Turkey Time: 5 Ways To Give Back This Season

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I have spent a lot of my time on this blog writing about ways to save and how spending on useless things will not bring you any closer to where you want to be.

Although I still believe the above is important, I don’t think that I have put enough emphasis on how important it is to use your skills and money to give back to people in need. I think every one of my readers has a unique skill set that can be used to change someone else’s life. I also think that every one of my readers has a little bit of money to give to a greater cause.

Something that many people don’t realize is that you don’t have to have a lot money to donate, nor do you have to wait till you are older and “established.”

You still may be thinking, Pervez, I don’t make very much money. Go to the link here, and see how you much you make compared to the rest of the world.

Reality check- You make more than most of the world.

So because we are only about a week away from Thanksgiving, I think it is an appropriate time to talk about ways to give to people in need.

-Help with the Salvation Army’s Thanksgiving Day meal. The Salvation Army serves a free Thanksgiving meal and needs volunteers to help assist in the preparation, serving, and clean up. This is a great opportunity to help your local Salvation Army with one of their biggest events of the year. Too often do we take turkey and mashed potatoes for granted. Help others have this experience and encourage your friends to join.

-Another great place to help is your local Food Bank. Food Banks collect and distribute food to people in need. They have several holiday initiatives but are always accepting canned goods as well as foods such as peanut butter. You can take items to them or make monetary donations online.

-Run a 5k. Running sucks but running for a good cause is always fun. There are several holiday runs in every city that give a large percentage of registration fees to great causes. You can find a list of races for where you live on Runner’s World.

-Get an Angel, or two. One of my favorite ways to give back is by snatching up some Angels from the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army places trees in big shopping malls with Angel lists. The Angels are people in need that have listed certain things. The first year I did this, I had a 66-year-old Angel that needed a shower grab bar so he could comfortably shower without the fear of falling. This made me realize that it is the little things that can change someone’s quality of life in a big way.

-Do a random act of kindness. This can be anything from paying for someone’s coffee at Starbucks to taking a box of toys to the children’s hospital. You never know whom you will be helping, but more importantly, whom you will be inspiring to pay it forward.

Life is too short to wait to help others. Making a lot of money and saving it is great but giving back is the only way to feel a real sense of accomplishment.

6 Holiday Shopping Money Hacks

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Before I start, I would like to make a note to say that I am not the Grinch.

Now I will start.

Holiday shopping sucks. Lines, absurd gifts, ridiculous prices, and millions spent on marketing in order for consumers to spend billions…all things I hate.

Things I love about the holidays-food, family time, ice skating, pictures with Santa and my English Bully Bella (tons of free options), and giving back to the community.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to get sucked into the mix of shopping till we’re dropping. I am guilty of this as well.

Luckily, if done right, there are several ways to make the holiday season a little lighter on your wallet.

1. Evaluate and Budget. Make a list of all of the people you plan on buying gifts for, as well as all of the other expenses that you are going to have such as travel, parties, food, etc.

Next to each person/item/event, write down the amount that you want to spend on each. How do you come up with the dollar amount? Think about how much you have spent in past years on that item/person and determine if that was too much or too little.

After doing this, start writing gift ideas. This will keep you from overspending and more importantly, save you time.

2. Spend what you have.  Warning: This does not mean spend ALL you have. Holidays are a great time for many to rack up credit card points. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the people that overspend. If you love to shop and you have tendencies to make regular impulse purchases, it might be a good idea to stick to cash while avoiding credit cards.

3. Book travel early. If you’re traveling during the holidays and you haven’t booked your flight or hotel, you should probably get on that. The longer you wait, the more you will spend.

Just like any other time, the more flexible you can be with your time and days, the less money you will spend. Consider flying out of an alternative airport. For me, that could be DFW where prices are much cheaper. For you, it may be Newark instead of JFK.

4. Consider alternative gifts. Instead of buying expensive gifts that will either be re-gifted, never used, trashed, etc., consider more practical gifts. If you know someone starting a new job, a workbag or a personalized notepad might be a gift that she could use.

Another alternative gift idea could be taking your family or friends to lunch or dinner after volunteering somewhere together. This would give everyone the opportunity to help others in need while bringing your whole entourage together.

Other group gifts can be attending a sporting event together or even going ice skating together. These are experiences that will always be remembered.

5. Price check. Have a gift idea? Don’t buy the first one you see. Check prices at multiple retailers before making the purchase. You can check the price of almost everything online.

Speaking of online, consider buying the majority of your gifts online. Not only will you save a lot of money, you will save A LOT of time. You will also avoid the marketing schemes (number 6).

Want fast and free shipping? If you sign up for Amazon Prime, you get free two-day shipping. Don’t want to pay $99/year for the service? Start your free 30-day trial.

6. Avoid the marketing and shop early. Too much to say about this topic, but I will make it brief. It is a common misconception to think that the best deals are on Black Friday or other big name sales days. Though there may be some good deals on electronics, it isn’t always the best day to shop for all of your gifts. No matter how good the deal, the lines, crazies, and “out of stock” signs can ruin it. 

Another marketing tactic to avoid is the “gift” sections of retail stores. These are usually the sections that exist for people that have no idea what to buy. The gift sections make it convenient to pick something funny/interesting without having to do any thinking. The problem is that these gifts are typically not practical and can get expensive. Not to mention these gifts are usually low quality products. Gift baskets fall into this category as well.

The best advice for avoiding marketing is to avoid the mall as much as possible. It is obviously nice to go to the mall at times during the holidays to see the decorations and to get in the spirit, but avoiding it as much as possible will allow you to avoid impulse purchases.

Impulse purchases are the key to a successful holiday season for retailers.

I know I said six, but one last thing.  Stay away from the flashy gift bags and wrapping paper. You can get some of the best of these items at stores like Dollar Tree. This will give you a chance to either save money (recommended) or spend more on the actual gift.

Happy Holidays!

Remember to take The Money Quiz!