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Finding the Perfect Gift for Your Loved One

perfect anniversary gift scotch

I recently did a segment on the Couple Money Podcast on gift shopping and I wanted to share some tips from it

Finding and giving the perfect gift for your loved ones one of the best feelings. However it can sometimes seem really difficult, especially if someone is ‘hard to shop for’. If you’re in this situation, here are four steps to make it more fun and less stressful.

  • Make a list of all the things the person is interested in
  • Drill Down and see if any gifts jump out
  • Choose based on their tastes
  • Have fun presenting it

To (hopefully) make things a little more clearer, I’ll be using my husband’s upcoming anniversary gift as an example.

Usually we take trips for our anniversary, but since travel is a bit limited with me being towards the end the preganancy I’m going with gifts this year.

Make a List of All the Things the Person is Interested In/ Enjoys

You need to remember is that the best gifts reflect the recipient’s interests and personalities. One of the best ways to crack the code and come up with an awesome surprise is brainstorming up a list of the person’s interests and hobbies.

At this point, just write down whatever comes to your mind, no editing. We’ll whittle down later.

I’m going to start off with an easy one – tech. He’s a software developer and he is definitely a gadget guy. He’s also into sci-fi dramas so I might pick up a series on DVD, kind of like a collectors item. While not a hardcore gamer, he does play to unwind  at night (I’m the early bird, so I’m usually asleep by then).

For those who have been following for us for a while, you know that we also homebrew and have made some tasty batches of beer. I could look at some hard to find ones and get some for him. He’s also gotten into scotch in the past couple of years and seems to love it.

As for something different from what we’ve done past anniversaries, I could check out and see if there are any concerts coming up that he’d like to go to.

Drill Down for Gift Ideas

The next step is going over the list and seeing if any gifts jump out at us. I want to give my husband something that he will love and enjoy.

As for tech, he already has a tablet and phone he loves and uses. He mentioned a smart watch, but told me that none of them look good enough so I think tech will be off the list.

With scotch, I’m not really a drinker but I checked the cabinet to see what he has and it looks like he’s started a small collection started. I’m thinking this could be nice – finding a scotch he would love and could drink for special occasions.

As for the DVDs, I’m chucking that because we have a Netflix and Hulu Plus subscription which has plenty of series up there. Plus he doesn’t watch a ton of TV. I don’t think this would get him excited and I want him to be happy.

There hasn’t been a recent game he’s gushed about. He does however love retro games and has a steam account, so I might get him a gift card. ( I know some people think gift cards are tacky, but if it’s for a store or a site that they love, I think it’s a fantastic deal.)

I don’t see any concerts that I know that he would love. We do like discovering new artists and bands, but unless I’m sure that he’s get excited, I don’t want t use this as the anniversary gift.

So looking back at the list I think I’m going with the scotch. I think it would be so much fun to get a great bottle of scotch that he can add to the collection.

Choose Based on Their Tastes

Like I said, I don’t consider myself a scotch drinker so I will be relying on others to help me pick the right one.

First thing, I do is reach out to a friend who loves scotch and we’ve had some with. She’s knowledgeable and hopefully she’ll remember a few of the scotchs my husband really enjoyed tasting at their place.

While I wait for her reply, I go over to Scotch Addict to see if I can add some contenders to the list. As if Jim read my mind, he released a post about Scotchs for special occasions. (http://scotchaddict.com/best-scotch-special-occasion.html)

I hear back from my friend and with her info and what I picked from the site, I have 3 possible contenders:

  • Laphroaig 18 Year
  • Macallan 12 year
  • Glenlivet 15 Year French Oak

(Since our anniversary is not here yet, I won’t reveal what I picked out ;) )

Presenting It

The last step is my favorite – giving it. With a good scotch, you can do something minimal and it would be fine, but for our anniversary I want to have some fun.

We’ll have a reservation at one of our favorite restaurants in town and there will be a scotch tasting included. Once we arrive home, I will then give him his anniversary scotch along with some other items to go with it.

