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The Beginner’s Guide to Filing Taxes

tax guide

Doing taxes might be one of the most procrastinated tasks we have to do each year.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With all the tax services available today you can get your taxes filed away with just a few clicks of a button. Some tax service places will even let you file your taxes early so you can get it done asap and cross that item off your to-do list right now. However you choose to do your taxes, there are a few things everyone should know about filing taxes.

How Do I File My Taxes?

It’s a common misconception that filing taxes is confusing and difficult to do. It really isn’t! Just follow these steps:

Step 1: Gather necessary documents

W-2 form.

You’ll get this from your place of work and it will have all the information you need on it—how much you got paid and how much you paid in taxes through your paychecks.

1099 form.

If you’re self-employed, a contracted employee, or a freelancer, then you’ll get a 1099 form from each of your employers instead. Since you aren’t receiving a taxed paycheck from an employer you may have to pay your taxes after filing since your taxes weren’t automatically paid throughout the year via taxed paychecks.

Step 2: Use these documents to file taxes

Give documents to a professional tax service.

The easiest way to get your taxes done is to simply submit these documents to a professional tax service. You can visit a financial store, like Check City, that offers tax services in person. Check City even offers Tax Advance Loans so you can get your refund sooner.

You can also use an online tax service to do it online. You may have to use your W-2 or 1099 forms to fill out some of the information. Using a tax professional or service will often come with some service fees.

File your taxes manually with the IRS.

You can also do it yourself by filling out a form called a 1040. Then you simply mail this form to the IRS. This route doesn’t have any service fees, besides postage, but it’s more effort on your part and takes more of your time.

Once you’ve finished filing taxes you’ll be able to see how much you owe or are owed. If you owe money you can mail it in to the IRS. If you are owed money then you can expect a check in the mail after the IRS is done processing your filed taxes.

When Do I File Taxes?

January.

You can file your taxes as soon as you receive the documents you need. These documents are your W-2 form from your employer or any 1099 forms you get from employers and contractors. You’ll usually receive these documents in January or you’ll need to request them.

This year the IRS will start accepting filed taxes on January 27th, 2020. Ideally, you’ll want to have everything ready to file by this date. That way if you are getting a tax refund, you can get your money as soon as possible.

When are Taxes Due?

April.

“National Tax Day” is usually on April 15th every year. But if the 15th of April falls on a weekend, then they’ll push it back to the 16th or 17th. This is when your taxes for the previous year are officially due to the federal government.

For example, taxes for 2019 need to be filed by Wednesday, April 15th, 2020.

When Do I Get My Tax Return?

up to 3 weeks.

When you get your tax return will depend on when and how you file your taxes. Since the IRS doesn’t start processing filed taxes until January 27th this year, you won’t receive your refund until after this date. You can check your refund status on the IRS’s website if you’re curious.

But generally, your tax refund can take up to 3 weeks to get to you after January 27th and after you’ve filed your taxes. It’s also always a good idea to keep a copy of your tax return for your own personal files.

If you want to get your tax refund quicker, you can do so by e-filing your tax return at Check City rather than mailing it in.

Why Do I Have to File Taxes?

To make sure you paid the correct amount in taxes the year before.

The main reason you have to file taxes at the beginning of each year is to make sure you paid the correct amount in taxes the previous year and didn’t over or underpay.

Income tax gets taken out of each paycheck throughout the year, but this amount isn’t always the amount you end up owing in taxes by the end of the year. By filing taxes at the start of the new year, you and the government will both know for certain whether you owe more in taxes or are owed the extra you ended up giving in taxes.

How much you pay in taxes is determined by your total income over the course of the year. How much you make will then place you in a certain tax bracket, and that percentage is how much you should have paid in taxes. But this percentage can’t be known for certain until after the year is done, that’s why taxes are always filed at the beginning of the following year.

Benefits to Filing Taxes
  • You can get a tax return if you ended up paying more in taxes then you needed to based on how much you ended up making over the year.
  • You can also end up getting tax deductions for certain things like giving to charity, nonprofits, medical expenses, or if you spend personal money on your job or business.
  • You can also get tax credits for things like education or paying for childcare so you can work.

And that’s all you need to know! See? Taxes can be a dream, not a nightmare. You can also check out the IRS’s website for any other information you may need.


The Master Guide to Winter Workouts

winter workouts

Staying active in winter may seem impossible, but with some key tips and tricks you can get back on track and enjoy your healthiest and happiest winter yet.

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Winter is one of the hardest times to work out. Winter has some major eating holidays, it’s cold outside, it’s dark outside, the days are shorter, and you feel sleepy and full of food all the time! But all of this is why it is so important to stay active in winter and avoid being too stagnant during this season.

Tips for Staying Active in Winter

exercise tips

Staying active when it’s cold and dark outside is difficult, and understandably so. Around 17.3 million adults in the U.S. alone suffer from depression and 10% to 20% of those cases are affected by the seasons—like winter. The cold, dark days of winter can really deter us from staying positive and active. But with a few key tips, you can make your life a little easier and help make working out in winter a little easier too.

1. Make Future Plans

By making future plans for the spring and summer you can find your winter workout motivation! Summer plans will give you something to work toward during the winter. This can be anything from a beach vacation to signing up for a marathon.

2. Set Up an At-Home Workout Space

Having a designated space in your home to work out can really help make exercising during the winter easier. You don’t even have to dedicate a whole room to your at-home gym space. Just set up some at-home weights and a yoga mat in an assigned bin near your TV so you can do a short daily workout video and have everything you need right there.

3. Invest in Indoor Equipment

Sometimes the biggest obstacle to working out in winter is getting yourself out the door to go to the gym. Solve this problem by investing in some indoor gym equipment for your own home. Then you don’t have to spend additional time traveling to the gym in order to work out each day. You can even take out a payday loan to help buy the indoor workout equipment you need.

4. Get a Gym Membership

Another way to get yourself going to the gym is to sign up for a gym membership. Ideally, you should choose a gym that is close to home or close to your work. This way your gym will be on the way so you can easily plan a stop to the gym on your daily schedule. You can even keep a locker at your gym so you’ll have all your shoes and workout clothes already there.

5. Find a Workout Buddy

Support is an important part of achieving any goal. A workout friend can help keep you accountable, motivated, and positive as you work toward your physical health goals.

Examples of Indoor Winter Workouts

at home workouts

Just because the outdoors are full of ice and snow, that doesn’t mean you can’t stay plenty active from the warmth and comfort of the indoors.

1. Sign Up for Indoor Sports

There are plenty of indoor sports teams you can join. You can even start your own team with friends! Sports don’t have to be professional or competitive, they can also just be for fun, socializing, and staying in shape. You can also do other indoor sports alone like swimming at the local indoor pool or rock climbing.

2. Use Workout Videos

Workout videos can be a fantastic way to get moving from the convenience of your living room. You can even find free workout videos on YouTube like Fitness Blender. There are plenty of expertly designed workout videos and subscriptions you can purchase as well, like Daily Burn.

3. Do Yoga Circuits

Yoga isn’t just for stretching, it has many great health benefits as a daily workout. Yoga with Adriene are free yoga workout videos you can find on YouTube to get you started.

4. Go Dancing

Sign up for a dance class and learn some cool skills while you workout! You can even find ways to teach yourself how to dance by watching videos or playing games like Just Dance!

5. Do Some Deep Cleaning

Yes, you heard right. You can get your house in order while you sweat by doing some intense spring cleaning early. Make cleaning into more of a workout by doing creative things like core twists while you mop the floor or lifting heavy baskets like they are weights.

6. Create Your Own Workout

Instead of using workout videos you can create your own workout routine with all your favorite moves. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Crunches
  • Plank
  • Mountain climbers
  • High knees
  • High kicks
  • Sidekicks
  • Pushups
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Jump rope
  • Jumping jacks
  • Stairs
  • Weights

Examples of Outdoor Winter Workouts

outdoor workouts

If you are going to exercise outside in winter then there are a few things you need to do to stay safe and be prepared.

