Entries tagged with “money”.
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Tue 2 Mar 2010
(c) March 2, 2010
Each Christmas, I ask for the Life’s Little Instructions desk calendar for the coming year.
I love all the nuggets of wisdom it offers and I keep it on the counter in the kitchen “staging area” (the place where the mail and bills stack up and the cell phone charges) so I can glance at it often as I am going about my day.
Today’s “little instructions” calendar page really struck a chord with me—and I think it will with you, too. It says, simply:
“Treasure time. No amount of money can retrieve a single second.”
Wow. This one really hit me.
A year and a half ago, I went on a family “girls weekend” to Chicago to celebrate my aunt’s birthday, and I ended up missing some of the fun because I was stuck dealing with a work crisis for half of the weekend. There is nothing like stuffing yourself into a corner of the cosmetics section at Macy’s on Michigan Avenue on a crowded Saturday afternoon and frantically typing missives on your BlackBerry to folks back at the office to make you aware that your work and life are completely out of whack.
No amount of money can retrieve a single second.
A year ago, I went on vacation with some friends to Las Vegas. My friend had specifically asked me if I could leave my BlackBerry at home this time. I said I would do my best, but I still found myself sneaking into the women’s locker room at the spa in my robe, in between the hot stone massage and the pedicure, to quickly address a problem back at the office. At the spa, for pete’s sake!
No amount of money can retrieve a single second.
Six months ago, I asked my husband what we should do for vacation. “I thought you didn’t take vacations anymore,” he said to me.
No amount of money can retrieve a single second.
Over the summer, a close family friend died unexpectedly. Several months later, in the middle of the night, my parents called with the news that my uncle had been killed in an accident—on a highway he traveled daily for a decade. We miss them so much. We were blessed to have spent many wonderful moments with them…but what if we hadn’t made the time?
No amount of money can retrieve a single second.
The fact of the matter is that (1) Life deals us what life deals us, and (2) We are the only ones who have the ultimate authority to be the stewards of our time, in a way that aligns with our values.
One of the reasons I left my job and started my own business is because I reached a point where enough was enough. I wanted to be the captain of my own destiny, and that included having the final say on where and how I spend my time. Obviously it’s not all “fun and games” all the time – There are still responsibilities and deadlines and clients who need attention. But I didn’t want to miss out on another thing I value, personally or professionally.
Individuals in job transition—whether looking for that next job opportunity or starting a new business venture—may not have the benefit of a regular, robust paycheck, but we do have an even more important gift on our hands in the interim: the gift of time.
Take full advantage of this gift. How will you spend it? Here are a few ideas:
Make things right with the people who’ve been craving your time and attention. Maybe, like me, you were working in a pressure cooker, glued to your BlackBerry and dealing with one crisis or issue after another in a high-stress work environment. Or, alternatively, perhaps you were so burned out that you were too tired to participate in activities with your family or friends, even when you were available. If you blew off someone important to you, even if they understand that you were in survival mode at the time, you owe them an apology. Do it today. Make things right again.
Create a time “hierarchy” list in which you assign all key areas of your life a priority. If spending time with your kids is your top priority, rank that “No. 1.” Maybe volunteering at your church or synagogue is your “No. 2” priority. Ranking these key areas of your life will help you make better decisions about where your time goes.
Set aside a few minutes each week to call or e-mail a friend, loved one or colleague. Let them know what they mean to you. Even if you can’t be with them frequently, let them know they are important to you—in your own words.
Identify two or three drains on your time and take steps to remove them.
Perhaps you were cornered into volunteering for a project that doesn’t rank high on your priority list. Or, maybe you find yourself continuing certain habits that no longer fit your current lifestyle.
Write down a “mission statement” for how you will better maintain boundaries to manage your work/life flow.
For example, will you promise to only check your BlackBerry once a day while you’re on vacation? Or, better yet, will you arrange for a trusted friend or colleague to be a first point of contact for your business dealings while you are away? If you are invited to two events at the same time, will you always give priority to the family activity or the activity involving your closest friends?
Identify areas of your life where you are suffering from “diminishing returns.”
I know some people who will drive 30 miles to save $1.00 at a grocery store. And while it’s certainly true that many of us are being more fiscally careful during this down economy, are you wasting your time for such a small return? There are likely several areas of your life where you are saving money but wasting an awful lot of time. See if you can’t bring these a little closer into alignment.
