How to Have a ‘Financial Talk’ With Your Spouse Over the Holidays

Here are three tips for how to talk to your spouse about money problems over the holidays.

Approximately 31% of all couples have arguments over their finances at least once a month, according to an Ameriprise study. While this may be true, the real issue at hand is that you may not be having a financial conversation with your partner, especially during the holiday season. This could cause unwanted stress, and lack of communication could potentially damage your relationship in the future.

Here are some steps to get you started and help you avoid financial conflict in the new year.

1. Initiate the Conversation With Confidence

You might want to sit down with your spouse or partner over coffee to review your holiday spending plans to avoid a “debt hangover” after the holidays. Talking about finances can be difficult, so it is important to speak in a relaxed environment. Review one another’s numbers, accounting for how much each of you intends to spend this year and on whom. You may want to take a look at receipts from last year as a point of reference and go from there. You might even want to start the conversation by addressing your partner’s strengths with money and how much you appreciate all that they do for you financially (i.e.: paying the bills every month or helping out around the house).

2. Discuss Your Goals

Talk to your spouse about the pros and cons of saving money together instead of overspending on nonessential items and gifts over the holidays. You might even want to bring up how you would like to save up for a future goal together. If you or your partner continues to overspend, that goal may never be reached. You could even have a little fun with it and create a savings jar. Just fill it up until you reach your goal! (Curious about where your finances stand? You can view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

3. Come Up With a Plan

Create a holiday budget together, and consider writing down whom you plan to buy for and how much you plan to spend on each person. Once you have ideas on what you want to buy and how much you plan to spend for each person, make sure you do your research by comparison shopping. This might mean shopping online rather than in store, taking advantage of special store sales and clipping coupons.

You might also want to designate roles for you and your partner to take in the holiday shopping process where one of you is responsible for finding sales while the other takes care of the actual shopping. If you plan to shop as a team, you may not only save money but spend quality time together that makes the experience much more fun and enjoyable.

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21 Top Holiday Gifts Under $100 for Him or Her

We've rounded up 21 holidays gifts under $100.

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So Apparently the Holiday Shopping Season Started Already

holiday-shopping

Holiday shopping once marked that precious time between Thanksgiving and the December holidays. Santa sightings, piped-in Christmas carols and a mad rush at the mall all made buying those gifts almost a full contact sport. But this year, before the first frost, even before school started, Americans have been shopping. In fact, one in three began shopping before Labor Day, according to new data from Rubicon Project.

And they’re getting more splurgy, too. According to the data, the average person is planning to spend $1,175, up 12% from last year.

Who’s Spending the Most? 

Men plan to spend more ($1,360 on average) than women ($1,028 on average), and parents plan to splurge the most – around $1,700, or $495 per child, mostly likely spent online.

Interestingly, despite reports of their staggering student debt, Millennials are also showing big increases in holiday spending this year, up 33% from 2015, to an average of $1,427. Most plan to shell out their dollars on apparel and accessories, video games and gift cards, Rubicon found.

To collect the data, the Rubicon Project used polling firm Penn Schoen Berland to conduct 1,003 interviews among holiday shoppers in the U.S. from August 23 to 25. The survey has a margin of error of 3.09%.

Rubicon’s stats aren’t the only suggestion that Americans are getting ready to spend big this holiday season.

Data from the National Retail Federation is predicting that sales in November and December, (excluding automobiles, gas and restaurant sales) will increase a solid 3.6% to $655.8 billion. The number is “significantly higher” than what it has been for the past ten years, an average of 2.5%.

“Consumers have seen steady job and income gains throughout the year, resulting in continued confidence and the greater use of credit, which bodes well for more spending throughout the holiday season,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a press release on the Federation’s website.

The NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on several economic indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income and previous monthly retail sales releases.

Getting Your Wallet Ready for the Holidays

If these numbers seem like a lot of money to you, remember, you shouldn’t feel pressured to overspend to keep up with the Joneses. It’s prudent to budget what you’re planning to spend for each person on your holiday list before heading out to do your shopping, and to have a total tally of what you plan to spend entirely for the season, with maybe a little room for leeway (but not much.)

It’s also important to budget for food and beverages. When you hit your spending limit, consider braking hard, because the last thing you need is to ring in your fabulous new year with of mountain of credit card debt. Falling into debt can also negatively affect your credit score, and a better score can net you better opportunities and loan rates for that next big purchase. (You can check two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

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This Year’s Most Popular Halloween Costumes Are …

most-popular-halloween-costumes

Princesses be warned: Your reign of popularity among kids celebrating Halloween is over. 2016 is the year of the superhero, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2016 Halloween Consumer Top Costumes Survey.

The annual review of popular Halloween costumes, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, found that spending on costumes is expected to reach $3.1 billion, with 67% of Halloween celebrants planning to purchase costumes this year. Total spending for the holiday is expected to reach a record high of $8.4 billion, according to earlier data from the NRF. More than 171 million people are expected to take part in Halloween festivities, spending an average of $82.93 (up from last year’s $74.34).

