How Long Can You Dispute Credit Card Charges?

How Long Can You Dispute Credit Card Charges?

No one looks forward to reviewing their monthly credit card statements. But, what should you do if you find an unauthorized charge? Although frustrating, the good news is that these kinds of mistakes are reversible. If you disagree with a charge on your credit card, or believe it was an error, you will have to dispute credit card charges with your card issuer.

What is the Timeframe to Dispute Credit Card Charges?

Disputing a Charge

When it comes to errors on your credit card statement, the sooner you act the better. You typically have 60 days to dispute credit card charges. The deadline applies to both fraudulent charges and contesting purchases that did not meet expectations. However, you should check the information included in your card member agreement or look it up online in case your credit card company has a different policy.

Keep in mind that the clock starts from the day your credit card company postmarked your statement or made it available to you online. Therefore, waiting for a hard copy of your statement could cost you valuable time. If you wait too long, you will be on the hook for the charges.

Appealing the Results of an Investigation

If you have already submitted your dispute, the credit card company must also adhere to strict deadlines. Once they receive your claim, the company has one month to respond or acknowledge it. They have an additional two billing cycles to conduct an investigation into the matter. Once the company completes their investigation, they must notify you in writing with the results and final decision. If the company chooses not to remove the charge, you have 10 days to respond. Otherwise, the law views it as a closed case with no further recourse.

When Should You Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

Although there are several situations in which you should dispute credit card charges, they usually fall under one of these categories.

Unauthorized Charges

An unauthorized charge is any purchase made without your permission. While this is usually the result of someone stealing your card, it also happens if a friend or family member uses your card without your express permission. In the most serious cases, unauthorized charges may indicate that you have become a victim of fraud or identity theft.

Billing or Clerical Errors

You should also dispute any charges due to billing or clerical errors. This covers a wide range of mistakes including mathematical errors in the amount charged, repeat transactions or double charging, and failure to post credits or payments to your account.

A Merchant Provides Unsatisfactory Services or Products

Lastly, you also can dispute charges if your purchase did not meet your expectations. As long as you have already contacted the merchant and attempted to resolve the problem about the transaction, your credit card company can help you dispute these charges. Furthermore, they can assist you with refunds on items that were damaged or never arrived. Unfortunately, this service is limited only for purchases of more than $50.

How Do You Dispute Credit Card Charges?

When you find unauthorized charges, you will need to contact your credit card company to remove it. Oftentimes, it’s a simple process since most companies have a zero-liability policy. This means you are not responsible for any unauthorized charges. However, there may be different processes for handling disputes depending on the credit card company.

Call the credit card company directly.

The easiest way to dispute a charge is by calling the number on the back of your card. You can speak directly with a customer service agent and report the charge. In most instances, they will remove it and file the dispute on your behalf. If necessary, they can follow up with you by email. However, if it requires more action, this is also a good chance to find out what the company needs from you to proceed.

Submit your dispute in writing.

Many experts advise that you also write a letter including details about the charge. You have to be careful when using the issuer’s website or app to file a dispute. Sometimes there are arbitration clauses that limit your rights to dispute a credit card charge in the fine print. Submitting your dispute in writing is a good way to follow up any phone conversations and establish a paper trail.  Furthermore, a letter preserves rights to dispute charges that online options might eliminate.

Additionally, the credit card may also request more documentation from you. This would be a good opportunity to include copies of your statement, receipts, police reports, and any other relevant information. Make sure to keep the original documents for yourself, but send copies of everything to Billing Inquiries. It is also wise to use certified mail and ask for a return receipt in case you need proof later on.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

The best thing you can do for yourself is to know your rights. The Fair Credit Billing Act outlines all of the consumers’ rights when disputing a charge. There is a standardized procedure everyone must follow, including creditors. Any deviation from the process could result in a dismissal of the claim.

Another way to avoid unauthorized is by making it a regular habit to check your statements regularly and monitor your accounts using online banking. When you see a discrepancy, you can take immediate action on charges you do not recognize or did not make. You can also set notifications and alerts. If you respond to an issuer’s alert, it makes a much stronger case for removing disputed charges.

Finally, keep records of everything. Take detailed notes of every interaction with the credit card company and merchants. Be sure to write down names, ID numbers, dates, times, and a summary of your conversations. If it ends up in legal action, you will have everything prepared to support your claim. In all likelihood, you won’t need it. But, it is better to be prepared for anything, just in case.

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How to Get Over Buyer’s Remorse

How to Get Over Buyer's Remorse

The truth is that we all make unwise purchases and financial decisions at some point in our lives. Nobody is perfect. Even with the best of intentions, we occasionally make mistakes that lead to buyer’s remorse. However, it can be difficult to pick yourself up and move on afterwards. Here are some tips and pieces of advice to help you deal with and get over buyer’s remorse.

What is Buyer’s Remorse?

In the simplest terms, buyer’s remorse is the feeling of regret after making a big purchase or investment. The regret is often accompanied by stress, anxiety, or panic as well.