Thoughts on Gift Giving

So there you have it – a system for finding perfect gift for someone special. I hope it helps you. I’d love to hear about your ideas on finding the right gift for your loved ones.

Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan

Do You Need to Be a Millionaire to Retire Comfortably?

how much money to retire

I had a lot of fun yesterday being on the panel for the #retireeNextDoor Tweetcast. Jeff Rose from Good Financial Cents and Money Tips did a fantastic job hosting it and some wonderful advice was shared.

Like I mentioned the other week, we tend to put off preparing for retirement for a few reasons. I think one huge factor is the unknown. We hear all these huge numbers about what we need that it can be discouraging. I don’t think we have to be afraid of it.

Planning for retirement is a bit like saving up for a baby – you will never be able to prepare for every event, but you’re better off having something saved up rather than nothing.You can get an idea of where to start if the two of you can sit down and find what works for you.

Define Your Retirement

Make it a dinner date and talk about what you’d like to do when you’re retired.  Ignore the numbers for just a moment and just focus on what you want. Retirement is a kind of a catch all phrase that doesn’t really help you plan as everyone has different ideas on how they’d spend it.

Joe Saul-Sehy from Stacking Benjamins had a wonderful remark about retirement yesterday. He said retirement isn’t an event, it’s a 40+ year span of life for many. It may be easier to think of it in phases. What do you want to do when you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond?

After talking about it, you two may want to do a hybrid or stepping stone retirement. Perhaps you set a goal to build an income stream that will allow one or both of you to explore a new business or to start investing in real estate. You’re not officially retiring, but rather you’re now able to quit your day job and give full time attention to building the income stream and boosting net worth for when you do stop working for money.

Every couple will come up with their own plan, but you can make progress until it’s discussed.

Finding Your Retirement Number

Now that you have a picture of what you want, the two of you can work backwards and see about much money you need to retire. You may discover that your retirement doesn’t have to require a million dollars in the bank to achieve. Or you may see that it will take a boatload of money.

If you’re in the latter category and you are freaking out about not having enough when it’s time, take a few days and break your goals down further to extract the absolute essentials. What do you truly want? What are the non-negotiable? Start with those and get a baseline number and build from there.

No matter what your goal is, the best thing you can do as a couple is to start now. If you haven’t already, start this week. Pick some amount you can afford, automate your contributions, and increase it with every raise/bump in pay. Time is one of your biggest allies, so use it.

Should You Include Social Security?

Personally we don’t include Social Security in our retirement plans. I have no idea how exactly it play out, but I’m pretty sure that it will be stripped down by the time we qualify to take it. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised at the extra income than be disappointed because it wasn’t what I had planned for.

Unless you will be retiring soon, I think you’re better off not making it a pillar of your retirement plan. (Completely my personal opinion)

Thoughts on Retirement and What It Means to You

I hope the two of you have a chance this week to discuss your retirement plan. I’d love to hear what you come up with and what your overall strategy is to get there.

Photo Credit: epSos.de

The Dos and Don’ts of Black Friday Shopping

shopping tips black friday

Two-thirds of Americans, according to The Washington Post plan to shop on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Less than half of those surveyed plan on shopping online. This is one of the busiest shopping days of the entire year, and this approaching season more Americans than ever plan on shopping Black Friday sales 2014 than ever before. This is the day when you can get the best discounts on shopping. There are many things you can do to make sure that you go home with the items that you want in less time so that you can relax and go home to enjoy those leftovers!

Get Your Priority Items First

You’ll be much more relaxed knowing that your most coveted items have already been purchased before you start looking at less important items and sales. You’ll be able to enjoy shopping for less vital items when the pressure is off.

Go With Friends and Family

Don’t go shopping alone., You will likely be waiting on lines for long periods of time. One person can wait on line for big items while another grabs the lower priority items to save time. You’ll always be a lot less bored if you have company with you!

