Dear Readers: We are always looking to save money, but the holiday season can be particularly challenging. We want the best for our families, but how can we give without breaking the bank?
We face a lot of pressure: TV commercials tell us to spend, spend, spend; kids and grands want what they want; if someone gives you a gift, you feel like you have to reciprocate.
Just hold the phone. Before spending anything, sit down, take a hard look at your finances, and create a budget. This will protect you from overspending. And think about starting a savings plan for next year.
Giving a gift doesn’t automatically mean shelling out money, anyway. A homemade batch of cookies is a delicious, thoughtful and cheap gift. Include the recipe.
At the office, a Secret Santa gift exchange works well — set a limit of, say, $20. You may have accumulated cash-back points on your credit card; use them now.
And as for the kids, your time is perhaps the best gift you can give.
DEAR HELOISE: I record and post videos online, and I’ve discovered the sound quality is better in my closet, plus I can get privacy!
What’s it all about?
DEAR HELOISE: What is a credit report? Is it important to have good credit?
— Jamie M., age 14, Dallas
Jamie, great to know you’re thinking about your future financial fitness! Your credit report is an important “report card” of sorts.
It tells your history of borrowing and paying back money. A good credit report can get you better interest rates (the money banks charge you to borrow from them) when you’re ready to buy a house, car or other large purchase.
Info on your credit report can include: your name, current and previous addresses, your birthdate and your Social Security number.
Also, it lists all the credit accounts you have open and their types: house loan (mortgage), installment loans and revolving credit (credit cards), and student loans, along with your payment history, how much you owe (the balance), the credit limit, the name of the company you owe money to and how long you’ve had credit. If you owe child support, that can show up on a credit report too.
It’s important to keep your credit report as clean as possible, to pay down debt in a timely fashion and to check your credit report for any errors.
P.S. Potential employers can check your credit report too, although this trend has fallen out of favor as of late.
Classic Heloise Hint — Wrap it up!
Dear Readers: One of my favorite classic hints is now cool again, because it’s sustainable! And that hint is: wrapping small gifts in sheet music, colorful old road maps, old letters and the Sunday comics.
Reusing and repurposing these papers will save paper, money and trees!
Now, that’s tacky
DEAR HELOISE: It’s important to let eyelash glue (and all adhesives, really) hit the air for a few seconds and get a little tacky. The stickiness improves, in my experience.
— Amy R. in Pennsylvania
Send hints to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001 or email [email protected]