bad for your heatlh budgeting budgeting money budgeting money for Christmas children Christmas credit cards debt Holiday Shopping Making a list and checking it twice Money Mondays presents

My Naughty and Nice List

Happy Money Monday!  Here on My Pocketful of Thoughts, Monday’s are reserved for all things money-like.  If you stopped by here this past Wednesday, you read in the Melissa & Doug Terrific Twenty List and Giveaway post that I am almost finished with my Christmas shopping.  If you have small children on your list you should check out the post later and enter to win one of their toys.  Today, I’ll begin to share my planning process with you.

photo credit: armadillo444 via photopin cc

How to start planning your holiday shopping:  

First, make your list of who you want to purchase gifts for.  To start your list, just grab a piece of paper and pencil in the people you think you might have to get gifts for and in pen write everyone you know you are definitely getting gifts for.  Every year my list is modified, but for the most part it remains the same.  My parents, boyfriend, nieces and nephews, my closest friends and on occasion someone new.  I say to pencil in potential people to buy gifts for because these are the people you’re on the fence about.  Maybe you’ve never gotten them a gift in the past but perhaps over the year you’ve gotten closer.  It’s better to have an extra gift or two than to not have anything at all.  

Next is to put together a BUDGET.  Most people do not do this.  For years I did not budget and I would charge my gifts to my credit card and in January I would have this crazy bill.  Please avoid this.  It is bad for your credit health.  While it is the holiday season, you do NOT have to go overboard.  Most people are on a budget this year and are not expecting extravagant gifts.  If you think someone on your list might be expecting a grand gift, than I would suggest having a conversation with them early to let them know you’d like to set a price limit.  One year I was on a super tight budget; I asked my friends if we could share a meal together instead of exchanging gifts. Spending quality time and making memories with loved ones is priceless.

How to plan your budget: 

photo credit: 401(K) 2012 via photopin cc
  1. In pen, write next to each person’s name the max dollar amount you wish to spend.  
  2. In the corner of the paper, write down the amount you wish to spend total on holiday gifts. 
  3. Take the amount you wish to spend total and divide it by the number of months you have left until the holiday season starts.  
  4. If the number you get after dividing it into a monthly goal to save for is too large and not feasible within your current income, then reverse engineer your thinking.  
  5. If I can afford to put aside $50 a month, starting in January than I can spend $600 on gifts.  If I started saving this month, that changes my budget to $100 total.  I would then erase the people I wrote in pencil and reduce the amount spent on each person.  

If you could, I would suggest having your money squared away before Black Friday, so you can snag the crazy deals!  
Lastly, Take your pencil and write in potential gifts in your budget range for the people on your list.  To save money I suggest thinking of a theme for your holiday shopping.  If I have a handful of ladies on my list, I might think of buying luxury lotion from Bath and Body, there I might score a deal of Buy 2 get 1 free.  This may allow you to be a little more generous than your budget would have normally allowed.

    This is what I do to start planning for the holiday season.  I also carry the list around with me in my wallet, so I can jot down ideas throughout the year.  How do you start planning your holiday shopping?

    Until then,
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    Amanda Doerr Angelo Zucaro budgeting money charity daily deals fairfield county Fairfield University Money Mondays New Haven county Quick Center for the Arts Richard Lewis

    Move Over Groupon and Livingsocial…

    If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you know that I am no stranger to the numerous daily discount deal websites.  I stalk these sites all day and all night, gladly sharing them with you since I cannot shop; not for another 50+ days or so.

