Tag: Giving

 

How 5 Millennials Really Spend for the Holidays

The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends. But the joy of the season often comes with its share of stress. Namely, you may be worried about how you’ll afford all this holiday spending.

Budgeting for the holidays is no easy task, and unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for handling money during this time of year. There are so many factors to take into account: who should you buy gifts for, how much should you spend, and how should you factor in spending without going into debt. Since money is such a taboo subject and you may want to buy whatever you want, it can be hard to cap your holiday spending.

Although we don’t recommend comparing yourself to others, it can sometimes be helpful to learn from those who find themselves in a similar spending quandary. So, we asked five millennials to discuss how they spend and budget during the holidays. Their answers may surprise you:

Sami Lynn, 32

Annual Holiday Budget: $0

While most people find themselves with a spending hangover after the holidays, this isn’t the case for Lynn, a medical consultant from Oklahoma City. She generally doesn’t celebrate the holidays at all, opting instead to either work or take vacation during that time. She budgets 10 percent of her income for travel, and uses it during the holidays. While she may buy presents for a few close friends, she takes that out of her regular budget rather than saving up for months in advance. She wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I’m not in touch with my family so it’s mostly about myself, my critters and my friends,” says Lynn.

Meghan O’Dea, 31

Annual Holiday Budget: $200

Instead of going all out in December, O’Dea of Chattanooga, Tennessee keeps her holidays low key with immediate family and then celebrates Christmas in July with extended family. A scholarship program coordinator, O’Dea admits that neither of these approaches is considered “traditional.”

Her immediate family members exchange books and stockings on Christmas. In July, her extended family takes a beach vacation. During this time, each relative picks a Secret Santa and buys a gift for one person.

When it comes to spending for Christmas, O’Dea sets aside $200 to buy gifts. She picks out presents that she knows her family will love throughout the year. This way the cost is spread out and she can work within her budget to buy meaningful gifts.

“We love focusing on books and food. It makes the nebulous week in-between Christmas and New Year’s extra cozy. Eating leftover Yorkshire pudding and cracking open a new book with some eggnog is the best part of Christmas.”

Lisa Bryant, 23

Annual Holiday Budget: $500

Bryant, an engineer from Sparks, Nevada, typically spends the holidays with either her family or her fiance’s family. She focuses on spending time together over everything else. She spends around $500, mostly on gifts with some money left over for decorations. Since her IRA company allows her to skip a monthly contribution, she skips December and uses this extra cash for the holidays.

Generally, this frees up enough money to buy one big gift for her fiance, plus presents for her parents and a few close friends. She also tries to give one hand-made gift per year and uses her holiday budget to pay for supplies.

“I’m usually pretty good at spending within my means.”

Alaina Leary, 24

Annual Holiday Budget: $800-$1000

Leary, a freelance editor from Boston, saves up for Christmas all year long but ramps up those savings starting each summer. Between family gatherings, “Friendsmas”, and lots of winter-themed fun, there is a lot to take into account when budgeting. Generally, Leary uses about $500 of her holiday funds to buy gifts for her partner, close friends, dad, and cousins. The remaining $300-$500 in her budget is earmarked for experiences. Some of Leary’s favorite holiday experiences include a weekend away with her partner in Maine, a long sleigh ride, and dining out after watching Boston’s annual tree lighting ceremony.

“I budget my money for experiences over gifts, because I’d rather spend time with people than spend money on them.”

Colleen Stinchcombe, 26

Annual Holiday Budget: No limit but $75 per person cap

Stinchcombe, a writer and editor from Phoenix, usually spends the holidays at her house with her family. She asks everyone to agree to a $75 spending cap. While that cap may seem high, this works for Stinchcombe as she budgets for this annual gathering and only buys for her immediate family and maybe a couple of close friends. Instead of saving throughout the year, she sets aside money that she would ordinarily spend on herself for things like eating out, new clothes and other unnecessary items.

She says her gifting style is to give as she would like to receive. With this in mind, Stinchcombe chooses gifts that her family and friend would otherwise buy for themselves.

“I’m not a fan of holiday gift-giving as something extravagant.”

How Should You Budget For The Holidays?

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for how you should spend money during the holidays. The most important thing is to take stock of your priorities and your bank account, and find a happy medium this holiday season.

