Holiday Shopping: How to Shop Without Breaking Your Budget

donovan holiday shopping 2


The biggest holiday shopping season of the year is in progressAs much as we would like to provide our family and friends with every gift their heart desires, it is important to keep our financial goals in mind.

Staying within budget does not necessarily mean that you must limit the amount of gifts you buy. It simply means your financial goals must remain at the top of the shopping list. The following suggestions are tips to assist holiday shoppers with staying on track.


What To Do Before You Begin Shopping

Know Your Budget

The first thing budget-conscious shoppers must do is create a budget. By doing so, you will be able to keep a log of what you are spending.

Comparison Shop

Do a bit of investigating in stores and online to locate better deals. Most stores offer discounts specifically for online shoppers, and they normally make deals more enticing by with no-hassle returns and free shipping.

Make a List

Make a comprehensive list of how much money you want to spend, what gifts you are purchasing, and who you are purchasing gifts for.


What To Do While You Are Shopping

Debit or Credit?

Definitely use a debit card instead of credit cards. Debit cards automatically prompt you to spend only what you have, and help you avoid paying interest.

Say No To Department Store Credit Cards

Some retailers will offer a 10 or 15 percent savings on your entire purchase if you open a credit card on the spot. However, shoppers must consistently be aware of their credit card balance and be sure to pay it off in full. If not, you might be stuck with an annual percentage rate of nearly 20 percent.

Say Yes To Gift Cards

What’s better than a gift? A prepaid gift card. Prepaid gift cards work similar to debit cards and the cardholder has the opportunity to purchase exactly what they want.

Read Your Receipts Carefully

We have all been given a gift we wish we could return. Some of your family members and friends might feel the same way and that’s okay. Just be sure the receipt includes the real cost of the item. Some stores provide gift receipts, which hide the cost of the gift. You might think hiding the value of your gift is a good idea but stores will often disregard the purchase value and instead offer store credit or a reduced price on returns.

Understanding the Why When Seeking The How for Your Budget

“Where should I start?” This is often a question that young people ask once they start to pay more attention to their finances. The truth is that there isn’t one initial step to take that will lay the foundation for the future of your financial health. Instead, it is a continuous process of planning and action that will aid you in better understanding your current financial situation as well as aid in planning for the future. No matter what stage you currently find yourself in regards to your own financial planning and understanding, budgeting is always key.

We are lucky because numerous tools exist today to help us budget in a way that is realistic for our day to day expenses and longer term goals. From apps, to services to old fashioned pen and paper, there is no real excuse to not have a budget.

However, the following video from Forbes touches on an important point, which is finding the “why?” behind the budgeting. 

How to Retire: Start Young

David K. Donovan In recent years, the average actual retirement age of Americans has seen a steady rise. According to the Gallup Group, between 2002 and 2014, the average age of retirement went from 59 to 62. While we can speculate on the reasoning behind this increase in the average retirement age, one may presume that this in part is due to growing financial demands, inadequate planning for comfortable retirement, the realization of a longer life expectancy, or perhaps an enjoyment of one’s vocation. However, if we focus in on the idea that these retirees are not financially capable of retiring until these later dates, then we must turn our attention to the proper way to prepare for retirement at a reasonable age.

For those who are entering adulthood now, you have a world of opportunities in front of you and a whole life ahead of you. Perhaps thinking about retirement seems ridiculous at this point in your life, however, planning and getting into sound financial habits now will put you in a much stronger position for when you are ready to transition out of your vocation. The following suggestions are tips targeted at those just starting out in their careers, but they can apply to anyone interested in upping their retirement planning.

Education : If you are in college and have the opportunity to take a class on personal finance or portfolio management. Do it. However, this is by no means the only way to educate yourself on the topic of personal finance and on financial markets. Do your research to get a foundational understanding of how things work. Take time to learn about tax advantaged savings accounts, starting your IRA or finding other free resources that will aid in your ability to manage your money. Find tools that work for your particular situation. Be very proactive in this part of the process.

Practice, Practice, Practice, Habit : Start the process of budgeting. Whether you create a spreadsheet or use an app like Mint or Level Money, start tracking what and how you spend. By practicing this type of tracking, it will eventually become a habit. And most importantly, you will have gathered enough data to understand your spending and come up with strategies to get it in line with your financial objectives.

Save : This is a practice worth developing as early as possible. By designating retirement money early, time is working in your favor through the power of compounding returns. By investing money for your retirement early, you are increasing your potential for growth at an incredible rate.

Know What You Want to Buy : For those just starting out in the world of portfolio management and personal finance, the process can seem a little bit intimidating. However, it doesn’t have to be. Instead of trying to figure out the next big thing in the world of stocks, start by making a list of companies that are tried and true. These are the companies that you should be looking to invest in first, think of them as building blocks for your portfolio. And once you have that list ready to go, you can start to purchase stocks in those companies when the time is right. These are the stocks that you want to hold onto for a long time, so really examine that list after market corrections.

Take a Risk: Although it’s generally best to be a bit conservative in how you invest, for new young investors, now is the time to take a chance. Because you are still early in your investment career and presumably free of many of the responsibilities that come later in life, you are in the perfect position to make riskier investments. This doesn’t mean you should go wild, not do research or just invest on a whim. However, it does mean that you can consider riskier investments, perhaps consider small caps and foreign equities. Now is the time to do it!

While these five tips are meant to be applied to new young investors, just starting out, it’s important to keep in mind that some of these may not work for your specific situation. This is why it’s necessary to remember that you should do research and take time to figure out what works for you. However, these suggestions do touch on major themes related to preparing for retirement.

How can traditional banks defeat their new tech competitors?

David K DonovanCultivate a “digital ecosystem”:  According to Deutsche Bank, adapting to the digital age requires more than launching a web-based service tool or re-designing a webpage. Truly engaging in the digital sphere means ingesting this mindset into the core of the company’s structure. Following the example of internet companies, banks should strive to force their clients into their value chain. ‘These sorts of digital ecosystems “integrate a large volume of digital content, mobile devices, software and internet services under a single umbrella so that their customers ideally no longer have to leave their platform”, Deutsche Bank explains, adding that banks should do the same’. By creating a fully comprehensive set of services, platforms and information, banks will ensure that their clients are spending as much time on their properties as possible.

Find the Trust: Trust has played a significant role in shaping the public perceptions of banks over the past seven years or so. After the economic downturn of 2008 and the subsequent media attention on bail-outs and Wall Street salaries, banks struggled to regain the trust of their customer base. After this initial flurry of negative attention, the trust between banks and their clients was once again tested after a series of very public banking security system flaws and breaches. While regaining a lost sense of trust is difficult, there are very tangible steps that banks can take to begin this rebuilding process. By investing significant capital into internal data and security systems and processes, the banks will in turn prove their commitment to the security of the client.

Understand Your Data : Today’s banks act as vast repositories for huge amounts of customer data. However, not all banks are using this information to their advantage. With the advent of big data, banks have the information but it’s up to them to figure out the best way to use it. Taking time to strategize about what information would be most beneficial to analyze, as well as truly considering the best tools to do this are critical steps that determine whether or not a bank will survive in this digital era.

Be transparent: Along with building trust through enhanced security efforts, banks can increase efforts to rebuild by implementing transparency about how banks are using their clients’ information. Lengthy terms and conditions technically outline exactly how a bank is using, accessing and aggregating client information, yet this is not packaged in a particularly digestible form for the customer. Sharing this information in a way that is easily understood, as well as explaining the algorithms that the bank utilizes are two ways in which data transparency could serve to strengthen the relationship between the bank and the customer.