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The holiday season is a joyous time filled with loved ones and laughter, but let’s face it; it’s also a time when your finances take a major hit and that’s not very jolly.

 

Each year, holiday expenses are increasing and many people are spending money they don’t have, adding to their already overwhelming debt. Just last year, consumers increased their debt during the holidays by more than $1,000, according to a recent MagnifyMoney study. That’s a 5% percent increase from 2016.

 

Financial expert, Dave Ramsey, points out “You know Christmas is in December every year, so there’s no reason to act like it suddenly snuck up on you.” You have plenty of time each year to prepare your finances and get ready for the happy season without putting a strain on your finances.

 

And here’s how to do it:

Plan your holiday spending around your current financial obligations—not the other way around

Your current financial obligations aren’t going to come to a sudden halt because of the holiday season. You’ll still have your regular expenses, such as paying monthly bills, contributing to retirement funds, etc. So, instead of planning your financial obligations around your holiday expenses and putting your financial situation in jeopardy, plan your holiday expenses around your current finances. In other words, take into account all of your current expenses and only put aside the amount of money for holiday spending that you can afford. You don’t want to spend money you don’t have and dip into your budget for other monetary obligations.

Create a holiday budget and stick to it

A great way to ensure you won’t be putting your finances in a bind during the holiday season is by doing an expense audit and creating a specific holiday budget. Make a list of all of your holiday expenses as well as all of your other financial obligations. Then decide how much money you can spare for holiday spending—an amount that won’t damage your personal finances in the process.

Start a side hustle to earn extra cash

For many people, the holidays are so costly because they spend money on the holiday they want rather than the holiday they can afford. Thankfully, if you want a bigger budget for your holiday spending, there are ways you can increase your cash flow so you don’t have to put your financial situation in jeopardy.

 

One way to do this is by starting a side hustle. Depending on your availability, this can be as time-consuming as you want it to be. You can make your own side hustle by selling homemade crafts, babysitting, tutoring, house cleaning, etc. Or you could take on a temporary second job. During the holidays plenty of seasonal jobs are available that would allow you to pick up a few shifts here and there to earn some extra cash. If you wanted to work enough, you could even set aside your side hustle money to pay for all of your holiday expenses so you didn’t have to use a penny of your regular salary.

Find deals

There’s no shame in using coupons and finding the best deals for the items you want. Who doesn’t like to save money? Most stores usually have a variety of holiday deals to choose from. You can also shop used items that are still in great shape for a discounted price. Also note, certain stores wrack up the prices of their items around the holiday season so it might be a good idea to plan ahead and buy the more expensive gifts (especially technological items) sooner rather than later, in case the price goes up closer to Christmas time.

Consider doing secret Santa gift exchanges

If you’re someone who does gift exchanges with most of your friends and family, it can get expensive. Instead of buying a present for every individual, suggest a secret Santa gift exchange. This way, everyone will still receive a gift and they’ll save money in the process. You can also set a spending limit for these exchanges, so you have an estimate of how much it will cost and you can work this into your holiday budget.

Protect your packages

Every year, more and more people are taking advantage of online shoppers by stealing packages from their porches, earning the nickname “porch pirates.” You don’t want to take your time planning and budgeting your money for the holidays just to have your purchases stolen. If you’re an online shopper, get the tracking number for all purchases and check on the package daily. You can also require a signature when receiving packages so if you’re not home, the package can’t be delivered to your home. This may be more time consuming but it will keep your spent money and your packages safe.

Start saving now

Like Ramsey said, you know when the holiday season is each year so you don’t have to be scrambling mid-December to get your finances in order for your festivities. Take the time to properly plan and to prepare your budget for the additional expenses. It’s never too early to begin saving money.

 

If you’re someone who really likes to plan ahead, you could set aside a small amount of money each month leading up to the holidays. When the holidays roll around, you’ll have a chunk of money already saved.

 

Whatever your saving method may be, you still have time to prepare your finances for the holiday season, so don’t be discouraged and start planning instead.

 

Bio:

McCall Robison is currently a Content Marketing Strategist for BestCompany.com. She writes for a variety of sites and personally manages three blogs for her company. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Yahoo Finance, and Business Insider. You can find McCall on Twitter @mccall_robison on the off chance that she’s not too busy hanging out with her cat.