For most people, these feelings usually happen after making expensive purchases, such as a house or vehicle. However, we also experience them after buying smaller things that we believe we paid too much for. In some cases, you may even consider returning the item or pretending the purchase never happened.

Most psychologists attribute buyer’s remorse to the concept of cognitive dissonance. The reason it happens is because the action of buying something expensive contradicts the perception you have of yourself as frugal or having responsible spending habits. Buyer’s remorse is a result of your internal battle between the need to avoid risks and consequences versus the desire to get what makes you happy.

How Do You Deal With and Get Over Buyer’s Remorse?

For many people, these emotions are so deeply ingrained that they never fully get over buyer’s remorse. However, there are always ways to cope with it. Like most problems, the first step is to find the cause and understand where the regret is coming from. Once you know the source of your feelings, it becomes easier to accept that you made a mistake and move on from it.

If you are experiences feelings of regret over a recent purchase, here are some methods to help you get over and move past your buyer’s remorse.

1. Remind yourself of all the reason for making the purchase.

Unless you made an impulse buy, you probably had several reasons for spending the money. Take a few moments to remind yourself of the reasons why you made the purchase. Reflect on the circumstances the led to your decision to help you determine whether your feelings are valid or misplaced.

2. Determine whether you actually regret the purchase, or just the amount you spent.

Sometimes buyer’s remorse is confused with the guilt about spending money in general. If you are experiencing these emotions solely based on the sticker price, you can get over buyer’s remorse by reminding yourself of the value of quality over quantity. Investing in better quality homes, vehicles, and items will require more money up front. However, they will also last much longer, saving you more money over time.

3. Practice self-forgiveness.

If you truly have made a mistake, you have to remember you are only human. We all stumble at times, but you cannot continue to beat yourself up for past mistakes. Practice a little self-forgiveness and cut yourself some slack. You cannot always undo a mistake once it has been done. So, it is better to take the lesson from the situation, but leave the regret behind. Holding on to guilt is a waste of valuable time and energy.

4. Try to recoup some of the financial losses.

In some instances, you may be able to recover a portion of the money you lost. Reselling unwanted items can at least help lessen the sting of large financial mistakes. Don’t force yourself to keep something you don’t like just because it cost a lot of money.

Even if you are unable to sell the unwanted item, you can always give it to someone who really needs it or would appreciate it more than you. Furthermore, you can adjust your budget and tighten the purse strings in other areas to save a little extra to compensate for your buying indiscretions.

How Do You Avoid Buyer’s Remorse in the Future?

Once you realize where you went wrong, the best way to get over buyer’s remorse is to make a plan of how you can avoid it in the future.

1. Research and compare before you buy.

Before making any big purchase, spend some time comparing your options and researching what features you actually need. The more you know about the item you are buying, the more difficult it will be for salesmen to talk you into buying more than you need. Doing your homework also means you are less likely to regret your decision later on.

2. Make a pros and cons list.

Whenever I am struggling with a decision, I use the old Ben Franklin approach. I list out the pros and cons of the purchase so I can better evaluate my decision. More often than not, I have an answer by the time I complete the list. Sometimes things become clearer when they are plainly printed out for you in black and white.

3. Stick to the list of budget you have created for yourself.

Once you have decided that the purchase is necessary, the next step is to set a clear budget and list of required features. When you know exactly what you are looking for, it is easier to resist the temptation to buy upgrades or add-ons you don’t really need.

4.Take a day and sleep on your decision.

This is one of the easiest and best techniques to help you avoid buyer’s remorse. First, it removes any pressure you feel to make a decision on the spot. Second, it also allows the excitement dissipate so reason can prevail.

Sleeping on your decision gives you more time to revisit your pros and cons list, compare options, and gather information. Taking an extra day to decide can help you make more practical decisions. When you remove your emotions from the equation, it is easier to see whether you are acting on impulse or making a good decision.

Feeling buyer’s remorse after a large purchase is perfectly natural. However, understanding where your feelings come from and recognizing your mistakes can prevent you from making them again and help you get over buyer’s remorse.

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How to Reduce Pet Expenses and Care Costs


How to Reduce Pet Expenses

Owning a pet can be a very rewarding experience. Not only do they provide companionship, but studies also demonstrate how pets can benefit our mental health. However, caring for an animal is a serious responsibility. If you are worried about the additional costs, here are seven ways you can ease the burden and reduce pet expenses.

7 Ways to Reduce Pet Expenses

1. Choose a Pet to Suit Your Budget.

I know…it can be hard to resist those big, puppy-dog eyes. However, before you bring home a new pet, you must ask yourself if you are financially able to take care of one. Caring for an animal is a huge responsibility. Therefore, you should be aware just how much the annual costs can be.

If you are getting a pet, choose an animal that suits your budget. Since larger animals eat more, it may be better to consider a smaller animal with lower pet care costs. According to the ASPCA, the expenses for a large dog are about $875 every year. Opting for a smaller pet could be a smart way to reduce pet expenses. Annual costs are approximately $670 for cats, $200 for birds, and $35 for freshwater fish. Even looking at smaller breeds of dogs could save you a considerable amount of money on pet food and supplies.