The NRF’s costume trends survey, conducted September 6-13, asked 6,791 consumers about their Halloween costume plans. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Here are the most popular costumes this year, broken down by age groups (and species), per the NRF.

Children

  1. Action/Superhero
  2. Princess
  3. Animal (cat, dog, lion, monkey, etc.)
  4. Batman Character
  5. Star Wars Character
  6. Tie: Witch & DC Superhero (excluding Batman)
  7. Frozen Character (Anna, Elsa, Olaf)
  8. Marvel Superhero (excluding Spiderman)
  9. Zombie
  10. Spiderman

Adults 18-34

  1. Batman Character (Batman, Harley Quinn, The Joker, etc.)
  2. Witch
  3. Animal (cat, dog, bunny, etc.)
  4. Tie: Marvel Superhero (Deadpool, Spiderman, etc.) & DC Superhero (Wonder Woman, Superman, excluding Batman)
  5. Vampire
  6. Video Game Character
  7. Slasher Movie Villain (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, etc.)
  8. Pirate
  9. Star Wars Character
  10. Zombie

Adults 35 & Up

  1. Witch
  2. Pirate
  3. Political (Trump, Clinton, etc.)
  4. Vampire
  5. Batman Character (Batman, Catwoman, etc.)
  6. Animal (cat, dog, bunny, etc.)
  7. Tie: DC Superhero (Superman, Wonder Woman, excluding Batman) & Star Wars Character
  8. Tie: Ghost & Zombie
  9. Scary Costume/Mask
  10. Marvel Superhero (Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman, etc.)

Pets

  1. Pumpkin
  2. Hot Dog
  3. Bumble Bee
  4. Tie: Lion & Star Wars Character
  5. Devil
  6. Batman Character
  7. Witch
  8. Superman
  9. Action/Superhero
  10. Cat

Don’t Dig a Debt Grave This Halloween

If you have big Halloween plans this year, it’s good to keep in mind that overspending can be scarier than any haunted house. If you’re carrying a large credit card balance that you’re finding difficult to pay off, consider some DIY decorating and costume tips.

Remember, too much debt can hurt your credit scores, keeping you from getting the best financing terms available on everything from auto and home loans to credit cards. You can monitor your credit by signing up for your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days on Credit.com. If your credit needs some work, you can generally improve your scores by paying down those high credit card balances, disputing errors on your credit reports (you can go here to learn how) and limiting credit inquiries.

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Is Your Credit Card Ready for the Holidays?

holiday-credit-card-spending

Ah, September. That magical time of year when boots and open-toed shoes intermingle, mornings get crisper, people start lining up for those infernal pumpkin spice lattes and some retailers start hauling out their holiday cheer.

It seems every year, some store somewhere feels the need to make the holiday shopping season just a tad bit longer. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if roadside fireworks stands start selling Christmas trees in late June next year.

There’s one positive to be said about the ever-earlier start of the holiday shopping season, though: preparedness. That’s especially true when it comes to your credit and credit cards.

If you’re like most Americans, you’re carrying some credit card debt. In fact, revolving credit debt, made up mostly of credit cards, climbed 3.45% in July, compared to 11.5% the month prior, the Federal Reserve said last week. In fact, credit card debt is expected to top $1 trillion dollars this year, closing in on the all-time high of $1.02 trillion set in July 2008, just before the Great Recession.

If you’re worried what your holiday gift-giving, party going and other festivities might do to your credit card debt, now’s the time to make a plan.

1. Start by Checking Your Credit Scores

Whether your holiday spending plans involve opening up a new credit card or taking measures to protect your credit, the first thing you’ll want to do is see where your credit scores stand. You can get two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com, and, in your credit report summary, you’ll see what areas of your credit are helping (or hurting) them. For example, 30% of your score is based on the amount of debt you’re currently carrying in relation to your credit limits. This credit utilization ratio can bring your scores down quickly if you’re carrying a lot of credit card debt.

2. Ask for a Credit Limit Increase … No, Not So You Can Spend More

Another way to improve your credit utilization is to ask for a limit increase. To be clear, just because people tend to charge more during the holidays doesn’t mean it’s a good reason to spend more than you can afford. Given the high interest rates on credit cards, a little overspending can take months to repay and cost you hundreds — potentially thousands — of dollars in interest.

That being said, if you’ve budgeted for the increase in spending and plan to put it on credit cards, it’s important to be careful about how high you push your credit card balances. To keep your credit scores in good shape, many experts recommend using less than 10% of your available credit.

3. Pay Down Your Debt

Once you know where your credit stands and how your current debt is affecting it, it’s a good idea to put together a plan pay it off. If your credit card interest rates are high, you could benefit from taking a personal loan at a lower interest rate and using that money to pay off your credit card debt. That also can potentially help your credit scores in the long-term, since the mix of credit accounts you have (mortgage, auto loan, personal loan, credit cards, for example) also affects your credit scores. You can see how long it will take you to pay off your debt using this credit card payoff calculator.

