Category Archives: Spending

8 Tips to Save This Holiday Season

Tips to Save This Holiday SeasonMost American expect to spend $830 this holiday season. If you live on a tight budget, this dollar amount is very high. Some people save money on gifts by making jams or beautiful crafts. However, you might not have the time (or frankly the talent) to produce a homemade gift that looks professional.

Travel also adds to the cost of the holiday season. You do not want to start 2016 with huge credit card debt. Here are some practical tips to reduce your expenses this holiday season.

  1. Make a Budget and Pay Cash – A famous study found that people spend more shopping when they use credit cards as opposed to cash. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on gifts now. Pay for every item in cash and avoid using credit cards.
  2. Allow Yourself Plenty of Time – When the recession hit, you probably saw many retailers offering steep discounts close to Christmas to get rid of everything from clothes to electronics. With improvements in the economy, it is now better to plan ahead and shop aggressively for good prices.
  3. Use Good Shopping Apps – Speaking of shopping aggressively, apps such as RedLaser and ShopSavvy help you find good deals on presents. These apps are replacing the circulars your parents used to ask for a “price match” on certain items. And coupon sites like can help you save on everyday items when you shop online.
  4. Buy a Family Gift – Buying gifts for every niece, nephew, and adult quickly gets expensive. This situation leads you to feel resentful, not joyous. Ask your siblings and other relatives to describe a gift the whole family will enjoy. This strategy helps you save on time and costs for gifts and shipping.
  5. Focus on (Small) Kids – If you have young nieces and nephews, consider just buying gifts for them. If that is unlikely to fly with your family, purchase nice small gifts such as picture frames and candles for their respective households.
  6. Donate to a Favorite Charity – Do your grandparent have everything? Instead of spending $50 on a gift that just clutters up their house, donate $25 in their names to their favorite charity. It saves you money and your gift will be used immediately.
  7. Be Careful of Airline Fees – If you fly home for the holidays, carefully examine the fees for checking bags. One airline’s higher sticker price might be worth it if the company’s checked bag fees are low or included in the price. Read any “deals” closely to make sure you do not get hit with “administrative fees” for any reason.
  8. Don’t Rush – Ever heard that it is cheaper to fly on Christmas Day? Turns out that is outdated advice. Airlines got smart and closed that loophole. Investigate the prices for traveling on days throughout the holiday season.

Feel Less Stress

Between workplace and family events, the end of the year is more stressful than joyous for millions of people. You do not want this time of the year to feel like it is one chore after another. Apply the recommendations listed above to lighten the financial load this holiday season.

How Much to Spend on Wine at Each Stage Of Life and Income Level

How Much to Spend on Wine at Each Stage Of Life and Income Level

With wine, the truth is that price does not always equal quality, as many studies have shown. You can enjoy an inexpensive wine (and you may not enjoy expensive wines), but if you think it’s cheap, you’ll likely get less enjoyment out of it, so don’t be cheap!

The idea is to make a good impression while spending an appropriate amount for your age range, stage of life, and income, which are all often intertwined. There are definitely some exceptions here, and down below I offer an alternative for calculating how much you should spend on a bottle of wine based on income alone.

College – Go As Cheap As Possible

Nothing is out of bounds when you’re in college. Even boxed wine is fair game because your friends are likely just as cheap as you are. You’re just trying to have a good time and have fun (and get drunk), not trick people into thinking you know what a good wine tastes like. Sticking with a sweet wine is probably safe, as it’s something that everyone will enjoy.

Post College to Age 27 – Explore Your Options

It’s time to find out what you like to drink, but don’t go overboard, you still probably can’t tell the difference anyway. You want to be respectable and show the people you’re gifting the wine to that you made the effort. Still, you can probably do very well and make a good impression while keeping the price under $14. Trader Joe’s is the place for you. Try a little of everything to find out what you like. When you find a few types you enjoy, keep going back to those and let the recipient know you put a little thought into getting a wine you though they’d appreciate.

Ages 27-33 – Step It Up A Notch

You’re likely more established now and you are spending time with people who know a little more about wine. You’ve likely learned pairings at this point and have certain favorites. You’ve graduated into a higher bracket of wines and are willing to spend a bit more on the wines that you think everyone will enjoy. Spending $17-$22 a bottle is about right, depending on your relationship with the guest. Go bigger to make a really good impression.