    The NEW comer of daily deals is  On the scene since Mid-January, they began carrying deals for Fairfield County.  The site now caters to both, Fairfield and New Haven County.  The site is easy to use.  If you see a deal you like from an email, Facebook Page share or Tweet, you buy it.  When you share it and your friends also get the deal, you’ll get Fairfield Coupon Bucks good towards any future daily deal.  Then you use your deal!  The awesome thing is that when you do buy a deal from they share a portion of your purchase with the local schools and non-profit organizations that are important in the community.
    This website has already done its first deal where 100% of the proceeds went directly to the Boys & Girls Village, a non-profit organization that helps At-Risk Children in Connecticut.  If you missed it, the deal was $22 for $45 tickets to “Laugh out Loud” event  Featuring Richard Lewis (Who currently stars in the HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm Show).  The event took place at Fairfield University’s (GO STAGS) Quick Center on March 31, 2012.
    When we can take advantage of a great deal, save money, have fun AND support our local organizations, its a win win for everyone.  Not to mention it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside and who doesn’t want to feel that?  Clicking on the banner below will bring you their latest deal.  Stop by daily as there are new deals everyday.
    Until then,

    PS.  You can stalk Deals to by clicking on the FairfieldCoupon Banner below this post.  (look down)  Or their own Facebook Page OR their Twitter Page OR their website,!  Happy shopping!

    PPS.  The Boys & Girls Village offers really valuable child and family services.  They are a resource for any child or family struggling with emotional or psychological issues.  Please visit them at if you have any questions or would like to figure out a way to help their cause.  Feel free to follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

    budgeting money djrelat7 Travels Money Mondays vacation

    I Need A Vacation!

    BUONGIORNO! Are you in need of a vacation on this Money Monday?  I know I am!  I find that the more vacations I go on, the more I want to be on vacation.  This year I have been putting money aside for a trip to Europe. For the past month I’ve been listening nonstop to an Italian 101 CD in my car.  Knowing the language of the place you’d like to go to is very important to get around and to communicate with others during your visit.  However we all know that the most important thing to planning a vacation is money.

    As an introduction to the djrelat7 Travels segment here on My Pocketful of Thoughts, I wanted to start with all the things you might need to think about when figuring out your trips expenses.  I will discuss each of the topics in further detail at later dates so stay tuned for that 🙂  Today we’re just going to brainstorm ideas.

    1. Travel Expenses? Am I purchasing airline tickets, taking the train, a bus, or driving.  If I fly, how do I get to and from the airport. If I drive, how much gas will I need?  Will I have to pay toll charges?
    2. Where will I stay?  Is it an all inclusive resort?  Is it a hotel/motel?  Do I rent a house?  These are all potential options for where you will stay wherever you visit.
    3. Food? Where I am going, is food expensive? What is a reasonable budget per day for eating?
    4.  Transportation? Do I need a car rental if I did not drive to my destination?
    5. Weather? Do I have the appropriate clothing?  Is it hot or cold?  Do I need to purchase anything for the trip?
    6. Tips? How much do I leave house keeping?  How much do I leave for dinner/breakfast/lunch, if I eat out? If I go to a bar, how much should I leave for each drink?
    7. Excursions? Is there fun things to do where I am traveling to that will cost extra?
    8. Total Party? Who is coming with me?  If more people go, does that drop or raise the total cost?
    9. Spending Money? Should I set a daily spending limit on extras that are unforeseen or stick to what I have planned for?
    10. Photo Taken by Daniel Dias of Daniel Dias Photography
    11. What is something that you think is important when budgeting for your vacation?

    As you can see the list can get lengthy, but DO NOT let that discourage you from planning your next vacation. There are TONS of ways to save money and I’ll share that with you when I discuss each topic over the next djrelat7 Travels sessions.  Leave your #10 in the comments below and let me know where you plan on traveling next.  If you miss a travel post just look for the label djrelat7 Travels 🙂

    Until then

    PS. Take a look at pics from Daniel Dias’ last blog post, Vacation, to see some of the sights we had in the Dominican Republic for his 30th Birthday Celebration!

    budgeting money Buying a Car Money Mondays Shopping Deals

    Its the End of the Model Year Car Event, Are you looking to buy?

