What’s the Best Way to Pay for Holiday Shopping?

Q: I’m ready to start my holiday shopping, but I’m not sure how to cover all my purchases. What’s the best way to pay for my holiday shopping?

A: As with most large expenses, when it comes to covering the cost of your holiday shopping, you have several choices. Let’s take a look at some of the most common options and explore the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed decision that best suits your needs.

  1. Credit cards

For many shoppers, the most obvious way to pay for a purchase you can’t currently cover is with a credit card. That small piece of plastic can make you feel like a wealthy shopper who can afford to buy it all without even checking the price. 


  • Significant purchase protection.
  • Convenient payment method accepted at most vendors.
  • No need to have all the cash available at the time of your shopping.
  • Many credit cards offer points for every dollar spent.


  • Interest charges for unpaid bills can mean you’re paying a lot more for your purchases than their original prices.
  • You may be paying off these bills for months to come, or even years later.
  • Carrying extended debt and utilizing a lot of your available credit can hurt your credit score. 
  • You may be more tempted to (or unknowingly) overspend when paying by credit card.
  1. Savings

Dipping into your savings to pay for your holiday purchases can free you from sky-high interest charges, but comes with its own drawbacks.


  • You’ll enjoy a debt-free (and less stressful) holiday season.
  • No incurred interest charges.


  • By using your savings for holiday shopping, you’re depleting your savings that may be intended for emergencies, and/or your short- and long-term financial goals.
  • You’re losing the money your savings may have earned had it been invested or saved over many years.
  1. Unsecured/holiday loan

An unsecured loan, also known as a personal loan or a holiday loan, is a loan that’s taken out with no required collateral. You’ll enjoy quick access to the funds you need, but will have to deal with the disadvantages that are unique to this choice. 


  • You’ll have quick funding for your holiday shopping. 
  • Low interest rates compared to credit cards.
  • Diversifying your credit health with an unsecured loan may improve your credit score.
  • You can stretch the repayment over a longer term for smaller monthly payments. 


  • May have a high interest rate if the borrower has a poor credit score.
  • You’ll be hit with a fee if you want to pay off the loan early.
  • Unlike a credit card bill, you’ll need to pay the full monthly payment when it comes due.
  • Missed and late payments can hurt your credit score.
  1. Holiday club account

It may be too late for this year, but a holiday club account is a fabulous way to pay for the season’s expenses without landing deep in debt. You’ll make regular contributions toward your set goal throughout the year, and when the holiday season arrives, you’ll have all the funds you need to cover your purchases.


  • Holiday costs become more manageable when spread across the entire year. 
  • You’ll build strong saving habits. 
  • Favorable dividend rates.
  • Prevents overspending and accumulating new debt. 


  • Funds in the account cannot be accessed until the goal is reached. Tying up savings is not the best option for those who do not have an established emergency fund. 
  • You won’t be able to take advantage of sale items that can work as holiday gifts throughout the year as your holiday money can’t be accessed.

There are so many ways to pay for your holiday expenses, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Use this guide to make an informed choice about paying for your holiday shopping. 

TikTok Inspo: Play the part of the financially irresponsible holiday shopper who has no idea how they’ll be paying for the season’s expenses. 

Is Black Friday Shopping Worth the Hassle?

Q: It’s only early November, and I’m already getting ad-bombed for Black Friday sales. I’ve always been an avid sales shopper, but after so many Black Fridays spent weaving through crowds to chase down big deals and often coming home disappointed, I’m wondering if it’s worth it. Should I give up the Black Friday shopping?

A: Black Friday has long been hailed as the biggest shopping day of the year, but consumers are beginning to rethink that title. While there are definitely great deals to be grabbed on the day after Thanksgiving, it’s not always worth the hassle. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of being a Black Friday shopper so you can make an informed decision. 

What are the advantages of Black Friday shopping?

If you’ve been a Black Friday shopper for years, you likely already know the advantages of joining the crowds at the stores on this national shopping day. Here are some of the significant pros of Black Friday shopping:

  • Deep discounts on many goods. There’s no denying that Black Friday does bring with it some great sales. A typical Black Friday sale will feature prices slashed from 20-37%, on average, though you can find deeper discounts, too. 
  • Get a head start on holiday shopping. If you’re eager to start crossing items off your list, you’ll likely want to start your gift-buying on the unofficial first day of the shopping season. 
  • Enjoyable experience. If you’re the kind of person who thrives on being at the center of all the action, you may love Black Friday shopping just for the fun of it.
  • Limited-time offers. Some of the most attractive deals are only available on Black Friday or for a limited time during the holiday season. If there’s a particular item you’ve had your eye on, this may be your best chance to get it at a discount.
  • In-store shopping.  For some shoppers, browsing through online sites from home can’t come close to the thrill of in-store shopping on Black Friday. You can see the layout of the stores, try out new products, run your fingers through the fabric of the dress you’ve been eyeing or inhale the new-sneaker smell of the pair you’ve coveted all summer long. 