2. Adopt Your Pets from a Shelter.

Adoption is another way to greatly reduce the initial costs of getting a pet. You save a ton in adoption and veterinary fees if you adopt through a local shelter. When you take your pet home, it has already received a check-up, vaccinations, and been micro-chipped. The small adoption fee is a bargain when compared to these savings alone. Not only are you supporting their rescue efforts, but adoption also eliminates breeder’s exorbitant prices.

You can also ask around or check local classified ads for animals in need of a good home. Often times, those placing the ads are giving the animals away, free of charge. Why pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for pure-bred pets when there are so many that you can choose from for free?

3. Compare Food and Pet Supply Brands.

There is no doubt that food will be your biggest expense as a pet owner. But, as with any purchase, it makes sense to look for the most economical brands and best deals. Avoid brand names with words like “premium,” which usually only mean a higher retail price. Store brands that say things like “total nutrition” or “balanced diet” will still provide your pet with proper nutrition.

Buying pet supplies in bulk from discount clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club is very cost effective. There are also many online stores like that regularly offer discounts and promotional codes to their customers. Any smart budgeter will tell you that every little bit counts, especially when trying to reduce pet expenses.

4. Get Vaccines from Low-Cost Clinics.

In order to protect the pet population, state and local governments require vaccinations for domesticated animals. Although these are required by law, you don’t need to spend crazy amounts of money for private consultations. Many shelters and local universities work with low-cost clinics to provide affordable treatments. Since vet students and interns administer the injections, they usually cost next to nothing.

If you have any questions about city ordinances concerning pet vaccinations, check with the local humane society. Not only can they give you the most current information, but they can also tell you more about these types of programs in your area.

5. Maintain Your Pet’s Health.

The best way to reduce your pet’s long term medical expenses is by maintaining good health and hygiene. Just as it is with humans, it requires time and effort to keep your pets healthy. You can ensure your pet maintains a healthy body weight with regular exercise and feeding schedules. Over-feeding your pet hurts both your pet’s well-being and your wallet.

Annual check-ups and regular visits to the vet are another costly responsibility of caring for animals. However, it is extremely important for preventative care.  This includes regular dental cleaning, booster shots, and treatments for common ailments like heartworm, fleas, tick, and other diseases. When you do need medication, you can save a bundle through websites like PetCareRX and 1-800-PetMeds as well.

Finally, do not forget your pet’s reproductive health as well. Although puppies and kittens are adorable, their upkeep costs are astronomical. As a responsible pet owner and financial planner, have your pets spayed and neutered. The initial investment in the procedure is well worth the long term savings.

6. Reduce Grooming Costs.

When choosing what kind of pet is right for you, grooming is another important consideration. Larger animals or breeds with long hair require a lot of maintenance. Some pet owners have professional groomers tend to their animals, but these services come at a high price. While these visits are necessary at times, regular combing, brushing, bathing and clipping at home prolong visits to the groomer.

If you do not feel confident to trim your pet’s fur or nails, there are many tutorial videos online to help you. You can purchase the tools online, and follow along with their instruction to reduce your pet care expenses. Furthermore, shaving pets during summer months will also save you time and energy cleaning. That alone is a huge value in and of itself.

7. Try Making Your Own Pet Toys.

One of the most frivolous ways we spoil our pets is with toys and treats. Although my pets enjoy them immensely, toys from the pet store are not cheap. While it is okay to splurge occasionally, don’t stuff your online shopping cart with things they don’t really need.

Instead, look for things around your house that many pets are perfectly content to play with. Every dog I have owned happily chased after tennis balls or dragged around their favorite stuffed toy to chew on. Cats often prefer the boxes their pet supplies and toys come in. Additionally, ribbons and strings can be just as entertaining as there are plenty of items around your home that your pets will find perfectly acceptable.

If you are the creative type, you can find endless ideas for homemade pet toys on Pinterest boards and other DIY websites. You can also consider growing your own herbs like catnap to further reduce pet expenses. When it comes to finding ways to keep your pet entertained, you are truly only limited by what keeps your and your pet’s interest.

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The Third Stimulus Check

The Third Stimulus Check

Just before his inauguration, President Biden released his contingency plan to ease the country through the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.  The far-reaching American Rescue Plan seeks to “provide critical support to struggling communities.” This includes direct funding to every eligible citizen. On the heels of receiving the second one, there is already talk of a third stimulus check. As part of the relief plan, every eligible person would receive another check to help counteract the economic impact from Covid-19. However, eligibility requirements may be changing. While there is strong support for a relief package on both sides of the aisle, it has yet to be approved.

What is Included in the Third Stimulus Plan?

The extensive (and expensive) $1.9 trillion relief package intends to direct funding to those most impacted by the pandemic. First and foremost, each eligible person would receive another relief payment of up to $1,400. However, the third stimulus check is just one part of the larger relief plan. It expands tax credits, paid leave, unemployment benefits, and provides financial assistance to renters and landlords. In addition, Biden’s plan also extends the moratorium on eviction and the freeze on federal student loans through September.

