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Tips You Must Know for Online Holiday Shopping

Tips You Must Know for Online Holiday Shopping

Holiday shopping is all about being in the know. Sales occur, but they can end as quickly as you find them. This also extends on the fact that certain deals can get better over time. The saying, “the early bird gets the worm” doesn’t hold as much as it used to. There are even times when sales are even better at times you wouldn’t have normally expected. We will take a look at the importance of timing, pricing, deals, and research in shopping smart this year.

There’s a Time for Everything – Free Shipping Day!

Extending on the point I mentioned earlier, holiday online shopping is all about timing. Almost every type of item has an optimal date around it. We are currently at a time when Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday have long passed. The next hot shopping day is actually Free Shipping Day on the 17th of December.

However, in my opinion, the namesake isn’t the reason why I recommend it as a hot shopping day. This year, and much of last, as been a time where free shipping is sort of expected from a retailer. Every website I personally have purchased from have offered free shipping. So how else can the 17th be good? Many of these retailers may also tack on a certain percentage off to further your savings and to make the say more worthwhile.

As for specific products, the week of free shipping day is one that I have found to be a great time to purchase your big ticket items, like electronics. Things like clothes toys, and other similar items are ones there shouldn’t be sweat over. They are your quintessential holiday shopping items that retailers will make available throughout the season at a good price.

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Ensure that You Are Secure

Identity theft and fraud are a big issue during holiday shopping. More individuals than ever are pulling out their credit cards and signing into PayPal to make their purchases. For this reason, online shopping is even more vulnerable to theft.

There are a couple of things that you can do to ensure that you are safe this year. First off, make sure that you are shopping in a safe network. This means that the WIFI you are using is familiar to you. If you are traveling, make sure that the WIFI is one that the hotel requires a password for.

Once in a safe network, make sure the website is safe by ensuring there is a security lock there. This is done with the “https” added before a website link. Facebook already has this and almost every big name shopping website does as well.

Lastly, if you must shop in a public network, ensure that you don’t set “Remember my password” when signing in and ensure that you not only sign out, but also quit the web browser when done.

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Mind Your Calendar – Stay Updated

We mentioned earlier that there are key times throughout December where you are more likely to get a certain deal. However, aside from this, other reasons to make sure you know the date is because of something much more important – shipping.

As I am writing this article, I am in shock at how close some deadlines are. The mean deadline for free ground shipments to arrive by the start of your holiday is between December 14th and 17th. While many providers allow you to ship up until the 24th for some locations, others have a December 19th deadline for 2nd or next day shipments.

Just because it says next day doesn’t mean it will get there the next day at this time of the year. They are backed up with orders and it’s safer to always add three to four days for your 2nd day shipping.

Get Paid (or Benefits) for Shopping

It is very possible to get some form of benefit from shopping online at certain websites. eBay is a great example of this. The website has a program known as eBay Bucks. On most products, there will be an icon stating how much you’ll get in eBay Bucks based on how much you are paying. There is also a way to gain more bucks from other things you to (for example, signing up for trials through Blockbusters or booking your flights). I easily gained a good chunk of change from shopping online that I can use in the beginning of January for things on eBay.

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Other options you can have is through cashback programs available through your credit cards or websites (American Express is a great example I have used). Also, Amazon Prime is a third program you should look into signing up for. The membership gives you the ability to have free shipping on most items as well as other benefits.

One success story I have had with Prime was when I purchased a book for a family member’s birthday. Turned out, they not only already had the book, but finished it. I went to return it and due to being a Prime Member, I was able to get a refund and keep the book (sitting on my bookcase as I type this). The $7.99 a month membership fee is worth it, especially for frequent purchasers.

Compare Before Your Buy

My last tip for today is to compare before you purchase. No, I don’t mean compare items, chances are you are already dead set on the item you want to purchase, and it’s not my job to sway you for a different product. That’ll be my job for other articles.

I mean you should compare shops before you buy. For example, I’m purchasing an iPhone 5 for myself this year. While I was set on purchasing through Apple, Best Buy has a special where you can get a $25 gift card when purchasing your iPhone 5 through them. I will either use this to regift or will use it toward my LifeProof case ($54 after using the gift card!).