 

Here’s How to Decide How Much to Spend on Christmas Gifts

With Christmas right around the corner, you may be finding yourself already stressed about your gift list. Are you going to have the time to buy everything? And most importantly, can you afford to buy for everyone on your list?

According to a survey done by T. Rowe Price, 64 percent of American parents admit to spending too much over the holidays. Nine percent of them dipped into emergency funds, and seven percent went as far as raiding their 401(k) or IRA accounts to pay off their holiday debts.

What happens in the weeks leading up to Christmas that cause you to spend too much? Why do these months bust your budget? For starters, a barrage of advertisements sometimes entices you to spend more than you want. You may also fall into the trap of comparing how much you spend to others in your inner and outer circles.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid spending more than you should. Read on to learn more.

Create a Plan to Rein in Holiday Spending

It feels good to give gifts. But, spending money that you don’t have will end up hurting you in the long run. To help you decide how much you can afford to spend, start by creating a budget and then commit to it. In the end, you and your wallet will be happy that you did. This may sound pretty obvious, but with two-thirds of Americans not having a budget at all, you’re not alone if you find yourself trying to curb your spending at this time of the year.

For starters, sit down and actually create a budget that works for you. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it needs to include all fixed expenses so that you can determine your disposable income. Keep in mind that saving and investing are also considered fixed expenses. If you notice that you simply don’t have much money left in your budget for holiday gifts, don’t fret. Hold a family meeting and be transparent about your financial state. From there, you can come up with a plan on how to enjoy Christmas without spending money on costly items. The last thing you want to do is put yourself into debt on your credit card or rick racking up overdraft fees with your bank.

Enlist Help

In order to prevent overspending and blowing right through your budget, it’s important to hold yourself accountable. The easiest way to do this is to enlist the help of a friend. Pick someone that you trust, someone who is a straight-shooter. Remember: the person you choose will be the one helping you stick to your budget so you don’t go overboard.

If you’re like most people, you’ll probably want to skip this step. Instead, you’ll just divvy out some cash and try to rely on your own discipline. While this may work, finding an accountability partner often works far better than going it alone.

Now It’s Time for Sensible Spending

After determining how much you can afford to spend, it’s now time to get down to the nitty-gritty: what you’ll buy, who you’ll buy for, and how much you’ll spend in total.

For starters, come up with your total spending limit based on roughly 80% of what’s in your budget. So, if you can afford $500, spend $400 instead. This will allow you a little leeway in case something comes up during the month.

Here’s where a lot of us get into trouble. Say you decide to spend $50 per recipient because that’s the amount that you factored into your budget. But, when you set out to shop, you may fall prey to the “perfect gift” scenario. For example, if you see a potential gift that costs $54.99, you may think the extra $5 is no big deal. However, now you may feel obligated to up your limit from $50 to $55 on everyone else’s gift as well. Before you know it, you’re over budget.

To reduce costs, you can simply stick to your original budget, or perhaps spend even less per person and invite your friends over for a holiday potluck dinner and game night. Chances are everyone will have a blast – without spending a lot of money.

Enjoy the Season

Now that you have a plan in place to spend sensibly, it’s time to focus on what’s really important: spending time with people you care about, exchanging thoughtful gifts and experiences, and celebrating good times. ‘Tis the season to create lasting memories without busting your holiday budget.

 

This is Why You Should Add Disaster Relief Donations to Your Budget Next Year

Two massive earthquakes hit Mexico. Wildfires raged across Northern California. Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey swept through Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas. Indeed, 2017 has seen more than its share of high-profile natural disasters, impacting thousands of people in the wake of the destruction.

What can you do to help these people rebuild, repair and recover? You can donate, even if your wallet can’t afford it. Here are some tips on how to make room in your 2018 budget for charitable giving.

How much should you donate?

Many people choose to donate 10 percent of their income. This is the amount used in faith-based giving, also known as “tithing.” But don’t succumb to the pressure of this exact percentage. Donating should make you feel good, not broke.

Look at your current budget to see what you can comfortably donate to disaster relief organizations or non-profits. Budgeting for charitable giving is a form of saving money, but this can be difficult if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. If 10 percent is too much for you, perhaps consider donating five percent, or even two percent of your current income.

