How to Keep Your Wallet Stuffed This Thanksgiving

by Andrew Schreiber 19. November 2012

Thanksgiving on a budgetThanksgiving is a time to spend with the people we love and to give thanks for what we have in our lives. The last thing we want to worry about during this time of year, especially with the gift-giving season around the corner, is the effect Thanksgiving will have on our bank accounts. Here are a few tips that will help us all save some cash and relieve some of the financial stress associated with the holiday season.

Organize a Potluck Dinner

Planning, cooking and entertaining are a lot of stressful tasks for any one individual to take on for a single gathering. So instead of leaving all of the social and financial pressures on yourself, ask each guest to bring a side dish and/or dessert. This gives your guests a great outlet to talk about themselves, which we know so many of us like to do, and their “secret” recipes. The responsibility of feeding a large group of people is enough to keep anybody busy all day in the kitchen, so it only seems natural to spread the workload.

Look Outside for Décor

Fall is one of the prettiest times of the year, and what do you normally associate with Fall? Thanksgiving! So instead of spending extra money on decorations, go outside and gather your décor from your yard or a nearby park. Depending on where you live, you could find an endless supply of pine cones, leaves, and maybe even corn husks right outside your door! This could also be a perfect way to keep your children busy and out of the house. Pinterest is a great resource to use for DIY decoration ideas.

Leftovers

Who likes eating an endless supply of turkey for weeks after Thanksgiving? I know I don’t, but even more, I hate seeing so much food go to waste. So instead of throwing out the leftovers, look up some recipes online that call for your leftover turkey. There are a plethora of delicious turkey recipes that will make the leftovers a little more enjoyable, so you’ll be set for days!

Deviate from the Traditional

Instead of sticking to the traditional Thanksgiving menu every year, don’t be afraid to do something totally different. For example, stay local with your meal. If you’re a Maryland resident, make pit beef sandwiches for dinner, wash it down with Natty Boh and finish it off with a homemade Smith Island Cake or Berger cookies for dessert. If you don’t want to completely stray from tradition, find subtle ways to incorporate the traditional foods. Make turkey burgers, turkey meatballs, or cranberry BBQ sauce.

The holidays have enough pressure and stress associated with them, so don't create more by spending beyond your means. Use some of these budget friendly ideas to alleviate some of the stresses of the holidays and enjoy the season!

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Money Tips for College Students

by Erica Starr 14. November 2012

Money tips for college students

If you are like many young people, going off to college is the first time you begin to feel like an independent individual. Your parents and teachers have taught you all they can to prepare you for the “real world,” and now it’s up to you to decide whether or not you’d like to follow the advice and lessons you’ve learned over the years.

With no one around to scold you or tell you what to do, entering into your newly emancipated lifestyle, it can be tempting to make irresponsible financial decisions; the kinds of decisions that give you immediate gratification without thinking about the long-term effects.

Before you get yourself into a big financial mess so early on in your independent financial life, take a look at these scary stats:
  • According to the 2012 Consumer Financial Survey, 42% of respondents gave themselves ratings of C, D or F on their personal finance knowledge.
  • A recent National Economic Research Associates survey of 6,500 high-debt student loan borrowers found that 65% misunderstood or were surprised by aspects of their student loans or the student loan process. (Source: The New York Times)
  • Approximately one-third of recent grads, if they could do it all again, would have pursued more scholarships or financial aid options, pursued a major that would have led to a higher paying job, or gotten a job while in college and started saving earlier. (Source: Accounting Principals)

Translation: Unless you want to end up grouped into one of these statistics one day, you probably should start getting yourself familiar with the equation of spending less than you’re bringing in. Despite the above stats, oddly enough, personal finance can be fairly easy as long as you are prepared and start the process of saving, prioritizing, and budgeting as early as possible.

It's All About Self Control

For years, I heard from my parents, “Needing and wanting are two very different things.” As with most things, they were right. Just because it’s new and shiny, that doesn’t translate into you being unable to survive without it. Take a few deep breathes and prioritize what you really need to focus your financial efforts on this month. Books? Gas? Tuition? Food? You know, the life necessities when you are a college student. As much as that new COD game or designer outfit may seem like a necessity, you’ll probably discover that you can do without it for awhile.

