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I should not have even picked it up. I knew better. After all, what was I expecting from a magazine titled simply, SHOP Etc.? 

I can say with all honesty that before flipping open the magazine, I needed nothing. Not a thing. I was content and quite busy with my work. If anything was tugging at my attention it was my garden and all my planting issues—not a lack of shoes, clothes, and household items. 

Close-up of woman mindlesssly wandering through a catalog creating discontentment

In the space of just a few minutes, everything changed. Just like that, I needed new shoes (Kors, $235), sunglasses in the hot purple shade for summer (Prada, $245) and of course The Cutest Suit (J. Crew, $296).

And once I realized the new must-haves for the kitchen, everything I have now seemed completely unacceptable and hopelessly out of style. I need new Czech goblets (Crate and Barrel, $8.95 each), a stainless steel sink (Kohler, $1,815) and faucet (Essex, $385). Don’t even get me started on all the things I realized I need for my bedroom, patio and living areas. How naïve I was only a few minutes earlier feeling content and quite satisfied with my life. A mere 164 pages later, I was filled with inadequacy and discontentment. 

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You’re worried the washing machine may be on its last spin cycle. It makes a horrible screeching sound and needs a lot of coaxing to make it all the way through a full cycle. Should you spend $319 to fix this inefficient appliance or replace it with a $999 new model that will use less electricity and water? Deciding whether to repair or replace your broken appliance—especially when trying to discover which option will save money in the long run—can be challenging.

 

Here are some basic guidelines and suggestions to help you decide, based on costs for replacement and repairs and the advantages of new models.

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Have you ever wondered how retailers can possibly afford to offer the no-interest, no-payments, no money down kind of deals you see advertised? That was the subject of a question I received recently.

Woman with hand to her chin wondering about no-interest no-payments retail offers

Dear Mary: There are several appliances, electronics, and furniture stores in our area that run television commercials offering nothing down, no-interest, no-payments until 2022. It sounds like I can just walk in and take what I want and not pay for three years! How do these companies really make money? Kate

Dear Kate: First, these offers are on approved credit and come with a lot of other fine print.  You need pristine credit to qualify for those attractive terms.

Good luck qualifying

One retailer told me only about 25% of the people who apply for these amazing no-interest no-payments offers,  designed only to get buyers through the door, can actually qualify. The other 75% are offered some other deal with horrible terms. People often accept these terms because, by the time they fill out the paperwork, they’re so emotionally involved and have their hearts set on that “free” absolutely awesome deal, they’re anxious to sign anything.

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Whether you just graduated, you’re taking a break from school, or have already started repaying your student loans, these tips will help you keep your student loan debt under control.

 

Recent graduate stressed confused worried by student loan debt

By “under control” I’m talking about

  • avoiding fees and extra interest costs
  • keeping your payments affordable
  • protecting your credit rating
  • paying those loans in full as quickly as possible

If you’re having trouble finding a job or keeping up with your payments, there’s vitally important information here for you, too.

1. Know your loans

It’s crucial that you keep track of the lender, balance and repayment status for each of your student loans. These details determine your options for loan repayment and possibilities for forgiveness.

If you’re not sure, ask your lender or visit NSLDS.ed.gov. You can log in and see the loan amounts, lender(s), and repayment status for all of your federal loans.

In the event that some of your loans aren’t listed, they’re probably private (non-federal) loans. For those, try to find a recent billing statement or the original paperwork that you signed. Contact your school if you can’t locate any records.

2. Know your grace period

Different loans have different grace periods. A grace period is the amount of time between leaving school before you must make your first payment.

It’s six months for federal Stafford loans, but nine months for federal Perkins loans.

(Under federal law, the authority for schools to make new Perkins Loans ended on Sept. 30, 2017, and final disbursements were permitted through June 30, 2018. As a result, students can no longer receive Perkins Loans.)

For the federal parent or PLUS loans, there is no grace period. When payments begin depends on when the loans were issued (see details).

The grace periods for private student loans vary, so consult your paperwork or contact your lender to find out. Don’t miss your first payment.

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If you’ve ever been in serious debt or are right now you know the feeling that your creditors own you lock, stock and bank account. I’ve been there, I know.

Debt steals your freedom one option at a time until you become its prisoner.

woman-with-debt-worried-about-bills-to-pay

 

Debt keeps you chained to a job you hate. It keeps you stuck in the past, unable to move forward in life. And big debt causes terrible stress that makes it hard to breathe, keeps you awake, spoils relationships and zaps the joy out of living.

It makes sense that if debt steals your options, then repaying debt creates financial freedom. But that’s not necessarily true.


RELATED: The Difference Between Safe Debt and Stupid Debt is Huge


If you spend just the amount you earn, you won’t be living beyond your means or creating new debt to bridge the shortfall, but you will be broke at the end of every month spinning your wheels, living from one paycheck to the next.

The first rule of sound money management is to live below your means—spend less than you earn. This means creating a margin between what you earn and what you spend. The secret to finding financial freedom—freedom from financial worry, fear and want—is in the gap between the amount you earn and what you spend.

The bigger the gap, the more freedom you will enjoy. It’s the money you don’t spend that gives you the freedom to grow your dreams and prepare for the future.

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Her letter was long. Page after page she went on about every aspect of her miserable life.

In between the accounts of her husband’s unemployment and her high blood pressure, this woman managed to weave each and every detail of their broken down cars, leaking roof, busted faucets, ungrateful children, delinquent taxes, nosy neighbors, empty retirement account and unpaid bills.

I’m telling you, by the time I reached the word that for me spelled relief (Sincerely), I was nearly worn out.

