6 Gift Categories Unaffected by Supply Chain Delays

This year, the excitement around what to give people for the holidays is clouded with a question: Will gifts arrive on time? According to NerdWallet’s annual Holiday Shopping Report, 68% of holiday shoppers anticipate that supply issues could cause the big-ticket items they’re looking for to be unavailable this year.

The good news for consumers is that there are still a handful of categories that are easy to buy, which means you can still shop, wrap and gift presents without worrying that they’ll get stuck on a container ship thousands of miles away.

“This is a year to be more creative in your gift-giving,” says Kerri Camp, associate professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Tyler. “Money is tight for many people, and the cost of goods has gone up, but you can give things that aren’t as reliant on the supply chain.”

Here are six categories of gifts that aren’t directly impacted by international supply chain delays:

1. Products and services from local small businesses

“My first tip to consumers is to shop local. Now is the time to go visit your local, small retailers, because they will have everything in stock and will want to sell them,” says Jane Boyd Thomas, professor of marketing at Winthrop University in South Carolina. “You can also get additional perks like gift wrapping and in-house personalization.”

It’s also a way to support the community. “We all did a lot of Amazon this last year and are feeling like we want to support local businesses so they don’t disappear,” says Michelle Madhok, online shopping expert and founder of deals site SheFinds. Indeed, 35% of holiday shoppers say they will shop more for holiday gifts at local and small businesses this year to support their community, according to the NerdWallet survey.

Thomas includes experiences in this category, too, and recommends giving gifts such as tickets to your local museum or theater, or gift certificates to restaurants or a local spa. “People are more interested in experiences than things,” she says.

2. Edible and perishable goods

“Perishable food items can’t stay in shipping containers so go by other methods, like air. We aren’t seeing supply chain disruptions on airplanes, so it’s much easier to get those items in stock,” Camp says. Shoppers can also shop online for monthly subscriptions for items like food, flowers and coffee, so gift recipients continue to receive boxes all year long.

At 1-800-Flowers.com, which includes brands like Harry & David and Wolferman’s Bakery, spokesperson Kathleen Waugh said that many items — including baked goods, candy and pears — originate from the United States, so they don’t face international delays.

In an email, Waugh explained that the company expects strong demand this season and has worked to prepare for it. Last-minute shoppers can also send gift notifications electronically, and the recipient can accept or exchange it before it is sent.

3. Handmade arts and crafts

At Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade goods, many sellers make items from home with supplies they already have on hand or that are locally sourced. Shoppers can also message sellers to confirm the items are available for timely shipping.

Brandi Ann Garcia Salinas, who runs the WhimsyTreeLane shop at Etsy along with her husband Rodrigo, makes wooden toys, including peg dolls and nesting dolls. “International stocks don’t affect us because we are selling what is already available,” she says. If some supplies are slightly delayed, as they can be sometimes, then she just shifts what she sells, such as selling a different size doll that she can make based on the supplies she already has in stock.

“A handmade business can adjust,” she says. Garcia Salinas, who is based in Fort Myers, Florida, says she expects demand for handmade items like hers to be high this season, so she encourages shoppers to place their orders by the first week of December.

4. Products that are made in America

At the Made In America Store, hundreds of toys, games, cookware, paper supplies and more are ready to ship, and all of the items are made in the United States. “We don’t need anything off a shipping container,” says Mark Andol, owner and founder of the store, which has a flagship location in Elma, New York. “My advice for shoppers is to think about buying U.S.-made things this year.”

The toys at Andol’s store include yo-yos, trucks and puzzles, but not electronics, which Camp says is especially beneficial for kids this year. “Kids have been inundated with electronics over the last year and a half, and it’s a good time to get back into arts and crafts, games, books, science experiments — things that enhance their creativity without electronics,” she says. Since many electronic items come from overseas, you can also avoid shipping delays by skipping them and focusing on more traditional toys instead.

5. Digital gifts

“This is the year of the downloadable gift,” Madhok says. While it might be hard to find a particular video game cartridge for sale, for example, you can download the digital version directly to your gaming system. Or, give a digital gift card, online subscription or digital custom artwork. Madhok recommends pairing digital gifts with something tangible to wrap, such as an iTunes gift certificate along with a nice bowl and popcorn.

6. Donations in people’s names

Donating to charity in someone’s name is especially appreciated if it lines up with the recipient’s interests, Thomas says. “We’ve seen a shift away from mass consumerism since 2019, and the end of the year is always a great time financially to give,” she says.

Whatever category you choose to shop, Camp offers one more tip: “Be patient with your shopping list, have a backup plan and shop early.”

Kimberly Palmer writes for NerdWallet. Email: kpalmer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @kimberlypalmer.

Image from: 123rf.com

Image ID: 128319728

Get Ahead of Holiday Debt With a Payoff Plan

In a holiday season that many of us will spend apart from loved ones, gift-giving might feel even more important than usual. After all, if you can’t travel to see family, at least you can see them unwrap gifts over a video call, right?

And just as many families will use a video service for holiday celebrations this year, many will also turn to credit cards to cover their expressions of love. Three-quarters of holiday shoppers are planning to use credit cards to purchase gifts this year, according to a NerdWallet survey of 2,049 U.S. adults conducted online by The Harris Poll.