Do the thing you’ve always been wanting to do but never had the time.
Maybe it’s taking a class at the gym that was always out of reach because it’s in the middle of the work day. Perhaps it’s working from a funky little coffee shop, which your old boss never would’ve given you permission to do. Or, maybe you simply relish the ability to take a book and sit in the park for a few minutes each afternoon.
We are blessed with the gift of time. And, at the end of our lives, that’s what we will remember and treasure most of all. Why not use this time of transition to really focus on what matters most?
Wed 27 Jan 2010
By Diva Nikki
(c) January 27, 2010
In one of my recent posts, I talked a bit about how the journey with a spouse in career transition can be a long one.
So what do you do when the magical end date for unemployment insurance is getting closer and closer at hand? How, you may ask, do you cut things back even further when you’ve already been cutting back?
I’m going to preface the following with a disclaimer. (Thank you, 11 years of working with lawyers in a highly regulated industry.) I am not a financial advisor, nor do I suggest any of the following as official financial advice. You really need to consult your own professional financial about what makes sense for your situation and what your options are. What I do want to offer, however, is food for thought from my own life.
Here are some things to consider as the journey gets longer.
Look at your budget…again.
There are “nice to haves” and “need to haves.” For example, saving for retirement is a really important strategy. And…it also won’t kill our entire future if we stop investing for a few months.
Here’s an example. Our cable bill just went up. And we started thinking hard about whether cable is a necessity or just a nicety. Especially in the days of Hulu.com – is it worth over $100 a month for the convenience of flipping through a bunch channels just because we’re bored? Or could we get by with Internet and more time to read books?
Protect the income you do have.
As the sole breadwinner, I decided to take out a disability insurance policy for myself, above what my employer already covered. It’s an added expense (at a time we don’t need additions), but for me it was worth knowing that if something happened to me while my husband’s still looking for work, the income we do have would be safer.
Encourage your spouse to start broadening the job search.
Undesirable as this prospect may be, if the realities of this economy and job market are such that he’s just not finding a job that fulfills his worth and experience, it might be time to broaden the options. Discuss the possibility of looking for less senior positions or positions in former fields of expertise. Or, if your family situation would allow, discuss the possibility of broadening the geographic part of the search. There may be more opportunity in other areas.
If dire straits are truly near, consider part-time work.
Not that any career professional (let alone an MBA) would relish the thought, but asking if “you want fries with that” would at least help make ends meet if you need to make up for unemployment insurance when it ends. And a part-time schedule would allow for networking and job searching time. If you want to be really supportive, you could consider part-time work, too. Perhaps working weekends at a shop you love.
Consider the value of your clutter.
Do you have things around the house you don’t use but may have value? For instance, since my husband and I got iPods, we realized we never used our CDs anymore. So we sold them to a used book store and made several hundred dollars. Look around to see if there might be things you could trade in for cash.
Hang in there and keep supporting each other.
You will get through this. Together. There will be a better future.
Fri 15 Jan 2010
By Dan d’Man
(c) January 15, 2010
When I told friends and co-workers that I was starting my own business as a writer and communications consultant, I received all sorts of advice and insights.
Much of it was great and saved me a lot of headaches. Still, there were a few things I wish I would’ve known before taking the leap. Things like…
Doing books “by hand” just doesn’t add up
When I started my business, I didn’t take the time to set up an electronic accounting/invoicing system — something like Quicken. I remember thinking, “My business isn’t big enough to warrant something like that.”
Well, not long after, my business became too big to do my bookkeeping “by hand.” But then, I was too busy with work to take the time to set up an electronic system.
Do yourself a favor and take the time to set up your bookkeeping/invoicing system before you start your business.
You should treat your business like … a business
Successful businesspeople from all professions stress the importance of investing in your business. They recommend setting aside a certain percentage of your profits (10 percent is a frequent recommendation) for this purpose.
Whether it’s updating your Web site, attending educational conferences, refreshing your marketing materials — it is important to sharpen your skills and add tools to your business resources.
On paper, it’s an easy concept to grasp. In practice, it can sometimes be difficult to actually write out those checks.
I recommend setting up a separate bank account in which you can regularly deposit a percentage of your business income. Having it already set aside can make it a little easer — psychologically — to spend it for its intended purpose. (Note: I also recommend this model for your quarterly business taxes.)