Couple-Jumping with Joy above their circumstances

My immediate reaction was a sympathetic, “Oh, you poor thing!” I mean really, the way she carried on I was nearly convinced she was enduring troubles and pressures way beyond the legal limit. Her situation as she described it did appear to be without solution.

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Got debt? I could be wrong, but if you’re revolving a big credit card balance I’m guessing at least some of it is holiday-related.

Sadly, holiday debt can hang on long after the gifts are forgotten.

 

Young couple worried need help in stress at home debt bills bank papers expenses and payments feeling desperate in bad financial situation

So what’s the problem here? Procrastination. When it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you’ll spend and the more you spend the more likely you are to look to credit for the funds.

Everyone procrastinates a little, but some of us procrastinate about everything. Why do we do that? Internal conflict.

We feel overwhelmed

We put a lot of holiday pressure on ourselves. But then add to that the expectations of others and it can be overwhelming—even paralyzing. So we do nothing until it’s so late our only choice is to spend whatever it takes to squeak by.

We overestimate our time

From where we sit now, Christmas seems far away. We tell ourselves we have plenty of time—more than enough.

We overestimate our abilities

Procrastinators have an unrealistic sense of time. If we believe we can finish the task in say three hours, we put it off until only three hours remain. That leaves no margin, no room for error—no allowance for the law of life that says things rarely go as planned.

We have to do it perfectly

Experts tell us at the root of procrastination is perfectionism. Because we feel we have to do everything perfectly we do nothing rather than run the risk of failing.

We say we work better under pressure

Waiting until the last minute can provide quite an adrenalin rush. Procrastinators believe they cannot operate without that creative surge and so they sit back and wait for it to kick in.

The secret to overcoming procrastination is figuring out what’s behind the fear. Start by identifying the situations that have left you paralyzed by procrastination in the past.

As it relates to Christmas specifically, ask yourself: What price have I paid in past years for waiting until the last minute? Do I really want to pay that price again next year?

If the answer to the last question is yes, forget that I even brought it up. You don’t need to be thinking about the holidays yet.

If on the other hand, you are not willing to go into debt this year, here are simple steps to stop procrastinating.

Get started

Once you are in motion it’s easier to keep going.

Write it down

Reduce your plans to paper. Seeing things in black and white eliminates the unknown, which cause a lot of fear.

Work with the time you have

Make a simple timeline, and then break the project down into small, manageable parts. Even five minutes is enough time to get something done when you have a plan.

Set a series of small deadlines

As an example, give yourself a date one week from today to have your gift list written. Share your deadline with someone who will nudge you toward accountability.

Find the simpler way

Now, while you are still months away from experiencing the powerful emotions of the season, determine ways you can reasonably scale back and simplify.

Be opportunistic

Whether it’s picking up shells along the shore to adorn a picture frame or finding a bargain collectible at a tag sale during your fall travels, take full advantage of the opportunities.

Be realistic

Set reasonable limits both in time and money, and then stick to them.

For once, time is on your side. Here we are in January with eleven-twelfths of 2019 still ahead. Take a deep breath then determine that you’ll make the most of it!

Need help?

Feeling hopeless, buried under debt? I can’t promise to fix your situation, but I am available to listen. Write to me. I may be able to point you in the right direction to find the help you need—help that could turn your life around. No cost, no obligation and must of all, no judging.

I’ve been where you are, I know that lost feeling of hopelessness. By the grace of God, I am not where I was and grateful I’m not yet where I yet will be.

If you are or have ever been, plagued by credit-card debt, I can nearly guarantee that revolving expenses related to Christmas have contributed greatly to that miserable situation. The problem? Procrastination.

woman upset by Christmas credit-card debt

Face it, when it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you’ll spend. The opposite is also true: The sooner you get started the less you’ll spend.

Everyone procrastinates in some area. And some people procrastinate about everything. Why do we do it?

We feel overwhelmed. The holiday expectations we place on ourselves plus those that come from our families, the community, even the church can be so great we feel paralyzed. So we do nothing until the only choice we have is to spend as much money as it takes to get by.

We overestimate how much time we have. From where we sit here in July, Christmas seems so far away. We tell ourselves we have “plenty of time!”

We have to do it perfectly. Experts tell us that at the root of procrastination is perfectionism. Because we feel we have to do everything perfectly—and fear that we might not—we do nothing rather than run the risk of failing.

We say we work better under pressure. Waiting until the last minute can provide quite an adrenaline rush. Procrastinators believe they cannot operate without that creative surge, so they sit back and wait for it to happen.

The way to deal with procrastination is to identify why you do it. Ask yourself: What price have I paid in the past for the delay? Do I really want to pay that price, or even more, again this year?

If the answer to the last question is yes, you have lots of time; you don’t need to be thinking about the holidays yet.

If on the other hand, you are not willing to go into debt to measure up to others’ expectations, get started. Do something now even if all you do is stash $25 a week for Christmas shopping in December. Once you are in motion it will be easier to keep going.

1. FAMILY PHOTO

Whether it’s for your family Christmas card or to frame for a gift to friends and family, get that picture taken now. Then shop around for the best price on high-quality prints.

Costco. It’s hard to beat Costco’s prices and service, but you need to be a member. However, right now it doesn’t appear you can order holiday photo cards—if you want to go this route. You’ll have to check back in a few months to see if their holiday templates are available.

Snapfish. You can get 5×7-inch photo cards printed for as little as $1 each when you order a package of 20—and the price goes down if you order more. Even though it’s July, Snapfish has its holiday templates available for you to order and print.

Vista Print. A great source for a postcard with your photos, plus many other options. VistaPrint has frequent specials and sales throughout the summer, so check back to see if you can get a deal at VistaPrint.com. Caution: You will be hounded throughout the order process to buy all kinds of “add-ons.” Don’t waste your money. Buy only what you came to buy.

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