What are the disadvantages of Black Friday shopping?

Of course, Black Friday shopping does have its disadvantages as well, including the following:

  • Prices may not be at their lowest. With all the hype, Black Friday prices are not necessarily the lowest price an item might see this season. For example, prices on winter clothing and gear tend to drop after hitting peak season in January. Toys will see deep discounts 10 days before Christmas and tech items are almost always cheaper after the holiday season through Super Bowl Sunday. So, while you may find some great bargains, if you’re looking to get stuff at super-cheap prices, Black Friday may not be the best time to shop. 
  • Doorbusters are often overrated. The heavily advertised doorbusters at big stores are usually offered in very limited quantities. Unless you camp out at the mall so you’re one of the first in the store, you’ll likely miss it. 
  • Crowds and chaos. The massive crowds and chaotic scenes you’ll likely encounter on Black Friday are enough to make many shoppers sleep in late and get their shopping done another time.
  • It’s no longer the biggest shopping day of the year. Many stores run their Black Friday deals a few days before Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. This means Friday isn’t the only time you can get these deals. 
  • You can get the same deals online. Most Black Friday deals can be found online–minus the crowds.

Black Friday shopping helps you get a head-start on your holiday shopping and pick up great deals, but it may not be worth the hassle. Use the information outlined here to make an informed decision about Black Friday shopping.

TikTok Inspo: Are you a Black Friday pro? Share your best tips in a short video. 

10 Hacks for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving That Doesn’t Break the Bank

Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is an enjoyable, rewarding experience, but it can also be a bit much for many of us. The expenses can be sky-high, the to-do list seems endless and the dinner itself can be a harried and breathless affair that puts a damper on any holiday cheer. 

Here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be this way. Consider these 10 hosting hacks to help you enjoy a calm and stress-free Thanksgiving that doesn’t break the budget. 

  1. Start planning early

Instead of waiting for the overwhelm to hit a week before Thanksgiving, start planning now. Look through your favorite recipe blogs, food magazines and cookbooks to compile a list of dishes you want to serve. Reach out to friends and family who are joining you for Thanksgiving dinner and inquire about what, if any, dishes they plan to bring. At this time, you can also ask about any dietary restrictions any of your guests may have. 

Next, make a detailed menu and start listing the ingredients you’ll need to purchase. You can also jot down any other purchases you’ll need to make, such as decor items and serving dishes. Aside from making your prep easier, planning your menu and purchases early will help you make more responsible money choices as you shop. 

  1. Create a detailed schedule

Next, start scheduling the tasks you’ve just listed into your weekly and daily schedules. For example, a few weeks before Turkey Day, you can shop for drinks and any dry and frozen ingredients. You can do all the baking two weeks before the big day, prep your marinades, sauces and salad dressings a week before, the appetizer and sides a few days prior to Thanksgiving, and finally, the entrees on Thanksgiving Day. You may want to write everything down on a calendar so you can get a clear snapshot of what you need to do each day with just one glance. 

Of course, if you prefer to marathon-cook for seven hours straight on the day before Thanksgiving, that can work, too. Just make sure you’ve taken care of all the other to-dos, such as shopping and planning the decor, well in advance. 

  1. Consider a buffet

If you hate missing all the best parts of the conversation at the Thanksgiving table because you’re busy in the kitchen, you may want to consider a buffet-style meal. While it’s definitely a departure from the traditional sit-down dinner, a serve-yourself meal can be a great way to make things easier for you. You can also get away with offering fewer dishes when it’s all served at one time instead of a formal meal with staggered  courses. 

  1. Delegate

If no one’s offered to help you cook, don’t be afraid to assign small jobs to your guests so they can be part of the prep. It doesn’t have to be anything too time-consuming on their part, but for you, just knowing that Cousin Jen is bringing the mashed potatoes and your mom will bring her famous pecan pie for dessert means two menu items off your head. 