Other funding is earmarked for measures to contain the spread of Covid-19. Biden’s major objective is to expedite testing and the national rollout for the vaccine. Since we are far behind the initial goal to vaccinate 100 million people by the end of 2020, his aim is 100 million jabs in his first 100 days in office. Furthermore, the plan allocates more state and local funding to reopen schools safely and subsidize health coverage.

Although his plan is ambitious, you can expect pushback from lawmakers over the budget. The opposition wants a more targeted proposal to reduce costs. Some politicians want lower income thresholds so less people receive a stimulus check. Others say it is not enough and are still fighting for the original amount of $2000 which was discussed before Trump left office. While everyone can agree that immediate action must be taken, the application and allocation of resources remains a controversial topic.

Who is Eligible for the Third Stimulus Check?

Chances are that if Congress approves the plan, you will receive a third check if you already got the first two. However, there may be some changes in the eligibility requirements. Some politicians are proposing to change the upper income limit of $75,000 to reduce government spending. Unfortunately, this means less people would qualify the third time around.

On the other hand, Biden’s plan seeks to expand the definition of dependent eligibility to include anyone over 17. This would add an additional $600 for adult dependents such as college students, elderly, and those with disabilities. Families who have mixed citizenship status in their household may also become eligible. If there are delays in approving the proposal, this will likely be one of the deciding factors.

When Will We Be Getting the Third Stimulus Check?

Although it is likely that eligible Americans will receive a third stimulus check, don’t go spending the money just yet. There are still a lot of unanswered questions and negotiations ahead. The first two stimulus checks have helped a lot of people keep food on the table, but never count your chickens before they hatch.

It will be a difficult road to getting the approval needed to pass the relief package. Congress will be hesitant to spend an additional $1.9 trillion after passing the $900 billion last month. It could be several weeks or months before we see any additional relief payments. Therefore, it is better to focus on what is going on in your own house rather than the White House. Instead, if the third check comes along, view it as supplemental income to help you catch up on bills and stay out of debt.

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How to Sell Your Blood for Cash

How to Sell Your Blood for Cash

For those who struggle to make ends meet, selling blood and plasma is one way to stretch your budget through the end of the month. However, due to national shortages, blood banks are desperately reaching out for new donors. If you want to support our health care workers or simply need extra money, here is how you can sell your blood for cash.

How to Sell Your Blood for Cash

How Can You Sell Your Blood for Cash?

Most places will not compensate you for donating blood. However, there are private centers that will pay you for blood plasma. There is a high demand for it, so you can sell your blood plasma for cash. Plasma is rich in enzymes, antibodies, and proteins, and it is used in many medical treatments. Transplant patients, burn victims, and those with clotting disorders all benefit from blood plasma. The private centers earn a profit by selling it, so they are willing to pay you for each session. There are usually incentives and bonuses for first-time donors as well.

How much you earn varies from one person to the next. However, you can usually expect between $20 and $50 per donation. The amount depends on the quantity of plasma you provide. The bigger you are, the more they can extract. The donor guidelines separate people into categories according to weight: 110-149 lbs., 150-174 lbs., and 175-400 lbs. Cash payments are set according to these guidelines.

Who is Eligible?

If you want to sell your blood plasma, the eligibility requirements are usually the same as those that regulate blood donations. Any adult who is between the ages of 18-69, over 110 pounds, and in good health can donate. However, there are certain risk factors and conditions that could exclude you as a candidate.

To ensure that you are healthy and eligible, you must complete a donor questionnaire. Certain lifestyles and pre-existing conditions may prevent you from selling your blood. For example, if you have traveled internationally to places endemic for malaria in the past year, you cannot donate. Furthermore, if you have a condition like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, iron deficiencies, or certain types of cancer, you are also an ineligible candidate.

Before wasting time and gas money, call around or look online for the requirements at clinics in your area. If you have any questions about your eligibility, call ahead to ensure you would make it through the screening process.

What are the Risks?

Donating blood and plasma is a well-regulated process. However, there are always risks to consider. Most commonly, people report tenderness and bruising around the needle injection site. Others feel dizzy and faint after donating due to blood loss. Since your body loses so much fluid, you want to be well hydrated before your appointment. It is also a good idea to avoid caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and fatty foods as well.

Severe reactions are uncommon but can occur, especially if you are not healthy. Donors have reported shivering, changes in their pulse rate, shortness of breath, and twitching after donation. There is an increased risk for these side effects if you are not feeling well or have donated too recently.

Covid-19 has also increased the risk to sell your blood. In addition to meeting all the health standards, some clinics also require a negative test or a positive recovery test if you had the virus. While there is an urgent need for blood and plasma donors, we still have the important responsibility to ensure everyone’s safety.

What are the Ethical Concerns of Selling Blood?