Where is Your Money Coming from, and More Importantly, Where is It Going?

Repeat after me, “Excel spreadsheets and Personal Financial Management tools like Mariner360 are my friends.” By visually seeing the amount of money you are bringing in versus the amount that is going out, the idea of expenses being less than your income will become a core value in your life. Trust me, once you realize how much a daily Starbucks visit will run you over the course of the month, you’ll start to reevaluate and realize that making small, manageable adjustments to your everyday routine can have as much of an impact as the dent the latte puts on your wallet, but in a much more positive way.

Check out Mariner360, which helps aggregate your expenses and income into one user-friendly platform. You can then slice and dice the information, see trends and even set up alerts (i.e. I only want to spend $50 on dining out a month) that let you know when you are close to hitting your custom set budgets.

Be Leary of Credit Cards

While credit cards are a great way to help you start establishing your credit, they also can be a great way to put you into thousands of dollars of debt. Credit card companies look at college students as fresh meat. They know that establishing credit is important for young adults and so they go to extremes to get you on board early. You’ll see booths at every campus event, and they’ll try to entice students by offering them incentives to open up a card such as free tickets to an upcoming sporting event, or a micro-fiber fleece with your school name on it.

Again, credit cards do help you start to establish credit, but make sure to refer to the “It’s All about Self-Control” tip and pay off your card EVERY month. Use your credit card for only a few specific things such as gas or books. This way, you won’t be overly tempted to put unnecessary purchases on your card and find yourself underwater at the end of the month.

Start a “What If” Emergency Fund

If it can go wrong, it will. It’s Murphy’s Law. The earlier in life you learn this theory, the better. At the end of every month, set aside a few bucks for the “what if” scenarios that you never think, or more importantly WANT, to happen. The more you start getting in the habit of putting money into an emergency fund, the more at ease you will be in the event that you run into some troubles financially.

If you are one of the lucky ones that manage to fly below the radar of good ol’ Murphy and his law, then you’ll have a nice chunk of change to put towards something of importance like a down payment on a house, or that vacation you’ve been wanting to take.

Remember, at the end of the day, managing your finances is a fairly easy process. You don’t need a financial advisor or an advanced degree in finance to establish a good foundation for managing your money. As with most things, simplicity and common sense goes a long way.

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Veteran's Day: Honoring Those Who Served or are Still Serving

by Brian Kavanagh 8. November 2012

Veterans Day 2012

November 11th is the day we honor our veterans and active military as an expression of gratitude for their service and sacrifice to our country. But where did Veterans Day come from?

The 11th Hour

Veterans Day stemmed from the end of World War I, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. Although the Treaty was signed in June, fighting stopped seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, was recognized as Armistice Day, until the Korean War ended in 1954. It was then renamed Veterans Day, in order to pay tribute to all veterans and active military.

How You Can Help Out This Veterans Day

For those who want to help out our veterans, here are three ways you can volunteer and make a difference in the lives of America's heroes.

Wounded Warrior Project - Wounded Warrior helps service members injured in the line of duty get access to programs that directly meet their needs. Check out the site to find out how you can perform a day of service (or more!) in your area.

Buddy to Buddy - Buddy to Buddy connects veterans with service members and vets of our recent military operations overseas in order to provide them with peer support and be a connection to helpful resources. If you have served your country, please consider helping a fellow hero!

United We Serve - United We Serve is a White House-led program that helps connect volunteers with local opportunities to help. You can also post projects on the site to get help for your own local initiative helping military veterans and their families.

Celebrate Our Veterans

No matter how you spend this Veterans Day, don’t forget that it’s all about the service of our brave men and women. We’re honored to be able to provide our services to veterans across the country. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all of our military service members and veterans for keeping our country safe and free.

If you are a veteran looking for a home loan, check out VAMortgage.com.



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