Quote for the Day

“A gift isn’t a gift unless it has meaning. Just giving things to people, especially children, create the expectation of more things.” — Oprah Winfrey

Invest in Someone Else

In one of the sites I regulary visit, there was a post about the 5 Investments Everyone Should Make. All of the suggestions were non-traditional: “your name” domain; exercise; something you’ve always wanted to try and time to think.It was the last item that caught my attention.

Invest in someone else. And by that, it doesn’t necessarily mean family. Be a mentor. Share your hard-learned lessons with someone else. Help them become a better person so that they too can mentor another person in the future.

Think of it as a long-term Pay It Forward.

Holiday Shopping Tips

Red shouldn’t be the financial color this Christmas season. These tips should help keep you in the black till the new year.

1. Pay Cash. Not only that, pay in big denominations. It makes you think twice when you go to buy something with a PHP1,000 bill. There are a lot of cash cards in the market. Load them and stick to the limit. Once you’re out of money, you’re out of money.

2. Read the fine print. Do you know how much your credit card charges as penalties if you either pay late or don’t pay off the full balance? Does your credit card company have a two-cycle billing policy?

3. Keep a running total of your non-cash expenditures. You’d be amazed at how much money you can burn in just one day in the mall. At the end of each shopping expedition, just tally your credit card receipts to see if you can still splurge on another pair of Zara jeans without going over your credit limit.

4. Have a plan. Ok, so you fell off the wagon. If you overspent your budget this Christmas season, come up with a REALISTIC repayment plan. Try to go back to a zero balance by the end of the first quarter. You don’t want to have this debt cloud hanging over your head for too long.

5. Get easy gifts out of the way. Put aside the money to pay the 13th month bonus of your household angels. Try to get this out early so that they don’t form part of your December shopping budget.

6. Make a list. Check it twice. Trim it down if you have to. If you can, match each item with the store you’ll visit so you can get your shopping down efficiently (with minimal temptations). Your feet and your wallet will thank you.

7. Think outside the gift box. In a previous post I mentioned more often than not, it is the small activities we do with our families which mean the most, not the expensive trinkets. Build memories, not possessions.

8. Gift yourself with financial freedom. Take the time to go to the bank, not just to withdraw money, but also to look at financial products which you can use to jumpstart the savings habit AND/OR lighten the spending. Open an savings (for a rainy day) account to which you can autotransfer funds come payday. Once the balance reaches a sizeable amount, you can then transfer to higher yielding investment instruments.

9. Keep the change. Don’t knock the value of the peso. I’ve been keeping all of our change in a Winnie-the-Pooh piggy bank for Andre. Last year, I deposited over P3K in coins in his savings account. For the singletons, that translates into 6 gift packs from Body Shop. =)

10. Shop on a full stomach. The worst shopping decisions I’ve made were done either on a panic spree (gotta get a dress for a wedding) or on an empty stomach. Everything looks so much nicer when you’re running on fumes.

A Budget for Today and Tomorrow

Anyone handling the household finances knows how hard it is to balance the books and ensure that at the end of the month, our wallets are filled with money, not bills. In my own quest to take control of our expenditures, I’ve devised my own spreadsheet, plotting out expected big ticket items (spending AND saving). Quicken or Microsoft Money doesn’t do it for me.

Kiplinger has come up with the simplest yet most effective worksheet that I’ve seen. It’s perfect for newlyweds and young families. Sometimes, simple is best. =)