  • Do extra-long warmups
  • Wear layers
  • Protect your extremities
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Wear Sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare off the snow
  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear the right shoes and be careful of slipping on ice
1. Go Skiing

Skiing isn’t just fun it’s also a workout! It’s a sport you can do in winter that will give you a full-body workout.

2. Ski Uphill

Skiing uphill is also known as skinning or alpine touring. It involves placing a “skin” to the base of skis so you don’t slide backward and can in essence ski uphill. Snow adds some extra resistance to this uphill exercise making it a doozy of a workout.

3. Go Snowboarding

Another great winter sport to do is snowboarding. It can keep you occupied for hours, you can socialize with friends, and get an intense core workout in!

4. Trail Running

Trail running isn’t only for warmer months. You can still jog your favorite trails in winter, just make sure you layer up accordingly and beware of ice!

5. Hiking

Activities like hiking can be really fun to do in winter because it’s cold out and the sun isn’t as intense. Winter hikes can actually be more pleasant because you won’t be fighting the sun or the heat.

6. Sledding

Sledding isn’t just for children! It can be good for adults too. Not only that but you can have fun with the kids in your life all while getting an awesome workout into your day.

7. Ice Skating

Ice skating is a great activity because you can easily do it with friends or on your own. While ice skating you work unique muscles in your legs and abdomen. You can even take an ice skating class and learn some impressive new moves to show your friends.

8. Shovel Snow

This might seem like a chore but it doesn’t have to just be a chore. You can change your perspective on shoveling snow and include it in your workout regime.

9. Play in the Snow

There is a lot of fun to be had out in the snow. You can have a snowball fight, build a snowman, create an igloo, or pull each other around in sleds.

10. Snow Shoeing

Snow adds weight resistance that you can use to your advantage. Going on a walk in the snow can burn even more calories than if you were walking without snow.


Staying active is important for an endless amount of reasons. Physical fitness isn’t just important to your physical health but to your mental and emotional wellbeing as well. Don’t let your physical health plans fall by the wayside this winter by using these tips to finally win at winter workouts.


How to Make and Keep New Year Resolutions this Year

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new year wishes

The New Year is a significant time for a lot of people. A whole new year is beginning with a whole new you waiting ahead!

The new year is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts for us all. Many of us will attempt to make new year resolutions to better ourselves and our lives this coming year. We see the new year holiday as an opportunity to celebrate the past year and look hopefully toward the year to come. New Years Eve may be one of the most hopeful nights of the year as we start over with the dawn of a whole new beginning.

New Year Resolution Ideas

Have you decided what your new year resolutions are going to be? If not, here are some common new year resolution ideas that you could choose from.

  1. Work on physical health
  2. Work on mental health
  3. Get more organized
  4. Save money
  5. Get out of debt
  6. Quit bad habits
  7. Stick to a budget
  8. Travel
  9. Read more
  10. Find a better job

new year goals

1. Work on physical health
Every body needs to learn good, healthy habits to keep their bodies fit and strong. This goal works for everyone since we can all do a little more to take care of our physical health, whether that means eating better, working out more, or both.

2. Work on mental health
This goal also works for everyone since we can all always do a little more to take care of our mental and emotional wellbeing. Self-care is important and can make accomplishing other goals a lot easier. Mental wellness goals can be anything from resolving to visit a therapist to doing morning yoga for a happier morning routine.

3. Get more organized
Organizing and decluttering your life is another goal that can make keeping other goals easier. Maybe you want to focus on planning more productive days. Or maybe your office space, bedroom, or garage could use a major cleaning and organizing overhaul. This can be a great goal to make as a family to rearrange and reorganize your home and your lives together.

keep new year resolutions guide

4. Save money
We’d all like to save more money, but making this an actual new year resolution might be the focus you need to really make it happen. You can save money in many ways: 1) reduce spending by getting rid of some monthly payments, 2) get a better paying job or a second job, or 3) learn to stick to a budget that allows you to save more money.

5. Get out of debt
Debt can bog down all aspects of our lives. It can keep us from getting the things we need and moving forward with important life steps. Resolve to get rid of debts this year and make an airtight financial plan for how you’ll do it. Maybe this year you can decide to go without certain things so you can afford the bigger payments to bring down your debts faster.

6. Quit bad habits
Bad habits come in all shapes and sizes. You might want to quit smoking this year, or maybe you just want to quit eating junk food. One key trick to quitting bad habits is figuring out how to replace bad habits with better habits to fill the void the bad habit was filling.

7. Stick to a budget
Creating a budget and sticking to it can be a really difficult goal to accomplish. To finally learn to stick to your budget, try focusing on one aspect of your budget at a time in order to more slowly learn how to live according to that budget. This way you’ll take things slower and not fail due to being overwhelmed.

8. Travel more
Traveling can be a great way to expand your views, learn about the world, and learn about yourself. Make sure that in your goal planning you remember to account for time and costs. You might need to use PTO days at work and plan accordingly. There will also be travel costs like gas, tickets, hotels, or whatever else you’ll need to make your traveling plans actually happen. You can also make use of a Check City Installment Loan in your travel budget to help with costs. Plan to prepare before you plan to travel.

9. Read more
Reading is an important hobby we often forget about in our busy lives. To remind yourself to read this coming year create your own reading list. Keep in mind your own reading pace and schedule out your planned reading for the year on a calendar. You can even form a book club and read together with friends.

10. Find a better job
Money might not buy happiness but a good job can make all the difference in your personal and financial life. Finding a better job might be an important goal this year if you’re struggling to not live paycheck to paycheck. It might also be an important goal if the environment at your current job is less than ideal, or if your commute is too long.

How to Set Goals

set goals
Making goals for yourself this new year is a worthy endeavor, but many of us start to fail in our goals around February and give up by March. Why is this? Generally, we fail in our goals because we lack the proper motivation and planning to keep our goals.

1. Don’t set too many goals
One of the main things that keep people from accomplishing their goals is setting too many goals at one time. Instead, stick to only one or two major goals for the year. You may have up to 50 goals you’d really like to accomplish this coming year, but if you want to be successful at keeping your goals, you’ll need to prioritize and focus on the most important ones first.

2. Make a step-by-step plan for your goals
Once you have your resolution in mind, break the goal up into manageable steps. For example, you may want to save up to buy a new car, but you know you can’t just put thousands of dollars aside. However, you do know you can put aside $10 this month, and $20 the next month. Make big goals more manageable by organizing them into small, easy to accomplish steps.

3. Expect and accept setbacks
When trying to accomplish great things you are going to experience setbacks. Don’t let them destroy all your efforts by recognizing that failure is a normal part of any process. But failure doesn’t have to mean absolute failure. You can fall off the horse and get right back on, and at the end of the day, it’s this kind of effort and resolve that gives you the most out of your goals.

How to Stay Motivated

new year resolutions
One way to keep yourself feeling excited about your goals is to make use of new year quotes. You can print out motivational quotes and hang them around your house or bedroom as a reminder of your goals. It’s also a great idea to have a motto of the year that you look to each morning to stay focused, positive, and motivated. Here are just a few of the many quotes you could use as your quote of the year:

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

—C. S. Lewis

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”

—Karen Kaiser Clark

“Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction.”

—Germany Kent

“Life’s not about expecting, hoping and wishing, it’s about doing, being and becoming.”

—Mike Dooley

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
—E.E. Cummings

You can also help yourself stay motivated and achieve your goals by helping others stay motivated and keep their goals. On new years we like to make resolutions for ourselves and give out new year wishes for others. Support your friends and family in their goals by reaching out to them in your new year wishes this year and offer your help and encouragement in their own endeavors.