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Compare who to purchase your items from and see who will give you the best deals. Some have even found it beneficial to go through the purchase process until you get to the final checkout page before you card is charged – then exit out. They will notice you didn’t complete your purchase and will offer up deals for you to complete the purchase.

As you can see, there are many tips and secrets to ensuring that you get the best deal with your holiday shopping. Let us know in the comments below what tips you have already made use of for this holdiay and which tips you have that weren’t mentioned above.

Featured photo credit:  Beautiful shopping woman at a draw mall via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

Debt can feel crushing, like a weight that is always weighing you down. Looking at those numbers, it can feel as if you’ll never get out from under it. However, if you really want to learn how to get out of debt, it is possible with a great deal of focus and self-control.

Getting out of debt isn’t impossible. Like any big goal, all that it takes is an action plan to identify where you are and creating a plan to zero out your debt.

Identifying All of Your Debts

The first part of paying off your debt is getting a complete picture of what you owe. When you have everything written out in front of you, it makes it much easier to create an action plan. Depending on how much you owe, it might also help you realize it’s not as bad you might have originally thought.

Here’s how you can get started identifying your debts:

1. Own Your Debt

Before you start identifying all of your debts, take a moment to process that you have debt but want to get out of it.

Forgive yourself for any past mistakes, missed payments, or overspending. It might be painful to accept how much debt you have at first, but you must own it.

2. Make a Debt Tracker

It’s astonishing how few people ever created a tracker to understand their total debts. Most likely, it comes from not wanting to accept the guilt of having debt, but, if avoided, it can make it nearly impossible to get out of debt.

Open up a new Google or Microsoft Excel sheet and list out all of your debts. Start with the name of the creditor, interest rates, total balance, loan term length (if any), and the minimum amount due each payment. This will include student loans, credit cards, and any other type of debt owed.

3. Get Your Debt Number

Once you’ve made your debt tracker and taken the other steps, identify your total payoff number. This is crucial, as you will have a starting point and a clear goal that you are trying to achieve.

Prioritizing Your Debts

All debt is not created equal. It’s imperative to understand that there are different types of debt.

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1. Understand Bad and Good Debts

Bad debts are usually paying for things you want instead of always need. While there might be some emergencies that max out your credit cards, often times it’s excessive spending[1].

There are three main types of bad debt:

  • Credit Card Debt: The average American household owes over $16,000 in credit card debt!
  • Auto Loan Debt: According to CNBC , the average auto loan in the US is $30,032!
  • Consumer Loan Debt: Consumer loan debt isn’t as common as credit card and auto loan debt, but it’s still considered bad as interest rates are usually between 10-28%.

Good debt is identified as investments in your future. Here are three common types of good debt:

  • Student Loan Debt
  • Mortgage Loan
  • Business Loans

2. Decide Which Debt to Pay off First

Once you know each type of debt and their interest rates, you can begin to pay off debt quickly.

Focus on paying off bad debt first, regardless of if it is a credit card or auto loan. Start by paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first.

If you have several credit cards with different interest rates, you want to focus on the one with a higher APR. You will actually save more money by eliminating the card with the highest interest rate.

3. Don’t Pay the Minimum Amount

Paying the minimum amount digs you into a hole as interest rates will offset your payment. Even a small amount more than the minimum can help you pay off debt much faster.

Removing Obstacles to Pay off Debt Quickly

Creating a debt tracker and prioritizing a plan is simple, but avoiding temptation can be difficult.

1. Set a Reminder to Track Your Debt

“If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” -Peter Drucker

It’s so important to track your debt to ensure that you get it paid off quickly. Similar to working out and measuring your results, you need to track your debt constantly. Start with a weekly reminder, where you sign on and log your updated number. Did you increase, decrease, or stay the same?

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Regularly tracking your student loan balance can be incredibly motivating, as well. You will get a huge confidence boost each time you see your total debt amount decreases.

Set weekly and monthly goals so you can have short term wins and keep the momentum going.

2. Hide Your Credit Cards

If your biggest debt is credit cards, you need to eliminate temptation and remove them from your wallet.

Some people have gone to extreme measures by freezing their credit cards. Why? This would create an ice block around your card, which would require you to chip away at it slowly. This will give you time to think if it’s the best idea to buy that thing you’re about to buy.

