Happy New Year – The Business End of Christmas

About The Woman - debts, credit cards

by Images_of_Money, flickr.com

Christmas is for kids everyone says, I agree. Then I guess the New Year is for adults? Then perhaps New Year’s resolutions are for adults too. What are the typical resolultions: lose weight, be happier, make more cash, be a nicer person , the list goes on, but there’s another one that’s on my most people’s list – get out of debt.

At Christmas we wonder what gifts to buy, the New Year is when we wonder how to pay for them. It’s exactly at this time of the year that peoples’ debts are increasing, so in a sense the New Year is the business end of Christmas. It’s certainly the time for looking at our credit card statements at least.

Who exactly does it affect

It’s been said that one in three people go into debt around Christmas. Debt is not only a risk to our financial well-being, but also to our relationships and even to our health.

According to Debt Advice a leading organization that gives free advice on peoples’ debts – it’s the leading cause of breakups. Actually it ranks higher than other factors such as unemployment, illness, gambling and alcohol problems. Although It’s hard to see how they themselves are connected to peoples’ debts.

It’s also said that 44 % of people in the UK alone, are now under the burden of non-mortgage debt. That’s a lot of families with debt problems! Many of these families will fail to make their payments.

I’m no better than you

I have no intention of telling you about how I crawled out of debt, or of how I never had a debt problem in the first place. But I will mention, that debt doesn’t only affect the adults – kids feel it too. I can recall time when my father whispered to me to crouch down, and hide from the man who was knocking on the front door. He may have been a legal sort of debt company or something even worse, I never found out, that’s often the problem with debt.

Talk to loved ones

Don’t hide your debt, don’t ignore it. Debt can seem like a terrible shame and burden. But that’s exactly when you need communicate with your family or partner. Your family needs to understand what you’re going through.

My Mother who was very able woman with money,  but she had the worse kind of surprise one day. I can’t remember how she found out, perhaps it was a letter, anyway the result was she found out her husband had taken out a second mortgage against our home – the first was almost paid off! Thanks dad!

Nobody ever knew why he did it, but he hid it, and even more dangerously ignored it. My father really was the perfect storm when it came to letting his debts spiral out of control.

Bottom line get the family on board with financial decisions. They can push you, or stop you, encourage you and or support you. They can’t do anything if they don’t know. Talk to someone you know, who’s been through it, or call a national debt line or something for free advice on debt. Good advice can often come free.

About The Woman

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If Only Santa Was a Woman – Unwanted Gifts

About The Woman - a woman, beautiful woman, middle aged woman, a girl, Christmas, woman, Mrs Santa, Mrs Claus

by North Charelston, flickr.com

Christmas friend or foe, either way it’s gone for another year. But what’s left? Big stomachs, ruined bank accounts, headaches, screaming kids that don’t want to go back to school, more than a few unwanted gifts, and that’s just me! So how about the rest of the world? But seriously what do you do?

Why do we even buy presents in the first place? Guys will buy a gift for a woman they love and other people will buy fabulous gifts which are loaded down with good intentions. But what is it? Guilt, pressure, love or just simply a case of keeping up with the Joneses? One thing for certain, the original religious concept has become somewhat neglected, forgotten or even shunned by popular opinion. Even when we do remember the genesis of the idea, it’s molded into plastic and sold as an action figure.

What about all those gifts we don’t want? The advertisements, pressure from colleagues, commercials for credit cards and loans offer no advice. All these tools of commercialism only point in one direction, and that’s towards the checkout. There are however a few shining lights out there from the odd individual, to the online business. Some of these offer useful solutions to the overdose of unwanted presents.

Not everybody is out to make a quick buck from our problems, according to a story by Reuters there’s actually a pretty cool shop in Slovenia which opened just in time for Christmas.  The idea behind the shop is simple yet important.  Basically if you don’t like a gift then simply change it for one you like.  To quote the shop owner “people get and give too many present nowadays” and I think the shop owner is 100% right.

In some cultures especially in China cash really is king when it comes to gifts. Yes you could say it’s a cold, perhaps even an unthoughtful kind of gift – but there’s no denying its versatility.

Gift cards are increasingly popular gifts, I especially like them when it comes to kids. As opposed to cash, it allows you moderate control on what they kids will blow their money on. But these sentiments maybe the thing’s biggest downfall. What happens when you get a gift to a shop you stylistically have nothing in common with? What are your options if you have a gift card you don’t like, can you take it back to the shop in question and get the cash? Not likely, at least not in that shop. But there are ways according to The Daily Beast.

Cash back sites – the middle man will take a cut!

Giftcards.com, will assess the cash back value, mail you a check or even transfer funds via paypal. Gift Card Granny, it’s a smiliar variation on the above, it scans sites that will give you the most value for you card.Just be prepared to make a small loss on the value of the gift card.

Then you have old faithful – Ebay. There’s always loads of people who are wanting to get their hands on a bargain. But you will have to prepared to sell for a lesser amount, but it’s better than being stuck with a card you hate.

Other options

Gift card rescue, works with Amazon, you get a bonus 5 percent for changing it too an Amazon gift card. Cardpool, works much the same way.

Charities can benefit too. Plastic Jungle allows you to donate the cash on the card to a worthy charity, its aligned with a few such as Red Cross. Plastic Jungle rather cunningly allows you add air miles as well, in cooperation with United Airlines.

Traditional gifts

If the gift is a more traditional kind of gift you can deal with it in similar ways. You could try holding a swap party. People rewrap the gifts they don’t want, and give them to someone else – of course they ran the risk of getting disappointed twice. Or you could do it the boring way and not wrap them – an episode of The office springs to mind. Just make sure things are of a similar value!

Returning stuff to the stores can be an option. It depends on the store of course, not all stores have equal policies on returning gifts. Just check the policies for online and locations for shops. But of course if it’s given to you then you might have little choice, you’re going to have to roll with the punches.

Re-gifting, I have done this and felt horrible about it. But that doesn’t mean you have to. In my case I had to go back overseas and didn’t have the luggage space, so I off loaded the gift and saved time, and money (but it still didn’t feel right). Although seriously why not? I think the key issue is, to choose more carefully than the person who you gifted it to you in the first place. The lucky person might appreciate it more than you did.

Donate it! Just like the gift cards, donating something can be a rewarding experience and in my book a much nicer feeling option than just simply re-gifting. I have a friend who just a few years ago, gave 100’s of man sized teddy bears to a load of kids that needed a bit of happiness in their lives – although in this case they were just extra teddies from the factory. But honestly the kids didn’t care about how they got them, they were happy just the same.

About The Woman, Merry Christmas Everyone!