To help you free up money to donate, you can start by paying yourself first, a budgeting method that helps you set aside money for savings before paying your bills. This will help you pinpoint the amount you can donate on a regular basis – before making any changes to your spending habits. An added bonus: this helps you get your finances in better shape.

Find ways to free up money

Donating money may entail mining your budget for extra dollars. It doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself financially. Starting a spending diet is one good way to trim a few dollars here and there, giving you funds to donate. You may also want to consider trimming down on day-to-day expenses, even if it means giving up your daily latte fix.

“Donating after a natural disaster is all about giving what you can, so the easiest way to budget for this selfless donation is to go without something or a few somethings that are frivolous,” says budget blogger McKinzie Pack. “For instance, go without that morning coffee stop and put that amount into your donation fund, or swap a few restaurant or take-out meals for a homemade lunch or dinner.”

If making these sacrifices saves you $30 a week, that’s roughly $120 a month, or $1,440 a year. To help you pare down or modify your expenses, consider these additional approaches:

  • Reduce cable, Internet or cell phone costs by downgrading to cheaper plans. This allows you to cut back without having to eliminate services altogether.
  • Shop on sale, or opt for generic/store brand products when you can. A few dollars here and there can add to your donations budget. Says Andrei Vasilescu, co-founder of DontPayFull.com: “To help disaster-afflicted people, you can easily reduce your shopping expenses by 10 percent. This small 10 percent of your shopping budget can save priceless lives. Shopping for a bit less expensive gift items this year will save that extra amount without any extra effort.”
  • Pay it forward to give it back. Going the extra mile and putting more money towards your existing debt will not only help you get out of debt faster, but you’ll have more available cash to donate to your charity of choice. That’s right, the faster you pay off your debt, the faster you’ll have more money. A win-win.

Generate dough for donations

Another way to generate more money to donate is to earn extra cash from a side job or part-time gig.

Marsha Jaramillo set up her own business venture with donations in mind. “I run an online business that brings in extra income,” she says. “From the monthly revenue, I set aside a certain amount each month that automatically goes to the organization of my choice.”

Jaramillo has run four Etsy.com shops for the last nine years, giving her extra money to earmark towards charitable donations.

Save by second nature

When it comes to paying yourself first, this is easiest when you can accomplish this without thinking about it.

To help you get going, we recommend using Chime’s Automatic Savings features as the perfect vehicle to drive your donation funding. Every time you spend, Chime automatically rounds up the transaction and deposits the roundup amount into your Savings account. You can also enable Chime’s Save When I Get Paid feature, which automatically moves 10% of your paycheck directly into your Savings Account.

Automating your savings guarantees that the money will go towards your intended goals – without you having to think about it. “When you need it, you can give a sizeable amount without having to take away from your other bills,” says Robyn Goldfarb of the blog A Dime Saved. “It’s a good habit to get into, putting aside some of every check for others. It helps build feelings of giving, empathy, and gratitude for what you have.”

Choose your cause

There are a host of local, national and global organizations in need of donations and contributions. Pick one close to your heart and your values.

Perhaps you want to donate to an organization on the ground providing medical services, like the American Red Cross, or maybe you want to donate to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is seeking homes for animals displaced by Hurricane Maria. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is another great resource to learn about organizations helping those affected by recent disasters.

“You have to be really generous and strict at the same time to set your mind to save for others who have lost everything,” says Vasilescu. “If you really feel for the people struck by disasters, saving for them will seem less difficult.”

Do your research

When you decide to donate, it’s also important that you research organizations before giving away your money. While it may feel good to spontaneously make a donation, scammers exist, so it’s best to exercise caution first. These tips from the Better Business Bureau will help you better evaluate if a charity is right for you. For example, the BBB notes that you should be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.

A final word

Regardless of where you choose to donate, if you follow our tips, you may find that you can afford to donate more than you think. With some effort, discipline and generosity, any donation — no matter how big or small — can make a difference.

 

11 Experiences You Can Gift This Holiday Season

Americans enjoy buying things. We also love keeping things, even when we aren’t using them.