Plan Ahead

BFAds have many Black Friday 2014 sales listed early from several stores. You can also sign up for their newsletter to get the latest news on Black Friday sales. Its best to know about the sales as early as possible so that you can plan your shopping trips for the day. Know which items and early bird specials are your priority and plan on visiting those stores first. Make a list of stores you will be visiting and the items that you want from them.

Most of the biggest discounts are during the early bird sales, which start early morning or even on thanksgiving. Some ads will last how many the store will have in stock. Some sales will last through the weekend and the Internet sales often last through Cyber Monday.

Comparison Shop

If you are looking for certain items, check a few retailers so that you will get the best deal possible. Don’t go ahead to one store if you haven’t already checked other retailers for better prices. Some stores also offer price matching. Check their ads ahead of time so that you know if they do offer price matching what their terms are for it.

Be Comfortable

Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Bring a snack and a drink so that you don’t get hungry and dehydrated if the lines turn out to be long. Avoid sugary snacks and drinks and make sure that you bring protein with you. You will need the energy. You’ll also avoid wasting precious shopping time stopping for food and/or drinks and save money!

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Make sure that you have plenty of time to find parking and get through the line at the doors. The traffic will be hectic so make sure that you’re not looking for a parking spot as the items on your list are disappearing off of the shelves.

Use Credit Cards as Often as Possible

Nerd Wallet advises to use credit cards on Black Friday for security. Store credit cards often have extra discounts for shoppers using their cards, and it will also be easier to track your spending if you use your credit cards. If there are any disputes you should have protection through your credit card company. Many stores now accept credit card payments through secure mobile apps.

Bring Your Coupons

Make sure you have your coupons ready and read the fine print ahead of time. Many stores now have their own mobile apps with coupons and there are apps that have many coupons for different retailers available. The National Retail Federation estimates that nearly 25 percent of shoppers will be using mobile coupons. If you are using mobile coupons, make sure that you have your phone charged. Take screen shots just in case the mobile site is down during your shopping visit. You don’t want to get to the register and be unable to access your coupons!

Budget

Know how much money you intend to spend and check to see if your shopping list is within your budget. If you already know what you are prepared to spend you won’t spend time at the register debating on if you can afford to purchase the items that you want.

If you follow these tips and plan out your day, you should have a great shopping experience. You will have a much easier time with your holiday gift lists if you get as much as you can while the sales are so good, and don’t forget to get something for yourself!

What are the Most Common Mistakes People Make When Planning for Retirement?

how to invest for your retirement and future

Even though most of us know that retirement planning is something we should be doing, real life tends to get in the way of us actually getting it done. Retirement is so far away in your timeline, it’s tempting to put it off for a bit.

What’s worse, we can be our worst enemies and make some huge mistakes when it comes to planning for retirement. I’m going to share some of the biggest mistakes and how you can begin to fix them.

Waiting Until You Have More Money

One of the biggest mistakes couples and really individuals make is waiting for the next raise to happen before they invest. They feel like their small contributions now will have little or no effect so why not just give a year (or two….or more) and when they get enough then they’ll invest.

I have some great news – you don’t need a lot of money to start investing and time is one of your biggest allies when it comes to your portfolio’s growth.

I actually wrote about how you can start investing with $1,000 or less because when I graduated for college, I knew I wanted to set aside money for retirement, but I didn’t have much money.

Investing Without a Goal

I think the big question people have when trying to figure out their retirement number is how much they will need as a couple to retire. Of course that completely depends on your own family’s circumstances.

So just how do you come up with the right amount?

While the traditional rule of the says that you should plan for around 75% of your current income, Todd Tresidder, author of several financial books including How Much Do I Need to Retire? and early retiree himself, shows that it’s more practical to look at your expenses and make a reasonable ballpark figure as to what you will need. He cites from various studies that most of your budget categories see significant decrease with the exception of health insurance.

If you want to get an approximate idea of what your family would need, pick up Todd”s book or use resources like Vanguard to help you out. If you’re thinking about retiring early, find out how much you need to save.

Not Automating Your Contributions

The last hurdle for couples when it comes to retirement is not automating their contributions. How many times have you thought about investing, but by the end of the month, there’s hardly any money to give? Protect yourself now (and later when you need to retire) by setting up automatic contributions.

