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The Secret to Staying Out of the Red and in the Black

When I am not writing about personal finance and consumer debt, I knit. Something about the gentle rhythm of yarn and needle calms my spirit and unwinds my brain.

professional woman sitting at her desk, knitting.

I have managed to finish a few projects, not because I’m a great knitter but because I can “tink” almost as well as I knit (knit spelled backward is tearing out).

Because all knitters make mistakes, tinking is a required skill for those who take the craft seriously. It doesn’t take too many oversized sweaters or undersized hats to figure out that the smallest error at the beginning of a project can produce disastrous results if not found and corrected.

Just two options

Money is a lot like knitting. By some miracle, all knitting consists of just two stitches: knit and purl. Likewise, with money you have two options: spend or save. And who among us can say they have never made a financial error? We all make mistakes but the secret to staying out of the red is correcting the little mistakes before they lead to disastrous results.

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12 Things You Can Do Now to Get Ready for Christmas

Faithful readers know that we pull out all the stops around here to celebrate Christmas in July. Or at least start thinking about the holidays, just five months down the road. 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.

 

Santa's hat next to the pool suggesting it's Christmas in July!

 

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.

1. Start saving

I get it that not all of us are into Christmas shopping any time other than December. It just doesn’t feel right. What you can do starting now is get diligent with creating a healthy cash stash so you have the money to do that come December.

Stash $50 a week starting now, for Christmas shopping in December. Once you are in motion it will be easier to keep going. Even if that’s all you do, you’ll be way ahead.

 

2. Book travel

We’re learning that the ongoing Boeing 737 Max grounding is going to affect holiday travel and not in a good way. Southwest Airlines opened its calendar for booking flights for December much earlier than usual. And by the looks things, lots of flights are already sold out. Now’s the time to book any holiday travel you have in mind.

Southwest, which doesn’t charge travelers fees to change or cancel their flights, will waive fare differences for customers who need to change their trips because of the extended schedule disruption.

3. Family photo

Whether it’s for your family Christmas card or to frame for a gift to friends and family, now’s a great time to take that photo. You’ll have plenty of time to shop around for the  best price on high-quality prints.

 

Parents giving piggyback ride to kids at beach. Close up of smiling family having fun at summer vacation. Portrait of happy family looking at camera at beach.

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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Less Randomly, But Not Quite

light blue random numbers background texture

1. If last week’s Saturday blog stats hold any meaning at all, it appears my readers enjoy a numbered, quick hit list of, well … random things.

 

2. I love to knit. It’s not the least expensive hobby in the world, but I do enjoy a good Yarn Sale. This woman, on the other hand, knits for free—dubious as her sense of style may be.

 

3. People who consistently save 20% of their income can do that because they scrimp on this one thing you probably don’t.

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