33 and Over – Go Big Or Go Home

Once you’re 35, you’re established with your life and while you may have a young, growing family, you need to be making a good impression on the people you spend time with. Keep 10-15 $30 bottles of wine in the house, and splurge for special guests or when you’re invited to people who are your senior, both personally and professionally. At this point, there are no real excuses to be cheap.

While these guidelines work for most people, not everyone fits into a cookie cutter situation, and incomes can vary widely. These tend to work because you’re not buying based on what you necessarily want to spend, but based on what you want others to think of you. If people expect you to bring a nice $40 bottle of wine and you show up with a cheap $9 bottle, you’re probably not going to be invited back.

Income Based Wine Prices

For the rest of you, I’ve got another option that keeps everything consistent, regardless of age:

Spend the gross amount you earn for 30 minutes of work. Here’s how it breaks down at various income levels (assuming 40 hour work weeks, 52 weeks per year):

$40,000: $9
$60,000: $14
$80,000: $19
$100,000: $24
$250,000: $60

This makes things very even, and as you mature and earn more, you start getting more experience with more expensive wines.

The last bottle of wine we bought was $18. This was a bit of a splurge for us and we’ll break it out for a time when guests don’t bring us a bottle from their own collection or we’ll have it for friends who invite us out. It’s an Alicante Bouschet (I had never heard of this before) we recently tasted with friends and really enjoyed. Hopefully others will enjoy it, too!

How much did you spend on your last bottle of wine?

I Overspent on Black Friday. On Purpose.

On Thanksgiving, after we came home from lunch/dinner, we plopped ourselves down on the couch and whipped out our computers to see if there were any deals. We weren’t simply perusing to see if there’s anything we wanted (that’s a sure-fire way to spend money you didn’t intend), rather we had a list of things we had been wanting to buy and now that they were on sale, we needed to find the specifics.

Buy One, Get One 50% Off

First up were a pair of running shoes for me. The ones I’ve been using have over 500 miles on them, well past their expiration date. I found some decent Nike running shoes, and since there was a sale, I could get another pair of shoes at 50% off. How could I say no to that? So I found some casual shoes I could wear to work and out with friends. The shoes I currently wear to work have gotten a lot less comfortable and are about 18 months old now, so I’m due for an upgrade. And with a standing desk I occasionally use at work, comfort is key. So for $75, I got both pairs of shoes.

I Found A Better Pair Of Shoes

Of course, about an hour after I ordered my shoes, I found a significantly better pair of running shoes which are normally $150 for just $25. I couldn’t turn that down, so I bought those, figuring that even if I returned the original pair of Nikes, my would be $75 for running and casual shoes, but for a better product. I knew I’d have to make one trip to the store to return, but there are worse things.

Buying Extra For Free Shipping

Next up were some button down shirts to wear to work. Nothing ever seems to fit me, so I try and get the slimmest shirts I can, and even those are sometimes too big on me. I found two similar shirts from two different brands. I hoped that one of them would fit and I’d return the other one. Only $20 per shirt, plus a healthy 15% discount. But to get free shipping, I needed to spend over $50. So I added the same shirt to the cart to get over the limit, knowing that I was already committed to returning a shirt to the store. If returning a second shirt meant not having to pay the $7 shipping, why not?

Cheap iPhone Chargers!

Finally, I found a deal for 4 iPhone chargers. We just upgraded Lauren to the 5S, which suddenly meant that all her old phone chargers were useless. I found 4 knockoff iPhone 5 chargers for just $4.98 including shipping. Now we won’t have to fight over chargers and we’ll always have one when we need it.

I Overspent And I Liked It

In all, I spent $164.42 between Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. All from my couch. However, I’m already committed to returning at least $64 of it. If none of the shirts fit well, they’ll all get returned, and if I don’t love the casual shoes I got (Lauren liked them more than I did, so we’ll give them a shot), I won’t keep them either.

In all, I’m very happy with my purchases, but don’t feel like I overspent. I’m going to be returning a large portion of what I bought and got a great price on what I did pull the trigger on. And overspending and returning in order to get a discount? That’s fine by me.