This is evident when you take a look at the self-storage industry where revenues are approaching $40 billion per year. By many standards, we already have too much stuff. This is no surprise because, as humans, we are in the constant pursuit of happiness. When we get something new, it brings temporary happiness until we become complacent and need to buy a new “thing” to stimulate happiness again.

With the gift-giving holiday season fast approaching, what can we do to curb this cycle?  The answer: give the gift of experiences. Instead of giving your loved one’s stuff they don’t need, you can give them an experience that provides lasting happiness and fond memories.

And, while your loved ones are enjoying the experience, you may also save money. A win-win. Read on to learn about our top experiential gift ideas, broken down by the most affordable to those that might require saving up your hard earned dollars.

Lower Cost Experience Gifts

  • Gift Certificates: These are especially beneficial when you’re giving a gift certificate to a movie theater or a theme park. The recipient will enjoy the experience and create lasting memories. You can typically decide how much you want to spend, especially if you purchase a gift card.
  • Memberships: Memberships to skate parks, gyms, performing arts theaters, museums, or clubs can offer the added benefit of hooking your loved one on a new healthy hobby.
  • Quality Time: If you simply can’t afford to buy an experience, perhaps you can gift someone with your time or skills. For example, if you’re a writer, you can offer to help a friend write a new website bio. You can even create your own homemade gift certificate for a service. Your friend will appreciate both the creativity, thought and, of course, your skills.

Mid-Range Gifts of Experiences

  • A Night or Day Out: Give the gift of an amazing experience, such as a night on the town or a day-trip to a favorite or new hiking spot. Whatever you decide upon, be creative and choose an experience that you think the recipient will always remember and appreciate.
  • A Weekend Away: Short trips don’t have to break the budget. For example, you can use your credit card rewards to book a hotel near a ski resort and spend a day or two on the slopes.
  • A Hot Air Balloon Ride: If you live close to somewhere that offers balloon rides, you will never forget your trip to the clouds. Many hot air balloon experiences include brunch, pictures, and more. If you’re on a tight budget, be sure to check for deals on sites like Groupon.

Luxury Experiences You Can Give

  • Caribbean Cruise: Most cruises are all-inclusive, so once you’ve paid for it, you won’t typically incur heavy duty expenses once you’ve set sail. But you still have to get there. You can either save up for the experience or perhaps even offset the cost of the trip by using rewards points for your air travel.
  • Cultural Food Experiences: You can give the experience of a food or drink tour no matter where you are. San Diego is known for microbreweries, New Orleans for Cajun cuisine, and the Northeast for everything lobster.
  • European Tour: One of the best ways to learn about the world is to experience it! Choose an area, plan a trip, and give the gift of discovering new ways of living.

Pick the Value of Your Experience

  • Sports Tickets: Regardless of whether you choose a weekend baseball game or season tickets to the recipient’s favorite football team, you can decide how much to spend on this one. No matter what you choose, sports fans simply love this gift.
  • Investments: This is a great option for young children. They may not appreciate it now, but they will when they grow up. Whether it’s a college savings account, whole life insurance, or a funded savings account, investing in the future is always a good idea.

Spend Money on Happiness

As the saying goes, money doesn’t make you happy. But the truth is: spending money the right way can actually make you happy.

Spending on experiences is one such way to bring about happiness. From the everyday bonding over lunch and a trip to the museum to a once-in-a-lifetime cruise around the world, experiences provide happiness and memories that last a lifetime. Give it a shot.

 

Should You Make Charitable Contributions When You’re Drowning In Debt?

While millennials get an unwarranted bad rap for being lazy, they don’t usually get called generous. But, millennials are part of a truly giving generation. In fact, a recent survey showed that 85% of millennials made charitable donations in 2015.

Indeed, if you’re a millennial, you likely already donate to a cause you believe in. At the very least, you’ve probably thought about which nonprofit organization you’d like to support. This brings us to an important question: Is it a good idea to be charitable if you’re saddled with thousands of dollars in debt? As with any other money decision, your answer should depend on your personal circumstances and preferences. But know this — if you have a penchant to give, there are many creative ways to do so without getting into more debt or hurting your plans to achieve the debt-free dream. Read on to learn more.

Avoid Impulse Giving

A new study from Fidelity Charitable found that 71 percent of millennial women give to charity “in the moment.” This makes me feel proud to know that we are such a passionate generation. At the same, impulse giving can be viewed as a form of impulse spending and this can bust your budget – especially when you’re already strapped for cash.