In addition to the physical risks, there are also some ethical concerns about selling blood. Some national and local governments have banned paying donors. In Ontario, victims of tainted blood have called for public administration and voluntary donations only after serious breaches in the screening process. Approximately 33,000 people contracted hepatitis C and an additional 1,000 others contracted HIV because of improper screening. They argue that federal regulation would make it safer to donate and less likely others will become victims.

Another reason people want standardized regulations is to ensure that donors are not exploited. There are no concerns when donors are well-informed and willing to sell their blood for cash. However, issues arise when private clinics and organizations do not properly compensate donors. This has been particularly troublesome in developing countries where private companies take advantage of the poor. Another dilemma is when people are not advised of the health risks. In some instances, people may have refused to donate had they been aware. Therefore, donors must give full consent to ensure each individual’s rights are protected.

Others have argued that it is our ethical responsibility to give blood for the greater good. In particular, the position states we should voluntarily donate during times of crisis and natural disasters. Unfortunately, it is impossible to rely solely upon voluntary donors. For example, only 30% of Canada’s supply comes from volunteers. U.S. companies that pay for donations provide the rest.

Like these countries that rely on volunteer donations only, some urban areas are already experiencing shortages. Blood banks have difficulty meeting demands because fewer people want to sell blood for cash during the pandemic. Under these circumstances, paying donors may be the only way to ensure there is ample supply to support the health care system.

Where Can You Sell Blood Plasma?

A quick internet search will provide you with a list of private clinics and blood banks in your area. This site can help you find a donation center convenient for you. If you are still having trouble, you can also ask your physician or health care provider for a referral. In addition to volunteer donations, many also pay cash for blood plasma.

The unfortunate truth is that U.S. blood supplies are alarmingly low. In fact, we could be facing widespread shortages soon. There is no way to decrease demand, so we must find ways to increase the blood supply. Paying donors for contributions is one way to bridge this gap. If you have ever wanted to sell your blood for cash, now is a perfect time. Not only are you supporting our health care system, but you can also earn some extra cash.

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New Year’s Traditions to Improve Your Finances

New Year's Traditions to Improve Your Personal Finances

The New Year is nearly upon us. For many of us that means closing out the books and wrapping up our affairs for the fiscal year. If you are like me, then you may be creating New Year’s Resolutions to help you set financial goals for the coming year. However, this holiday is also steeped in rich cultural traditions and superstitions. Many of the customs are thought to bring luck and good fortune. This year, why not give into a little whimsy and observe some of the New Year’s traditions to improve your finances?

New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions to Improve Your Finances

1. Start the New Year with money in your wallet.

If you have made a New Year’s Resolution to save more money next year, this tradition can help get you started on the right foot. According to tradition, you should greet the New Year with cash in your wallet. This signifies that you will receive a steady flow of income over the next 12 months. Some go so far as to see that every wallet in the house has money in it to bring prosperity to the entire household.

Even if you do not give credence to the superstitions, paying for things with cash makes it easier to stick to a budget. It helps you track your spending with each visit to the ATM to withdraw money. Furthermore, it helps you avoid using credit cards and accruing more debt. This tradition sets a great precedent for the year ahead in helping you reach your savings goal.

2. Clear your debts before the New Year.

Although this custom is more closely associated with the Lunar New Year, it is still an excellent example of New Year’s traditions to improve your finances. In many Asian countries, people prioritize paying debts among family and friends. The tradition holds that if debts are not paid before the arrival of the New Year, then the debt will continue for life.

Becoming debt-free is one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions. However, paying off all your outstanding debts will likely require a longer time line. So, do not let these New Year’s traditions bring additional stress if you are unable to pay off all your debt right away. Simply making debt repayment one of your primary financial goals can help you improve your finances.

3. Eating certain foods will bring you good luck and fortune during the New Year.

Several cultures around the world believe that have traditions and superstitions relating to food. For example, eating particular foods or dishes on New Year’s Eve will bring you good fortune and wealth in the coming year.

One widely known tradition comes from Spain and other Latin America countries. When the clock strikes 12:00, you must eat 12 grapes, one with each stroke of the hour. This is to ensure good luck and prosperity during the year ahead. In many Baltic and Scandinavian countries, pickled herring is the dish of choice. In Greece, they have added excitement to see who will receive additional blessings and find the coin baked into a loaf of bread. During Lunar New Year feasts, it is more important to leave meat on the bone and food on your plate to ensure abundance for the next year. Another tradition that is a little closer to home comes from the American South. They eat collard greens and black eyed peas simply because they resemble money and symbolize good fortune.

While many people consider such practices to be silly or superstitious, there is no harm to indulge during some of the fun and unusual customs to bring you good luck and wealth. And honestly, who couldn’t use a little extra luck?

4. Offer gifts to give blessings of wealth and good fortune.

Many people offer gifts and blessings during important festivals and gatherings. So, it makes sense that the custom also extends to the New Year’s celebrations. For example, the Scottish New Year, known as Hogmanay to the locals, it is the highlight of the holiday season.