  1. Set up a kids’ corner

If you’re hosting families with children, create a kid-friendly area with games, coloring books and activities to keep the little ones engaged. This way, parents can enjoy the meal without worrying about bored and restless kids. You can also offer kid-friendly menu options like fries and chicken nuggets to keep guests of all ages happy and well-fed. 

  1. Use disposable dishes

Are you ready for a super-quick clean up when the party’s over? With today’s robust dinnerware options, you can have your convenience without compromising on your conscience. There are so many eco-friendly disposable options, from compostable cutlery to bamboo plates and so much more.

  1. Set up a self-serve drink station

Create a self-serve drink station with a variety of beverages to cater to different preferences. Include water, non-alcoholic options and a signature Thanksgiving cocktail to keep things festive. This encourages guests to help themselves, freeing you up to focus on other aspects of hosting.

  1. Keep the centerpiece simple

With so much going on at the table, there’s no need to overthink the centerpiece. A simple wooden board filled with seasonal gourds will add that festive touch to the table without breaking the budget. Add some pillar candles from a dollar store to complete the look.

  1. Cook two small turkeys

If you’re hosting a crowd, consider cooking two small birds instead of one large one. You’ll save on defrosting time, freezer space and the stress of choosing the perfect recipe. You may even save money on your entree by splitting it into two with this hack.

  1. If it’s stressing you out, let it go

The best part about being the host is that no one has to know what you’d planned to serve. So if you’re finding that one dish is stressing you out and will cost more than it’s worth at your table, just let it go. Leave it out, and no one will know the difference. 

Despite what personal experience may tell you, Thanksgiving does not have to be stressful or expensive. Use these hacks for a stress-free Thanksgiving holiday.

TikTok Inspo: Share your secret for making Thanksgiving stress-free in a short video.

If Inflation is Improving, Why Are Prices Still So High?

Q: I’ve heard that inflation is finally slowing down, but I’m finding that prices are still shockingly high on just about everything. Why are prices still so inflated, and when can we expect them to finally start dropping?

A: After hitting a 40-year high, inflation, marked by periods when the U.S. dollar loses value, is indeed cooling off. However, the prices you’ll encounter with brick-and-mortar and online retailers tell a different story. There are several factors driving the stubbornly high prices and important information to know about the way inflation works. Let’s take a closer look at the inflation rate, the high prices on many goods and what you can expect to see in the coming months. 

How is inflation measured?

Many people assume the inflation rate is a direct reflection of the prices on goods. In reality, though, the U.S. inflation rate is the percentage at which a select group of 80,000 foods and services purchased in the U.S. increases in price over the course of a year. These goods and services are tracked in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Since the inflation rate only measures how much the prices of the items in the CPI rose over a year, the rate can be decreasing even as some goods boast high prices. Also, the CPI is a broad measure and does not account for every single product and service. Consequently, it is not a perfect indicator of inflation or prices in general.

The U.S. inflation rate in July 2023 was 3.18% compared to 2.97% in May 2023, and 8.52% in July 2022. So, while prices may still be high, overall, they are improving.

Why are prices still so high?

In an effort to keep runaway inflation in check, the Federal Reserve has raised its interest rate numerous times since the pandemic. When this happens, banks and lenders are forced to raise their rates as well. This makes it more expensive for consumers to take out large loans and utilize their lines of credit. The hope is that this will trigger a decrease in consumer spending, which will push businesses to lower their prices, or, at the very least, resist raising prices further. 

Unfortunately, though, this did not quite play out as planned. Some sectors, such as the real estate industry, which is strongly affected by rising rates, have cooled off significantly and prices have dropped as anticipated. Other parts of the economy, though, such as the service sector, were not impacted by rising interest rates. Demand for services, which practically halted during the pandemic, is still strong and consumers are willing to pay the high prices that service providers continue to charge. And those prices show no signs of dropping anytime soon. 

In addition, there are still several commodities selling at stubbornly high prices due to the lingering impact of the pandemic, as well as other unrelated factors. These include:

  1. Used cars. At first, demand for used cars outpaced supply due to pandemic concerns that had people avoiding public transportation. More recently, though, the limited supply is due to a massive worldwide shortage of microchips and replacement parts. All of this naturally drives prices up.
  2. Eggs. Eggs sold at record prices last spring when bird flu killed and infected thousands of egg-laying hens. The price has since dropped, but is still not back at pre-pandemic levels. 
  3. Cereal and baked goods. Just as food prices were starting to recover from supply chain chokeholds in 2022, the war in Ukraine, a country that is a major exporter of grain, drove them back up again.
  4. Fuel. Gas prices also peaked last year due to the war in Ukraine. They’ve since fallen, but have not gone back to pre-pandemic levels.
  5. Insurance. Premium rates on home and auto insurance have risen significantly, and they aren’t falling anytime soon. Labor shortages, which makes repairs on cars and homes more expensive, as well as a dearth in supply of cars and homes, makes coverage more expensive for the insurance companies. This cost is then passed on to the consumer. 
  6. Rent. The housing market is still suffering from a thin supply as new construction races to catch up with the post-pandemic demand, which is largely driven by the mass exodus from big cities. 