A good rule of thumb is to come up with set times to make charitable contributions throughout the year and stick to them. I like to give weekly at church and donate a larger amount around Christmas. Since I’m still on my journey toward debt freedom, I’ve also limited my impulse giving to in-kind donations. For example, I participate in social sharing and volunteering my time (more on this one later).

In order to figure out your own giving breakdown, be sure to evaluate charitable giving against your other money priorities.

Get Your Money Priorities in Order

The purpose of creating a list of priorities is to rank your financial goals in order of importance. Once you’re clear on your priorities, you will be more likely to devise a plan to achieve your goals. For example, your list of financial goals for the next 12 months could look something like: paying off 50% of your student loans, moving out of your parents’ house and giving to two charitable causes.

These events don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to pay off all of your debt before you can start planning to move out on your own or begin donating to your favorite charities.

To get going, start with priority number one, such as paying off debt. With the debt snowball method, as soon as your smallest debt is paid off, use the freed-up money to tackle your next debt even faster. Alternatively, you could choose the debt avalanche approach where you focus on paying off the highest interest-bearing debt first.

Now that you have an action plan for your financial obligations, you can tweak your budget to determine how much of your income you can use to pay down your debt and how much you can allocate to other priorities that are important to you. When it comes to charitable giving, the good news is that you don’t have to give a lot to make an impact.

Most Nonprofits are Powered by Small Donations

Most nonprofits run on the cumulative effect of small donations and appreciate all contributions, regardless of the size. America’s Charities noted in a recent survey that “If the individuals who donated $10, $25, and $52 each decided that their donation wasn’t enough to make a difference, the 2015 pledge results for [one] particular nonprofit could easily have been $100,000 or $200,000 less…”

One simple way to free up funds for donating is to save up all your change each week. Or better yet, put out a change jar at your job if your employer will allow it.

You can also put your Chime bank account rewards to good use. If you enroll in the automatic savings program, Chime rounds up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar and places this amount in your savings account. On average, if you swipe your debit card twice a day every day for a year, you’ll have about $400 in your savings account.

You can easily donate this money to your charity of choice when #GivingTuesday rolls around.

Your Time Can Be Just as Valuable as Your Money

One of the most valuable things you can donate is your time. By volunteering with an organization, you may get the chance to work directly with individuals who are in need. Opportunities like this allow you to take a look at your own circumstances and practice gratitude more often.

On top of this, you could possibly pick up some new skills along the way which may be valuable as you seek to take your career to the next level.

Not sure where to start? Check out your town’s Salvation Army, church or library to see if they are in need of volunteers. Or register with Volunteer Match to find a local cause to get involved with.

Ask Your Employer to Help

In addition to these options, you can also check out your company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy to see how your employer can get involved. Most organizations will match employee contributions dollar-for-dollar while others will even triple or quadruple these amounts.

Some corporations also offer volunteer grant programs, which means they provide monetary donations to organizations where employees volunteer on a consistent basis. You’ll typically need to provide a time sheet confirming the hours you volunteered before your company will send in a donation. For example, a company could offer a $250 payment to a nonprofit for every 15 hours that you volunteer. This is an impressive opportunity because you can donate your time and raise money on behalf of your favorite cause.

Charitable Giving is a Smart Tax Move

Apart from the altruistic reasons of being a do-gooder, charitable giving also yields benefits come tax season. In addition to monetary contributions, many organizations also accept physical goods, such as clothing, furniture or canned food. However, before stopping by a charity with a car full of stuff you’re no longer using, check to see if the organization accepts in-kind donations. Also, remember to ask whether your contribution is tax deductible and make sure to get a receipt.

According to the IRS, you can generally deduct anywhere from 20% to 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). However, if you choose to take the standardized deduction, you won’t be able to deduct any charitable contributions.

Be Careful Who You Give to

Before you give to an organization, check to see if it has been properly vetted. There are many scams out there that claim to be legitimate yet they are actually fronts to fund personal coffers. Sites like GuideStar, GreatNonprofits, and Charity Navigator are helpful because they provide independent reviews on various nonprofits. Charity Watch also provides details on how organizations actually use the funds you donate, ensuring that you make the most intelligent giving decision possible.