    All this weekend I kept hearing “Model Year End Sale Event” while watching TV.  It reminded me that this month marks my one year anniversary of purchasing my current car.  I planned years in advance, pushing the car I had been driving for as long as I could possibly, in hopes that I could save enough to afford the car I wanted.  Cars can be a big purchase and if you are going to spend that kind of money than you should do your homework.  Here is what I found out:

    1. Check to see if you have money in your budget to buy a new or newer car. If not, then it is probably not a good idea to try and buy one.  A used car, might get you from a to b, until you can free up and/or make enough money to afford a car payment.  Experts suggest that you should spend no more than 20% of your household income to buy and operate car.
    • If you have extra money in your budget but are not sure you can truly afford making car payments, then make pretend payments.  What are pretend payments? In 2008 I knew that my car was not doing well.  I had an idea that I would have to replace it soon but wasn’t sure if I could make payments on a car.  I decided to put aside an amount that I thought I could afford each month without hurting my budget. Each month I would write that “pretend car payment bill” to my savings account.  If within a year, I felt comfortable with making that payment then I could afford a car in that price range.  I then used a calculator to see how much car I could afford with that payment.  When it was time to actually purchase the car I had saved up $3000 to put as a down payment.
  1. Research the kind of car you’d like to purchase.  If you are spending a good chunk of money on a car, doesn’t it make sense to do your homework first? MSN Autos is where I conducted most of my research.
    • What kind of car do you want?
    • Do you know the exact make and model?
    • What do the experts say about it?
    • What do other drivers say about it?
    • What would the insurance cost to drive it?
    • How much will you car taxes be and car registration?
    • Do your thoughts change after taking it for a test drive?
    • What price difference would there be if you got the same car in a different model year?
    • Will it fill your needs?  ex: number of people you need to fit, luggage if you go on business, shopping at the outlets 🙂
    • Where can you find your car?,, specific dealerships, private owners
    • How much will it cost you to finance?  Total payments, final cost
    • If you are in a car accident and have to get it fixed, will it put you in the money pit hole?
    • Should you get brand new or certified?
    • What does the warranty cover?
    • Does unusual changes to the car like tints or a car alarm change your warranty?
    • When is the best time to buy?  Newer models usually come out in September, so to make room for the next years model, they give better deals to get cars off the lot.
    • If you are late with a payment does that change the conditions of your loan?  Does the APR note go up?
    • How much will gas cost you, more or less than what you are currently driving?
    • Will it need special tires in the winter time/summer time?  Tires can be costly, especially if they have to change with season.
    • Will your car qualify as a trade in?  Or will it make more sense to sell it privately.  The Kelly Blue Book Website can give you an estimate.
  2. Bring a friend.  It doesn’t matter who you bring as long as you bring someone.  If you are not ready to actually purchase the car and just want to take it for a test drive, then that friend can remind you of that….In case you drive the car and you just absolutely love it and want to buy it right then and there.  The person you bring could also be mechanically inclined…ask them to also take it for a test run.  It is always a comfort to get a thumbs up from someone who is more car mechanically inclined than you.  Luckily for me, my brother in law works with cars.  If you do not know someone perhaps someone you know, knows someone, NETWORK!
  3. Is your credit in order?  I read in several places that the score for car loans is slightly different than what you would see on the typical credit score report.  It takes into consideration if you’ve ever had a car loan before or if you have recorded any car buying type transaction.  However, the regular FICO score is a pretty good indicator of where you credit is.  If you have time, evaluate your report, make sure that everything is accurate. is the website where you can acquire your report for free according to law.  Please do not sign up on some service to just receive a free credit report. is a site where you can buy a single score; cost is about 8 dollars.  Make corrections to your report if necessary;  Inaccuracies are not good on your score.  Also try not to seek new credit 6 months to a year prior to applying for a loan.  Seeking credit also affects your score.
  4. Ask yourself, do you really need to get a new/newer car?  If its a case like mine was, where the cost to fix your current car is actually worth more than what you paid for the car or could be the down payment on the newer car than yes.  But if you have the money set aside for the just in case emergencies and you can squeeze out more time driving the current car, than maybe it makes sense to make those pretend payments to a “car savings account” (a savings account intended for the future purchase of the vehicle you wish to purchase) and wait until there’s enough of a down payment or until you can not absolutely drive your current vehicle.
