Tips For Staying On Budget This Christmas Shopping Season

red and white christmas presents with bows by treeThe holiday shopping season is in full swing. The stores are full of Christmas music, shiny decorations, and bling of every kind at the endcaps….all with the goal of getting you to spend, spend, spend. It’s so easy to give into temptation! While I’m not perfect when resisting temptations (who is?) there are a few little tricks I use to keep myself on track with my budget:

Shop on a Full Stomach
I’ve noticed if I go shopping when I’m hungry I can be more easily swayed by budget temptations. At my SuperTarget, the smell of the Starbucks Coffee usually beckons me and if that doesn’t get me the freshly popped popcorn will. Anyway, I make sure to have a snack before I head out and hit the stores.

Leave the Kids at Home
Likewise, the kids are huge budget distractors! They usually do not accompany me when I am Christmas shopping unless I am shopping for Mr. Not Made of Money. Then we go with a list in hand, they help me hunt for the items on the list, and they know the budget amount we are aiming for.

Set A Christmas Budget Amount
We decide in advance how much money we are going to spend for the holiday season and then we stick to it. Part of this involves tracking our money as we spend it, so we know how much there is left.

Avoid The Credit Card Trap
I use my credit card but keep track of how much we’ve spent so I don’t go over budget. When the bill arrives, it is paid in full. If you don’t trust yourself to keep your credit card purchases in budget, then switch to cash. Don’t let yourself go into the new year with additional debt.

Book in Advance
We don’t usually travel far during the holidays but if we did we would book our reservations well in advance. Shop around online and compare airfares and hotel room fees.

Compile A List Of Prospective Gifts
I always go Christmas shopping with a list in hand…it gives me a sense of direction. Even if I don’t have a specific item on the list, I have people’s names and a budgeted amount listed.

Shop Online
Especially for the children’s gifts, I’ve found that I scored the best prices online this year. Nearly everything had free shipping because it was either a special being offered, or I searched for a promotional code before I purchased.

Plan for The Unexpected
Invariably, there is bound to be one or two gifts we neglected to purchase. I always make sure to have a few generic gifts on hand (homemade jar gifts, inexpensive kid’s game, etc.) to cover those last minute gifts.

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What’s in a Name? Five Tips for Choosing a Successful Business Name

Business CardThe following article is a guest post. So you have a great product or service to sell that you know people will buy. You also have a killer business plan drawn up that you feel confident about. All that’s left to do is market your business. But there’s one problem: you don’t have a name. Naming a business today seems especially tricky.

Gone are the days of naming your business something like “Smith and Sons Internet Company” Huge tech companies like Tumblr, Snapchat, and Facebook have cool names that seem to fit the business so perfectly, it’s difficult to imagine that someone actually had to sit down and come up with that name. But the perfect name for your business is out there. Here are some tips on how to find it.

1. Don’t try to make the name so cool that nobody knows what it means. People may now know that the shoe company Nike was named after the Ancient Greek goddess of victory. But you can’t afford to choose such an abstract name that nobody knows what you do. Nike’s advertising budget is much bigger than yours and they can afford to remind people that they sell shoes.

2. Brainstorm a list of names. Write down as many names as you can think of, even if you know they’re horrible as you write them. When you’re done writing, look at your list and go over each name. If you don’t like a name, make a note next to it like “too long” or “boring.” You might not find your name on the first try, but repeating the process with your notes in mind will help you drill down to a short list of possible contenders.

3. Consider your domain name and SEO possibilities. Check to see if possible names have an appropriate domain name available. Don’t choose a name that is so similar to another company that a simple misspelling will send potential customers to your competition. If you’re going to cater to local customers, consider including your city name in the business name to help your SEO.

4. Don’t get too cute. Using a pun in your business name is a great way to stop people from taking you too seriously. Unless you’re opening a pet grooming business, it’s best to avoid wordplay. Think about the kind of customer you’re hoping to find with your name. If you want a serious customer that expects the professional level of work you know you can deliver, choose a name that speaks to that.

Computer Search5. Search an ASIC database (see Infotrack for more on this). Once you have a possible name, search a directory of Australian businesses to make sure the name you name you want isn’t actually being used by or trademarked by someone else. Maybe more importantly, searching the ASIC business listings can tell you if the name you’re thinking about has any negative baggage tied to it, such as past court filings or litigation against other similarly named companies.

Apple Pie Spice Muffins – Dairy Free!

Dairy Free Apple Pie Spice MuffinWith Fall in the air, it’s a perfect time for baking!   I’ve been making these muffins for many years now, and originally got the recipe when cooking for a milk allergic child.  Notice that the recipe is dairy free! You won’t miss the milk in the recipe though – These little muffins are so good to eat and a snap to make.  I like to bake double or triple batches and then freeze some of them for later.


2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons apple pie spice
1 Egg
1-1/2 cups of water
1/3 cup canola oil

Preparation: In a large mixing bowl thoroughly combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and apple pie spice. Then add the egg, water and canola oil and stir until the batter is well combined. I like to make my muffins large size, so this mix makes 12 large muffins. I also like to use the paper liners but if you used a cooking spray and a nonstick muffin tin that should work fine too. Bake the muffins at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. I usually start checking the muffins at the 15 minute mark to see if they are done. You’ll need to make your own time adjustments according to your own oven but usually 20 minutes is the most amount of time you’ll need. Enjoy these muffins for breakfast, as a snack, or as part of “breakfast for dinner.”