Armed with these guidelines, it’s time for you to flex your altruistic muscles and see how charitable giving opens doors for those in need. You may be surprised to find your sense of purpose without breaking the bank or sacrificing your debt-free dreams.

 

The Chime Weekly Roundup: Heartfelt Giving

The much anticipated holiday weekend is almost here, and with it will come family, gifts, and joy. Before the big day, and the holidays come to a close, celebrate the spirit of the season with a few special gifts that come from the heart, and by donating to a meaningful charity. Looking onward to the new year, explore financial resolutions that will bring you success, as well as ways to avoid the financial hangover from the holidays.

Read on and enjoy these four financial posts just in time for all the festivities.

1. What to say to your friend who still doesn’t know what to get their family or friends…

Think outside the box. Literally, outside the gift box. Worried you can’t give a gift simply because you didn’t shop early enough? Give some of your time and help a loved one get a space organized, do a quick DIY project, or frame a friend’s favorite photo. There are many more ways to give than simply store-bought wonders.

2. What to say to the friend who wants to make the holiday season more meaningful…

Give to those who need it most. Find a charity you identify with and make giving simple by setting up a yearly auto-payment or noting on your calendar the day you plan to donate. Supercharge your karma, there’s no better feeling than giving to a cause expecting nothing in return.

3. What to say to your friend who is stressed about their holiday budget…

Make a money resolution. It may be building an emergency fund, creating a budget, picking up a side gig, or all three! It’s been shown having a plan, and goals, are key to financial success, and now’s the perfect time to get started.

4. What to say to your friend who always finds themselves in post-holiday debt…

New year, new you. Avoid the financial stress of having less money after the holidays by making sure you’ve planned ahead for the deficit. With any luck, the only hangover you’ll have will be from the fabulous festive wine.

We hope you enjoyed this week’s weekly roundup, and of course your weekly roundup bonus from being enrolled in our Automatic Savings account program! Visit Chime to learn more.

 

How to Keep Your Holiday Gift Spending in Check

It’s the most wonderful time of year. Good food, fun parties, and of course our inner child’s favorite part: gifts!

The holiday gift-giving tradition remains stronger than ever. In fact, consumers plan to spend an average of $935.58 during this year’s holiday shopping season according to the National Retail Federation. That’s the second highest level on record!

Clearly, it is easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and determining a reasonable amount to spend on gifts is a challenge. If you spend too little on a gift for a friend or family member, you may worry you’ll come off as cheap or unappreciative. If you spend too much, you might make the other person feel uncomfortable, and throw your budget out of whack.

Here are some tips to help you keep your spending in check without feeling like a Scrooge this holiday season:

Start with a budget

First, figure out how much you can afford to spend based on your income. The unofficial rule of thumb is to spend no more than 1.5% of your annual income on holiday gifts. Then, make a list of all of your gift recipients and check it twice (Santa’s watching). Shop for the most important people first: your spouse, kids, parents, etc. Then use whatever is left to buy gifts for your friends, extended family or co-workers.

Organize a Secret Santa event

Simplify your gift-giving and create a fun, festive holiday gathering with a Secret Santa present swap. Secret Santa swaps allow you to set a budget for gifts upfront so there’s no stressing over how much to spend. You can randomly assign gift recipients to each individual within a group. Go low tech by assigning someone in the group to drawing names from a hat, or use sites like Elfster to match people and collaborate on gift ideas secretly before the big reveal.

Give it a theme

Decide on a singular theme that provides gift options for everyone within a reasonable price range. For example, beer fans can buy decide to buy each other six-packs from their favorite microbreweries. Other theme ideas include books, board games, or records for the music-lovers. The best part about a theme is that it will help establish a general price range without having to limit anyone to a specific dollar amount.

Remember, it really is the thought that counts

You hear it all the time, but it’s actually true. Research has shown that that gift-receivers don’t appreciate expensive presents that much more than less expensive gifts. What really matters is being a thoughtful gift giver. Look for gifts that build connections, provide unique experiences, and demonstrate how much you know them. When in doubt you can always ask them to chime in with a suggestion or two.