DIY Christmas Gifts

diy christmas gift ideas

Get your gift-giving organized this year, and start preparing now for next year by reading up on all our helpful gift-giving articles:

Shopping for holiday gifts can get expensive. One thing that can help with your holiday costs is to take out a small personal loan. Another way to mitigate holiday gift costs is to make some presents yourself! Let’s go over a few DIY gift ideas that are not only cheaper than buying gifts but some of the most thoughtful and personal gifts you could do.

1. Make Food

make food

You can make food for them! The great thing about this DIY gift idea is that the possibilities are endless. You can easily lean on your cooking and baking strengths to make them something yummy. If you love baking you can make them cookies or pumpkin bread. If you love cooking you can make them their favorite dinner. If you aren’t good at either, you can always make them an easy breakfast in bed.

2. Personal Cleaning Service

cleaning

Everyone appreciates a clean home, kitchen, bedroom, etc., but not everyone enjoys having to do the cleaning themselves. This DIY gift idea works especially well for a homemade coupon card. Your gift recipient might also have a specific area in their life that could use an especially good cleaning, like their car or garage. You can even send them away for a fun evening out to dinner or to see a movie while you clean the house for them.

3. Knit a Sweater

christmas sweater

You don’t necessarily have to knit something and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a sweater either. You could also sew, cross-stitch, or crochet something for them. If you’re new to sewing-type crafts then you could knit a simple scarf for them. You could also make them a pillowcase, a blanket, a hat, or mittens. There are many great tutorials online and they’ll love having something you handmade for them.

4. Plan a Fun Activity

christmas date

This one may cost you a little, but it has the potential to save you some money in the short term if you just can’t afford them something right now. You could even hand-make an elegant invitation for them so they still have something to receive on Christmas day. Whoever you’re shopping for, a fun time going to the movies, or to dinner, or to see a performance will be loads of fun and leave them full of even more anticipation after opening your gift. You can also possibly find free or inexpensive shows and performances at your local community arts center or theater.

5. Make a Handmade Christmas Ornament

christmas ornament

With just a few inexpensive items from the craft store, you could make them a beautiful, hand-crafted, and personalized Christmas ornament. This may be one of the easiest and most inexpensive DIY ideas because you may already have what you need at home! With some paper, glue or tape, and some string, you can make a thoughtful gift with almost zero cost.

6. Make a Scrapbook

handmade gift

Scrapbooks are fun and easy to make because you can design them however you choose. They can also contain whatever you want them to! You can include photographs and captions to go over some special memories. Or if you don’ have photos you can recreate memories with drawings, or little items that will help them remember. You could even make a storybook instead of a scrapbook, and tell your own meaningful Christmas tale. You could also go over the things you admire about that person, or make a motivational booklet with your favorite quotes.

7. Make Some Art

handmade gift

Make use of your artistic skills and create something they can hang on their wall! Art is a form of expression and you can use art to express your feelings of love and gratitude this season. If you aren’t sure about your artistic abilities, you could find a free art class at the local library or community center and seek their aid in painting or drawing something special. You might even find another type of arts and crafts class you can take for free, like pottery, and make them something equally homemade and personal.

 

There is a lot of work, thought, and preparation that goes into the gifts we open on Christmas day. We should be able to enjoy buying and creating wonderful, personal gifts just as much as we enjoy opening them up together around the tree. Learn to have fun Christmas shopping by using lists like this one to brainstorm great ideas, and by planning gifts for next Christmas today.


How to Organize All Your Gift Giving This Year

gift organization tips

Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with gift giving this year with these 8 gift organization tips:

  1. Gather Wish Lists
  2. Stick to a Budget
  3. Keep a Planning Journal
  4. Visit the Store’s Website First
  5. Shop for the Future
  6. Keep Wrapped Gifts Organized
  7. Create a Gift Exchange
  8. Free Gift Organization Apps

There are many reasons to be more organized about gift giving each year. The winter season is a time of many gift giving holidays, but the rest of the year has lots of gift giving occasions as well. There are numerous birthdays to remember, graduations, weddings, Easter, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, anniversaries, baby showers, and the list goes on and on.

You need to better organize your gift giving this year because if you don’t you’ll end up . . .

  • forgetting someone
  • going way over budget
  • doing last minute shopping
  • running into the problem where you’ve wrapped gifts and forget who gets what
  • accidentally getting one kid 5 gifts while the rest only have 3
  • confusing who asked for what while shopping

All of these things are pretty catastrophic gift-giving disasters that you do not want to happen to you. But don’t worry, if you just use these gift-giving organization tips you’ll avoid the chaos and have a whole new experience with gift giving.

Gather Wish Lists

The first thing you want to do each year is ask for everyone’s wish lists. Holidays that gather the whole family together are a good time to pass out a crafty wish list printout and have everyone write down what they’d love to receive for birthdays and holidays next year. That way when January comes around, you’ll already know what to start shopping for.

When you’re passing out wish list worksheets, you can also create a list of everyone on your nice list, or everyone you’ll be getting gifts for. That way you’ll have a master list of all your gift recipients so not a single person gets forgotten in the stress and turmoil of shopping and gift planning.

Free Downloadable Wish List Printable: Click Here

Stick to a Budget

After you’ve made a list of all your gift recipients, and gotten gift ideas from all of them, you can start creating a budget. It’s a good idea to create a budget specifically for gifts because unrecorded gift expenses can easily get out of hand. To help your gift spending not get out of hand, you can take out a small personal loan at your neighborhood Check City store.

Start by looking at your household budget and determining how much you can spend on gifts. Then divide that sum between individuals or events—whichever makes more sense for you. For example, if you have a $100 gift budget and you want to give gifts to John and Mary this year, then you can plan on spending $50 on gifts for each of them. If you want to divide your gift budget between events then you might decide to spend $50 on birthday presents, and $50 on Christmas presents for everyone that year.

Free Downloadable Christmas Gift Budget Printable: Click Here or Here

Keep a Planning Journal

Now you need a separate to do list just for gift giving. This will help you keep track of all that is expected of you throughout the year so that you don’t forget any important events. Try creating a separate folder on your computer just for all your lists. That way you can go to one place each year to find your task list for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and whatever other holidays and occasions you have to plan and prepare for. You can also keep all of this information in an event journal where you record all your tasks so that you can become more efficient at planning with every passing year.

You can use an event planner or folder to keep track of other to do lists like all the things you need to do to get your Christmas cards sent, or for your annual family Christmas party put together, or how you did that graduation party. You can also use it to keep track of gifts you’ve received so you’ll remember to send thank you notes to everyone.

You could also make all of this into a bullet journal if you want to get extra crafty. Then you could possibly keep it as a kind of Christmas journal to commemorate important moments as well as plans.

christmas gifts

Keep a Detailed Record

There is a lot to keep track of with gifts to give and holiday parties to plan. That’s why keeping a careful record is important if you don’t want to forget anything and create stress. One way you can easily do all your gift organizing is to use excel. You can make a spreadsheet on excel or create a table in a word or google doc to keep track of the following:

  • List of all the people you need to get gifts for
  • Your total gift budget
  • What you plan to spend on each person
  • What you bought for each person
  • How much each present cost
  • What Santa gift you got for each child
  • Whether each present has been wrapped yet
  • Whether each gift has been sent or given yet

Visit the Store’s Website First

Don’t just show up at your favorite stores and start shopping—this is how we quickly go over budget. Instead, visit the store’s website first. By going to the website before you go to the store, you can take an inventory of what the store has in stock, and easily compare prices between stores. This practice will save you time, energy, and money. Even if you still go to the store to buy your items rather than buying them online, by taking a look at the website first you’ll have a better idea of what everything will cost you and where it’ll fit in your budget. This way you can see ahead of time what you can get and what they cost to add up your gift totals and make adjustments from the comfort and ease of your couch before you even purchase your first gift.