In a ritual known as “first footing,” the first visitor to cross the threshold your home after midnight should be a dark-haired man bearing gifts. The gifts usually include symbolic items like coal, salt, shortbread, black bun, or a dram of whisky. They represent essential household items needed to sustain you in addition to bringing luck and prosperity in the New Year.

Although many Scots are still enthusiastic participants in these celebrations, most people view it as an amusing superstition. However, the tradition is a humble reminder of our reliance upon our neighbors. Even during the lean times, we can offer advice and support to those in the community to help each other prosper.

5. Give yourself a fresh start and forget the troubles and concerns of the past year.

We have all made mistakes and poor decisions in the past. This also holds true when it comes to matters of personal finance. However, the Japanese tradition of Bonenkai is held at the end of the year to forget your financial woes. The word Bonenkai literally translates to “forget the year party.” So, why not give yourself a break and a clean slate for the coming year?

Bonenkai parties are usually sponsored by companies for their employees. Coworkers come together to eat, drink, and revel in the opportunities the New Year may bring. As the alcohol flows and inhibitions disappear, people tend to let their guard down and speak more freely. While Japanese are generally more reserved about sharing their opinions, the casual atmosphere enables people to discuss their concerns and try to improve issues.

We could all take a lesson from the New Year’s tradition and learn to let go of the past. It is better to use these mistakes as learning opportunities rather than dwelling on things that cannot be undone. Instead, apply the knowledge you have gained to making better financial decisions in the future.

New Year’s Traditions and Resolutions

New Year’s a good time to reflect upon the past 12 months and set new goals for ourselves. Even if you do not achieve everything you set out to do, making a resolution gives you something to work toward. Observing some of the New Year’s traditions and customs is a fun and festive way to start you on your path to improving your finances.

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How Working from Home Increases Productivity

How Working from Home Increases Productivity

Now that many people are working remotely, businesses are questioning whether working from home increases productivity or reduces it. If it increases productivity, this could help transition more people out of the office to work from home. Although employees have more freedom in how they manage their time, studies suggest this has a positive effect on overall productivity. Contrary to what you may have thought, people actually waste less time at home. While this may not be true for all of us, it may have an impact on how companies structure their workforce.

What the Research Says About Working from Home

Prodoscore, a California-based software company, conducted research to examine the workforce trends as more people work remotely. Their analysts compared data from 30,000 of its users from March/April 2020 to the same time frame in 2019. According to the statistics, they found a 47% increase in workers’ productivity. There were several data points they compared to draw these conclusions. For example, the number of phone calls went up 230%, email activity increased 57%, and messaging chats on internal platforms rose 9%.

However, it is important to remember that several variables impact the numbers to determine if working from home increases productivity. For instance, time of day and the day of the week greatly affect performance. On average, people’s average start time was 8:32 a.m. and end time 5:38 p.m. However Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are most productive for workers, in that order. Productivity decreases drastically on Fridays and Mondays. The window of time between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. is when workers are the most active.

Another Airtasker survey from 2019 interviewed 1,004 full-time workers, approximately half of whom were remote workers. They discovered that people worked 1.4 more days each month from home, largely due to no commute. Over the course of time, it adds up to 16.8 more days a year. Workers felt they had more free time without the daily commute. Many also said they would be willing to make concessions to continue working from home in the future.

How Working from Home Has Affected My Productivity

Like any major change, it took time to adjust. Although I have been working from home for years, the transition was not a smooth one. In the beginning, my productivity severely decreased because I was easily distracted. I had become used to supervisors or managers checking in on my progress. Working from home, no one was there to keep me on task. So, I could easily flit from one household chore to the next, or lose time scrolling through social media.

Once the decreased productivity affected my income, I took measures to improve. My greatest challenge was focusing on my work. It was hard to focus without dedicated office space and constant foot traffic. To fix this major obstacle, I set up desk space and began working late into the evenings when everyone was sleeping. Although I miss workplace collaboration and socializing with coworkers, I would likely also make concessions to continue working from home. With a few minor tweaks in my work environment and my schedule, I also found that working from home increases my productivity.

How to Increase Productivity Working from Home

One of the hardest parts of working from home is maintaining separation between your work and home life. Trying to do too much at once means your attention is divided. Therefore, the overall quality of the work is compromised. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to focus and prove that working from home increases productivity.

Maintain a Separate Work Space

The first thing you must do is find a quiet spot to set up your home office. You need to create boundaries to manage your time at work and at home. Maintaining a separate workspace is vital for a professional environment. Get into a routine and condition yourself to do certain tasks in designated areas. While you want to be comfortable during the workday, you should avoid working from the bed or the couch.   Scientists have long warned us of the negative effects of working from bed. So, it is better to create good habits at the beginning that promote productivity.

Keep to a Regular Schedule

Keeping a regular schedule also assists in the transition out of the office. It also lets your family know when you are available to take care of things at home. Furthermore, it defines the time when you need to focus on work responsibilities. Plan your day strategically, utilizing the hours you are most productive to take on more difficult tasks. Some people, like me, find it is easier to do the boring, more mundane tasks during busier times of the day. Following a schedule also makes it easier to confine work stress to hours you are on the clock, and make the most of your personal time when you are not.