When it comes to investing, there is a lot of information out there. How exactly do you become a successful investor and what information should you follow? After reading through a lot of the advice, I came up with 4 rules that seemed to be prevalent with investing experts.

And when I say investing experts, these are people who have been successful investing money over the long term. Think Warren Buffett.

In this post, I am sharing with you these 4 timeless investing rules that you should always make certain you are following. They will always apply, no matter what is happening in the market and they will always serve you well.

Let’s get started.

4 Simple Investing Rules To Grow Your Wealth

#1. Keep Your Emotions In Check

Hands down the most important rule to follow is to keep your emotions in check. The more you can do this, the less likely you will make a decision based purely on emotion. When you make decisions based purely on emotion, the majority of the time it ends up bad.

But how do you keep your emotions in check when investing? After all, we are talking money here and it can be very emotional to see your wealth drop or rise.

There are a few ways to keep your emotions in check. The first step is to create an investment plan, regardless if you are a beginning investor or a seasoned investor. Your plan will outline why you are investing and what you are investing in. When the market drops or rises, instead of going on emotion, you can look back to your plan to help you make a decision.

Another way to manage your emotions is to make sure you have the correct asset allocation for your risk type. When you are invested in a way that meets your needs, you should be able to sleep at night. Your portfolio, while it will rise and fall, should not be so volatile that you cannot handle staying invested.

#2. You Can’t Time The Market

Another investing rule to follow is to know that you cannot time the market. This means that you will never be able to consistently buy at the lowest point or sell at the highest point. In many cases, when the market is dropping, investors hold on too long and sell out at the bottom.

On the other side of the coin, when the market is rising, most investors get greedy and don’t sell at the peak. They instead hold on, hoping for more growth. But the stocks tank and they lose their gains.

So if you can’t time the market, what are you left to do? If you have a long term view of the market, it really doesn’t matter when you invest. The key is to just start investing.

If you are invested already, set a limit for when to sell. If the price of the investment drops by 10%, that is your sign to sell. You can do the same for gains as well. If the price of the investment rises by 15%, that is your sign to sell.

#3. The Market Is A Cycle

The next rule to follow is to understand that the stock market is a cycle. It rises for a bit and then falls. Then it will rise again only to fall again. Your first question is probably about wanting to know when this happens. The answer is to refer back to the point above.

You don’t know. No one does. All of the headlines you read about the market cratering or rising to 50,000 are just guesses. Most times these people predicting the stock market are trying to sell a book and this is how they get their name in the media.

For reference, you can look at this guide for how long a typical cycle lasts. But again, it varies and you will never know for sure.

#4. Trading Costs You Money

Finally, you have to know that trading costs you money. Every time you buy or sell, you are paying a fee and someone else is making money. The more you trade, the more you spend and the more money someone else makes.

Who is this someone else? Wall Street. They hype up the market and try to scare you when it is falling. The better job they can do of this, the more likely it is you will react emotionally and buy or sell. And then they make money.

What do you do about this? Again, have a long term plan. When you have the itch to buy or sell, refer back to your plan. This will help you to make the best decisions for you and your situation.

From there, just knowing that Wall Street wants you to trade is important. You can assess this when you hear the latest news. Ask yourself if this is relevant or just hype to get me to sell or buy?

Most investors are best served buying and holding mutual funds for the long term. Simply find high quality, low cost funds and keeping adding money into these funds for the long term.

Final Thots

If you can follow these 4 investing rules, you can have success in the stock market. They are simple in concept and some are easy to follow. But others, like keeping your emotions in check will take some work on your part.

But if you can follow all of these rules, you will see your wealth grow through investing in the stock market.

Author Bio: Jon blogs at Penny Thots, a personal finance site that helps readers improve their finances one day at a time.

As we here at Peak Personal Finance have stated repeatedly, there are lots of great tidbits of personal finance advice out there that are great in theory, but not so great in the real world (with bills to pay, mouths to feed, and unexpected expenses). We know, many of these can seem daunting at first, but here are 3 things you can start with little nibbles to get on the right financial path:

1. Three Months of Emergency Savings

For most people this sounds so difficult to do that they never really start trying. Yet, in these days when some creditors are going out of business and/or reducing their credit lines without advance notice to customers, having an emergency fund set aside is more important than ever. But remember, you don’t have to have all three months of savings at once.