There are several more examples like these that continue selling at high prices for similar reasons. So, while inflation as a whole may be improving, the average consumer is still feeling the pinch in their wallets in a big way. 

When will prices start dropping?   

Cash-strapped Americans waiting for groceries to become affordable again may have a long wait ahead. 

It’s important to note, though, that a dramatic decrease in prices would actually be harmful for the economy. When prices plunge, consumers tend to hold off on large purchases as they wait for prices to fall further. At the same time, businesses spend less as they pull in less revenue. These dual factors can lead to a recession, or worse, a depression. 

The good news is that prices are beginning to drop and inflation has already shown signs of cooling. The Fed has also pledged to raise interest rates again in an effort to continue curbing inflation. While no one can promise that prices will ever go back to pre-pandemic levels, it does seem as if we’ve gotten past the peak of post-pandemic inflation and are heading toward an economic recovery.

The business headlines and your grocery bill may not seem to be living in the same reality, but there’s a reason for the dichotomy. Use this blog to learn what that reason may be. 

TikTok Inspo: Play the part of the inflation-fighting customer in a short video.

Should I Adopt a Minimalist Lifestyle?

Q: Minimalism is all the rage, and with everyday expenses at an all-time high, I’m wondering if I should start living with very few possessions. Should I adopt a minimalist lifestyle?

A: The minimalist movement, or the idea of living with just the barest of necessities, has exploded in popularity in recent years. Let’s take a closer look at this trending lifestyle choice so you can make an informed decision about embracing its philosophies.  

What is minimalism?

In a twist of irony, the generally accepted definition of minimalism is itself as sparse as possible, diluted into just three words: Less is more. The less you own, the more you have. But adopting a minimalist lifestyle is more than just a massive decluttering. It also means getting rid of, or whittling down, any expense category in your budget and any activity you engage in that is not absolutely necessary for your life or peace of mind. In an ideal minimalist life, your home, wardrobe and daily schedule hold only what you need and nothing more. 

The trending minimalist lifestyle is a takeaway from the art genre of the ‘60s and ‘70s and was initially made popular by “The Minimalists,” Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who have spread their message through their documentary, podcast and nationwide tour. Since its introduction in 2011, the movement has grown by leaps and bounds. At its core, the minimalist philosophy is a focus on the present, as well as a decision to really feel every experience by eliminating all distractions and non-essentials. 

Getting started on minimalism

There are lots of ways to live a minimalist life. Here are some popular ways to get started:

  • The 90/90 rule. Choose an item in your home and ask yourself if you’ve used it in the last 90 days. If the answer is no, ask yourself if you will use it within the next 90 days. If the answer is still no, toss it out. 
  • The 30-day declutter. In this challenge, you throw out one item in your home on Day 1, two items on Day 2 and continue like this until Day 30, when you throw out 30 items. 
  • The 100-item life. Here, you choose 100 essential items that you need to live with and toss out everything else you own.  

It’s important to know that there is no “right way” for embracing this lifestyle. Since minimalism means living with what you need and what brings you joy, it will look different to everyone. In addition, some of these approaches may seem extreme and unattainable to you, and that’s OK, too. For example, if you’ve decided to go with the 90-day rule, and you have a large collection of books you haven’t touched in years and are cluttering up your home, causing you stress or landing you in debt, you can decide to hold onto them in defiance of the rule. As long as you are left with a home and a lifestyle that fills you with peace and serenity, you have adopted the minimalist lifestyle.

Pros of living a minimalist life

Here are some benefits of minimalism:

  • Define your values and think clearly. When you get rid of all the extras in your life, you’re left with what truly matters. 
  • Improved mental health. Evidence suggests that a cluttered life is a stressful life.
  • Increased opportunities to experience life at its purest level. Walking away from extraneous commitments, or even a career, can free you up to experience the true pleasures in life. 
  • More room in your budget. When you throw out all the unneeded expenses from your budget, it’s easier to save and avoid falling into debt. In addition, when you remove yourself from the rat race, you will likely find you need a lot less money to support your lifestyle.