Freedom is a relative term
When you’re a one-person company it’s rare that you ever feel totally free from work.
When I’m on vacation, I long for my corporate-employee days. It was so nice to be able to leave an out-of-office voicemail directing any immediate needs to another person in my department. That allowed me to truly unplug and enjoy my time away.
As the owner of a one-person business, I have no one I can direct calls to. It’s difficult to totally detach myself from “What if” scenarios. “What if my biggest client calls and has an urgent need? What if that company finally calls back and wants to bring me in on a project?”
And because nothing gets done while you’re gone, you do at least two weeks’ worth of work to prepare for a one-week absence. I have a real hard time telling my clients, “You know that really important project of yours? Yeah, just hang on and I’ll get right back on it when I return from Cabo.”
Running your own business isn’t impossible
Knowing — or at least assuming — this from the first day I started my business would’ve saved me a lot of stress and lost sleep.
I worried about getting clients, keeping clients, servicing clients, billing clients, bookkeeping, doing taxes, having enough work, having too little work, staying motivated and staying sane. You name it, I worried about it. While that’s my nature, it was magnified significantly when I started my business.
But then, slowly but surely, I realized that owning a business isn’t brain surgery. In fact, if you just work hard and follow your instincts, it’s really quite easy. It’s so easy, in fact, that I’m now writing an article about how to do it. (I gotta say, I didn’t see that coming.)
It’s also been the best business decision I’ve ever made. I’ve grown immensely as a person and as a professional and I shudder to think that I almost didn’t take the leap and give it a try.
Now that I’ve helped you avoid these four possible missteps, there’s really no excuse for you to not take the leap as well. If you’re relatively good at whatever it is you do and, most importantly, passionate about it, you can take any interest or skill and turn it into a business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan d’Man (a.k.a. Dan Deuel) is principal of Deuel Communications, a writing and communications consulting firm. He is a frequent contributor to Tripping on the Ladder. He lives in Minneapolis/St. Paul with his wife and two young daughters.
Thu 14 Jan 2010
(c) January 14, 2010
Starting a new business is an exciting, thrilling opportunity—but, if you’re not careful, your new venture can easily drain your finances before you even earn a penny in profit.
In Tuesday’s issue of “The Daily Rung,” I shared with you a few tips for knowing what to spend your money on when forming a new small business. And now it’s time to consider a few places where you can save money.
Part II: Where You Should Save
Unless you are expecting clients to visit your office, you really don’t need much in the way of office furniture—at least, not right away. If you’re working from home, you’ll probably need a desk with ample work space, a good ergonomically sound chair (since you’ll presumably be sitting in it much of the day) and a file cabinet, preferably one that locks and is fire proof.
Be sure to set up some space that is dedicated solely to your work. In other words, your work desk shouldn’t double as the gift-wrapping table and the poker night table, and the keep the kids and the dog away from it, too. In a home office, it’s critical to keep your work space separate from your living space. Not only will this help keep you organized, but it’s also a requirement by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you are planning to claim home office deductions on your annual income tax return.
If you need to equip a new office, Craigslist, office furniture resale stores and Target and other discount retailers offer low-budget solutions. And even if what you come up with is hardly a matched set, if aesthetic is important to you, never underestimate the power of a good can of spray paint to give all the pieces a cohesive look.
Depending on your line of work, you may or may not need to have a dedicated telephone and/or telephone number. So much business these days is transacted via e-mail that, if you have to make a choice, it might make sense to invest in a high-speed Internet service first, rather than a phone line. If you plan to use a cell phone for business purposes, ask your wireless service provider to give you a special rate by bundling it with your current calling plan. If you use a land line, consider purchasing prepaid telephone cards to make long-distance phone calls rather than paying for costly long-distance service.
And, there are many great services available—Skype being one of them—that offer free web conference services so you can hold virtual meetings with colleagues and clients without spending a cent, and all from the comforts of “home.”
As soon as you announce that you are open for business, you will likely be on the receiving end of endless solicitations to advertise your new business. Whether it’s a representative from the Yellow Pages, the community “shopper” newspaper, or the latest fad in online advertising, the solicitations will come. These sales people have a job to do—and goodness knows it requires persistence on their part—but that doesn’t mean you should just hand over your wallet, either.