  5. Do you currently have a car with payments?  I have known quite a few people that get really nice cars and a few years into it they want to get something newer.  Believe it or not a chunk of the amount left to pay on that current car will be tacked onto your new loan.  This is often referred to as an “upside down” loan, where the car is worth less than what you own.  The difference is then rolled into your new loan.
  6. Ask drivers of the car you wish to purchase what they like, love and/or hate about the car.  You obviously share similar tastes and they’ll be more than willing to share the information with you once you let them know you are thinking about purchasing it and value their opinion.  One of my major concerns when purchasing the vehicle I have now was how it would handle in the winter.  Luckily for me, the car has ESP, an Electronic Stability Program.
    After all the research and you’re ready to make the purchase:
    1. Before you settle down on cars, figure out how much you can afford on the monthly payment, taking into account insurance, possible repairs and the regular tune up.  Check out loan calculators online to get an estimate of payments; pending on APR.  Find out what rates you can get from your current bank and credit unions to have an idea when the dealership offers you a loan as well, if you should take it or turn it down. It will arm you with better ammunition to negotiate the price on a dealer’s loan.  You can happily say that you’re more interested in the final price than you are about monthly payments, although that is important to find out.  A loan longer than four years significantly increases the total price on the car, so keep that in mind.  This is another place where they try and trap you, when they ask what are you looking for in a monthly payment.  If having no down payment puts you in that predicament, then you’re definitely going to be “upside down”.
    2. Remember, you can’t really negotiate on insurance prices, other than shopping around and looking for discounts you qualify for, but you can negotiate on the price of the car you buy.  The car I looked at was sticker priced at $11,900. After going back and forth, I settled on $11,200.  Its not much in the scheme of things, but that is a little over three car payment months that I don’t have to pay.
    3. When signing the finalized loan, be aware the “financial” guy you sit down with is usually not the person you’ve built a relationship with in pursuit of the car.  They will more than likely give you a list of additional add-ons that you really don’t need but he will give you reasons why you do.  Listen, maybe it is something that you need, but let him finish.  If it is something you need say yes. If not then politely say no.  All that extra money being added on by these extra packages can be saved up over the time of the car, so you’ll have the money set aside down the road when you need it, instead of paying extra for it initially.  Not to mention that all the add-ons can throw your budget out of whack.
    4. Be weary, if after they check your credit they try to talk you into a more expensive car.  Do not focus on monthly cost.  Taking on a five or six year loan to afford the monthly payments on a “nicer” car is not smart.  And you’re smart!
    5. Be careful of the dealership that advertises their butts off on TV and in fliers to get you down to the dealership for their low financing and their 99 dollar deals.  When my third used vehicle was starting to go on me, many moons ago, I drove miles to a dealership that had been advertising in the newspaper these ridiculous deals.  I thought to myself great!  I can afford that.  When I got there, I told them I wanted to take a look at the cars they were advertising, the ones that were “in great condition but they needed them off the lot.”  I was told sorry, they had sold all those cars.  I had just seen the flier again that very morning.  So the sales guy says lets check your credit and I’ll see what I can do….low and behold I was taken to see a newer model of a Honda Accord.  Now in my head I’m thinking yes my credit is good but there is no way I can afford that car.  I didn’t need to hear how much monthly payments would be before I thanked the guy for wasting my time, jumped back into my car and drove away fast.  Do not fall for bait and switch techniques from car dealerships.  Much to my surprise that dealership closed down a year or two after that incident.  Remember you can only screw people over for so long before someone catches on.
    6. If you’re all contracted up, you get home and they call you back saying there was an issue….you need a new contract and the new terms are a lot higher, just return the car.  WALK AWAY!
    7. If you hate the car within the first week, then you are more than likely going to hate it the week and months after that.  Most contracts have a window, that says within this time period if you don’t like the car bring it back for a full refund.  That is where you take advantage of that.
    8. Most sold vehicles are also covered under the dealer’s warranty for 30 days.  If anything is wrong with the vehicle bring it in and they’ll repair it at no cost to you.  Take advantage of this, for all those little minor things that could cost you lots of money when it all adds up, if you wait til later to do it. 
    9. If you settled on a used car, keep in mind of the following: How many drivers has the car had?  Has it been in any accidents?  Are there currently any concerns or repairs to take into consideration?  A carfax report?  Is there a detailed maintenance history/receipts for warrantied parts? 
    Mr. Blueberry Salsa

