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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    The Lord works in Mysterious ways…

    Image borrowed from http://www.infobarrel.com

    We hear that all the time, right?  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  While we believe this in blind faith, on occasion we are pleasantly surprised when we’re reminded of that by getting a letter in the mail.  These past months I’ve been focusing hard on paying down my debt and trying to find creative ways to do it faster.  I always ask the Lord to guide me, to keep my on the right path.  This past week I’ve been trying to find online, the dates and ending dates of balance transfers I put a while back on my credit cards.  Interestingly enough, I could not find this information anywhere. I looked back to the initial statement issued when the balance transfer began, but no information on when it would end.  I delayed starting any new balance transfers until I knew for sure the promotional period was over.  I even tried to search my inbox hoping the promotional email had been saved.  Nothing.  So Wednesday, I decided to just make the balance transfer when I got home.  Of course when I got home I was exhausted so I decided to put it off for Thursday.

    On Thursday morning I opened my mail and I received a letter from one of my credit card companies.  I read it twice because I could not believe what I was reading.  It said:

    We have extended the length of your promotional Annual Percent Rate (APR) on your balance transfer that took place on 08/10/11.  We also want to inform you why we made this change and how it affects your account.

    Information about your balance transfer.

    When you transferred a balance to your &*$%# credit card, you were given a choice between two promotional offers.  These offers were for two different promotional APRs, which would last for different lengths of time.  Since the date of your balance transfer, the lower of those two APRs ~ 0% ~ has been applied to your transferred balance.

    A change has been made to your account.

    In reviewing your account, we could not determine with certainty which promotional offer terms you originally selected.  We are now providing you with better terms than we gave you in our promotional offers.  We have applied the lower of the two APRs for the longest length of time that was offered in the original promotion.  For you, that means we have extended your promotional APR of 0% through your billing cycle that ends in 1/2013…..

    We are continually working to improve the service we provide to our customers.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you…..
    I knew for a fact that I had selected the 0% option but I knew that it was not for a long period of time.  I figured that it would motivate me to pay it off faster.  Now I do not have to worry about trying to get yet another balance transfer offer.  If you have ever done this, you might recall how difficult it is to get done sometimes.  I won’t bore you with that today.
    Since I had been given a sign, I felt it only right to share the news I learned on Friday.  Friday nights I help run a Youth Group Meeting at my Church.  Most often than not I feel that I am a participant, a catechist learning something new.  This week we learned about Lent, since we are in the Lent Season.
    Lent is the penitential season of approximately 40 days aside from the Church in order for the faithful to prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, by works of penance, that is, prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
    Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is actually forty-six days before Easter.  We say that Lent is forty days in number because the six Sundays are excluded from the rigors of Lent in order to afford the faithful a time to pause and rejuvenate.  The number of forty is found frequently in scripture to signify either a time of penitential preparation….

    For the Lent Season, we are challenged to make individual sacrifices appropriate to our own spiritual condition.  Before we choose something to give up for Lent, it’s important to assess our current spiritual state:  What habits do I engage in that are destructive to my spiritual health?  To what material things am I too attached?  What areas in my life are unbalanced?  To what do I devote too much or not enough time?
    My niece picked out what I was giving up for Lent.  Shopping.  I admit freely that I do find myself attached to wanting to buy material things.  If you saw my bedroom right now you’d agree.  I was reluctant to do so, but only mainly because I had given up the month of February to not by anything that was unnecessary ( #NoUnnecessarySpendingFebruary).  I had done so well.  Even returned an item bring my total a -$59.03.  The end of February was coming so close and I could see myself buying something as my reward for going a whole 29 days without shopping.  To what material things am I too attached?  Shopping.  Another 40 days of not shopping.  I am ok with that, Jesus went through so much for us.  Died for us.  As much as I want to buy every single thing that comes out this spring, it’ll wait.  He DIED for us.  It can all wait!  I hope that I have the willpower to go the whole 46 days.  I like the fact though, that the six Sundays are excluded….in order to afford the faithful a time to pause and rejuvenate…to have a min easter.
    I hope we are all well today, on this Soulful Sunday!  May we all stay strong in our faith, reflect on our spiritual lives this Lent Season and to continue to walk in His path.
    Until then,
    PS: To my niece, Ariana, who so willingly gave up soda (which she loves) as her sacrifice for Lent, Sunday’s are excluded :)
    Resources: The above bold italic was taken from slides and pamphlets given by:  St George Catholic Church, 443 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT www.iveamerica.org; and Sisters Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara of 153 Linden Ave.  Bridgeport, Ct www.ssvmusa.org.