3. Automate Everything

Willpower can be a huge downfall to paying off your debt. By automating your bills each month, you will ensure that willpower isn’t involved.

4. Plan Ahead

Getting out of debt will require some sacrifices, but with enough planning, you can make it work.

For example, if you know that you have a friend’s birthday or family dinner coming up, plan ahead for the costs. Whether you need to cut back on spending the week before, pick up a side job, or meet them after dinner, do what is needed.

5. Live Cheaply

The only way to get out of debt is to make some sacrifices on your spending habits. Find ways to save money each month so you can apply that amount to your outstanding debts. Here are some ways to save money each month:

  • Live with roommates
  • Cook dinners and prepare lunches for work instead of eating out
  • Cut cable and choose Netflix or Amazon Prime
  • Take public transit or bike to work

Finding the Lowest Interest Rates

The higher your interest rates, the harder (and longer) it will take you to pay off any debt.

If possible, you want to find ways to lower your interest rates to help get out of debt quickly. Here’s how you can get started:

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1. Maintain a High Credit Score

Your credit score will have a large impact on your ability to refinance your loans and receive a lower interest rate. If you have a low credit score, it’s unlikely you will be able to refinance your loans. Use these credit tips to increase and maintain an excellent score:

  • Never miss a payment
  • Don’t exceed 30% of your credit limit
  • Don’t sign up for more than one card at once
  • Limit hard inquires, like auto-loans and new credit cards
  • Monitor frequently with free credit-tracking software

2. Find Balance Transfer Offers

Start by opening a free account on credit.com. Credit.com offers you the chance to open a free account and see what type of balance transfer offers you can receive. Some of your existing credit cards might already have 0% or lower APR balance transfer offers available.

Contact each of your credit card providers to ask about lowering your rate for a one-time balance transfer offer[2].

If you do take advantage of this option, make sure that you use a balance transfer and not a cash advance. Cash advances have a ton of high interest fees (15-25%, depending on your credit card) and will only compound your debt problem.

How to Get Rid of Debt Forever

Setting up a plan, removing temptations, and getting the lowest interest rates is the first step to get out of debt.

1. Keep Monitoring and Adjusting

Once you have a plan, don’t get comfortable. Track your debt payoff plan and make the necessary adjustments when needed.

Monitor your credit scores with a free site like CreditKarma. The higher your credit score climbs, the more likely you will be to secure a new, lower-interest loan.

2. Earn More Money

There are only so many ways to save money. Instead of clipping another coupon or making sacrifices for your morning coffee, find ways to earn more money!

Think about it…it is much easier to find ways to earn an extra $1,000 per month than find $1,000 to cut from your budget.

Here are some examples of ways to earn more money:

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Talk to Your Boss

Have a conversation with your boss about current salary and/or commission rates. If you’re not satisfied or want a change, don’t be afraid to look around at other positions. Some of them might even have a student loan debt reimbursement plan!

Start a Side Hustle

This could be coaching students on the weekends, driving for Uber, or taking paid online surveys. There are tons of ways to make money outside your 9-5. Now that you have a clear plan to pay off your debts, you’ll be more motivated than ever to figure out creative new ways to earn money.

Build an Online Business

There are so many websites and blogs that earn money from ads, affiliates, and other online products. Find your niche and get started.

3. Celebrate Your Wins

As you progress in your debt payoff journey, don’t forget to celebrate your wins. You need to always reward yourself for the hard work and discipline that is required to get out of debt.

While you shouldn’t celebrate so big that it increases debt, make sure to factor in little rewards to keep you motivated.

4. Set New Financial Goals

Eventually, with a plan and these steps, you can rid yourself of your debt. Once you do, make sure to celebrate your monumental achievement, but don’t stop there.

Now, you can focus on acquiring wealth and increasing your net worth. Set new financial goals so you have a new target to aim toward. Here’s how to set financial goals and actually meet them.

These could be anything now that you are debt free! Think about where you want to travel, buying your first home, or saving for your future retirement. Just like before, make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.

Conclusion

Congrats, you can now set a plan in motion to finally pay off your debt quickly (and hopefully forever)!

Remember, if you want to get out of debt quickly, it’s not always easy. Just like any big goal, there will be sacrifices, challenges, and problems to overcome.

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Featured photo credit: Pepi Stojanovski via unsplash.com

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