     As you can see there is a lot to think about.  Take your time, do your homework and you should be well armed to face the auto industry.  Stay Tuned for next Money Monday when I tell you how affirmations can help with this 🙂

     Until then
    budgeting money Money Mondays

    I am addicting to budgeting…are you?

    I had some fun this weekend on the Wii Fit.  I do believe that I doubted its ability to work me out enough to break a sweat, but that it did.  I’ve started working on my goal towards a healthy weight and I completed day 7 of the journal I started, to see what I was actually eating.  I’ll share with you what I learned on Wednesday, so stay tuned for that 🙂

    I have made it 38 days on my first goal of spending less money this year.  Of the things I’ve had to buy, I’ve gotten some pretty good deals on them.  I’ll be sure to share with you some of my fabulous finds!  One of the things I believe that keeps me focused on my bills, savings and future purchases is my budget.  What is a budget and why do I need one?  What an awesome question and the answer came to me in my early twenties.

    In eighth grade, Mrs. Robinson taught us how to balance a checkbook.  I remember that once the adding and subtracting was done the number you should end with SHOULD BE positive.  In ninth grade I learned how to identify an Isosceles Trapezoid and calculate the values of a specific angle.  In tenth grade I learned how to do some funky algebra.  In eleventh grade, I tried but was never truly successful in finding the answer to
    Polynomials and I must have been out of my mind to attempt to try a harder version of the course in twelfth grade.  When I went to study Engineering I learned math that still gives me nightmares.  Now where do you see when I learned to budget? 

    I learned this all the hard way…after seeing a negative number in my checkbook registry before the purchases and bills cleared on my account I did a lot of praying and crossing my fingers….”Please wait to clear til I get paid next or my paycheck is actually deposited.” I knew that when I got that super thin envelope from the bank that my deposit did not clear and post to my account in time.

    It has been a while since that has happened, and if you are reading this thinking I was taught in school how money works, then that is GREAT!! Make sure you teach it to your children and do not assume that they to will be taught. 

    I started using my budget to see the next month.  It was a notebook, wide ruled lines and empty.  I started with the month, so we’ll use February.  Next to that was written the amount I made for the month.  I’m going to use my algebra skills here and call what I make for the month X.  On the lines that followed I would write out all my bills that came every month like clockwork, savings, gas and food.  I’d rearrange them next month according to the order that they came in.  I would add up all the lines and hope that they equaled X.  Most of the time I was close or else I would have to figure out how things would be paid if there was no additional income.  This budget, when I first started gave me an idea of how next month’s bills were going to go and how much money would actually make it into savings as that number was usually written in last after everything else was added up and subtracted from X.  More times than not there wasn’t any money for savings and trying to figure out how to make my bills equal my income were a constant headache… until I learned what I’ll share with you next Monday.

    So remember, your budget is all your bills and expenses added up, which should then equal to what your total income is for the month.  

    Giddy Up its Monday Y’all, MAKE it the best one EVER!!