Cons of living a minimalist life

Minimalism does have its disadvantages as well, including:

  • Feelings of deprivation. If taken to an extreme, a minimalist life can be depriving and ultimately backfire. 
  • Unhealthy obsession. Minimalism can require a lot of brain power as you try to determine which items you really need. If you spend all day thinking about your stuff, it still owns you.
  • Owning just a few items doesn’t work with cheap stuff. If you plan to go forward with only having one laptop, or just two pairs of jeans, you’ll need to invest in items that will last for the long haul. But durable goods don’t come cheap. Ultimately, it will likely come out less expensive than owning lots of cheaper items that frequently need replacing, but the initial outlay can be challenging for some people to cover.
  • It can be isolating. Unless you jump into this lifestyle with a partner or friend, it can be a very lonely life. 

A minimalist lifestyle can clear your home, life and budget of clutter, but it’s not for everyone. Use this guide to make an informed decision about embracing a minimalist life. 

TikTok Inspo: Have you embraced a minimalist lifestyle? Tell us about it in a short video.

Travel Hacks 9 of 12: How to Save on Entertainment Costs While on Vacation

Flying to your vacation destination and paying for your lodgings, can take a big chunk out of your budget. But once you’ve arrived, the expenses are only beginning. To fully enjoy your time away, you’ll also need to spring for stuff to do during your vacation. If you aren’t careful, this can quickly add up to hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. And nothing kills a vacation like a busted budget. 

No worries; though: We have tips to help! Here, we’ve shared 10 hacks for saving on your fun while on vacation. 

  1. Look up free local events

Before setting out on vacation, do some research on the destination’s local events and festivals. Many cities regularly host concerts, outdoor movie screenings, art exhibitions and cultural celebrations – all at no cost. Attending these events will allow you to rub shoulders with the locals for an immersive and culturally enriching experience that’s easy on the wallet.

  1. Take advantage of city passes

Don’t pay full price for admission to attractions without first checking if you can bundle the cost with other must-visit destinations. Lots of tourist hotspots offer city passes that grant you access to multiple attractions at discounted rates. These passes often cover popular museums, historical sites and amusement parks, saving you a significant amount on individual ticket prices. Plus, city passes usually come with additional perks, such as fast-track entry and public transportation benefits.

  1. Join a free walking tour

Many cities offer free walking tours led by knowledgeable locals who are passionate about sharing their city’s history and hidden gems. These tours help you discover the best spots and interact with fellow travelers, creating a memorable and budget-friendly experience.

  1. Go natural

The best things in life truly are free. Nature can offer the most awe-inspiring entertainment at no cost. From picturesque beaches and breathtaking hikes to placid lakes and majestic mountains, immerse yourself in the beauty of Mother Nature without spending a dime. Pack a picnic, bring your camera and savor the wonders of the great outdoors.

  1. Visit local markets

You don’t have to be a foodie to get a thrill from exploring local markets. Best of all, this trip can save on both entertainment and dining costs of your vacation. Stroll through colorful bazaars, sample delectable street food and imbibe the lively atmosphere of the locals buying and selling their wares.

  1. Wet and wild

If your vacation destination has beaches, lakes or rivers, make the most of the water activities that are available. Swimming, beachcombing, paddleboarding or just spending an afternoon building sandcastles with your loved ones are all wonderful ways to enjoy the water without making a dent in your vacation budget. 

  1. Pack your own entertainment

You aren’t traveling miles from home to sit in a hotel and watch movies, but you likely will want some down time during your vacation. To save on pricy rentals or subscriptions, load up your e-reader with books, movies and TV shows, and create playlists with your favorite music before heading out on your trip. This way, you’ll have a stash of free entertainment available while traveling.

  1. Use free hotel amenities

When booking a hotel, choose a place that offers complimentary amenities such as pools, fitness centers, game rooms and movie nights. You can do the same when staying at an Airbnb by choosing a place that includes some entertainment options. Take advantage of these facilities to keep everyone entertained without breaking out your credit card. 

  1. Check for discounts and coupons

Before purchasing tickets for any attraction or activity, look up online discounts and coupons on sites like Groupon. You can usually find discounted deals on various entertainment options, from sightseeing tours to escape rooms, on this online platform.

  1. Attend free workshops and classes

Some vacation destinations offer free workshops and classes that cater to various interests. From art and cooking classes to yoga and dance sessions, participating in these activities can be both educational and enjoyable without costing a penny.