Shop for the Future

In your gift giving journal or word doc you can keep track of all the events each year that include gift giving, and make your plans ahead of time for each holiday or occasion. This way you can have gifts ready well in advance and make better use of sales to save money. Shopping with the future in mind can also help you have a more relaxing experience while gift shopping, because you won’t be under any time constraints.

Free Downloadable Printout for Yearly Gift Giving Planner: Click Here

Keep Wrapped Gifts Organized

Once you’ve planned, recorded, and bought all of your gifts it’s time to start wrapping them! When undertaking the task of wrapping gifts it is important to stay organized by creating a system.

Pick a space (like your craft room or bedroom) that the kids can’t go into and use it as your base of operations for gift organizing and wrapping.

Use bins, boxes, or laundry baskets that have been marked with each kids name and put their gifts in their stack as you purchase them. This will keep their presents organized and you can even use the bins when you put the wrapped gifts under the tree. You can even decorate the boxes to look like one big present if you want to organize the gifts under the tree a bit and not lose anyone’s presents in the back or under a couch. You can also use the gift basket idea to help you stay organized while you’re wrapping. Keep wrapped gifts in their labeled boxes so there’s not confusion later on about what gift belongs to whom.

Lastly, don’t forget to put a clear name tag on each present once you’ve wrapped each one. This will keep your wrapped gifts even more organized and further keep them from getting confused.

Create a Gift Exchange

The one time having a lot of loved ones can become a burden is when it comes to giving gifts. You want to get everyone you love a gift, but that can be hard to do on a budget. One way to fix this problem is to organize gift exchanges. This is especially helpful for extended families that want to get gifts for their many loved ones but can’t afford getting gifts for both their immediate and extended families. christmas gift ideasYou can also do this with a group of your close friends so you all don’t have to get gifts for every friend you have.

Create your gift exchange groups and then designate a system for exchanging names each year. You can all draw names out of a hat, you can do a secret Santa, or you can do a name rotation. Then you can throw a party each year to exchange gifts with each other.

Free Gift Organization Apps

There are many free apps out there you can also use to keep all your gift giving organized. Here are a few free app ideas you can look into:

  • Giftster
  • Santa’s bag
  • Christmas gift list
  • Gift planner
  • Gift list diary
  • Christmas gift list

Planning out your gift purchases ahead of time is the most efficient way to stay organized and on budget this gift giving season. But the real reason to stay organized as possible this year is because the seasons are meant to be enjoyed, and if you have things planned and organized, then your holiday season will be much more stress free and enjoyable.


READ MORE

Read, “Ten of Our Top Tips for Organized Gift Giving” for even more great tips about staying organized this holiday season.

Visit “Organize Your Gift Giving” for more free holiday printable downloads!


The Ultimate Black Friday Strategy Guide

In this article you’ll find an in-depth strategy guide for how to tackle your Black Friday shopping this year. Not only that but we’ve provided a guide at the bottom of this article that links to all the Black Friday ads you want (from Target ads to GameStop ads) and their store hours on Thanksgiving day and Black Friday.

The Most Useful Black Friday Shopping Tips

black friday shopping

Tip 1: Hire a Babysitter

Bringing small children along with you to shop on Black Friday isn’t a great idea. Generally they’ll be too young to enjoy the crowds and long waits in line. In fact, they’ll probably hate it and keep you from being out as long as you could be without them. They’ll just get tired, hungry, and bored so keeping the kids safe at home with a spouse or babysitter is better.

Tip 2: Make a Budget

The very first thing you’ll want to do when planning your Black Friday strategy is figure out your budget. This is important so that you stay in control of your finances and not blow all your money on Black Friday. A budget will let you know how much you’re allowed to spend.

Tip 3: Check Out the Ads

Do some pre-shopping preparation by researching what you want to buy now. You can check out the prices of things you want by looking through Black Friday ads beforehand. Make a list of the things you want from each catalogue. Include in your list the price of each item, where they can be purchased, and whether they can be purchased online. This will give you a kind of master shopping list so you can see all of your options.

Tip 4: Prioritize Your Shopping List

Don’t buy everything on your master shopping list. Instead, number the items on your list from most to least important. That way you can match your final shopping list to the budget you made in the first step. Planning your Black Friday shopping trip to this extent can also help you not impulse buy the whole store.

Tip 5: Make Black Friday Shopping a Bonding Experience

There’s no reason shopping on Black Friday can’t be a fun bonding experience with you and your fellow shopping lovers. Make an event out of it by preparing together and using all that line waiting to talk with and bond with your shopping buddies. You can also make the experience a fun time to bond by going out to eat a victory meal once all your shopping is done!

Tip 6: Plan Your Shopping Trips

Actually schedule and plan your shopping trip. Make a shared schedule with everyone you’re shopping with and mark down what order you plan on visiting each store. That way you won’t be left debating where you should go first when you get in the car to start your Black Friday trip. Instead you’ll already have it all figured out.

Tip 7: Skip the Doorbusters

Instead of going Black Friday shopping when everyone else is out flooding the roads and the stores, feel free to go shopping way earlier or way later than everyone else! If you go after the bustle you may not find as many things still in stock, but your overall shopping experience will be much calmer.

black friday shopping tips

Tip 8: Don’t Forget to Shop Online

Don’t forget that you can shop online too. In fact, you can find a lot of Black Friday deals that are exclusive to the stores website now, meaning you have to purchase some things online to get the Black Friday deal. There’s also the matter of stores and roads becoming extremely overcrowded every Black Frida, so if you can find what you want online instead, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and help keep the stores and roads less congested.

Tip 9: Don’t Miss the Deals Around Black Friday

A lot of stores now have Black Friday deals that happen before and after the actual day. In some cases you might even be able to skip shopping on Friday to go to those sales instead. When planning you trip and checking out the deals around Black Friday, don’t miss the sales going on before and after Black Friday too.

Tip 10: Don’t Use a Cart

Don’t use a cart if you can. It’ll just take up space in the already crowded aisles and keep you from being speedy as you maneuver through the store. That being said, if you’re buying something heavy or big, don’t hurt yourself by trying to carry it.

Tip 11: Dress for the Occasion

Make sure you dress right for Black Friday shopping. It is going to be cold outside, but warm inside the busy stores. You are also going to be on your feet a lot and possibly need to carry a lot of shopping bags around. Keep all of these factors in mind when you choose your Black Friday battle outfit. Wear shoes that have thick insoles (like your running shoes) so your feet will have adequate support for standing in line for a long time. Wear warm, long sleeve clothes for if you need to wait outside before stores open, but don’t wear anything too bulky or too warm since you’ll also be waiting in long lines inside hot, overpopulated stores as well. Wearing long sleeves with a vest or medium sized jacket should give you the right blend. Try to not carry a purse while Black Friday shopping since you want to travel light. Instead carry a small, pocket-friendly wallet, or a smaller purse so you can travel light.

Tip 12: Check the Deals are Worth It

Make sure the prices are actually a worthwhile deal before you go through all the trouble to get them. Sometimes similar deals come up later in the year when shopping isn’t so crazy. It’s also a good idea to know the original price of the item so you can see if you’re actually saving all that much.

Tip 13: Bring Your Own Shopping Bags

By bringing your own shopping bags you can help out the environment a little, and also make your life easier. With your own shopping bags you can carry around the items you want to purchase more easily while you finish shopping and wait in those long lines. But carrying a bag will leave you with a lot more mobility in the store then a cart will.

Tip 14: Form Teams

Make teams so that you can divide and conquer your Black Friday shopping goals. You can send your teams to different stores so you can all finish the shopping a lot faster than if you all had to go to each store together.

Tip 15: Do in Store Pick Up

Take advantage of the in store pick up feature when you can. Even on Black Friday some store will still let you buy online and pick up in the store. Then you can possibly avoid some lines!

