christmas costsIt's no secret that Christmas can get expensive in a hurry. When calculating Christmas costs most people consider the gifts they gave, but they often forget to account for things like Christmas decorations, extra food, supplies for baking, Christmas cards and postage, and other miscellaneous costs to get in the Christmas spirit.

In the past I've tried to cut Christmas costs by setting a budget for my gift-giving but I never even considered all of the other costs associated with my family's Christmas celebration.

However this year is different, I've got a plan to help cut all of my Christmas costs. The only hang up I had was seeming like a Scrooge. Fortunately, I've found 4 ways to cut Christmas costs and avoid the Scrooge factor.

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make more moneyEverybody loves to make more money. It doesn't matter if you start to make more money by getting a raise, transferring to a different job or career, or you pick up a side hustle. The point is that we all think we could stand to make more money.

But what really matters isn't just how much money you make, it's what you do with it that matters. The solution to your money problems isn't just to make more money it's to use that money wisely.

Here are 3 things you should consider doing when you start to make more money.

Save It

One of the easiest things to do when you start to make more money is to save it. Confused? I know that saving money isn't nearly as easy as it sounds, but if you set up an automatic transfer for every payday equal to the amount of your raise, your side hustle, or the increase you earned by changing careers, you'll have a nice chunk of money saved up in a hurry.

Invest It

Similarly to the point above, most employers allow you to easily change your retirement withholding at any time by filling out a simple sheet of paper or an online form. This ensures that when you start to make more money it is funneled directly into your retirement account so you don't ever even see it in your paycheck.

This might even be a better option than putting it into your savings account because it's harder to change a form for retirement than to cancel an automatic transfer at your bank. Plus with this option it won't even psychologically seem like you are starting to make more money since your paycheck never changed.

Spend It (Wisely)

There are times when increased spending is ok. When you start to make more money, one option for using that increased cash flow is spending it wisely on things you've been putting off in your regular budget. For example, you might need to do some big home maintenance, repairs, or even smart upgrades when you start to make more money. I'm not talking about purely cosmetic upgrades, I mean things that will help your home to be more energy-efficient or to cut down on future maintenance and repairs.

Another example would be to spend it on other things you need by have been putting off. Just last month I finally broke down and got new lenses put in my glasses because I could finally justify that extra expense now that I make more money. Before that I would only get new lenses in my glasses every few years to cut down on costs. (Don't worry, I did still update my contact prescription every year.)

The main point that just starting to make more money isn't enough to make a change in your life or your budget unless you use that money wisely. By saving it, investing it, or spending it wisely, you'll begin to get ahead financially, which is the whole point of wanting to make more money to begin with.

How do you use extra cash flow whenever you start to make more money?


debt freeThe story of how I became debt free isn't as compelling as the tales of many other personal finance bloggers. I didn't overcome $30,000 in student loan debt or pay off thousands of dollars in credit card bills because I went to the mall a lot.

I did have student loans and some credit card bills that took me a few years to get rid of — but that was right after graduating from college, and admittedly they weren't for vast sums and weren't extremely difficult to pay off.

Other than a home mortgage and a credit card bill that my wife and I pay off each month as we earn credit card reward points for hotel stays, we live a debt free life.

There are some life choices I made early on, along with some debts that made me rethink how I think of money. Here are some of them:

Borrowing little for student loans

Paying for college gave me an early view of potential debt in many ways. I purposely picked an in-state university to go to because it was cheaper than going to college out of state, and I worked as much as I could in the few years before starting college so I could afford it and wouldn't have to work during college.

My parents paid half of my college costs, so that gave me a big start in trying to graduate debt free. I worked on campus during the end of my sophomore year and my entire junior year to help pay for expenses, but the pay was so lousy that I had to take out a student loan to make it through the last year or so. ...continue reading