Using credit cards can be a great way to earn rewards or get cash back, but make sure you know how to dig out of the debt you ring up. Otherwise, you might be still paying off the debt late into next year, something 33% of 2019 holiday shoppers who used credit cards said they were still doing when surveyed in September.

Here’s how to handle holiday debt.

Take stock of what you owe — and what you can pay

First, catalog your holiday debt. Log into each credit account and note the balance and interest rate. Consider creating a simple spreadsheet or using a debt tracker to keep accounts organized. If you have debt that’s not on a credit card, such as a shopping loan from a company like Klarna, list that, too.

With your debts sorted, turn to your budget. The 50/30/20 budget is an easy template. With this approach, half of take-home pay goes toward necessities, like housing and groceries. Then, 30% goes toward wants, like takeout or a nice bottle of Champagne to celebrate bidding farewell to 2020 on New Year’s Eve. Lastly, 20% of your income goes toward debt and savings.

As you hash out your budget, pin down how much money you can allocate toward debt each month. Divide the total debt by that amount to estimate how fast you can rid yourself of debt, keeping in mind that accruing interest can increase the balances.

Focusing on what you can pay monthly helps make your debt more manageable, says Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, a Vermont-based wealth psychology expert who helps people understand the personal factors of money decisions.

“Ask what you can reasonably pay off each week or each month and really work at achieving it,” Burns Kingsbury says. “From a psychological standpoint, this helps you feel a sense of success, and the more successful you feel, the more motivated you are to continue that behavior.”

Find your payoff path

Your best route to resolving holiday debt depends on your cash flow, credit score and personal preferences. Here are a few:

Pay off the full balance with the first statement

If you have the cash, this is the fastest way to deal with debt — and the cheapest, since you avoid paying interest. According to the NerdWallet shopping survey, 35% of holiday shoppers who added credit card debt in 2019 took this approach.

Roll a snowball or kick off an avalanche

The “debt snowball” and “debt avalanche” are two popular debt payoff methods. Which is right for you depends on your financial priorities.

With the debt snowball method, you focus on paying off the smallest balance first, then roll the amount you were paying on that first debt into the next largest. The amount you’re paying on the focus debt keeps growing, like a snowball rolling downhill. You might choose this if you need the early wins from paying off the first accounts to keep you motivated.

The debt avalanche method may be best if you want to pay as little in interest as possible. With this route, you prioritize paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first, regardless of balance size. Again, when that first debt is done, you put the amount you were paying on that into the next highest interest account, repeating until you’re debt-free.

Consider a balance transfer card

To avoid costly credit card interest, look into taking out a balance transfer credit card with a 0% APR promotional period, says Mike Cocco, an Equitable financial adviser based in Nutley, New Jersey.

“Once you have that, you’re eliminating interest, which can allow you to pay off debt a lot quicker,” Cocco says. “Then, be cognizant of when the 0% APR period runs out and work backwards to create a reverse Christmas Club for paying off your debt. If you have $1,000 on the card and 12 months interest-free, you have to pay at least $83 a month.”

To get a 0% balance transfer offer, you’ll need good to excellent credit. In general, that means a score of 690 or higher, although credit scores alone don’t guarantee approval. Issuers will look at your income, existing debts and other information.

Regardless of which debt payoff method you choose, the important thing is to find a plan and commit to it. Taking decisive action to resolve your debt can ensure you are debt-free faster — and maybe let you start building up savings for the 2021 holiday season.

Sean Pyles writes for NerdWallet. Email: spyles@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SeanPyles.

The article Get Ahead of Holiday Debt With a Payoff Plan originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Image provided by 123rf.com

Image ID: 93447941

Should You Choose a Point-of-Sale Loan to Gift Now and Pay Later?

A point-of-sale loan lets you break down a purchase into a series of smaller payments, so you can buy now and pay later.

In recent years, point-of-sale financing has rapidly expanded in the United States, with lenders like Klarna, Afterpay and Affirm now partnering with major retailers, including Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and Walmart, to bring the option to consumers.

Choosing a point-of-sale loan can make sense if it charges zero to minimal interest and the payments don’t stress your budget. But if the interest rate is high, consider other types of loans to finance your purchase — even if they’re less convenient.

How to get a point-of-sale loan

To apply for a point-of-sale loan, you’ll need to create an account with the lender. This is usually integrated directly into your checkout experience.

Once you opt in, you’ll provide basic personal details like your name, date of birth and address. You may also be asked for your Social Security number, and most companies will perform a soft credit check, which does not impact your score.

You’ll then see the breakdown of your payment plan options. Point-of-sale loans divide your balance into installments, spread out evenly over an agreed-upon repayment term, with the first installment due at checkout.

For example, if your total is $100 with a zero-interest, two-month repayment plan that comes due every two weeks, you would pay four installments of $25. After you input your payment information and billing address, and agree to the terms and conditions, your debit or credit card will be charged for the first payment and automatically charged every two weeks until your balance is paid in full.

Just like applying for a store credit card, the whole process takes anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. The approval decision is instantaneous.