Before you consider any kind of advertising for your business, revisit your business plan. Who are the customers you are hoping will hire you? And where are they? If you are trying to appeal to a niche market, chances are good that your prospective customers won’t be looking for you in the Yellow Pages. Likewise, if your target customers aren’t Web users, then online advertising may not help you reach the right folks.
Advertising, when done carefully and selectively, can really help your business development efforts. Advertising, when done foolishly or without a plan, is like watching your money run straight out the door. Be selective—and, if you’re really unsure, there’s no harm in trying some other business generating activities first (phone calls, face-to-face meetings) before considering alternate forms of getting the word out.
Tue 12 Jan 2010
(c) January 12, 2010
Starting your own business is an exciting, exhilarating leap of faith—and a very empowering one, at that.
If you’re like most sole proprietors in the start-up phase, however, you will want to save every penny that comes in the door and choose your expenses carefully…at least until your revenue grows. That doesn’t mean you won’t one day have that shiny office with an expansive view of downtown and your name stenciled on the door in gilded paint. It does, however, mean you may need to make do with a less glamorous set-up until your business grows to a profitable and sustainable level.
In this two-part series, we explore where you should spend—and where you can save—when starting your new small business.
Part I: Where You Should Spend
It’s tempting—and generally wise—to cut corners when starting a small business and to choose your expenditures wisely, since it’s likely that you may not have a lot of seed money to start with and it may take awhile before revenue comes marching in the door. Don’t make the mistake of cutting corners on absolutely everything, however. Here are the things—in my own humble opinion–that you should never scrimp on (even if you’re tempted):
Going to law school and, later, working as the communications director for two large law firms taught me a very important business lesson: Don’t make a big business move without first consulting with a business lawyer. It’s important to find someone you trust, who has demonstrated experience helping small businesses like yours, and whose fees are palatable to your pocketbook. A good business lawyer will help you structure your new business in a way that makes the most sense for your business objectives, keep you on the right side of the law in your jurisdiction, and protect your business from unforeseen legal issues down the road.
This will probably be one of the biggest expenses you will incur during the start-up of your small business. Lawyers are expensive. (One reason is because, as my husband likes to say, “If the work was fun, people would do it for free.”) Just gulp now and accept it. But legal planning now will save you time, and perhaps costly problems and unforeseen “surprises,” down the road. It’s kind of like going to the doctor: a full work-up now will keep you on the healthy path toward the future.
You may also need an intellectual property lawyer to help you file any trademarks or service marks that you are developing as part of your new business. You may want to do this as soon as possible after meeting with your business lawyer, since filing trademark applications takes time and is a fairly slow and tedious process—not to mention that you will want to protect your intellectual property from the very beginning of your business venture.
Accounting and tax services.
Uncle Sam is not always the friendliest guy. Not if you mess up your taxes, that is. Spare yourself the guess-work and hire a good certified public accountant (CPA) with small-business experience to guide you through the tax process. It pays to start building a relationship with a CPA you trust; as your business grows, your accounting and tax needs also will grow in scope and complexity and you will want to rely on someone who’s been with you from the beginning, who understands your business goals and who can help you navigate complex tax laws (which seem to be getting more complicated with each passing year).
In the same spirit, invest in a good accounting system for your business so you can be organized and effective in invoicing clients, paying your bills, and staying on top of your cash flow. QuickBooks offers several easy-to-use solutions, including a starter version that is free and can be upgraded as your client base—and your business needs—grow.
It’s worth it to spend a little money on developing a brand for your new business, followed by a simple business card and Web site so that potential customers have a way to find you. My 10-plus years in the marketing and communications arena have given me a very strong bias, which I will share with you here: Hire an expert to help you. Don’t try to do this yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing. Being able to create circles in Microsoft Word does not make you a designer and plugging words together does not make you a writer—and, if done poorly or sloppily, it will make you look ridiculous. And, for pete’s sake, that handwriting font that looks like a little kid scribbled with a pencil should be outlawed. Just…don’t go there.
Hiring a graphic designer, a writer or a marketing/communications consultant can make all the difference between giving the impression of being a strong, successful, professional, contemporary business or a rinky-dink, unprofessional business that’s running out of someone’s back bedroom…and looks like it. And, frankly, if you are a client seeking to hire a sole proprietor, which company will you trust more with your business, based on first impression alone?