4. Make a Holiday Spending Budget

Yes, part of the joy of the holidays is gift-giving; seeing that look of excitement on your loved one’s face is priceless —until you look at your credit card statement the following month. Ouch. It’s a good idea to set a budget for what you’ll spend on presents, parties, outings and even decorations. The important thing with any budget is to be realistic, so if you know you’re going to end up buying that iPhone 7 Plus for your girlfriend, just put it in your budget and figure out how you can save in other areas (like eating peanut butter for dinner for the next three months, or buying your dad a tie).

Just remember, the holidays will be more fun if you plan ahead a little and aren’t stressed about how much you’ve spent and how much extra you might end up paying in interest. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, after all, but seriously, stay away from the pumpkin spice lattes.

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It’s Already Time to Start Saving for the Holidays (Whether You Like It or Not)

saving-for-the-holidays-tips

It’s never too late to start saving for the holidays. If you start your shopping early enough, you will be less stressed — and less likely to fall into debt. There are a few tricks and tips you might want to take advantage of to help you get the best bang for your buck. Here are a few.

1. Create a Holiday Budget

Having a budget and sticking to it during holiday season is the key to staying out of debt. Now that you are starting your shopping early, following a budget should be much easier. Before saving up or spending any money, consider writing down an ideal price for each family member or friend. Try to stick to a limit. For example, you may want to consider allocating $20 to $50 for each friend. Setting limits for your friends and family will help you stay within budget. (You can see how your credit card spending is affecting your credit by viewing your free credit report summary on Credit.com.)

2. Make a Tentative Gift List

You might want to consider writing down all of the family and friends you plan on shopping for this year. If you have a record of what you bought last year and for whom, then you might want to go off this list to help you prepare for the upcoming season.

Once you have an idea of who you will be shopping for, then you might want to do some research. If you are buying for your child or spouse, try asking them what they want this year. (Tell them you are starting early.) Try to have an idea of what you will be getting before summer is over; this way you’ll have time to search for great coupons and deals.

3. Open a Savings Account

Before making any big holiday purchases, you might want to consider opening a savings account — or as I like to call it, a “What If” fund — to help you save for the holiday season. Try to save for your holiday budget. If this is too difficult, then you might want to consider cutting back on some of your expenses.

If you are starting to save from scratch, don’t worry, you have plenty of time. Consider taking a look at your bank statements from the past three months to see how much you’ve been spending on essential and non-essential expenses. Consider cutting back on some of your non-essential expenses for the next couple months to help you save up for holiday shopping. Keep your holiday savings in a safe place. And try your best not to touch this money at all — it’s for presents only.

4. Check for Deals

Deals and coupons are extremely important when holiday shopping. Now that you are preparing early, you have enough time to stack away coupons in your coupon book. Some coupons may expire in a short time, and if that’s the case, then you may want to purchase some presents earlier than expected (plan for this in your “What If” fund and budget). You might want to consider downloading apps, checking newspapers and local magazines to help you find the best deals.

5. Start Shopping

Congratulations! You have saved enough money and collected enough coupons to start shopping. You might want to consider getting all of your shopping done in a couple weeks. Try to put aside a day where you purchase the majority of your presents — especially if all the stores are near one another. This will help you save time and money on gas. (You can see learn more about credit cards for gas rewards here.)

Before heading to each store, take a look at the gifts you plan on buying online. You might find cheaper options there than in-store.

Early shopping gives you the chance to get gifts at bargain prices. Prices tend to go up around November, so you might want to consider doing most of your shopping in late summer and early fall. You may even find yourself staying up to get the best deals online. Just make sure to get plenty of rest!

More Money-Saving Reads:

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Americans Plan to Keep Their 4th of July Spending Under Control This Year

4th-of-July-spending

More Americans plan to celebrate the 4th of July this year, but it seems they’ll be keeping their holiday spending in check.

According to an annual survey from the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend an average of $71.34 per household on food for Independence Day barbecues and picnics. This is a mild increase from last year, when consumers reportedly spent an average of $71.23 per household on food celebrations.

According to the survey, an estimated 214 million people plan to celebrate the 4th of July and are expected to spend about $6.8 billion on holiday festivities, up 1.4% from last year when, according to the NRF’s 2015 survey, more than 156 million consumers planned to do so.

The NRF’s 2016 survey, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, surveyed 6,811 consumers in early June. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Of those respondents who said they will celebrate, 65% plan to go to a barbecue, picnic or cookout, 43% plan to attend a community celebration or watch fireworks, and 12% plan to see a parade.

About 13% of these Americans, or nearly 31 million people, plan to celebrate out of town. (If you plan to travel for the holiday, you may want to consider using one of the best travel credit cards in America to help fund your trip.) Yet only 25% said they intend to purchase holiday-related items, like U.S. flags, patriotic-themed apparel and decorations.

Keep the Holiday from Hurting Your Wallet

No matter how you plan to celebrate the long weekend, it’s a good idea to avoid going into credit card debt. Most cities offer free events in honor of Independence Day, but if you’re planning to do something that will require spending money, do it with your bank account and credit scores in mind. (Remember, high credit card balances can hurt your credit. You can see how your spending habits are affecting your credit by reviewing your free annual credit report summary, updated every month, on Credit.com.) To avoid overspending, consider making a budget ahead of time and doing your best to stick with it.

More Money-Saving Reads:

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