Depending on the financing company, interest and late fees may be applied.

Are POS loans a good idea?

Point-of-sale financing can be a good option when you need to make a purchase you can’t cover outright and the installments fit comfortably in your budget. You should also look to pay zero to minimal interest.

Consider a POS loan if:

You’re new to credit: Companies that offer point-of-sale financing have more lenient criteria when deciding whether to approve you for a loan. Though some lenders check your credit score, others focus on the funds available on your debit or credit card, the repayment term and the price of your purchase.

Some companies also report your payment history, which can help your credit score if you make all payments on time.

You’re making a big, one-time purchase: Point-of-sale loans are useful when you need to get a new mattress, piece of furniture or some other big-ticket item, but don’t have a credit card or prefer the simplicity of fixed monthly payments.

You won’t pay much interest: While some retailers may offer zero-interest rates, that won’t always be the case. For example, annual percentage rates at Affirm can be as high as 30%. To finance a purchase of $800 on a 12-month repayment plan at 25% APR, you would pay $113.68 in interest.

You can afford the payments: The convenience of point-of-sale financing may tempt you to overspend. If you carry a balance on your credit cards or have other debt, taking a loan for nonessential purchases is not a good idea.

You plan to keep the item: If you want to exchange or return your purchase, you typically have to work directly with the retailer, not the lender. If you don’t get a full refund, you may still have to pay back part of your loan or risk a hit to your credit.

Where to get a POS loan

Unlike other types of loans, you don’t need to shop around for the right lender for a point-of-sale loan. The lender is determined based on the stores you shop at, and the biggest players are Affirm, Afterpay and Klarna.

Affirm works with trendy wellness retailers like Peloton, Casper and Mirror and negotiates its loan eligibility criteria and interest rates with each individual retailer, meaning your repayment term options and interest rate can change based on where you shop. While some of Affirm’s partner stores charge zero interest, others can charge up to 30% APR. Affirm never charges late fees.

Afterpay, which partners with well-established retailers like Old Navy, Gap and Bed Bath & Beyond, offers a more straightforward model. Regardless of the retailer, you will make four interest-free installments that are due every two weeks. These installments are divided equally, though your first payment could be higher if your purchase is large.

As long as you pay on time, there are no additional fees with Afterpay. However, if your payment is not received within 10 days of the due date, you will be charged a maximum fee of $8.

Klarna differentiates itself by focusing primarily on its mobile app experience. Once you download the Klarna app, you can shop at stores like Sephora, Foot Locker and Macy’s using the Klarna payment plan — your total balance divided into four payments, paid every two weeks, with zero interest. If Klarna is unable to collect a payment after two attempts, it will charge a late fee of $7.



Late fee


0% – 30%

Varies based on retailer




4 installments, due every 2 weeks




4 installments, due every 2 weeks


Alternatives to POS loans

If you’re making a larger purchase, you may want to research what annual percentage rate you could get on a personal loan. Like a point-of-sale loan, you can pre-qualify with a lender and see your rates without affecting your credit.

If you qualify for a lower APR on a personal loan than you do on a point-of-sale loan, the personal loan will likely be the more affordable option.

If you have good or excellent credit, you could also try qualifying for a 0% APR credit card. Some cards offer an introductory period up to 18 months, during which no interest will be charged on any purchases. You may also be offered a sign-up bonus or access to a rewards program.

If a point-of-sale loan offers a similar term but with interest or fees applied, a 0% card would be the cheaper option.

Jackie Veling is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: jveling@nerdwallet.com.

The article Should You Choose a Point-of-Sale Loan to Gift Now and Pay Later? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Image provided by 123rf.com

Image ID: 52812376

The Case for Shopping on Black Friday in 2020

Like most things in 2020, Black Friday won’t be the same this year.

But at least in the case of holiday shopping, change might not necessarily be a bad thing.

If you’re thinking about shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, here’s why you should — and at least one reason you shouldn’t.

The day still holds meaning

Retailers kicked off Black Friday sales back in mid-October to coincide with Amazon’s Prime Day. There’s been an onslaught of discounts ever since.

But no matter how many sales retailers label throughout the year as “Black Friday” discounts, there’s still something special about the day itself. This year, it falls on Nov. 27.

The day after Thanksgiving is a “designated consumer shopping day,” says Tom Arnold, professor of finance at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

That’s why retailers continue to market it and offer savings. Based on prior years, there will still be something special left, even after all of the early deals.

Retailers typically hold on to some fresh deals to release over Thanksgiving weekend, according to Katherine Cullen, senior director for industry and consumer insights at the National Retail Federation. She recommends acting on early deals this holiday season if you see a price you like though.

Official Black Friday deals often start on Thanksgiving Day and last into the weekend. They’ll be followed by Cyber Monday sales on Nov. 30.

You can save money

These sales make Black Friday shopping a fun family tradition. But it’s also a great way to save cold, hard cash.

In fact, that could make the discount bonanza even more attractive this year, according to Christopher Newman, associate professor of marketing at the University of Mississippi.

