The spirit of giving is part of what makes the holiday season so special. Too often, however, outsized expectations create financial and emotional stress. Read on for some ideas about how to remain generous without breaking the bank.
Holiday Financial Stress
Even before the pandemic, 61% of Americans said they dreaded the holidays because of the financial strain, according to a 2019 Holiday Spending Survey by LendingTree. And yet, according to the consulting firm BRG, 76% of people expect to spend the same or more this holiday season.
Data from the LendingTree survey show that the pressure to overspend is leading to significant stress:
- Seven in 10 people feel pressured to buy gifts.
- One in three people lose sleep over financial concerns during the holidays.
- About one in four people expect to go into debt to purchase presents.
- Almost one in five individuals are still paying off debt from 2020 holiday purchases.
Presence Instead of Presents
For many people, the social distancing aspect of the global pandemic has increased the importance of being together. This could be a great year to reset expectations and create new traditions around time instead of money.
There are countless ways to give of your time, but here are some ideas to get you started:
- As you prepare meals, make extras and then share them with family, friends or neighbors.
- Provide transportation to medical or other appointments for an acquaintance in need. It can save them money and provide you with opportunities to talk.
- For friends or family with children, offer to babysit so they can have an evening to prepare for the holidays or just take time for themselves.
- Decorate, hang holiday lights or offer to do yardwork for a neighbor who needs an extra hand.
- Get a group together and volunteer at a food bank or another community organization.
Giving of your time is always a wonderful option. But, realistically, you’ll also be making some monetary purchases. As you prepare for the holiday season, keep these tips in mind:
- Share financial limitations with family and friends. It may be a relief to them, too, if they are also facing financial limitations. Being transparent about finances can be mutually beneficial, and together you can find low-cost gifts for the holidays.
- Limit the number of gifts you buy. Tell friends that you’ll have to meet for coffee instead of exchanging gifts this year. If you have a large family, draw names so that each person only buys for one other family member.
- Ask people what they need. Providing funds for rent, utilities, groceries or car repairs could mean more than any store-bought gift.
Be Aware of Your Needs
As you look to make the holidays special for those around you, keep your own financial and emotional needs in mind. For additional help, talk to your employer about financial education, mental health offerings or other benefits that could make a difference this holiday season.
My neighbor’s daughter is the text messaging queen.
She received and sent 68 messages in a one hour period the other day.”
I was quite impressed. She could hold a full-fledged conversation with the people in the room while madly typing on her cell phone with one hand. I was ready to sign up to take lessons. Thankfully, she is not in this group of Techno Drivers. It takes me an eternity to eek out a mere sentence. To me, it is so much easier to make the call and talk to the person; I don’t understand this generations fixation with cell phones and the need to constantly text.
I have had a cell phone for almost 20 years now. My sister finally convinced me to get a hands-free earpiece. Great investment if you use your phone a lot, especially if you are driving in states that ban cell phone use.
I recall reading an article in SOCO magazine a few months back about saving gas. The author suggested that by reducing speed and driving 5 MPH under the posted speed limit, you could save considerable fuel. What a farce I thought. No way could you save that much by slowing down that little. Who in today’s high-speed society is going to drive that slowly?
I was on a road trip recently, so I decided to test this off the wall theory myself. The following numbers are from highway driving on flat roads with moderate traffic. When I drove the 65 MPH speed limit, I got 24 MPG. I slowed to 60 and got 26 MPG. Big deal I thought two whole miles per hour. Then I increased to 70, 75, & 80 and got 22, 20 and 16 MPG, respectively. Now that is a big difference!
Many people renew their Massachusetts auto insurance policy without even giving it a second thought. This is particularly true for those who may be on an automatic draft program where premiums are deducted from a checking account or paid via a credit card. While there are convenience and savings benefits to auto-pay, it can lead to complacency. Rates may even be edging upward without you being aware of it. This is why it may be a good time to Review Your Massachusetts Auto Insurance Policy.
Before your insurance policy renews is a good time to review your Massachusetts auto insurance and take advantage of ways you can save on your coverage.