Take Breaks to Increase Productivity

You should also schedule and actually take your breaks during the workday. Your mind and body need time to recharge and decompress. Since you have more flexibility when working from home, step away from your desk. Break up the day and get outside for some fresh air. Short breaks boost overall productivity by preventing burnout. A simple change of environment can reduce tension when problems arise and help you approach them with a new perspective.

Stay Connected to Your Coworkers

Human resources are an under-valued asset in many companies. The way people communicate and cooperate in a professional atmosphere builds cohesion. The bonds we create with our coworkers have boosted both efficiency and productivity.

However, one aspect that we have lost while working from home is social interactions with our coworkers. We are no longer able to catch up around the water cooler or vent to your workplace bestie over coffee. But, it is still important to engage face to face interactions as often as possible. It’s easy to use technology to recreate these social interactions and make us feel less isolated from one another. Although you may not be able to meet in the conference room, you can schedule Zoom calls with your team. Another option is to reach out through in-house messaging, schedule a daily phone call, or Facetime during one of your breaks. One reason working from home increases productivity is the convenience of digital connections.

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Record Setting Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Record Sales

Most households this year likely came home to a similar scene after the annual shopping event of the holiday season. There was stack of boxes neatly piled and waiting beside the door when we arrived home Tuesday afternoon. Each one contained deeply discounted merchandise bought online during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Each purchase also contributed to the record breaking sales set this year.

While these two shopping days have always seen a spike in sales, this year’s spending eclipsed all previous years. What caused this uptick in numbers? And how much more revenue is now generated through online sales? These are both interesting questions that are being closely watched by both retailers and analysts alike.

Online Shopping during Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving is a high holiday for those who love shopping. Since the birth of the internet, Cyber Monday has also been added to this list. People who love a good bargain would line up for hours or even camp out the night before the store opened. They would do all of this just to snag the best deals on their holiday purchases. However, 2020 has been a year of many changes. While most headlines report one depressing story after the next, retailers are celebrating record setting sales from online shopping.

Black Friday

This year’s spending far exceeded all previous Black Friday sales. Americans spent $9 billion, which is up 21.6% from last year according to data from Adobe Analytics. Analysts calculated that online shoppers in the U.S. spent $6.3 million per minute. That equates to about $27.50 per person. If you do the math on all your own purchases, you might be surprised how conservative this number is in comparison.

One of the most important numbers to look at though is where purchases are being made. Roughly $3.6 billion came through purchases on smart phones or mobile devices. This figure rose 25.3% from the year before. Overall, these purchases accounted for 40% of all sales this year.

Cyber Monday

Following Black Friday, Cyber Money superseded even these numbers. This shopping day broke the record as the largest internet shopping day ever in the U.S. American shoppers spent a shocking $10.8 billion on things like smart phones, electronics, and toys. Cyber Monday spending rose 15.1% from last year.

These spending habits and record numbers make more sense when you look at the current conditions in the U.S. Most of us are spending more time at home in general due to social distancing measures. Whether it is because you work remotely or simply because fewer places are open, it means you are likely spending more time online.

Biggest Winners from Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals

Calculating total sales this year will be a bit more difficult due to the extended sales throughout the holiday season. So far, Americans have spent $106.5 billion. However, Adobe Analytics estimates this figure to reach more than $180 billion in online sales this year. So, the nagging question is who are the biggest winners from Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2020?

Amazon is continuing to see huge gains in the fourth quarter. According to an analyst from Truist Securities, Amazon earns 42 cents on every dollar spent equating to billions of dollars in profits. Other companies like Costco, Etsy, and Target each hit all-time trading highs on Black Friday. Many stores have spread out their promotions for longer period to capitalize on the trend of current online shopping as well.

Even though many large retailers closed on Thanksgiving to prevent large crowds, some hot ticket items were still hard to come by. For example, the Xbox One X and PlayStation 5 consoles sold out early and likely won’t be available until next quarter. Even online people were kept waiting to buy Lego’s. It seems like limited hours and heavy online traffic cannot keep seasoned shoppers from their prize.

Factors Affecting Online Shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Greater Online Presence

Online studies show people are spending more time at home during the pandemic. This is a golden opportunity for online retailers to boost their profits. Many larger retailers have been advertising deals since October to draw more online traffic. Since most people are avoiding public places, they must depend upon online sales to compensate. According to the numbers, many retailers surpassed their expected profit margins.

The Convenience Factor

Another factor that added to the success of Black Friday and Cyber Monday was ease of accessibility. Now that people are able to shop online, they can avoid the crowded malls and stores which everyone dreads. Many stores also offered curbside pick-up to ensure shoppers’ safety. Not only was there less hassle, but also prevented in-store conflicts that have incited violence in the past.