“It may be especially popular this year since many consumers are feeling financial strain due to economic and employment problems caused by COVID-19,” Newman said in an email. “Many consumers will likely not be in the financial position to pass up the price savings afforded by Black Friday.”

Cullen says wellness, personal care and comfort items as well as those for the home have been “popping” during the pandemic as consumer demand has increased. Hobbies like baking and holiday traditions like wearing matching pajamas are also popular.

You can likely expect retailers to discount products that appeal to pandemic conditions. Best Buy’s early Black Friday deals included markdowns on laptops and wireless headphones. Target slashed prices on things like video games and toys.

In-store shopping is so 2019

In an effort to promote safety in the pandemic, most stores are closing on Thanksgiving this year. They’re also bringing sales online — a move that’s both convenient and cost-effective for Black Friday shoppers.

“We’ve heard retailers saying, ‘We’re probably going to offer the same deals both online and in store on Black Friday so that people can shop in the way that’s most comfortable and safest for them,’” Cullen says.

That means many retailers won’t be enticing customers to brave the crowds for in-store-only doorbusters, she adds. That’s welcome news for consumers.

“Many shoppers will still feel uncomfortable going to brick-and-mortar retail stores, and many state and local governments are still imposing reduced capacity limits inside stores,” Newman said.

Aside from the safety and convenience of not having to leave home, Arnold suspects this head-to-head online competition will also be a monetary win for shoppers.

“I think the consumer is going to benefit because now it’s going to be a lot easier to compare prices with the competition online,” Arnold says.

In the past, he says, retailers could lure shoppers into stores, and consumers would often buy the products, even if they were listed online for a slightly better price. That’s because at a physical store, you have the item with you and don’t have to worry about shipping delays — even if you pay a little more for it.

But exercise restraint

As in the past, for every impressive Black Friday deal you see, there’s likely another deal that’s less worthwhile. Set a budget ahead of time so you know exactly what you’re looking to purchase and how much you’re comfortable spending.

Be cautious about your health, too. Look into a store’s safety protocols to see if you’ll feel safe being in a physical store. If you won’t, many retailers allow you to buy online and pick up curbside, Cullen points out.

And if you’ve already shopped more than enough this holiday season during the impressive early sales, it’s fair to say you can sit out Black Friday to avoid overspending.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @CourtneyNerd.

The article The Case for Shopping on Black Friday in 2020 originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Image provided by 123rf.com

Image ID: 111688545

How to Protect Your Credit When Shopping for the Holidays

The rules for protecting credit during the holidays usually don’t vary much from year to year, but in 2020, COVID-19 has changed where and how we shop. And money’s tight for a lot of people. About 40% of Americans said they plan to spend less on holidays this year due to the pandemic, according to a recent NerdWallet survey.

On the other hand, some may be tempted to overspend if mortgage forbearance, loan deferrals or credit card concessions have helped them build savings. But if holiday purchases leave shoppers unable to cover even minimum payments when those other bills resume, their credit will be badly damaged, says Jeff Richardson, senior vice president for marketing and communications at VantageScore, a credit scoring company.

Whether you’re being more generous or watching every penny, chances are you’re shopping online. Tom Quinn, vice president of FICO Scores, a credit scoring and data company, warns that consumers may be at higher risk of identity theft this year. It’s all too easy to go for deals we hope are real or fall victim to increasingly sophisticated phishing messages.

Here’s how experts recommend guarding your credit.

Check your credit score

Many credit cards and personal finance websites offer free credit scores, Quinn says. Choose one that offers a clear explainer of why your score is what it is. Understanding the factors that hold you back — for example, too many cards with high balances — can help you make spending decisions.

How to do it: Pick a source you like and stick with it. Free scores vary in the credit bureau data and scoring model used.

And look ahead, Richardson suggests. If you’re planning to shop for a car or home loan next year, start thinking about your credit health now, he says.

Track how much of your credit limits you use

One of the things that matter most to your score is how much of your credit limits you’re using. That’s called “credit utilization,” and it’s best to stay under 30%. If you can, aiming even lower is better.

How to do it: Many credit cards offer account alerts to help you keep track. Sign up for those, and use your free credit score source to track credit utilization as well.

When you make a list, set a spending limit

According to NerdWallet’s holiday shopping survey, about a third of those who used credit cards to buy gifts were still paying for the 2019 holidays when surveyed in September 2020. Adding to existing balances means higher credit utilization, which can hurt credit scores. Richardson cautions against taking out a loan to “make room” on cards for holiday spending.

How to do it: Find gift ideas that will bring joy without costing much — purchases made using credit card points, framed original art from your child, sharing skills you have. The internet is full of good suggestions. And if money’s tight all around; a suggestion to skip exchanging gifts this year could be welcome.

Think twice about applying for retailer-specific credit

Retailers may offer a discount if you open a credit card with them at checkout. But applying for new credit can ding your score in a few ways. You could lose a few points when the application triggers a credit check called a “hard inquiry.” If you’re approved, a new account will lower the average age of your credit. And cards tied to a specific retailer can hurt your credit utilization because they often have low limits. So make sure it’s worth it.