 

How to Avoid Breaking the Bank as a Wedding Guest

Ah, wedding season. The time when your friends are pronouncing their love to the soft sounds of Michael Buble, while your wallet slowly weeps in the background. Here you are, hundreds of dollars deep on a present. Your suit set you back $2,000. And the hotel you’ve picked for a crash landing charged you an extra $100 for a roll-away. The dollars start to add up in your head and you quickly move to boycotting weddings forever.

With Millennials forking out $893 per wedding they attend (up 27% from the general population) on average, we don’t blame you. However, before giving up completely, we have a few tips that can help you cut costs and be better prepared to spend once the big day comes. Here are five ways you can save on attending your next wedding:

Location. Location. Location.

If the location fits, turn the wedding trip into one of your annual vacations. Doing so will help you look at the event and trip as part of your yearly travel budget, rather than an additional unforeseen expense.

Set up an automated savings account.

Start saving early. Seriously. There’s no sense in waiting until the last minute or charging everything to a credit card that you’ll spend months paying off. Once you decide to RSVP, set up an automatic savings system that pulls money from your spending account into a savings account. It’s a great way to subtly force yourself to put funds aside for the celebrations.

Throw down on thoughtful group gifts.

Traditional wedding etiquette says attendees should spend as much on a gift as the soon-to-be-married spent on each guest. Considering the average wedding costs $32,000 and wedding attendees range from 50-500, it might be a stretch to keep the old tradition alive.

Millennials are driven by authenticity. Use this to create a less expensive but thoughtful gift (Note: This does not mean ignore the registry—it’s there for a reason). Find some items on the registry that can be presented together. Get some friends to include other unique pieces, with a bar theme for example. Carefully curating a gift wins a lot of points and you can easily get away with cheaper items in the process.

Ditch the hotel.

Typical hotel rates can run your personal budget over the edge, even with the blocked room discount the bride and groom may provide. Instead of booking individual hotels, get a group of friends together and rent out a house via Airbnb or VRBO. If you’re alone, consider renting out a private room as opposed to the entire apartment or house. It’s much cheaper and you won’t be spending much time there anyway.

Men: invest in a lightweight, standard suit.

Services like Rent the Runway are perfect for women who want to boast a thousand dollar dress for a fraction of the cost. However, for men it’s advantageous to invest in a lightweight, versatile suit that you can continue to use. Stick to neutral colors like black, grey or navy. Don’t get something with too much flair as you can easily change up the look with a new tie or shirt. Look for deals year-round and don’t wait until wedding season to purchase one.

Learn to say “no”.

When all else fails, then you may be faced with sending your regrets. FOMO may kick in, as will guilt, but let’s face it – the stress is not worth displacing your financial stability. Weddings will continue and you’re better off taking some of that cash and putting it away for next year’s season of “I do.”

Have other ways you save for weddings and other big life events?

 

Last-Minute Gifts With Heart

If you’re looking for some last-minute gift ideas, why not put your imagination to the test and invest in a gift to remember? Instead of endowing another pair of cashmere socks or a keyboard waffle maker this year, try for a gift with personal meaning or inspirational purpose.

Here we’ve curated some of the best gift guide lists to help you save money and find that perfect gift with heart, even at the last minute.

Get Charitable.
Nick Kristof’s “Gifts with Meaning” is a perceptive look at charitable causes around the globe. For instance, CureBlindness, an aptly named organization combating blindness in Asia and Africa, performs cataract surgeries completed in 10 minutes at a cost of $25 an eye. What is more fulfilling than knowing you granted someone the gift of sight?

Do-It-Yourself.
Rather than breaking the bank on impersonal items, flex those creative muscles by whipping up something memorable at home. The Huffington Post rounded up 15 simple ideas to help you get started.

Get Personal.    
This holiday season, give the people on your list gifts that have their names written all over it (literally). Buzzfeed offers a comprehensive guide featuring unique personalized items.

Memorialize It.
The art of immortalizing memories is not lost. Real Simple shares inventive ways to get your photos “out of the attic (or off your iPhone) and into your life.” Also, Pickle, a mobile app, seamlessly lets you frame your favorite digital pics and send them to loved ones along with an affectionate handwritten note.

So, have we convinced you to ditch convention and gift with heart this holiday season?

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