Extended Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals

Furthermore, most retailers have extended their timeframe so people can take advantage of holiday deals. This strategy has been especially effective with special savings only available online. Many retailers kicked off the holiday savings to coincide with Amazon Prime Day as well. With the bombardment of discounts and advertising, it is hard to resist the urge to impulse to buy.

How Black Friday and Cyber Monday Impact Personal Finances

Increased advertising and targeted marketing made it even more likely that you participated in Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year. However, this does not bode well for your monthly budget. I always get slightly nervous and more conscious of my finances before the holidays. The pressures to host friends and family and find the perfect gifts are not kind to your credit cards.

As someone with a history of credit card debt, you can easily understand my hesitancy to buy anything during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To resist the urge, I removed all the shopping apps and avoided my smart phone as much as possible. This year, I planned ahead and made a list. I intend to stick to it instead of splurging on things I don’t need just because they are on sale. This mindset helped me stay within my budget and prevent overspending during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. However, if you are someone who continues to struggle with debt, contact a debt relief counselor to help you get back on track in the new year.

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How to Live Below Your Means

With rising prices and ever increasing consumer demands, it becomes more challenging for many individuals to live below their means. Credit card bills, keeping up with the Joneses, and other unnecessary expenses are among some of the reasons it is exceedingly hard to stick to a budget. Some find themselves unable to spend less than the amount of money they are able to make each month. Here are a few suggestions to help you live below your means and improve your financial health.

Living Below Your Means
Living Below Your Means

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How to Plan for Retirement When You Lost Your Savings

The sad truth is that most Americans are not properly prepared for retirement. According to a 2019 survey, 64% of Americans expect to retire with less than $10,000 in their accounts. Whether this is a result of medical expenses, poor investments, or outstanding debts, you must remember it is never to late to plan for retirement. It is also possible to start over and rebuild your nest egg. Here are five things you can do to get back on track when you have lost your savings.

How to Plan for Retirement When You Lost Your Savings

5 Ways to Help You Plan for Retirement

1. Ramp Up Your Savings Plan for Retirement.

While it may seem obvious, the first step to plan for retirement after you have lost your savings is to begin again. You must also be realistic and admit that your current savings plan is likely not enough to rebuild your nest egg. It will require a great deal of sacrifice, discipline, and lifestyle changes to regain what you lost.

First, carefully evaluate your monthly budget and see what you can do without. This means cutting out unnecessary expenses like entertainment expenditures, buying the latest electronics, and going out to eat. Create a minimum budget where you are only spending money on what you need to survive. Once you know what you need to meet your monthly bills, put every extra penny towards your retirement funds. Additionally, utilize employer-sponsored 401k plans and max out your IRA contributions. This includes catch-up contributions for those over 50. Make no mistake; it is difficult to do without the things you enjoy. However, supporting yourself after retirement is a much more important goal.

2. Delay Your Retirement.

Another option is to delay your retirement date. Not only does it allow more time to save, but also to see more gains on your investments. If you are still living off your wages, it will postpone when you must begin drawing from your retirement funds. Furthermore, it reduces the number of years that your savings must sustain you. Working a few more years may  prevent you from running through your savings too early.

Prolonging your retirement also increases your Social Security benefits. You are able to claim retirement benefits from 62, but you can maximize the amount if you work until 70. Your monthly check increases approximately 7-8% every year you hold off retiring. The income you earn during those years is also calculated into your monthly benefits which could increase the amount you receive. Unfortunately, there are no increases beyond age 70. Keep in mind that most workers retire sooner than expected due to layoffs, health issues, or caring for a family member or spouse. Although this is a good strategy to help plan for retirement, don’t bank on working till 70. You never know what surprises life may throw you that could put your savings plan off course.

3. Adjust Your Retirement Lifestyle.

Another hard pill to swallow after losing your savings is that you may not be able to live as lavishly as you had planned for retirement. You must create a new retirement budget by trimming the fat. This means tightening the purse strings and finding ways to lower monthly expenses after you retire. Some suggestions would include downsizing your home, eliminating travel plans, or moving to an area with a lower cost of living. Living on a restricted budget will help you stretch your savings and catch up to your retirement goals.

4. Understand How You Lost Your Savings.

Another important step when starting over is to understand where things went wrong. Some matters are beyond your control, but other lost their retirement savings due to poor investing decisions. If this includes you, you should evaluate your investing strategy and examine why your portfolio suffered such extensive losses. If you invested too heavily in one area, diversifying will reduce future market exposure and personal risk. Many are tempted to invest more aggressively to regain their savings, but this could backfire and cause a second major loss.

5. Seek Professional Advice.

The most important thing is to remember there is always hope. However, if you are unable to find your own solution it is very easy to fall into despair. If you feel like there is no way out, seek professional advice from a financial planner. They will assess your situation, explain the options available to you, and find solutions you may have overlooked. Also, choose someone who is fee-only. This means they only earn a commission if you make money. It may eliminate any concerns over conflicts of interest or doubts that they are making the best decisions for you. Even when you must go back to square one, there is always a path forward.

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