If you haven’t already, check with your employer and see if they offer a 401(k) with a matching contribution plan. That’s basically free money that boost your returns. Having it automatically deducted means you’d hardly miss it as you simly budget from your take home pay.

Depending on your employer, you’ll have different funds to invest in. If available, consider putting your contributions towards low cost index funds.

My advice is to increase the amount as you receive raises and promotions through work. It doesn’t have to be significant, just take it up a notch every increase. Besides allowing you to invest more, you’re also lowering your taxable income, a double bonus.

Build a Better Retirement Today

None of these mistakes are made intentional, as if someone wants to sabotage their retirement, but they are all too common and they will hurt your chances at your goals. So if you haven’t already, now is the time to start planning, get your contributions calculated, and automate them. Your future self will thank you.

Find out how to increase your odds of retiring successfully by joining MoneyTips.com’s #RetireeNextDoor (LIVE!) virtual event on November 18th, 11 am – noon PT. Register now to get answers to your retirement questions from more than two dozen of the top voices in personal finance, including yours truly.

Photo Credit:  Chris Potter

Why Do We Fight About Money?

avoid money fights

No matter how your marriage started out, at some point the honeymoon is over and the two of you are dealing with the realities of the day to day. Many times that eye opener is disagreements about money.

And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

How We Picked Up Our Money Habits

Laurie Puhn, a couples meditator, commented that having arguments about finances can be expected with married couples. The truth is most of the time, it’s not necessarily the numbers, but it’s what we bring to the marriage that cause us to bicker and nitpick.

Our previous experiences with money have a huge impact on how we view it and how we act towards it.

Maybe we picked up unproductive habits because of our role models. If money was a tense topic growing up or you’ve seen the big issues side stepped to completely avoid fights than you may feel unprepared on how to best talk about it.

Differences in culture can be another source of tension. One of you may have family who expects you to take care of them when they older while the other was raise with the idea that each generation is self-sufficient.

Don’t forget we also have unique personalities. I can tell you that some of the traits that made me fall in love with my husband can also be some of the more frustrating ones to deal with when we have a disagreement.

His thoughtful and deliberate discussions become dragging his feet with decisions. (Or at least that’s how I feel in the moment :) )

This isn’t about making excuses, but about understanding where your spouse is coming from. Once you both see why your partner coming from a certain perspective, it can make it easier to work with them.

How Can We Talk About Money Better?

Having differences of opinions doesn’t mean that your marriage is doomed ; how you communicate with one another can though. Misunderstandings can quickly snowball into arguments and shouting matches, depending on your personalities.

So just how you talk about money?

  • Write it down. Before you two get together to talk about your finances, make some time to jot down your thoughts and feelings about it. It can serve you in two ways – help you identify your end goal and release some of your emotions.
  • Choose to meet at a time and place that is relaxing for the both of you. Make the situation as comfortable as you can so they two of you are in a better mood to listen. You also might want to have a set time to start and finish so you don’t feel like this will go on forever.
  • Both sides need to talk. Let each of you have some uninterrupted time to express your thoughts and feelings about the situation. While the other one is talking, make sure you’re paying attention to what they are saying. Take notes if you have to. If you’re worried one about going over the limit, set a timer.
  • Find common ground. Once you both spoke about it, try to see if you can come to an agreement on something and work from there.
  • Break it down. If you’re still having trouble coming up with an overall plan for your goal, see if you can back it up a bit and agree on the first step.

Building a Better Marriage with Conversations

I think one way to overcome bad communication habits is by having positive models we can build from. One of my favorite podcasts to catch is Better Conversations on Money and Marriage. You get to hear Derek and Carrie discuss their individual and joint views on budgets, staying together during their own money crisis, and becoming parents.

The latest episode of the Couple Money Podcast goes into more detail if you’re interested.

I’d love to hear from you about how both of you handle financial disagreements. What has worked for you and what hasn’t?

Photo Credit: Karsten Bitter