So, I'm new to the "living on my own" game and let me tell you — it's been a pretty big struggle. I really never understood how much the little things cost until I moved out a couple years ago. That being said, I will take free things whenever I can get them.
Maybe you're already established and comfortable in your life — good for you! However, it's still useful to ask for things that you would otherwise have to buy for Christmas. Hey — I didn't want to be an adult either, but that's just the way things are.
Whether you're a young adult or a fully fledged old person, here are five major categories of presents you should definitely include on your wish list.
1. Kitchen supplies
Not only are quality pots and pans super expensive, but the little things count too — cutlery, appliances and tools all add up. Putting big items like a food processor or a slow cooker on your wish list takes the hassle and anxiety out of buying one for yourself.
Not to mention, kitchen supplies will last you pretty long — unlike that bottle of brandy you and your cousins killed in one night.
2. Music or movie and TV subscriptions
Music, movies and television are all consumed by subscription nowadays — I couldn't live without my Spotify, Netflix and HBO GO. Asking for a year's — or a couple years' if it's cheap — subscription to an online streaming service will save you a ton of money.
Let's face it — we can't keep mooching off of our family's accounts or creating new identities for free trials. So ask for a Netflix subscription instead of expensive headphones you can get super cheap knockoffs of.
3. Warm clothing
Yet another unexpected expense in adult living — warm coats are expensive but absolutely needed for the northeast weather. Asking for a nice wool pea coat or a faux fur lined trencoat will ensure that you'll be toasty warm for years to come.
Heck, why not even socks? Being the butt of so many Christmas jokes, it's time that warm, fuzzy socks made its comeback. Both your feet and your bank account will thank you.
4. Gym Membership
Ah yes, time for the dreaded New Year's resolution — instead of wasting your own money on a gym membership you'll only use two weeks into the year, why not ask for one instead? This way, maybe you'll even feel guilty for not going and continue your doomed resolution.
Memberships are also usually on sale this time of the year — praying on the weak, no doubt. But who knows? Maybe you'll actually stick it out this year.
5. Money towards an investment
Do you have student loans creeping up behind you? Need to pay the rent to your swanky Brooklyn apartment soon? Why not ask for straight-up money for Christmas? Yes, it seems like a pretty shallow thing to do, but the holidays are for giving!
For my birthday, I asked my parents to pay that month's rent so I would be worry-free and spent my money on other things I had been putting off. It's not the most heartfelt present, but to me, paying off someone's debt is pretty huge.
Of course, this list is definitely for families that are well-off or at least lower middle class. If your family and friends can't afford these things, don't be distraught if they buy you a cheap present or none at all. It's important to keep in mind that the season is about coming together — while gifts are just an add-on.
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When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.