weight, select the fruit over the cookies and walk away from the dessert station before you dip into the chocolate!

Christmas party food has a tendency to be very rich and abundant in calories so if you are trying to watch your weight, select the low-calorie alternatives. Party appetizer ideas to watch your weight include selecting the fresh vegetable crudites versus the macaroni cheese bites. Even though the spinach and artichoke and cheese dips are more delicious, dip your veggies into the salsas or various flavored humus dips if offered.

As a host, serving crudites, dips and small bites is an effective use of budget catering. To stretch your dollars further offer easy finger foods such as an anti-pasta station with sliced meats, cheeses and skewered tortellini.

Other party appetizer ideas to help keep your costs low include tray-passing heartier items such as beef or turkey sliders, pigs in blankets, shrimp cocktail and shot glasses filled with soups. You can serve either hot soups such as the classic favorite tomato soup or a cold gazpacho or cucumber soup. By tray-passing these items, you are able to control the portions and timing of the food.

To help maintain a low-cost budget catering menu at the bar, feature a holiday special drink such as a punch with cranberry, Sprite or 7-up, orange juice or pineapple juice and mint leaves. Maybe serve a special alcoholic beverage like a peppermint martini garnished on the rim with crushed peppermint.

I hope you found these party appetizer ideas helpful for your Christmas party food. You can keep costs at a minimum with budget catering by controlling the portions via tray-passing some easy finger foods. Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun & economical to all!

Restore the Christmas Spirit Using Budgeting and Money Tips

Are you starting to get a little nervous about the Christmas holiday coming up and running short on cash for all the expenses? You can avoid the stress by doing a bit of planning and have a fantastic Christmas holiday! Even if you’re a bit short on the green stuff, you can still have fun and spend money, prudently rather than foolishly, and all without a credit card.

Don’t get caught in the credit card trap! If you spend $1000 on Christmas expenses this year at 18 percent annual percentage rate (APR), and you pay the minimum payment of 4 percent due each month, it will take you YEARS to pay-off the credit card.

To avoid the pre-Christmas budgeting depression and post-Christmas credit card bill surprises, start planning now by following this simple financial roadmap. Understanding what you have, drawing up an all-inclusive list of needs and wants, shopping for bargains early, avoiding credit cards, and tracking each item will keep you focused on positive cash flow – and that can increase your Christmas spirit!

1. Determine how much cash you can spend

If you’re on a budget or spending plan, then you probably know already how much you can afford to spend on the Christmas holiday and have budgeted for it all year long, a little bit at a time. If not, it’s time to figure it out now so you can avoid paying on your credit card for months or years to come.

To get started, make sure you know what income is coming in. Calculate your net income from now until Christmas and subtract out all the regular debt, expenses and discretionary spending. Hopefully you have a surplus so that you can adequately enjoy the holiday season and move on to step #2.

If you don’t have a surplus, then you’re already spending more than you make and extra cash for Christmas season will have to come from new sources such as a serious cut back on your discretionary spending, selling some unwanted items, or perhaps a temporary part time job to generate some income for Christmas expenses. Many establishments hire part time help for the holidays.

2. Make your list and stick to it!

Include everything on your list such as charitable giving, gifts, decorations, entertainment, extra food and drink, travel, clothing, greeting cards, postage and wrapping paper and accessories.

Your list should include people you want to buy gifts for including family, friends, mentors, teachers, service providers, employees, colleagues at work, etc. Determine who is getting what, the amount you’ll spend, or whether it’s a “card-only” situation.

For those you are buying gifts for, and If your cash budget is tight, then be very realistic with the dollar amounts. Tell your children early on there’s a limit this year on quantity and size of gifts. Opt for quality time and new family Christmas traditions instead of expensive gift giving. There’s nothing wrong with living within your means and buying less expensive gifts. It’s very chic these days!

3. Start shopping early and shop smart

There’s never been more opportunities to save money. Shopping online has exploded with coupons, groupons, and “push” email alerts from major stores to let you know in advance what is going on sale and when. Take advantage of these offers! Sign up early for email alerts and check daily for new deals. Many stores offer free shipping too!

Keep your emotions outside the store. Shop with a mission to complete your list and nothing more. Don’t get sucked in my sales signs if those items are not on your list. Take your list with you and use it to control what you’re buying and how much you can spend for each item.

4. Use a daily tracker so you don’t exceed your plan

Keep track of everything you spend! Write each purchase down on a separate piece of paper summarizing what you’ve spent that day. Add up the amounts at the end of each week. Don’t wait for the debit card statements to arrive. It will be too late if you overspent!

Monitor the spending each week against your master list and check off the items paid for. Estimate what cash is needed for the remaining items. Make any adjustments necessary to stay on track with your plan.

5. Remember it’s Christmas and it’s not about us, the gifts, or the spending!

Doing something good for someone can really inspire you during the Christmas holidays. Maybe it’s a friend or family member who is ill that you spend time with. Working a soup kitchen, delivering Thanksgiving baskets, or volunteering for a charitable fund raiser are all great things to do and will take your mind off budgeting and spending for awhile.

Playing a new game with children or reading stories together can mean the world to a child. Writing out the Christmas cards together will help inform your children of who their long lost relatives are. Talk about the old days of what you did with them during Christmas when you were a child. It was probably a lot different than today!

Getting back to the basics of what the holiday season is all about by creating memories with your loved ones could reap years of benefit in your relationship and help restore the Christmas inspiration.