Tip 16: Be Mindful of Your Funds

Make sure you keep track of your funds and how much you’re spending at each store. For instance, if you’re paying in cash, keep in mind how much cash you have so you don’t suddenly find yourself short once you finally make it to the cashier. If you’re paying with a card then make sure you know how much is on it so you don’t end up with any overdraft fees.

Tip 17: Bring Snacks!

Bring a snack! Keep yourself energized and fueled so that your Black Friday shopping experience can be a positive one. Having snacks can help your team stay positive too.

The Ultimate Guide to Black Friday Ads

black friday store hours

Check out the Best Buy Black Friday Ad

Best Buy Black Friday Store Hours:

Thursday 28: opens at 5:00pm

Friday 29: closes at 1:00am. The doors open again at 8:00am.

Best Buy Thanksgiving Store Hours:

Thanksgiving Day (Thursday 28): opens at 5:00pm until 1:00am the next morning

Check out the Target Black Friday Ad

Best Buy Black Friday Store Hours:

Thursday 28: opens at 5:00pm

Friday 29: closes at 1:00am. The doors open again at 7:00am.

Best Buy Thanksgiving Store Hours:

Thanksgiving Day (Thursday 28): open from 5:00pm until 1:00am the next morning.

Check out the Walmart Black Friday Ad

Best Buy Black Friday Store Hours:

Thursday 28: opens at 6:00pm

Best Buy Thanksgiving Store Hours:

Thanksgiving Day (Thursday 28): opens at 6:00pm

Check out the Amazon Black Friday Ad

Best Buy Black Friday Store Hours:

Thursday 28: all day online

Friday 29: all day online

Best Buy Thanksgiving Store Hours:

Thanksgiving Day (Thursday 28): all day online

Check out the Kohls Black Friday Ad

Best Buy Black Friday Store Hours:

Thursday 28: open from 5:00pm to 12:00am (midnight)

Friday 29: open from 8:00am to 12:00am (midnight)

Best Buy Thanksgiving Store Hours:

Thanksgiving Day (Thursday 28): open from 5:00pm to 12:00am (midnight)

Check out the Home Depot Black Friday Ad

Best Buy Black Friday Store Hours:

Friday 29: opens at 6:00am

Best Buy Thanksgiving Store Hours:

Thanksgiving Day (Thursday 28): closed all day

Check out the Costco Black Friday Ad

Best Buy Black Friday Store Hours:

Friday 29: opens at 9:00am

Best Buy Thanksgiving Store Hours:

Thanksgiving Day (Thursday 28): closed all day

Check out the GameStop Black Friday Ad

Best Buy Black Friday Store Hours:

Thursday 28: open from 3:00pm to 10:00pm

Friday 29: Opens at 7:00am

Best Buy Thanksgiving Store Hours:

Thanksgiving Day (Thursday 28): open from 3:00pm to 10:00pm

 
Black Friday is a fun and exciting time. There are so many important deals that you can take advantage of, and with a personal loan you can make sure you have enough funds to get all the Black Friday discounts you need. But while you do your shopping this year remember that it’s still the season of giving and gratitude, so be kind to your fellow shoppers.


READ MORE

Use these tips to get even more deals this Black Friday, “Find the Best Black Friday Sales with These 5 Tips.”

Read about what to do AFTER Black Friday shopping, “The Aftermath of Black Friday.”


When is Thanksgiving this Year?

when is thanksgiving

When is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is a great time of year. It’s a time to come together with our loved ones, put our differences aside, and be grateful for all we have. It’s a time to be together with friends and family and to remember all our blessings. Thanksgiving first began in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln made this day of thanks an official holiday. America was in the middle of the Civil War, but despite the suffering and hardship of war, Abraham Lincoln wanted to bring the nation together in remembrance of all they had to be grateful for.

In a way, creating the Thanksgiving holiday was another one of President Lincoln’s efforts to join the divided nation again as he called upon all Americans to:

“commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

(Abraham Lincoln Online, Proclamation of Thanksgiving)

It was then decided that Thanksgiving is on the last Thursday in November each year, and it’s been bringing families and friends together for some quality mealtime ever since. But to make this holiday special there is a lot of things to do! There’s preparing to host guests and there’s all that Thanksgiving food to plan and prepare. Hopefully this master Thanksgiving prep checklist can help you get everything done in time this year.

Now that you know that this year’s Thanksgiving is Thursday the 28th, you can start preparing! If you want to be a stellar Thanksgiving host this year then there are a few things you’ll need to do to get ready. When there’s so much to get done it helps to have a master checklist so you don’t forget anything important:

Thanksgiving Master Checklist

when is thanksgiving

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving at your house this year, then you don’t just have food to prepare, you have a house to prepare as well. A good host has a clean house that’s ready to meet every need a guest might have. For instance, if you’re having people stay over you’ll want to prepare sleeping arrangements that are comfortable, you’ll want to have clean, visitor-friendly bathrooms that aren’t cluttered with your personal hair products, you’ll want to add some fall decor to give your house the right feel, and you’ll want to plan the menu and cooking so you’re prepared and able to get dinner done on time.

  • Clean house
  • Put up fall decorations
  • Prepare the guest bedrooms/guest sleeping arrangements
  • Plan your Thanksgiving menu
  • Do the grocery shopping
  • Make cooking/baking schedule and assignments

Thanksgiving Host Cleaning Checklist

Part of being a good host is to have a clean house to host in. To keep all your preThanksgiving chores organized, use a free Thanksgiving cleaning checklist by clicking on the image to the right.

thanksgiving cleaning checklist

  • Wipe down kitchen
  • Wipe down all the counters, the sink, the exterior of the fridge, the cabinets, and any other surfaces that could use cleaning and sanitizing before you begin preparing all the food.

  • Clean the oven
  • One thing that can ruin Thanksgiving Day is a burning oven, smoking up the house. You can avoid this by giving your oven a good cleaning before the big cooking day. You can run a cleaning cycle on the oven, or you can clean it more manually by using oven cleaner or a baking soda, vinegar mixture and a hard brush.

  • Clean the stovetop
  • How you clean your stovetop will depend on whether you have a gas or electric stove. Just remember to take apart what you can and get every nook and cranny.

  • Clean the dishwasher
  • You’re going to have a lot of dishes to do during Thanksgiving so it’ll help to run a quick cleaning cycle on your dishwasher. It’s super easy to do, just place a cup of white vinegar in the top rack, or sprinkle a cup of baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher and run a hot water cycle. This’ll get rid of any grease, hard water stains, or odors and help your dishes come out clean every time.

  • Organize and declutter the kitchen
  • Our kitchens can get cluttered, but you don’t want anything in your way when it comes time to cook and bake. This may include making more counter space in your kitchen or going through the pantry closet to make sure you know what you do and don’t have.

  • Organize and declutter the living room
  • Another place you’ll spend a lot of time during Thanksgiving is in the living room. So make sure there isn’t unnecessary stuff kicking around so that your guests can comfortably relax there too.

  • Clean the couches
  • People often forget to clean their couches, but they need some cleaning care as well. You can do some regular cleaning by vacuuming the cushions, not forgetting to vacuum under the cushions as well. You can get an even deeper clean on your couch by using a shampooer.

  • Tidy bedrooms
  • If you’re having guests stay over for the holiday season then you’ll want to clean up the guest bedrooms (if you have them) or arrange the area where guests will be sleeping and staying. Make sure you provide the basic things guests need, like blankets, pillows, fresh bath towels, toiletries, and the Wi-Fi password.

  • Clean bathrooms
  • Make sure your bathroom is not only clean and smelling fresh, but also make sure it’s free of your personal bathroom clutter. While guests are around, it’s a good idea to keep your personal bathroom products off the counter so your bathroom is tidy and guest ready.

