Tips, apps for the season of giv­ing and buy­ing

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Success -

The end of the year is when our thoughts turn to giv­ing. It’s also the time of year when the retail hol­i­day ma­chine kicks into high gear.

It’s a bit of a para­dox, and given the ten­dency to save so much of the giv­ing and the buy­ing to the last minute, this season of joy can leave us feel­ing guilty, fre­netic and out of con­trol.

My ad­vice is to build on the spirit of Thanks­giv­ing. Write down or say aloud what you are thank­ful for — or maybe the one good thing that hap­pened that day. For me, that usu­ally in­volves one of my walks with the dogs, but it could range from a quick phone call with an old friend or a funny ex­pe­ri­ence in the gro­cery store.

And be char­i­ta­ble, even if it doesn’t get you a tax de­duc­tion.

Be­cause the new tax law nearly dou­bled the stan­dard de­duc­tion, ap­prox­i­mately 85 to 90 per­cent of Amer­i­cans will not be en­ti­tled to deduct their con­tri­bu­tions. But many give purely for al­tru­is­tic con­cern for oth­ers, not to re­duce their tax bills.

Re­gard­less of your mo­ti­va­tion for giv­ing, here are three im­por­tant steps to keep in mind:

Con­firm that the char­ity is le­git­i­mate.

Do not pro­vide any per­sonal or fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion un­til you’ve re­searched the char­ity. Use the IRS’s Ex­empt Or­ga­ni­za­tions Se­lect Check Tool to con­firm the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s fed­eral tax sta­tus.

In­ves­ti­gate the char­ity’s fi­nan­cial health.

Once you have con­firmed that the group is le­git­i­mate, you can also see what oth­ers say about the or­ga­ni­za­tion and how much of your do­na­tion goes to sup­port­ing pro­grams, as op­posed to over­head. The Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau’s Wise Giv­ing Al­liance, Char­ity Watch, GuideS­tar and Char­ity Nav­i­ga­tor are all help­ful re­sources.

Make the con­tri­bu­tion us­ing a check or credit card.

Never send cash do­na­tions or wire money to some­one claim­ing to be a char­ity. If you are plan­ning to send a check, your pay­ments must be post­marked by mid­night De­cem­ber 31 — just writ­ing “De­cem­ber 31” on the check does not au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify you for a de­duc­tion; and pledges aren’t de­ductible un­til paid. Do­na­tions made with a credit card are de­ductible as of the date the ac­count is charged, so if you are a lit­tle late in the process, you prob­a­bly should stick to credit cards.

OK, so now on to the other part of the season — spend­ing. With eco­nomic growth on the up­swing and un­em­ploy­ment at a 49year low, you may be thank­ful this year for more sta­bil­ity or sat­is­fac­tion at work, a slightly larger pay­check or bet­ter job prospects for the fu­ture.

You may also feel en­ti­tled to spend a lit­tle more to cel­e­brate your good for­tune, but here’s a piece of fi­nan­cial ad­vice from Buzz Kill Jill: Don’t spend too much money! Be­fore you get dragged down the hol­i­day rab­bit hole, get your head on straight and don’t go crazy. That means start­ing with a list of what you can af­ford and then stick­ing to your game plan.

Ac­cord­ing to Deloitte’s an­nual fore­cast for the hol­i­day season, shop­pers are us­ing a blended ap­proach to the shop­ping season and plan to con­duct both on­line and in-store re­search be­fore mak­ing a pur­chase. To help, down­load apps like ShopSavvy, which al­lows you to scan the bar­code of any prod­uct and com­pare the best prices avail­able; Shop­u­lar, which pro­vides news of deals, coupons and lo­ca­tion-based no­ti­fi­ca­tions; and Flipp, which cre­ates dig­i­tal ver­sions of cir­cu­lars from re­tail­ers and com­bines coupons with th­ese lo­cal fly­ers for sav­ings. You should also check out Honey, a free browser ex­ten­sion that au­to­mat­i­cally finds and ap­plies coupon codes at check­out for over 30,000 shop­ping sites.

Good luck nav­i­gat­ing the para­dox­i­cal season. Jill Schlesinger, CFP, is a CBS News Busi­ness An­a­lyst. A for­mer op­tions trader and CIO of an in­vest­ment ad­vi­sory firm, she wel­comes com­ments and ques­tions at [email protected]­lon­money.com.

Trav­el­ing for busi­ness can be stress­ful — though it be­comes more man­age­able af­ter you’ve been on a few flights, no­ticed a pat­tern and de­vel­oped a strat­egy. How­ever, busi­ness travel dur­ing the holi­days is far from re­lax­ing. In fact, it’s tax­ing on your nerves and pa­tience, and it can be down­right in­fu­ri­at­ing at times.

And even though ev­ery­one wants to be any­where else dur­ing the holi­days, busi­ness travel is in­escapable for some. For those few souls who have to close deals or mend re­la­tion­ships dur­ing the holi­days, here are a few tips for mak­ing busi­ness travel bear­able.

1. Take the path less trav­eled.

One thing’s for sure dur­ing the hol­i­day season: Ev­ery­one wants to get where they have to go as quickly as pos­si­ble. No one wants to deal with the harsh en­vi­ron­ment longer than they have to. For that rea­son, they fly.

While a plane is the most de­sir­able op­tion, it might not be the best for you. Con­sider the time spent get­ting to the air­port early, wait­ing to board, pos­si­ble delays, the flight time and, fi­nally, wait­ing for lug­gage. If th­ese nearly equal the amount of time spent driv­ing, on a coach or even on a train, con­sider th­ese al­ter­na­tive op­tions.

If this is a last-minute trip and you do need to fly, con­sider al­ter­nate air­ports that are a bit far­ther out of the city. If you are able to, drive part of the way to take ad­van­tage of travel time.

2. Do your re­search.

Weather delays and can­cel­la­tions can turn a trip that’s sup­posed to be four hours into one that re­quires three or four more hours. Be­fore you book your flight, make sure that the air­port you’re fly­ing to isn’t known for snow storms, de­layed flights or can­cel­la­tions. The last thing you want is to not get there or back home on time.

3. Pack only what you need.

Air­ports are tremen­dously busy dur­ing the hol­i­day season, pos­ing a higher risk of your bag be­ing lost. Elim­i­nate as much risk as pos­si­ble by stick­ing to a carry-on. You will have your be­long­ings with you at all times, and you won’t have to wait at the bag­gage claim for your items. Just be sure to know the bag­gage and carry-on rules for the air­line(s) you are fly­ing with.

Jill Schlesinger

Jill on Money

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