Quinn says a credit card tied to a specific retailer can be a good idea if it offers a meaningful discount on a big purchase. “That can be enticing,” he says. Beverly Anderson, president of Global Consumer Solutions at the credit bureau Equifax, says a card at a retailer where you frequently shop may also get you early access to sales.

How to do it: Plan ahead; don’t decide at checkout. That gives you time to investigate your odds of being approved. You don’t want to potentially lose credit score points for applying only to be denied. If you’re approved, make a plan to avoid carrying a balance because paying interest will cut into your savings.

Be skeptical, and freeze your credit

Being suspicious can keep you from becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud. Consumers may get phone calls, texts or emails requesting personal data from scammers pretending to be card issuers or retailers. Quinn says when he got a recent email with a subject line “re: your recent Amazon purchase,” his first instinct was to try to recall what he had bought. Then, he looked closer and noticed the sender’s email address wasn’t the official address for the company.

How to do it: Be leery of any communication that asks for sensitive data, such as a card or account number. Don’t click on attachments. If you think a message may be legit, independently verify contact information and initiate a call or email yourself.

Check statements carefully for purchases you didn’t make and report them to your card issuer promptly.

Freeze your credit. It’s free and you can do it by phone or online at the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can still use your credit cards, but criminals should be unable to use your personal data to open an account. Unfreezing is easy when you want to apply for credit.

Don’t let up after the holidays

When holiday bills start to arrive, pay at least the minimum on time. A payment that’s 30 days or more past due can devastate your credit score and linger on your credit report for seven years.

Consider setting up autopay to cover at least the minimum payment, Anderson says. That ensures you don’t overlook a bill, and you can always make an additional payment to wipe out more than the minimum.

Bev O’Shea is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.

The article How to Protect Your Credit When Shopping for the Holidays originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Image provided by 123rf.com

Image ID: 91530660

What to Buy (and Skip) on Black Friday 2020

Amid all of the retail chaos and change of 2020, at least one thing remains the same: the biggest sale day of the year.

Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — has a reputation as the best time of the year to buy just about anything.

But even though Black Friday still exists in 2020, it won’t be the same experience as before. Our guide can help you get the best bargains this Nov. 27.

Buy: Televisions

Low-priced electronics deals are a given on Black Friday. That won’t change this year.

Last year, Target sold a 65-inch TV in stores for only $279.99. Walmart, too, had a 65-inch TV for just $278. This Black Friday, you’re guaranteed to find discounts on TVs, as well as tablets and laptops.

As for some stocking stuffers to go along with your new TV, you’ll find video games, CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays deeply discounted from their original prices. In 2019, Walmart had over 50 movie titles for $1.96 apiece.

Skip: Toys

Historically, it’s best to wait until closer to Christmas to purchase dolls, action figures, play sets and other toys. You run the risk that certain items will sell out, but you may also be able to find bigger savings on what’s left.

In past years, select toys have been on sale for as much as 50% off in the final days before Christmas.

Buy: Apple products

There’s a specific electronic brand that’s popular on Black Friday: Apple. Major retail stores such as Best Buy, Target and Walmart discount Apple products each year, and previous-generation models usually see dramatic deals. These offers may include price cuts, free gift cards with purchase (up to $400 with a qualifying phone purchase on an installment plan), or a combination of both.

Target devoted an entire page of its 2019 Black Friday ad to Apple. The Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) started at $169.99 (regularly $199.99), and select App Store and iTunes gift cards were buy one, get one 30% off.

Apple discounts likely won’t disappear this Black Friday. In fact, Apple items have already been on sale in pre-Black Friday sales. Keep an eye out for deals on MacBooks, iMacs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Apple TVs.

Skip: Bedding

You’ve got the entertainment center covered, but hesitate before stocking up on supplies to refresh the look of your bedroom this Black Friday.

Every January, retailers such as Overstock, Pottery Barn and Sears host “white sales.” During these seasonal promotions, discounts on bedding, pillows, towels and linens can hit up to 70%. Expect these to come around after Jan. 1.

Buy: Gaming systems

Black Friday is big for gamers. This year, look for savings on video game systems from retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and GameStop. Expect deals on products from Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo.

You’ll also find particularly great offers on gaming bundles. These include the game console plus a combination of accessories or games.

Skip: Winter clothing

Winter clothing generally isn’t the best value on Black Friday. Retailers frequently offer big clearance sales on jackets when winter gives way to spring.

But if you need something to keep you warm before then, you’ll be able to find some bargains this Black Friday. Year after year, department stores like to offer doorbuster deals on women’s boots with select pairs for just $19.99 each.

If you miss Black Friday, don’t worry. Department stores and clothing retailers have been rolling out new sales almost daily.

Buy: Christmas decor

Blowout post-Christmas clearance sales happen every year on Dec. 26 as shoppers make their way to the store to return gifts. Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, tinsel and other seasonal trimmings reach super low prices (for obvious reasons). Prices also drop in the final weeks before Christmas.

For those reasons, Christmas decorations used to be on our list of items to skip on Black Friday. But this year, it’s less likely you’ll be at the mall shortly before Christmas. And waiting to order online could spell shipping delays.