There’s no need to bust your budget to pay for entertainment costs while on vacation. Use these hacks to save big bucks on your vacation fun!

8 Super-Scary Halloween Hacks to Save You Money

It’s that time of year again, when jack-o’-lanterns leer into the dark night and cobwebby skeletons hang from every bush. Halloween is great fun for kids and kids-at-heart. But, if you’re the one left paying for all those costumes, decor and candy, you may find the only scare you’re getting from Halloween this year is fear of the credit card bill’s arrival.

Don’t let Halloween costs spook you out! We’ve got eight great hacks for saving on costumes and decor.

  1. Ghastly ghosts

Create an army of floating ghosts using nothing more than white trash bags. Gather a bunch of bags and stuff them with crumpled newspaper. Tie the “head” with a rubber band and use a permanent marker to draw spooky faces on your ghosts. Hang your frightful friends around your house and yard to scare off your party guests and trick-or-treaters.

  1. Spooky bird houses

Create a mini haunted house to hang on your door or decorate your table using nothing more than a bird house, black paint and some cotton. Paint the bird house black and stretch cotton over it for a cobwebby effect. Finish it off with a few paper ghosts peeking out of the windows and doors and you’ve got yourself a tiny haunted house!

  1. Shark attack!

For a fun and freaky costume that costs next to nothing, go as a surfer being eaten by a shark. Dress in swimwear, with a towel draped over yourself if the weather makes it necessary, and apply fake blood to a visible spot on your neck or arm. Use face paint to create a line of triangle-shaped marks to mimic the shark bite and apply the blood so it surrounds the bite and drips out. To create a realistic pull on the skin, apply several layers of non-flexible collodion on the triangles. As it dries, the collodion will shrink and pull in the skin. It won’t be too comfortable, so only do this extra step if you’re ready to go all in – and make sure you have the correct remover, too. Finally, for a fun touch, attach an inflated or stuffed toy shark to your costume. 

Tip: You can spring for fake blood, or easily create your own with some corn syrup and red and blue food coloring. Stir in the red coloring, mixing until you reach the desired consistency. Darken with the blue coloring until you achieve that perfect color. 

  1. Mason jar lanterns

For easy DIY decor, paint mason jars with spooky designs and insert battery-powered tea lights for a bewitching glow. Line your walkway or porch with these lanterns to welcome trick-or-treaters.

  1. Creepy crawlers everywhere

Use an inexpensive package of plastic spiders to scare your guests silly! You can freeze some in ice cubes for a spooky surprise in everyone’s drinks, scatter a few across the table to make someone shriek and even add some to your soap dispenser to really freak everyone out. Let your trick-or-treaters in on the fun by sprinkling some of these plastic critters into your bowl of candy. Let your young visitors stick their hands in at their own risk!

  1. An eerie flicker

For a super-easy and super-cheap centerpiece, paint old wine bottles black. Use matte paint for the best effect. When your candlestick holders have dried, insert long orange taper candles into each one to add a festive look to your table. 

  1. Care for a lollipop?

Turn your pumpkin into a fun lollipop dispenser with the help of an electric drill. Use the drill to make small holes in your pumpkin and then stick a lollipop into each hole. Set it up on your steps for an adorable, help-yourself trick-or-treat.

  1. Retro costume

For a costume that will make everyone laugh and won’t cost a penny, go as your college-aged self. Dig out those neon leggings from the ‘90s, or the bell-bottom jeans from the ‘80s, and use old accessories to make the full costume. If you had a crazy hairstyle back then, incorporate it into your costume for a head-to-toe effect. 

TikTok Inspo: What’s your favorite Halloween hack? Share it with us in a short video.

Affordable Sustainability 9 of 12-All You Need to Know About Electric Vehicles

With prices still rising on just about everything, and the cost of fuel stubbornly refusing to budge, electric vehicles (EVs) are more popular than ever. The idea of never having to pay for gas again is awfully tempting to the average cash-strapped American, but those cars don’t come cheap! 

Of course, in addition to the anticipated savings on fuel, EVs offer their owners a clean, emissions-free ride. 

Let’s take a closer look at EVs, their initial and ongoing costs, and factors to consider before springing for this expensive, but environmentally friendly, car. 

How much do EVs cost? 

EVs come in a wide range of prices, with the Chevy Bolt starting at just $26,500 and BMW’s M60 xDrive, arriving this fall, going for a whopping $85,095. Prices on EVs are based on their range, or how far they can drive on a single battery charge, as well as their durability, performance, styling and size. In general, as with most cars, you get what you pay for and the more expensive EVs will last longer and perform better than their cheaper counterparts. 