  • Floors
  • It’s a good idea to tackle your floors last and all at once. That way you can go through with the broom on all your hard floors, and then tackle all your carpet with the vacuum. Don’t forget to mop at the end to really free your house of dust and grime.

  • Catch up on laundry
  • You don’t want to have loads of laundry in the way, and you want blankets and towels to be ready for guests. It’s also always polite to provide fresh clean sheets for guests, so it’s a good idea to catch up on all your laundry before guests arrive.

Plan the Thanksgiving Menu

Plan your Thanksgiving menu by choosing appetizers, sides, the main dish, beverages, and desserts. Everyone has their own traditional Thanksgiving dishes and this is your chance to plan those out and include everybody’s favorite Thanksgiving food.

Likewise, everyone has their own traditions about when to serve Thanksgiving dinner. But if you’re new to hosting Thanksgiving you may be wondering when to serve Thanksgiving dinner. Generally, Thanksgiving dinner is served in the early afternoon between 1:00pm and 3:00pm.

Thanksgiving Appetizers

You don’t have to have appetizers, but a lot of people don’t really eat before the main Thanksgiving meal so having some predinner appetizers laid out can help tide people over until the main course starts. The following appetizer ideas are realistic for Thanksgiving Day because they aren’t too carby, meaning they won’t fill your guests up too much before the actual meal.

  • Put together a cheese board
  • Put out some light fruits like grapes or clementines
  • Chips and dip
  • Veggie tray and dip
Thanksgiving Side Dishes
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Green bean casserole
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Potato salad
  • Stuffing
  • Vegetables like cream corn
  • Gravy
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Salad
  • Dinner rolls
Thanksgiving Dinner

Some people prefer having traditional roast turkey for Thanksgiving while others prefer ham, or going out to eat instead. The beauty of the holidays is that you can celebrate them however you choose. You can also get creative with your main course and make it stuffed or use a special recipe for optimal flavor.

  • Turkey in the oven
  • Turkey in the crockpot
  • Turkey in the instant pot
  • Ham in the oven
  • Ham in the crockpot
  • Ham in the instant pot
Thanksgiving Desserts
  • Pumpkin bread
  • Pie
  • There are endless types of pies you can make like, pumpkin, chocolate, apple, cherry, blueberry, shoofly pie, and pecan pie

  • Apple crisp
  • Pumpkin cheesecake roll
  • Rice pudding
  • Cobbler
  • Cookies
  • Creamy jello
  • Cranberry fluff

Now that you’ve decided what foods you want to include in your Thanksgiving menu, you’ll want to actually schedule when you’ll do all your grocery shopping, when you’ll prepare each dish, and who will prepare each food if you have helpers in the kitchen. It can help to have a specific Thanksgiving calendar plan to write out all the details of your preparation.

Planning your Thanksgiving out now can also help you save on Thanksgiving dinner this year. By planning beforehand you can even shop for groceries online in order to better budget how much you spend on food this year. But in either case, you can always use a small personal loan that you can pay off in just a few short months to help you pay for Thanksgiving this year. Click on the image below to print out your own free Thanksgiving week calendar.

thanksgiving day

There’s a lot to do to get ready for Thanksgiving, but don’t forget the reason for the season. The whole purpose of Thanksgiving is to be together with the ones you love, reconnect across long distances and after long periods of time, and take a moment to appreciate one another and all we have.

We’d also love to hear from you about your own Thanksgiving traditions! This can be anything from what foods you always make to other Thanksgiving activities you always do. Share this article and then share your favorite Thanksgiving traditions.


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Visit the Thanksgiving Page on Delish’s website right now to get actual recipes and even more great food ideas.

Food Network also has a Thanksgiving Recipes page.

Check out these interesting statistics about what time people serve their Thanksgiving meal.

How to Vote

how to vote

Voting doesn’t have to be a confusing hassle. If you have questions about how to vote in the upcoming election just take a look at the links below and find the quick answers you’re looking for:

Voting can seem complicated, especially if you just turned 18 and have never done it before. But it’s actually pretty simple! The upcoming election is also coming up faster than you might think. This coming February 3rd will be the first caucuses in Iowa, beginning the many caucuses, primaries, and conventions you’ll want to be a part of in order to participate in choosing the presidential candidates in the final election.

You need to prepare for the coming election now so that you’re prepared to vote in the primaries, and so you’re registered to vote in general. This way you aren’t taken by surprise when the final election rolls around and suddenly you have all these logistics to figure out. When it comes to voting, you also want to participate as early as possible so you can be informed and make your own educated choice.

Things to Know

There are a few general basics you’ll want to know about in order to understand elections and how they work.

Who can vote?

vote

In order to vote you must be at least 18 years old, be a citizen of the United States, and be registered to vote. But if you’d like to double check the specific voting requirements of your state you can visit Vote.org.

What are the different kinds of elections?

You probably already know about the presidential election, but did you know there are many more elections you can be a part of?

Federal Elections: these elections include anyone in the federal government. This would include the president, members of congress, senators, and members of the house of representatives.

State Elections: this includes voting for state legislatures, governors, the attorney general, secretary of state, state supreme court, and any other members of the state judiciary. State elections are also the time where you might vote on state policies.

Local Elections: this is where you vote on county and city government officials, like sheriffs, the mayor, and school board members.

The convention

One of the first things that happens during election season are conventions for each party. These conventions are generally held nationally. It is where political parties all gather together to browse the nominees for the coming presidential election.

The caucus

If you are registered to vote with a certain political party then you can go to that parties caucus. It is a meeting where people of a specific political party gather together. This can be where members of the party will register their preferences for who should be that party’s candidate. They also gather to discuss political policies pertinent to that group.

The primaries

The primary elections are often simply referred to as the primaries. They are the preliminary voting that takes place to decide who the final candidates for the final election will be. Many people try out to be presidential candidates, so this process helps voters choose the specific candidate they would like to represent their party in the final election. This narrows down the field so that when it comes time to vote for the actual president, there aren’t 30 or more people you have to know about and choose from on the voting ballot.

What is the electoral college?

We actually use the electoral college to determine the presidential winner in the end. Each state has a number of electors who cast these electoral votes. These electors consider the votes of the people from their states and use that information to cast their electoral vote. It’s these votes that determine who wins the presidency.

What’s the election schedule?

There are many events to be aware of during election season that take place the year before and after election year. Here is a general outline of all the most important election events you are going to want to be aware of.

The year BEFORE election year
Spring Candidates start announcing their intentions to run for president
Summer Primaries, caucus, and debates begin to take place
The year OF the election
July to September Political parties choose their candidates
September to October Presidential debates
November Election Day
December Electoral College votes
The year AFTER election year
January Congress counts the electoral votes
January 20th Inauguration Day

If you’d like to learn more about the basics of the presidential election, you can explore USA.gov to learn all about the voting and election process. This website even has educational videos and infographics to help you visually understand the process as well.

How Do I Vote?

register to vote

One of the biggest questions people have when it comes to elections is how to vote. Thankfully this process really isn’t too complicated either. Basically you’ll want to register to vote, participate in primary elections, stay informed, and vote at your polling place on election day.

First: how to register to vote

The very first thing you’ll want to do is get registered to vote. You register to vote in your state of residency so that when you do vote, you’ll be a part of your state’s voting pool. Registering to vote is incredibly easy to do. You can do it in person or online.

Where can I register to vote in person?

  • The DMV
  • Armed forces recruitment center
  • State and county public assistance offices

You can also quickly register online at Vote.gov. You can also check your registration status on this website to check if you’re already registered to vote.

You can also register by mail, if you are out of the country or out of your home state. All you have to do is fill out the National Mail Voter Registration Form found on USA.gov and then mail it to the address listed for you state.