You need not hire a costly agency to help you. There are some outstanding freelance designers, writers and consultants (I like to think I am one of them) who have award-winning experience and who, because they are freelancers with low overhead, can offer you a better price than some of the flashy agencies and creative services firms. Some may even be willing to barter services with you as a cost-effective solution.
A post office box.
If your office is in your home, you will want to consider renting a post office box from the local post office or mailing-related store (such as Mailboxes, Etc., or The UPS Store). Since you will want to keep your personal mail separate from your business mail, this is one way to ensure that happens. And, if you work from home, you probably won’t want to broadcast your home address to strangers who visit your Web site. A p.o. box gives you a business presence, and a place to direct your mail, while protecting your privacy at home. Generally, post office boxes are available in a variety of sizes and the cost to rent a box is commensurate with the size.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in Thursday’s issue of The Daily Rung, where we highlight some areas where you should save money in starting up your new business venture.
Fri 1 Jan 2010
Guest Column by Rebecca Love Williams
(c) January 1, 2010
I hope that you all had a very happy holiday filled with peace, love and joy. Now that the new year is upon us, it is time to really think about the New Year that is approaching us.
Have you started writing your Life Plan for 2010 to allow you to get a “fresh start”?
A Life Plan is a written plan of your goals and objectives in your life. It is like a map or guide to help you achieve your inner desires. Your plan can be divided into eight areas:
- Family and friends
- Love and relationships
- Money and finance
- Personal development or personal growth
Each of these areas affects your life and the importance of each one will vary depending on your internal values and situation.
Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself while writing your plan:
- What’s most important to you, your core values?
- What do you dream about?
- Where on your career path do you desire to be?
- Is your employer helping you accomplish your personal career goals?
- Are you still having fun at work?
- Will it allow you to spend more time with your family?
- Are you spending enough time with people who are important to you?
- How can you maintain your health?
- Do you have the time and the resources to entertain and travel?
- What places do you want to visit in the next two to three years?
- How much money do you want to make?
- Does your current employment support your income goals?
- How much do you need to save for your later years?
- Are you giving back to your community?
- Where do you want to live?
- Are you continually developing and improving your relationship?
These questions will give you some starting points to think about as you begin developing your plan for 2010. Of course, Life Plans can be more complex, and if you would like to develop a more intense life plan, you might need to seek out a Professional Coach.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Guest columnist Rebecca Love Williams, principal of Williams Business Solutions, is an experienced professional coach and human resources consultant. She regularly coaches her clients through a process to help them achieve their life and professional goals, including an emphasis on life planning strategies. Williams is based in Evanston, Ill., and serves individuals and businesses nationwide.
Tue 15 Dec 2009
(c) December 15, 2009
Whether you’ve recently been let go at work or whether you are finally pursuing your dream of small business ownership, chances are you’re saving your pennies right now.
It wasn’t that many years ago that saving money involved stuffing a sock with extra cash and hiding it under the mattress. Thankfully, we’ve all become much more creative since then, as these three new online resources—a must read for everyone interested in managing money—will surely attest.
WiseBread: Living large on a small budget
Its name says it all: Be smart about your money. This blog and online community, a member of the larger Money Tips Network of finance-related blogs and news sources, leads readers on a journey toward frugal living, one lifestyle choice at a time.
WiseBread publishes a daily blog featuring a vast library of articles written by an extensive team of finance bloggers and money experts. A sampling of recent articles include:
In addition, WiseBread features a weekly “deals of the week” round-up and frequent contests in which readers are invited to submit their own frugal tips and the tipsters with the most innovative suggestions can win a prize.
Mint.com: The best (free) way to manage your money
No matter how much of it you have (or don’t have, as the case may be), managing personal finances is often no small task. But Mint.com, a new financial web site, actually makes it easy…and fun! This free and secure online service allows users to manage bank and credit accounts; develop budgets; and manage investments—all in one place. (Just think: No more jumping from one web site to the next when trying to balance your finances.)
What makes Mint.com particularly invaluable is its built-in system of alerts, which includes a weekly e-mail to notify you about the status of your savings, credit and investment accounts, plus alarms that will help you avoid overdrafts, late fees and even changes to your interest rate that the bank might otherwise prefer you not notice. And, with its expansive graph system, Mint .com can also help identify areas where you might save more and spend less.