So if you need decorations, consider scooping up deals on artificial trees and rolls of wrapping paper from home and craft stores on Black Friday. That way you’ll have your essentials in time for Christmas.

Skip: Outdoor items

Outdoor products, grills and patio furniture were already deeply discounted immediately after summer ended.

If you didn’t pick up these products at the close of this summer, wait until Memorial Day and Labor Day sales roll around next year. Another viable option is the Spring Black Friday Sale that home improvement store Lowe’s usually holds each year.

Buy: Appliances

Black Friday brings big savings on washers, dryers, refrigerators and other kitchen appliances. Retailers typically mark down home appliances by 40%. Look for similar deep discounts again this year.

You’ll find smaller appliances such as coffee makers, mixers, blenders or vacuum cleaners on sale, too. Expect deals from department stores such as Kohl’s, Macy’s and JCPenney.

Shop: Online

For the ultimate combination of convenience, safety and savings, spring for online shopping. With so many stores closed on Thanksgiving, big-box retailers are bringing their doorbusters online this Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Online shoppers will usually enjoy free shipping. Or, you can choose to make your purchases online and pick them up at the store.

Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @CourtneyNerd.

The article What to Buy (and Skip) on Black Friday 2020 originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Image provided by 123rf.com

Image ID: 42307364

5 Minimalist Tips to Make the Holidays More Affordable

After spending nearly $2,000 in gifts for her daughter’s first Christmas in 2017, Meg Nordmann knew her holiday strategy had to change.

“I totally blew it that first Christmas with her,” says the Florida-based author of “Have Yourself a Minimalist Christmas.” “I bought everything this child needed through the first five years of her life.”

Today, she is more intentional with holiday spending — a staple of the minimalist lifestyle she adopted. Minimalism eliminates distractions to free up room, time or money to do what you value. In Nordmann’s case, she avoids unnecessary spending to stay on course toward reaching early retirement with her husband.

You can use minimalist tips to keep your own financial goals on track, and still have a meaningful holiday season.

1. Review your holiday budget

This year, consumers plan to spend $998 on average on items such as gifts, food, decorations and other holiday-related purchases for themselves and their families, according to a National Retail Federation holiday survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Your budget may differ, but it’s worth considering that $1,000 could cover a month’s rent, an unexpected car repair or vet bill. Even one-fifth of that would make a decent start on an emergency fund, ideal in an uncertain economy roiled by a pandemic.

You don’t need to sacrifice gift-giving entirely. But before you start your holiday shopping, prioritize your own financial goals before determining what to spend on others.

2. Set expectations

Let family members know ahead of time if you’re changing your holiday approach. Last year, Nordmann and her family decided months in advance that they were only exchanging books.

Joshua Becker, Arizona resident and founder of the Becoming Minimalist blog, has an understanding with his family.

“I have a brother and a sister, and we’ve stopped exchanging gifts,” he says. “We just pool our money together and get one nice gift for our parents.”

They also trade off on buying gifts for each other’s kids. Becker’s teens have learned to expect gifts that include one thing they need, one thing they want and a shared family experience.

Marion Haberman, a YouTuber at the channel My Jewish Mommy Life, and her extended family have a strategy that doesn’t require a multiperson gift exchange with several people over eight nights of Hanukkah.

“We only do gifts for the kids — nieces, nephews, grandchildren — for their birthdays,” she says. “In our home, we do one present for each kid for each night.”

3. Craft your gift-giving strategy

For Haberman’s family, presents aren’t necessarily wrapped. A present can be a voucher for a jelly donut or a night of building a fort and watching movies.

Nordmann’s children usually get a gift they want, a gift they need, clothes and a book. For other family members, Nordmann and her husband are making gifts.

“We had a really good harvest for our garden this year,” she says. “We’re going to make hot sauces and papaya jelly.”

By giving thoughtful gifts that don’t hurt their budget, they can continue replenishing the income they lost during the pandemic. The setback has delayed the couple’s early retirement goals. Her husband, an auto mechanic, was unemployed for two months, and their vacation rental properties were forced to close at the same time.

4. Improvise on your holiday feast

Whether you’re planning a socially distanced holiday meal or a celebration with those in your household, look for opportunities to save.

See whether your credit card’s features have temporarily changed. For instance, to accommodate shifts in household spending, some credit card issuers have made it easier to earn or redeem rewards for groceries.

Nordmann saves on her grocery budget by visiting a local nonprofit that eliminates food waste. Some of these organizations in different cities give away soon-to-expire or dented items that are otherwise discarded.

She signs up in advance and waits in a long line, but she might find a free soon-to-expire holiday ham to freeze for later. “The savings are so worth it,” she says.

For Kim Lee, an Arizona-based minimalist and content creator at the lifestyle website Free to Family, a potluck saves money and stress. “It makes it a lot easier on the host,” she says.

5. Save on decorations and wrapping paper

Lee and her family enjoy the experience of crafting their own decorations. They make a banner out of popcorn and cranberries as they sip hot chocolate and listen to Christmas tunes or watch holiday movies.

“I’d rather have a small amount of decorations and make it a big activity, than a large amount of decorations and make it a dreadful experience,” Lee says. “It also makes it easier to clean up.”