Second: how to participate in the primaries

The candidates that will represent each party in the final vote needs to be chosen. Before election day arrives there will be primaries, caucuses, and political conventions to help narrow down the candidates. Different parties and states will do these preliminary voting events in varying ways.

If you want to vote in the primaries to help pick the final presidential candidates, then read, “When are the 2020 presidential election primaries?” to see when your state will hold their primaries. Then all you have to do is go to the primaries and participate in the preliminary voting so you can be a part of picking the final candidates.

During this time candidates will be narrowed down to the final few. They will also announce who their vice president would be, and then they go across the country campaigning, talking about their views and plans, and debating with other candidates until election day arrives. You can also help out your candidate of choice by volunteering or fundraising for their campaign!

Third: how to vote on election day

By participating in election events now, you can do your own research and watch debates to learn about the different presidential options, what they are all about, and what their presidential plans are. Then all that is left to do is go to your local, designated polling station on election day and cast your vote.

Election Day is always on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This upcoming election day will be on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

The only way you can cast your ballot is in person, or by mail. There is no way to vote online, so when election day comes you’ll need to be prepared to physically go to the polls, or be prepared ahead of time to mail in your ballot.

To find your polling place type in your address at VotingInfoProject.org to see where you’re designated polling station is.

If you are going to be absent from your registered state, or need to vote by mail for any other reason, then you’ll need to use the website for you state to find out how they want you to cast your absentee ballot.

What do I need to bring to vote?

polling station

The only thing you may need to bring with you to the polls is a form of identification. Whether ID is required for you to vote or note will depend on your state. You can check your state’s requirements for what to bring with you to the polling station by visiting NCSL.org.

How to Vote Early

There are many things that can make voting on election day difficult. But don’t let finances be one of them. If you need some financial help to get to the polls just take out an easy to use personal loan from Check City.

Whatever your reason, if you need to vote earlier than election day, it will depend on your state and whether they allow early voting. States usually have specified early voting dates.

Generally you don’t have to give them an excuse as to why you need to vote early, but this also might depend on your state.

The best way to see what you’ll need to do to vote early in your state is to find your state’s official website. You can do this by choosing your state at USA.gov and they’ll bring up your state’s official website. This site will then have your state’s specific information about early voting.

How to Vote in Midterm Elections

Midterm elections, or congressional elections, occur every 2 years. They happen in between presidential elections. They include voting for members of congress, the house of representatives, and the senate. These elections don’t use the electoral college but instead use the popular vote. The last midterm elections occurred November 6, 2018. If you want to participate in the next congressional elections just visit USA.gov for more information on when they are and how to vote in them.

How to Vote in Local Elections

The presidential election isn’t the only election you should be involved in, there are local elections going on all around too. These elections are equally important as the people put into office and the policies that get decided are all things that will affect your immediate community. Don’t just deal with whatever happens, be a part of shaping your community.

You can either use USA.gov or USVoteFoundation.org to see what local and state elections are coming up in your area.

 
Voting is an important part of being an active member of society. Your voice matters and voting is one way to make your voice heard. Don’t let misconceptions about voting keep you from getting to the polls and doing your part to help our society and grow.

Book Review: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

book review

Dave Ramsey is a best selling author of many popular self-help books about getting your finances together. He’s inspired many with his simple, no-hassle philosophies on how to manage money. He also has a radio talk show called the Dave Ramsey Show, that you can listen to anywhere you listen to podcasts. He even started his own company built on his financial philosophies called Financial Peace University. Dave Ramsey and his colleagues have loads of resources you can find helpful in your own personal money management journey. Whether you are managing a household or a small business, Dave Ramsey has the financial advice you need to be successful and smart with your funds.

Today we’re going to take a focused look into one of Dave Ramsey’s most prolific publications, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. You’ve heard of fitness journeys and makeovers that change your style into something fresh and new, but Dave Ramsey takes all that and puts a financial spin onto it. With Dave Ramsey’s baby step plan you can exercise your financial abilities in ways you never thought possible and finally get into shape where your wallet is concerned.

What Kind of Book is The Total Money Makeover?

book cover

The Total Money Makeover is written as a self-help book. It’s even been compared to popular self-help books like, Your Best Life Now and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People because of the reader-friendly way it is written. It’s an engaging book with lots of real-world examples and stories from real people who have actually gone through Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and seen results. These short anecdotal stories throughout the book help all of Dave Ramsey’s concepts make clear common sense.

The book also includes a lot of motivational help along with the tips and advice. One of the biggest factors that holds people back from taking full control over their finances is the proper motivation and encouragement to make necessary changes to their lifestyle. Dave Ramsey helps with that too, giving you the fresh outlook you need to understand your goal and the rewards you can gain.

Dave Ramsey is also a Christian, so his books often have a religious undertone. So you may find him referencing Bible verses every so often in this book, and tackling religious views and practices with regard to money as well.

What’s in the Book?

The Total Money Makeover is essentially a step-by-step guide for how to go about your own personal money makeover journey. These steps are based on Dave Ramsey’s key money philosophies. Dave Ramsey has strict beliefs about not ever using debt, loans, or credit cards. He believes that our society today is too dependent on credit and that true financial freedom only comes when you live a completely debt free life. So the first steps in his plan are all about helping you get out of debt, and then setting you up to never get into debt again.

Simple and straightforward advice.

Dave Ramsey’s book became so popular probably because of how easy it is to follow his clearly set plan. Each step is specific enough to leave no doubts about what exactly you need to do, making his plan one that anyone can follow and find success. It also helps that he is never vague about his advice, but rather he is extremely straightforward, open, and honest.

Dave Ramsey has no get-rich-quick schemes. He’s more about using honest work, responsibility, and common sense to reach your goals. So you won’t find any crazy secrets to financial stability and success in his book, you’ll just finally learn to implement the basics in a way that really works.

A change in perspective.

Another reason people enjoy Dave Ramsey’s teachings is because he doesn’t pretend that money is what brings happiness. He’s realistic and believes that money is a tool to create stability and contentment in our lives, not the secret solution to all our problems.

He eloquently tackles many mental barriers and misconceptions many of us have about money, and works to not only change your behavior with money, but your perspective about money as well. One thing he talks about a lot is getting over the need to “keep up with the Joneses.” Often in life we compare ourselves to others in unhealthy ways, and sometimes those comparisons can lead us to make poor financial decisions for superficial reasons. So, when you read the Total Money Makeover be prepared to gain a whole new outlook on the purpose of money, and break free from comparing yourself to others.

The Money Makeover Baby Steps:

The main event of this self-help read are the baby steps the reader can take to reach financial peace and freedom. You can read a more detailed article about each of the 7 baby steps that Dave Ramsey will go through in this book, but we’ll go over a quick outline of those steps here too.

Emergency Fund

The first step in Dave Ramsey’s 7 step plan is to basically get your financial life in order. The road to stability starts by setting up your finance in a certain way. This begins with setting up an emergency fund. You can start with at least $1,000 in your emergency fund but eventually you’ll want to work your way toward having at least 6 months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund at all times.

Debts

Once you start getting your emergency fund in place, it’s time to focus all other monetary efforts toward annihilating all your debts. He goes into more detail about this in the book. For example, he suggests you start with your smallest debts first and work your way up to your larger ones. He also recommends you save paying off your mortgage for last. But eventually the idea is to throw everything you can at your debts until they are all completely wiped out.

Build Wealth

Now it’s time to build wealth and continue saving. Since Dave Ramsey argues you should pay for everything in cash, continually building up your financial stores is an important aspect of the Dave Ramsey lifestyle. You have to have enough in savings to cover all your costs completely with cash.

In the book Dave Ramsey goes into more detail about what savings you should prioritize. He advises that you first complete your 6 months’ worth emergency fund if you haven’t gotten there already. Then he suggests you work toward saving for retirement and (if you have kids or plan on having kids) your children’s college funds.