And, it’s not just us at Tripping on the Ladder who love Mint.com. It also was honored as a “Four Star” service by Money Magazine, named PC World’s Top-Rated Online Finance Service and recipient of PC Magazine Editor’s Choice Award, and listed among TIME Magazine’s Top 50 Web Sites.
Get Rich Slowly: Personal finance that makes cents
Recently named the most inspiring personal finance blog by Money Magazine, Get Rich Slowly is a spirited online community devoted to promoting sensible personal finance. The site was created by a self-professed “average guy” who found himself in tens of thousands of dollars in debt. So, he decided to do something about it, first by reading every personal finance book and resource he could find—and then by sharing what he learned so that others, too, could benefit—one small step at a time.
The site features regular bank rate comparisons, customized mortgage quotes, articles on home and mortgage topics (our favorite: “Furniture and Scambags: Adventures on Craigslist”) and lively message boards where readers share their best tips and wildest experiences relating to personal finance.
Ultimately, Get Rich Slowly is a story of a nice guy finishing first, for himself. And, really, what’s not to celebrate about that?
Fri 27 Nov 2009
By Dan d’Man
(c) November 27, 2009
It’s an unfortunate reality that most of us will have at least one person on our holiday shopping list who is a recent addition to the ranks of the unemployed.
If you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone in a job transition, here’s a list you’re going to want to check twice:
1o. The gift of luxury
Life’s little luxuries are the first things that most people eliminate when faced with the loss of income. If your friend is someone who craves her morning cup of java, a gift certificate to her favorite coffee shop will surely be appreciated. Coffee shops are also a great place for some impromptu networking.
9. The gift of health
In “Bummed Out or Burned Out? How You Can Identify When the Normal Sorrow of Job Loss Becomes Something More Serious,” Charlie Cummins, president of Life Transitions Consulting, communicated the importance of remaining active and fighting lethargy when dealing with a job loss. A membership to a health club or training class shows you care about your friend’s health and well-being.
8. The gift of family
If your recipient has children, the most welcome gift they can receive is the ability to give to their kids. A gift certificate to a movie theater, bowling alley, children’s museum or toy store will raise the spirits of their entire family.
7. The gift of inspiration
Does your gift recipient have bigger goals and dreams he was reticent to pursue before he lost his job? A book like “What am I gonna do with my life,” by Po Bronson might be just the inspiration he needs. A less conventional but much more fun source of inspiration could also be “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” by Dr. Seuss. Add a personal note inside the front cover that conveys your belief in him and he will succeed … it’s 98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.
6. The gift of relaxation
Help your friend reset her stress level with a spa gift certificate for a massage.
5. The gift of information
Do you know someone who works in your friend’s profession — or a profession he’s always been curious about? Setting up an informational interview can help him learn valuable insights, make contacts and keep his interview skills sharp.
4. The gift of expertise
Just because your friend is a great engineer, it doesn’t mean she can write an effective resume. Covering the cost of a professional resume service could be the most important gift she receives. The Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARW) is a good place to search for services near you. The PARW also offers information about professional career coaches and certified employment interview professionals — people who could make the difference between getting the job and almost getting the job.
3. The gift of laughter
Wrapping up a voodoo doll customized with a former boss’ face or a corporate logo (www.vudutuu.com) won’t help him find a new job … but it’ll probably bring a smile to his face.
2. The gift of membership
Paying your friend’s membership fee for a professional industry association will open the door to valuable continuing education opportunities and networking events.
1. The gift of yourself
Offer to proofread their cover letters and resumes. Babysit so she and her husband can get away for a night. Run errands so that he can attend a job interview or networking opportunity. It’s a free gift that’s difficult to put a price on.
Wed 25 Nov 2009
By Diva Nikki
(c) November 25, 2009
For most of us, getting through the holidays in a normal year is bad enough. The song “The Twelve Pains of Christmas,” by the Bob Rivers Comedy Corp, about sums it up for me.
Sending Christmas cards to extended family on my husband’s side I barely know. Driving to and from—and spending hours in—rehearsals and concerts. Standing in huge lines at unforgivable hours of the morning just to get a few more dollars off the already inflated price of a Christmas gift your mother-in-law probably will return anyway.
So…now that you’ve got a spouse at home worried about finding a new job, you’re on a reduced budget and there’s more stress to go around than flour on holiday cookie baking day—how will you survive?