Nordmann also makes her own decorations. Plus, she uses large rolls of general-purpose masking paper from home improvement stores to save money on gift wrapping. A branch of cedar or some evergreen adds a holiday touch.

“It looks beautiful and classic and everyone loves it, but it’s going to be drastically cheaper,” she says.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

Melissa Lambarena is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mlambarena@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @LissaLambarena.

The article 5 Minimalist Tips to Make the Holidays More Affordable originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Image provided by123rf.com

Image ID:

(How) Should I Travel for the Holidays?

Remember when we used to make plans? It was so long ago now you may not remember, but we actually used to start booking our holiday travel in the summer before prices rose to unaffordable levels. That’s right: We could predict what the world would be like months in advance back then.

Times have certainly changed; now, some travelers are starting to wonder whether and how to plan for the holidays. Does it make sense to buy plane tickets? What about using points and miles? And what are the chances of a second (or is it third?) wave of the pandemic?

I’ve spent the last few months wading through COVID-19 travel policies, spreadsheets full of airfare and hotel data and other boring industry effluvia so you don’t have to. And I’ve got a few nuggets of advice for anyone thinking about booking holiday travel.

For starters: Why rush?

Should I book now?

Years of conditioning have taught us all the perils of waiting until the last minute. But if you haven’t noticed, this year is not like the others, and travel demand is unlikely to reach normal no matter what happens in the next few months.

In other words: You shouldn’t feel any rush to book travel until you’re ready.

In fact, you might end up paying more if you book in advance rather than closer to your travel dates. Recently, I analyzed a bunch of hotel price data and found that the cost of booking the same room dropped dramatically when booking 15 days in advance, compared to booking four months in advance.

That is, the same rooms cost an average of $157 when booked within 15 days compared to $212 when booked four months in advance. And while this trend might not hold into the winter or through the holidays, it’s certainly a good indication that you’re unlikely to save money by booking hotel rooms now.

The trend isn’t quite as dramatic for airfare, though it’s possibly more remarkable, since booking within 15 days has historically been a recipe for getting fleeced.

Which airline should I fly?

This one’s easier: Delta.

We performed a big analysis of airline policies in response to COVID-19 and found that Delta had the best overall rating, with Southwest and Alaska hot on its heels.

I won’t bore you with all the details here, but some of the factors we took into consideration include:

  • Mask policy enforcement.
  • Blocking seats and limiting capacity.
  • Offering flexible change and cancellation policies.

This last bit is especially important when booking holiday travel this year: Make sure the tickets you purchase can be changed or canceled without incurring a fee. This has gotten significantly easier with various COVID-19 waivers and four major airlines, including Delta, all announcing the elimination of most change fees. Be aware of restrictions that remain around basic economy fares.

What about points and miles?

Hotel points and airline miles can usually offer good workarounds for sky-high holiday prices. Notice that pesky “usually.” Since cash prices are so low, using points and miles is unlikely to offer better than average value this year.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use miles, just that you won’t get especially good bang for your buck from them right now.

Will it be safe?

That’s the trillion-dollar question, isn’t it? I’m no epidemiologist, so I’m reluctant to wade into these waters, but there is something important to keep in mind: Where are you planning to travel in December?

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington offers public projections for the pandemic broken down by country and state. These reveal some pretty startlingly different scenarios for different parts of the country.

For example, the daily per capita infection rate in California is projected to rise from 42.6 per 100,000 today to 155 per 100,000 by December. New York state in December is projected at 30 per 100,000, up from the current 4.4. Utah’s rate is expected to skyrocket to 179 per 100,000 from today’s 13.5.

Of course, these are only projections, and nobody knows what will actually happen by December, but it’s good to keep in mind when planning travel. You don’t want to go from a relatively safe spot into a hot zone (or a hot zone into a safe spot, for that matter).

In fact, for everyone’s sake, my personal take is that we should all err on the side of staying home.

Sam Kemmis is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: skemmis@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @samsambutdif.

The article (How) Should I Travel for the Holidays? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Image provided by 123rf.com

Image ID: 97706268

How to Quickly Drop Holiday Debt

If you woke up on Jan. 1 groggy with a holiday debt hangover, you weren’t alone: 3 in 5 shoppers took on some form of debt in the previous holiday season, NerdWallet’s latest holiday shopping report found.

Much like a champagne-fueled headache, this debt can persist long after holiday merriment fades. Of those who took on holiday debt in 2018, 35% were still paying it off when surveyed in mid-September 2019, the report found. In fact, only 24% of those who incurred debt during the holidays paid it off in the first billing period.

You can beat the odds, though, and work to quickly cleanse your finances of last year’s decisions. Here’s how to figure out when you’ll be free of holiday debt and speed your payoff timeline.

Assess your debt

Before you can find your debt-free date, you’ll have to take stock of your balances. It might be a little painful, but this step sets you up for success.

“First and foremost, take an inventory of your debt,” says Michelle Goeppner, director of credit product strategy at Alliant Credit Union, a nationwide financial cooperative based in Chicago. “People may forget about a store card they took out during the holidays. What are the balances, rates you’re paying and to whom? List all those out.”