Many EV owners have taken advantage of government incentives to help cover the cost of their vehicle. With a chunk of the price covered by Uncle Sam, the EV becomes much more affordable. Plus, many states also offer their own tax credits, rebates, reduced registration fees and access to carpool lanes. 

In addition, many corporations and businesses are promoting EV adoption by incorporating electric vehicles into their fleets. This not only showcases their commitment to sustainability but also encourages consumers to follow suit.

Finally, there’s good news coming for EV pricing. Manufacturers are bringing down their prices as battery technology improves. Prices on Tesla and Ford, for instance, have already dropped in 2023, and more models are expected to get cheaper with time. 

Electric vehicle maintenance

In general, EVs have a lower maintenance cost than their gas-powered cousins. According to Consumer Reports, an owner of an EV can expect to save more than $6,000, on average, over the lifespan of the car relative to a traditional vehicle. Lots of common maintenance issues for cars, such as replacing or repairing spark plugs, transistors and oil, are irrelevant to EVs. This translates into easier and less expensive maintenance for electric vehicles across the board. 

Electricity costs

While one of the primary draws of EVs is the monthly savings on fuel costs, keeping your EV running will not be completely free. You’ll need to pay for the electricity it costs to run your car, and with prices rising on all commodities – energy included – it can cost a pretty penny. It’s hard to put an exact price tag on charging an EV, though, as energy costs will vary by state and are always fluctuating. However, it’s good to make note of these cost-saving energy measures:

  • Charging your EV overnight or on the weekend will cost you less than charging it during weekday afternoons and/or evenings. 
  • Some utility companies offer special plans for EV owners. It’s worth a call to find out if there are any savings available to you before buying an EV.
  • It’s best not to charge your battery to 100% unless absolutely necessary (such as before a long trip with few charging stations along the way), as this can degrade the battery and cause a negative charge.

Will I qualify for a tax incentive for my electric vehicle?

The government incentive of $7,500 for EVs has prompted thousands of buyers across the country to make the leap toward electric-powered cars. But the good times are running out and many car models are no longer eligible for the full federal incentive. To see if your chosen car makes the cut, check out the IRS’s most recently updated list of vehicles that qualify for the incentive program. Expect this list to grow shorter as strict criteria for manufacturers, including a supply chain based in North America, makes it difficult for car makers to keep their vehicles on the coveted list. 

Another way to check tax credit eligibility for a specific car is by looking up the vehicle’s identification number (VIN) on the Energy Department’s website

Before ruling out a tax incentive, be sure to check for any additional cuts or rebates from your state government. Lots of states are offering their own incentives for going electric, and it’s best to do your research before paying for an EV to ensure you’re getting all the credits and rebates you possibly can. 

Is it a good time to buy an electric vehicle?

The jury is out on this one, as consumers are eager to start saving on fuel costs, but sky-high prices on EVs drive them back to traditional car sales. The promise of newer, more updated EVs is also keeping buyers waiting for something better. Finally, energy is at a record high now, so keeping an EV running now won’t be cheap. There’s no telling where the market will go, though, so it’s anyone’s guess if prices will really fall enough to justify a wait. 

Electric vehicles are growing increasingly popular as consumers seek creative ways to balance their budgets during times of sky-high prices. Use this guide to make an informed decision that may benefit your wallet, and the environment, too. 

TikTok Inspo: Should you buy an electric vehicle now? Share your take in a short video.

Don’t Get Caught in a Debt Collection Scam

No one likes to be in debt. It’s a downward spiral that never seems to end, and it’s an expensive burden to carry, too. Unfortunately, scammers often exploit the feelings of helplessness and overwhelm to lure victims into their debt-collection scams. Let’s take a look at these scams and how to keep yourself from falling victim. 

How the scams play out

In a debt-collection scam, a scammer posing as a debt collector will call a victim and demand payment for an outstanding debt. The caller insists on a specific means of payment, usually a wire transfer or prepaid debit card. The scammer will sometimes threaten to tell the victims’ family members about the debt if it’s not paid up immediately. The alleged debt may be completely fabricated, or an actual debt the victim has that the scammer has learned about through social engineering or by hacking the victim’s private accounts. In either scenario, though, the caller is not a debt collector and represents only themselves. Of course, any money the scammer collects will go directly into their own pocket. 