Here are a few tips for getting through the holidays while you’ve got a spouse in career transition:
I know the holiday season means three times as many filled days on the calendar looming at you from your refrigerator door. But now might be a time to reassess some of those commitments. Is there anything you can cut back on for awhile?
Do you really need to make 70 Christmas cards by hand and handwrite messages in all of them? What if you send e-greetings to most people this year, and just saved the special cards for those most important to you? Evaluate which holiday traditions are most important to you and which ones can be changed or put on hold.
Have a discussion with your spouse and family members about what you can realistically can spend—and can’t—on holiday gifts this year. Agree on a spending limit in advance, so there are no disappointments or embarrassments later.
Even with your own transition issues, there are always those who need more help than you. Talk with your whole family about “adopting” a family or cause this year. Ask that everyone contribute what they would’ve spent on gifts to this effort instead.
Gifts don’t have to be expensive. In fact, handmade gifts are often more appreciated than something bought from a department store. A few ideas for creative, low-cost gifts for family members:
- Create a recipe book with all the recipient’s favorite ingredients. Search recipes online, copy them and paste them nicely into a document. Print out and place in a hand-decorated binder.
- Make jars of specialty hot chocolate, chai tea or soup mixes. Decorate the covers and include instructions for making the final product.
- Use crafting talents and supplies you already have on hand: knit/crochet scarves, stamp sets of cards, make mini-scrapbooks or create jewelry. Not only will your personalized gifts be appreciated, it will give you a fun, stress-relieving project you enjoy.
Realize this temporary.
No one wants to “skimp” on this special time of year. But remember that a few changes for this year won’t be devastating in the long run. And, who knows, your family may even love some of these ideas enough to start new traditions.
- “Gifts from the Kitchen: Recipes for Jar Mixes, Food Gifts and More,” The Recipe Link
- “Holiday Gifts: 8 Homemade Gifts in a Jar,” SquawkFox, December 8, 2008.
- Amy Scattergood, “50 ways to make your holiday gifts homemade,” LA Times, December 10, 2008.
- Lori Johnston, “7 splendid homemade holiday gifts“
Recent Desperate Workingwife columns:
Tue 24 Nov 2009
By Sharon Korbeck Verbeten
(c) November 24, 2009
Yule know there’s a different feel to Christmas this year—the recession-tinged feeling is already in the air and in the store aisles.
While halls and malls are still decked out for the holiday season, the joy of shopping has been overshadowed—for many—by decreased wages, lost jobs or the threat of lessened job security.
Black Friday, indeed. These days that term might refer to the dread some feel about getting a pink slip on the last day of the work week. Still, there are those looking forward to the traditional “Black Friday,” when shoppers, like myself (I’m fueled by seasonal spirit, pumpkin muffins and Mountain Dew!) spring from our beds at 4 a.m. or earlier, eager to get the best deals.
According to the finding of one national survey, retailers are about to embark on the season of the serious bargain hunter. A survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $682.74 on holiday-related shopping, a 3.2% drop from last year’s $705.01. And two-thirds of Americans indicated the economy will affect their holiday shopping plans this year.
So, what’s a savvy shopper to do? Here are a few well-considered tips.
Stacy Schuster, a sales associate with the GAP stores in Milwaukee, offered her best tip, based on personal experience. “Get a part-time job in retail at a store where you would normally shop,” she said. As an employee, the mother of two saves 50% on all her purchases—great for both personal and gift purchases.
Also a seasoned eBay shopper, Schuster recommends scouring the online auction site for items on wish lists. Bidding competitively—and early—can save a lot off retail prices.
Jennifer Hogeland, a mother of two from De Pere, Wis., also has turned to online shopping this year for most of her purchases, mainly because so many sites are offering free shipping. Shopping online also has a residual benefit, she said. “It avoids the whimsical and unnecessary purchases I’m sure to make if I’m in the store.”
The NRF survey also found that one in 10 holiday shoppers plan to shop thrift or retail shops for gifts this year. That may not only be smart and pocket savvy, but “green” as well.
“Why not recycle and repurpose items you don’t want?” said Pat DuChene, a single mother from Wisconsin. “Our family is doing a grab bag with a ‘trash into treasure’ theme.” Who knew re-gifting—once so uncouth—would now be considered so in vogue?
Now, where did I put that silly—I mean stylish—scarf I got last year…?