We suggest starting today and setting it up electronically so that your online banking account automatically sends funds to your savings account at each payday — this makes it less painful. You can start with a small amount (maybe $20) and then bump up that amount once you find that you can manage without it, and at the very least bump it up every time you get a pay raise. It is fun to watch the money start to add up.

2. Max Out Your 401(k)

Yes, the market is down now, but if you still have a decade or more left before retirement chances are that you can look at this as a good time to “buy low”. Again, the idea of setting aside around $16,000 may be daunting at first, but you can take baby steps here too.

First, if you are lucky enough to still have your company matching your 401(k) contributions to a certain percent, then you are leaving money on the table if you are not taking advantage of that. Next, though you don’t have that money, it is also not taxed now. And once you divide what you would have had after tax by the 24 or more paychecks it is spread out over, the sting each paycheck is not that bad. Again, just get started with a small amount, and bump it up every time you get a raise. Don’t worry so much about short term losses, as this is a strategy for the long haul.

3. Line Up Your Bills

This is probably less enjoyable than the first two tasks, but it is oh so crucial. If you have multiple credit accounts, line them up and form a plan of attack to “take out” the ones with the highest interest rates first by paying as much extra as you can each month. Try not to be distracted by “shiny things” like promotions, “special offers” or other incentives creditors might throw at you to try to keep you indebted to them. This is a polite war, you against them, over who gets to keep more of your money.

And the answer is “yes”, you should start all of these today. You will have to budget how much you can put into each task, but don’t wait to complete one before taking a small step on the others. As they say, every journey starts with one step. Why not take a small step on each of these personal finance tasks today?

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Online banking offers a number of benefits, whether you are banking with an entirely online bank, or whether you use the online banking options offered by your brick and mortar bank. Account access from almost anywhere is a big benefit, as is being able to check on your account.

Convenience

Online banking provides convenience. After all, you are able to transfer money, pay bills and check your account anytime. If you have direct deposit for your paycheck, it is easy to automate your finances. You can set up your account to automatically shift money into savings, and you know that your money is deposited regularly. Additionally, you can schedule bill pay. No more worrying about whether or not your mailed check will arrive on time.

Security

Another reason that online banking can be beneficial has to do with security. When you mail checks, it gives the unscrupulous a chance to pull your payment right out of the mailbox. Once that is done, a scammer has your bank account number and routing number. It’s fairly easy to use that information to access your account by making online purchases with the money coming right out of your bank account. Paying your bills online can be more secure. To improve the security of your online banking transactions, follow these steps:

  • Make sure you are on a secure page. A “padlock” icon should appear in the address bar, or you should see “https” instead of “http”.
  • Have a good password that doesn’t relate to your family or well-known dates. Your password should contain a mix of letters and numbers, as well as capital letters. If possible, include symbols like “@”, “#”, “$”, and “&”. Your password should be at least eight characters long.
  • Log out of the web site when you are done.
  • Empty the browser cache and close the browser window.
  • Make sure you keep your Internet security software up to date.

While you will never be completely protected, you can improve your security by being smart about your online banking.

Keeping Tabs on Your Account

One of the best reasons for online banking is that you can keep tabs on your account. With online banking, you can check your balance, and look at items that have cleared. This means that you can catch mistakes quickly, and report them. If someone is making fraudulent purchases with your debit card number, you will catch that person much quicker if you can check your account online, rather than always waiting for the account statement to arrive. Being able to keep track of everything is important if you want to stay on top of your finances.

It can also be a reality check to see what you are spending money on, and to see how much you have left in your account to help you get through to your next pay day.

Better Yields and Rewards

Finally, online banking offers you access to better yields and rewards. You aren’t limited to geography when you bank online. You can search for the best yields on savings accounts, or find rewards checking accounts that offer great perks. Look online, and you can find banks with fewer fees and requirements.

There are a number of benefits to online banking, and they can help you improve your handle on your money situation, and help you get the most bang for your buck.