Red flags

Here’s how to recognize a debt-collection scam:

  • The alleged debt collector demands immediate payment. A legitimate debt collector will always provide you with the option to dispute the debt and discuss payment arrangements. 
  • The caller insists on a specific means of payment. Scammers love having their victims cough up money through a payment method that cannot be undone, such as wire transfer or prepaid cards. 
  • The “debt collector” knows very few details about the debt. A genuine debt collector will have all the information on the debt and be able to answer any questions you may have. 
  • There is no contact information for the debt collection agency the caller allegedly represents. Ask for a phone number and street address for the agency. If none are forthcoming, it’s likely a scam. 

Protect yourself

Debt-collection scams can be difficult to spot, but with the right knowledge, you can protect yourself. Follow these tips to stay safe.

  • When called by an alleged debt collector, verify the debt. Request written validation of the debt, including detailed information about the creditor, the amount owed and the nature of the debt. Legitimate debt collectors should be able to provide this information.
  • Never share personal information with an unverified contact. If you’re asked to provide sensitive information by an unknown contact, it’s likely a scam.
  • Check for licensing and credentials. Debt collectors are often required to be licensed in the state where they operate. Research the collector’s credentials and licensing status through your state’s attorney general’s office or consumer protection agency.
  • Know your rights.  Familiarize yourself with your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and other relevant consumer protection laws. These laws outline the rules that legitimate debt collectors must follow when attempting to collect a debt. For example, they can only contact borrowers at reasonable hours, they cannot call them at their workplace, harass them about a debt using threats or violence, lie about money owed or falsify the name of the agency they represent, among other restrictions. 
  • Keep detailed records. Maintain thorough records of any communication you have with debt collectors, including dates, times, names and contact details. If you suspect a scam, these records can serve as evidence if you need to report the incident.
  • Request written communication. Ask the debt collector to communicate with you exclusively in writing. Legitimate collectors should be willing to provide written documentation of the debt and any payment arrangements.
  • Stay informed. It’s a good idea to check your credit report on a regular basis for any unfamiliar or fraudulent accounts. Monitoring your credit can help you quickly identify any unauthorized activities related to debt collection. It’s also advisable to keep up with the latest scams so you are better equipped to identify and avoid them. 

Debt collection scams can make the nightmare of debt even worse. Use the tips here to stay safe!

MoneyZen: The Secret to Finding Your “Enough”

Title: MoneyZen: The Secret to Finding Your “Enough”

Author: Manisha Thakor

Hardcover: 208 pages

Publisher: Harper Business

Publishing Date: Aug. 8, 2023

Who is this book for? 

  • Readers of any age and background who have ever felt like they can never measure up. 

What’s inside this book?

  • A breakdown of the personal, cultural and societal forces that lead people into believing they can never have or do enough.
  • Leading financial expert, Manisha Thakor’s joy-based approach to living with financial health and emotional wealth.
  • Inspiring stories of people from all walks of life who’ve struggled with “Never Enough”.

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How personal traumas, cultural influences, societal pressures and biology make us believe that, if we just had “more”, all our problems would be solved. 
  2. How to get off the hamster wheel and reclaim your life.
  3. Financial Health + Emotional Wealth = MoneyZen.
  4. How to stop equating your self-worth with your net worth. 

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. How can I feel like I have enough?
  2. Can I really achieve authentic joy?
  3. Why are so many of us unhappy, exhausted and worn out – even if we’re following all the rules we’ve been taught?
  4. How can my work and the rest of my life fit together?

What people are saying about this book: 

MoneyZen is an essential book for anyone who wants to reimagine their relationship with work and money, create more time for the things that really matter, and live a happier, more meaningful life.” – Ashley Willians 

Too many professionals are caught in a never-ending trap of seeking ‘more.’ Manisha Thakor provides a way out—a sustainable path to building the lives and careers we want.” — Dorie Clark

“If ‘doing it all’ so you can ‘have it all’ was a successful strategy for health and happiness, it should have worked by now. Our exhaustion, sense of overwhelm, and joylessness begs us to take a very different route. MoneyZen offers you a seat on the life raft of ENOUGH. Get on it.” — Mary LoVerde 

“MoneyZen is a manifesto for finding calm, confidence, and clarity around the role work and money should play in our lives. Drawing on her years of expertise, Manisha proves it’s never too late—and never too early—to embrace the MoneyZen mindset. An empowering must-read.” — Deepa Purushothaman

“A potent call to get away from one’s desk.” — Publishers Weekly

TikTok Inspo: What did you think of MoneyZen? Share your opinion in the comments.