5 Ways to Start Preparing for Christmas Today

While it may seem like Christmas is many months away, the truth is that the festive season has a tendency to sneak up on the unwary and unprepared. For most, Christmas is a time which can be seriously draining on the finances, and can have a devastating effect on your budget. To help you get the most of your festive season without destroying your bank balance, here are 5 simple ways to start preparing for Christmas today.

Set Your Goals

Before you do anything else, you should work out what you want to achieve by December. It is a good idea to make a list of everything that you need to save for, and allocate how much you will be spending on each thing. Work out a rough figure for entertaining costs, travel and holiday expenses, and how much you will be spending on presents. By listing these expenses, you can work out how much your savings goal needs to be, as well as starting to set guidelines on how you can save the money.

Tweak Your Budget

Now that you know how much you want to save, you can start to tweak your budget to help you achieve your Christmas goals. Spend some time evaluating your current income and expenses, and work on cutting back on unnecessary costs to give you more money for your savings. It can really help to open a separate account for all of your festive season expenses so that you can accurately keep track of your progress.

Keep an Eye on the Sales

Buying presents doesn’t have to be done in December, and savvy shoppers know that some of the best deals can be found during clearance sales throughout the year. Lay-by is also a good option when you spot a great deal and want to work on paying it off over the months leading up to Christmas.

Online Advantage

Buying online is simple, easy and convenient. Not only are the prices usually far cheaper than buying in store, many online sellers offer the benefit of gift wrapping for a small fee. This means you can do your Christmas shopping from the comfort of your computer, then have the present gift wrapped and delivered right to your door!

Talk to a Professional

Sometimes it can be hard to get started, especially if you have already experienced some financial stress. By calling the experts at Fox Symes, you can have a constructive consultation on ways to get on track with your finances. As a leading provider of debt solutions and financial advice to thousands of Australians, you know that your finances are in the very best hands. Check out the Fox Symes blog for more information and quality financial tips to help you get your finances sorted before the festive season strikes.

With these simple and easy tips, you can take the financial stress out of Christmas and spend more time focusing on enjoying the festive season with family and friends. Remember to chat to the professionals at Fox Symes for specialised advice on your personal finances, and ways that you can increase your savings. Be proactive take action today to ensure your Christmas will be a stress free and enjoyable holiday!


No One Knows What the Hell They're Doing

So, just an update regarding Project Maximize (see last post) – I looked at all of my accounts again and noticed I still have my travel fund and gift fund that I did not account for when I originally started with my $25k cash savings. I was a major saver and it’s definitely paying off! I was able to allocate another $4,000 towards my 7.9% interest student loan, bringing down my total debt to about $30,000. I still have about $2,000 in my travel/gift fund and I don’t foresee any traveling in the near future so I’m going to also use that “fund” as a misc savings fund to cover travel/gifts/wedding. (Yes I’m planning my wedding before I’m even engaged LOL that’s what happens when you’ve been with someone for almost 8 years, you get the wedding bug).

Anyway, I went off on a long tangent! I was talking to a good friend last week and we were catching up with life and also her new job. This woman is an attorney in her mid-thirties, and has lots of work experience. What she said was striking and a realistic statement about life. I was talking about the challenges with law school, and the constant need to worry about finding your next job and always comparing yourself with what others are doing.

She then replied, 
“Listen, even at my age and everyone else who is older, no one knows what the hell they’re doing. Trust me. Everyone is still just scrambling and acting like they know what’s going on, but at the end of the day, no one knows exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about this statement because it rings true to everything in my life. I'm the type to worry about what will happen if I make the wrong move or what will people think of me if I make mistakes? But you know what, it's OKAY! 

When I was younger I always thought there was a “right” way of doing something – the right career, the right time to get married, the right time to go back to school, and so on. At work, you see everyone buzzing around like they know what’s going on, and maybe they are amazing at their jobs or they’ve been there for many years, but still; that doesn’t mean that I’m supposed to know everything or what I’m going to be doing.

This conversation with my friend really put my mind at ease. There’s a lot of uncertainty with where my life is going right now, and I used to let it bother me a lot. There is no life plan for me, and I’m trying to just remind myself that not knowing what’s going on is part of the adventure of it all, and sooner or later I’ll be comfortable with my decisions and I’ll look back fondly at this time (or maybe not so fondly, but that’s okay). Also, it’s funny to think about everyone not knowing what exactly it is they’re supposed to be doing, whether it’s something at work or even a life goal they’re trying to accomplish. It’s just something that I like to think about to remind myself that I don’t need to inundate myself with loads of pressure all the time.

This will definitely help me decrease the blood pressure during these next few years as I embark on this journey haha. This can seriously apply to everything that stresses me out including school, work, future, money, debt (SUCH A BIG ONE), and finances.

Do you tend to think everyone else is always doing the “right” thing all the time? Or that they’re on the path to do what they’re “supposed” to be doing? Whether it’s finances, career, education, etc., I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Hopefully this brought some inspiration to your day ;)


Project Maximize

After speaking with my boyfriend, reading through your comments, and thinking about my future goals and objectives, I’ve finally made a decision and put together a master plan to make my money work for me and I'm calling it Project Maximize. 

My major goals are to pay as much as possible towards my student loans, keep some cash for emergencies, save for retirement, and have some cash for a down payment on a property. I know it seems like a lot, but I’m the type of person who tries to do everything simultaneously and just generally push myself to the limit. Sadly I haven’t been pushing myself financially since I’ve accumulated student loan debt this past fall, and I want to change that. 

Currently my money is sitting in that lame savings account. I’m not complaining though, I do get paid out for the measly almost 1% interest each month. From there, I researched 2-year CDs and other vehicles for saving cash. Ideally, I’d like to put the money in stocks (greater the risk, greater the reward?) but since I can’t predict the future, I won’t be doing that with my cash. At first I was going to just use the $25k cash to pay off my 7.9% interest student loan, however since I’m unsure of the future (job prospects, studying for the bar, etc.) I wanted to be able to hold onto some of the cash for emergencies and also have cash for a down payment for a property (I’m sure you all remember my condo journey pre-law school and it’s still a dream of mine to buy). 


I decided to leave $5,000 in savings for emergencies, pay $10,500 towards my student loan, and then put the rest into my roth IRA. Since I only want the cash for a down payment, I feel comfortable putting money into my roth since I can withdraw up to $10,000 penalty and tax-free.

Rules for Withdrawing Early From Roth IRA to Buy a Home

  • Max of $10,000 withdrawal;
  • The withdrawal must be contributions and not earnings;
  • The account has to have been open for 5 years; 
  • One must be a “first-time home buyer”;
  • Funds must be used directly towards home acquisition;
  • Funds must be used within 120 days of receipt;
  • $10k is a lifetime limit (can only do this once).
Since I meet all of these requirements, I will be putting the rest of my cash into the roth. The only problem is that there is a maximum amount I can contribute ($5,500) this year, and I already put in $1,500. I decided I’ll put in $4,000 this year to meet the maximum, and then in January 2014, put in $5,500. Then when I’m ready to withdraw the $10,000 from my roth in late 2015 or early 2016 (or whenever we’re approved), it will at least earn some money through investments and it will be tax-free and penalty-free. According to my calculations, in the future, I should have $10k from my roth plus $5k from my emergency fund, and then I will just have to save up another $5k, equaling $20k down payment. 

I would be more comfortable with this situation rather than not having the option to access cash IF we get approved that soon for a property. In the mean time, I will be throwing other money at my loans, including money that I earn through this summer job and next summer's job, and any other jobs I take on during the school year.

Did I miss anything...any suggestions are welcome!
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