If you are in the market to buy a new or used car – pay attention!
Hurricane Sandy destroyed or damaged THOUSANDS of cars. The market is now “flooded” with these “fixed-up/cleaned-up” cars. After these vehicles were declared totaled, the cars can be sold off as salvage. In many cases, these cars can be fixed up and cleaned up and resold on the market. Be very careful… these cars can be a ticking time bomb. Many companies will not even insure a vehicle with a salvage title. You may be in for a rude awakening when you go to register and insure your vehicle.
What to look for and how to spot damage:
- Sniff around the interior of the vehicle – including the trunk to see if it smells musty or moldy. If you smell excessive air fresheners or cleaners, it is a tip-off as well.
- Look for rust. Check the door hinges and hood brackets for rust.
- Look under the hood for water lines or stains. Check the cloth material underneath the hood itself for water marks.
- Peel back the carpet and look for rust or debris
- Take it for a test drive. If it doesn’t feel right or is sluggish walk away.
- Have it inspected by a service technician.
- Check the vehicle history report – carfax.com or vehiclehistory.gov
- Hurricane Sandy vehicles are showing up throughout the country. Be cautious of extra good deals and be careful who you deal with. You don’t want to get stuck with a submarine!
We’ve listened to your requests and we’re excited to announce that we will accept new payment options. Plymouth Rock will now accept payment by credit and debit cards from all customers 24 hours a day via phone and via eServices.
Credit Card/Debit Card Payments
Their new credit and debit card payment options provide even more payment flexibility. Credit and debit card payments can be processed through:
- eServices. Customers can use their credit and debit cards to pay online by logging into their eServices accounts at plymouthrock.com.
- Customers can also pay online via eServices from a mobile device, using the same method as the last payment made using eServices from a computer.
- By phone via their new automated telephone payment services (see separate section below).
They will also continue to accept electronic withdrawals from a checking or savings account.
Automated Telephone Payment Services
Plymouth Rock customers will have even more choices that let them make payments anytime, anywhere, and now, from any phone. Our new 24-hour automated telephone payment services offer customers the ability to enter a policy number and:
- Obtain billing information.
- Make a payment (via credit card, debit card or one-time withdrawal from a checking or savings account).
- Get agent contact information.
The automated telephone payment services system has both touch-tone and voice response capability. When customers call the toll-free number at 866-353-6292, they will be given the option to obtain information or make a payment before requesting assistance from a Customer Service representative. Customers can make more than one payment by phone on the same day.
Flexibility and Advantages for You and Your Customers
Plymouth Rock now offers more convenient ways to pay than ever before:
- Four easy-to-use payment methods: check, electronic withdrawal, credit card and debit card.
- Four convenient payment channels: from a computer, from a mobile device, by phone, and by mail.
There is no additional fee for customers to use any of their payment methods. All payment methods are available to both new and renewing customers. Credit and debit card payments also provide quick and convenient alternatives to help prevent a lapse in coverage for customers who may receive a Notice of Intent to Cancel.
Despite a texting ban in 35 states, researchers at NHTSA found that 71% answer phone calls and another 41% make phone calls while driving. Some liken it to drinking and driving. The survey showed that nearly half of all drivers 21-24 have thumbed though texts and emailed while driving. Bottom line – it is dangerous for you and everyone else on the roads. Is it really that important not to wait until you pull over? What did we ever do without cell phones? Please drive safely!
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released a top-10 list of the most frequently stolen vehicles in the United States.
For 2010, the most frequently stolen vehicles are as follows:
- 1994 Honda Accord
- 1995 Honda Civic
- 1991 Toyota Camry
- 1999 Chevrolet Pickup
- 1997 Ford F150 Series
- 2004 Dodge Ram
- 2000 Dodge Caravan
- 1994 Acura Integra
- 2002 Ford Explorer
- 1999 Ford Taurus
Older vehicles are stolen primarily for valuable spare parts, according to the NICB.
The report indicates that overall incidents of vehicle theft are down, mainly due to improved anti-theft technology. In fact, the FBI projects that 2010 saw the lowest rate of vehicle thefts since 1967.