Things You Can Do Differently:

Dave Ramsey’s primary goal in all of this is to help people get out of crippling debt and stay out of it. But there are modifications you can make to his more rigorous financial plan.

You can choose how much you want in your emergency fund.

If you’re a college student then putting aside even $1,000 may be more difficult for you. But that’s ok! Just put aside what you can. Even just adding $5 to $10 a month into an emergency fund is better than having no emergency fund at all.

Likewise, if you’re more settled in life it might be easier for you to put even more than $1,000 aside into an emergency fund. It really doesn’t matter how you do it, what matters most is that you start accumulating that safety fund in order to be more prepared for surprise expenses in the future.

You can still use credit cards and loans.

Dave Ramsey may believe in using only cash to pay for things but there are advantages to using credit cards and installment loans. When used responsibly using credit can help boost your credit score and get you the things you need to have a comfortable life. Credit cards can also provide lots of perks outside of boosting credit scores. Some credit cards come with special points that can go toward paying for things like groceries and traveling. So long as you understand your limits and include loans and credit payments in your carefully calculated budget and financial plans, you’ll be just fine.

Should I Read This Book?

You may now be wondering whether you should give this book a read or not. You should definitely read this book if . . .

  • you are in debt
  • you have trouble managing your money or realizing where your money goes
  • you have trouble making a budget

If you are looking for a book with more specific details about financial topics (like investing, or small businesses) then you should check out Dave Ramsey’s other books that go more in depth on complex financial topics. The Total Money Makeover doesn’t expound upon these topics too much since it was written more as a beginners guide to Dave Ramsey’s financial baby steps.

 

READ MORE

Check out some other helpful reviews about Dave Ramsey’s book, the Total Money Makeover:

Review: The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover Review

Goodreads


Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps

Explore this Article

Step 1: Start an Emergency Fund
Step 2: Focus on Debts
Step 3: Complete Your Emergency Fund
Step 4: Save for Retirement
Step 5: Start a College Fund
Step 6: Pay Off Your House
Step 7: Build Wealth

dave ramsey baby steps

Are you trying to get out of debt? Do you want more financial stability and freedom? Are your finances one of the bigger stresses in your life right now?

If any of these sentiments apply to you then Dave Ramsey’s 7 baby steps might be just what you need to cure your money blues.

Dave Ramsey is a guy who, through personal experience, was able to get out of debt and find financial peace of mind. He is now a financial expert with courses and books to help the everyday person get in control of their finances.

The best place to start when trying to regain control over your finances and achieve a full “money makeover” is to start with his 7 step plan. This plan has 7 baby steps that you follow to reach more financial stability and get to the point where you can start building wealth.

Step 1: Start an Emergency Fund

car maintenance

The first step in Dave Ramsey’s 7 step plan is, “Save $1,000 for Your Starter Emergency Fund.”

One of the main reasons people struggle with money is because necessary emergency expenses (like medical bills, car bills, or home repairs) come out of nowhere and drag you deeper and deeper into debt. But if you are preemptively prepared for these surprise expenses then they won’t take you off guard again.

So the very first thing you should do when getting your money in line is to get an emergency fund started. Save up an emergency fund in a separate bank account, until you have at least $1,000 in the account. This will be the start of the emergency fund that will keep sudden necessary expenses from plunging you into deep debts because you weren’t prepared.

Step 2: Focus on Debts

debts

The second step in Dave Ramsey’s plan is to “Pay Off All Debt (Except the House) Using the Debt Snowball.”

The snowball method that Dave Ramsey refers to here means that you start by paying off small debts first, and work your way up to the bigger debts. Debts can include paying off your car, credit card debts, and student loans.

First, make a giant list of all your debts, every single one, except for your mortgage if you have a house. Then, put your list of debts in order from the smallest debt amount to the largest. Then you go through knocking out each debt by eliminating the smallest debts first and working your way up to the largest debt last.

Step 3: Complete Your Emergency Fund

medical bills

The third step is to “Save 3 to 6 Months of Expenses in a Fully Funded Emergency Fund.”

Now that you’ve gotten all your debts out of the way, it’s time to finish your emergency fund. You can use the same money you were using to pay off debts each month and put it toward your emergency fund until it has enough to cover 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses and bills. Then you’ll really be prepared for anything.

Reasons to Have an Emergency Fund

  1. If you lose your job.
  2. You won’t have to worry because you’ll have enough to last you 6 months. This will give you the time you’ll need to find a new job.

  3. If your car breaks down.
  4. You’ll be able to pay for the necessary repairs, the tow truck, or even for a new car in some cases.

  5. Medical bills.
  6. Don’t let your health and necessary medical bills keep you from staying afloat financially.

  7. Home repairs.
  8. If something happens to your home you’ll be able to fix the problem rather than living with it.

Having an emergency fund is THE key to keeping you out of debt in the future. After getting yourself out of debt, an emergency fund is what will keep you from getting back into debt in the future.

Step 4: Save for Retirement

retirement

The fourth step in the Dave Ramsey plan is to, “Invest 15% of Your Household Income in Retirement.”

After your debts are gone and your emergency fund is taken care of, it’s time to start seeing to other important savings like a 401K. Dave Ramsey recommends you take 15% of your gross monthly income and put it toward a retirement fund each month. To figure out how much you should be putting into your retirement fund each month, take your monthly income and multiply that number by 0.15.

Step 5: Start a College Fund

college funds

The fifth step to Dave Ramsey’s plan is to, “Save for Your Children’s College Fund.”

Avoiding student loan debts can be one of the biggest factors in staying out debt as a young adult. If you can pay for your kids college tuition then you’ll ensure their financial security in the future, as they’ll better be able to stay out debt. Dave Ramsey recommends using either a 529 college savings plans, or an education savings accounts (ESA). Talk to your bank or credit union about setting up these accounts for these specific purposes.

Step 6: Pay Off Your House

mortgage

The next to last step in this 7 step plan is to, “Pay Off Your Home Early.”

Put all the extra monthly income you have into your mortgage so you can finish paying it off early. After this step you will officially have no debts whatsoever! All of your earnings will go to you instead of getting drained away in large debts and payments.

Step 7: Build Wealth

wealth and legacy

Finally, it is time to, “Build Wealth and Give.”

Congratulations! Once you’ve reached the 7th step in Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, you can start focusing on building your wealth and leaving a legacy. Don’t forget to keep and maintain those financial safety nets like a healthy emergency fund, retirement account, savings account, and college funds.

Now you are officially in charge of your money rather than it being in charge of you.

Financial freedom is possible for you! Everyone can do it and Dave Ramsey’s 7 baby steps can help you get there. Dave Ramsey also has other resources that can help you implement this plan. You can participate in Dave Ramsey’s program, books, and podcasts.

You can take the actual course with Financial Peace University.

Dave Ramsey also has a free customized plan and assessment that you can do right now, in just 3 minutes!

Listen to the Dave Ramsey Show anywhere you listen to podcasts or radio.

 
Dave Ramsey’s 7 baby steps to financial freedom can help you with so many aspects of your life. They can help you decide when to buy a house or help you get situated for saving for a house. It’s a checklist program that can help you get rid of loans and debt (like student loans), or even help you get to where you can budget for a wedding.

Another way you can get some needed financial help is to take out an Installment Loan at Check City! Installment loans can help you stay on top of your bill payments and avoid late fees, which can really hurt your long-term financial goals.
 

READ MORE

Browse Dave Ramsey’s online store for more great financial resources to help you on your financial journey.

Read more helpful articles on the Dave Ramsey Blog

Learn more about the debt snowball, “How the Debt Snowball Method Works.”

Read Dave Ramsey’s full article on his 7 baby steps, “What Are the Baby Steps?

Stay out of debt through college by using these tips, “How to Stay Debt Free through Grad School.”


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