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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 August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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