Start by pulling out all your credit cards, logging into your accounts online and assembling a list or spreadsheet with the details. Make sure you know each account’s balance and interest rate, as well as your total debt load.

Know what you can pay

With your credit card accounts sorted, turn to your budget.

“Think about what you’re capable of paying toward your debt,” says Lauren Anastasio, a Pennsylvania certified financial planner with SoFi, an online financial services company. “Evaluating your monthly cash flow is really where that starts.”

One guideline is the 50/30/20 budget, where half your income covers needs like housing, 30% goes to wants, and 20% goes to debt payments and savings. Depending on your income and your debt payoff goal, you may need to temporarily trim your “wants” money to funnel more cash to paying off debt.

Find your debt-free date

Next, make a plan to winnow down holiday debt — and figure out when you’ll be debt-free.

debt payoff calculator can do the work for you. Punch in the details of your debts and what you can pay monthly, then toggle between different payoff methods to see what might work for you and how much you might be able to save in interest or time.

The “debt snowball” and “debt avalanche” are two common payoff strategies. With the debt snowball, you focus all your extra payoff money on the smallest debts first, with the idea that getting small wins can keep you encouraged. But the debt avalanche, where you focus on highest-interest debts first, may save you time and money on interest.

Whichever method you choose, pay as much above your minimums as you can.

“If you’re only paying the minimum, you’re going to really be paying it forever,” says Tania Brown, a certified financial planner in Atlanta with SaverLife, a nonprofit that helps people build savings. “Sometimes people are really surprised by how much difference $50 can really make.”

On average, shoppers anticipated they would charge on credit cards $660 in gifts in the 2019 holiday season, according to the shopping report. If they wiped that out within four months, they would pay just $22 in interest assuming an interest rate of roughly 17%. But if they paid only the minimum on that amount, paying it off would take nearly four years — and they would incur roughly $240 in interest charges.

Boost your payoff dollars

If, after using a debt payoff calculator, you find that you’ll be paying holiday debt for months to come, use a strategy or two to boost your payoff:

  • Increase your income: You can pump some additional cash into your budget, for instance by selling things you no longer use or picking up a temporary side gig.
  • Use your tax refund: File your taxes early if you anticipate a refund and dedicate that money to wiping out debt.
  • Look into consolidation: Collapsing multiple debts into one, with a personal loan or a balance transfer credit card, means fewer bills to track and can make debt less expensive by lowering your interest rate. Compare options, but know that you’ll typically have to have good or excellent credit to qualify.

Sean Pyles is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: spyles@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SeanPyles.

The article How to Quickly Drop Holiday Debt originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Image provided by 123rf.com

Image ID: 53976367

Overshopped in December? Try These 3 Strategies to Recover

Christmas, Hanukkah and the holiday season have come and gone — likely taking quite a bit of your cash with them.

You can’t magically make more money appear in your bank account. And it’s definitely too late to ask Santa for a check. But here are three of the next best things you can do.

1. Adjust

It’s not surprising if you spent more than you can afford over the past couple of months. After all, we often do this to make loved ones happy, says Richard K. Colarossi, a certified financial planner and partner at Colarossi & Williams in Islandia, New York.

But now it’s time to get back on budget. Cut back your regular spending in an attempt to save more money to free up funds for debt repayment and savings.

Colarossi estimates that bringing your lunch to work for the next few weeks and skipping a $5 cup of coffee could save at least $100 in a month.

There are other things you can do, too. Consider minimal changes such as setting your thermostat a degree or two lower and cutting down on an online shopping habit.

For more substantial savings, bundle your cable and internet, cut out rideshare services, cancel some music and streaming subscriptions or renegotiate the price of your utility bills.

Pay down high-interest debt as soon as possible, Colarossi advises. And, if you’re able, make it a point to fund your savings plan as much as you can, even if it’s a small amount.

2. Avoid

You can also control spending by managing commitments over the next 12 months. If you’re already struggling after paying for gifts, try not to overload yourself with more financial obligations.

“Plan ahead for abstention,” said Kelly Goldsmith, an associate professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University, in an email. “Don’t book a vacation, or commit to attending a wedding that you know will be accompanied by a hefty price tag.”

Allow some time to get your bearings before you take on new, out-of-the-ordinary expenses.

3. Encourage

Give yourself positive reinforcement along the way. The first month might be the hardest, but it will get better. Goldsmith says cutting spending now will boost your confidence and make it easier to save in February, March and beyond.

“Compare your credit card bills from November, December and January and blow your own mind with how much less you spent,” she said.

As you keep saving, you’ll figure out which techniques work (or don’t work) for your lifestyle. Perhaps you’ll want to keep coffee in your budget after all, but discover that you can do without monthly beauty box deliveries.

Then, look ahead so you can put yourself in a more desirable financial position later this year. Colarossi points out that, ideally, sticking with a budget should produce a surplus that can be used for holiday spending.

Depending on what happened this time around, you may need to budget more money for the next holiday season — or budget the same amount and spend less.

Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @CourtneyNerd.

The article Overshopped in December? Try These 3 Strategies to Recover originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Image provided by 123rf.com

Image ID: 25271765