Money and mind-saving tips for year-end

Stress comes in many forms and financial pressure is one of the most complex.

We’re moving into a season when holiday shopping stress ranks higher for three out of four Americans than traveling or spending time with extended relatives according to an e-commerce study cited in an article by a Work + Money article. Not only that, but over a third of us start our shopping before Halloween and retailers are responding to the desire to get it over with earlier every year.

Planning ahead is good, but rushing so much that we forget to enjoy the joy of giving is not.

Avoiding the negative affect of money worries in general on our health, personal life and work performance is crucial for our overall well-being. The National Endowment for Financial Education’s Smart About Money website says, “There is real psychological power in knowing you have the funds to rely on if you encounter unplanned expenses or a job loss in the future. A solid long-term emergency fund can help you sleep better at night, knowing that you can survive most potential financial calamities.”

So, how does a person keep up with everyday expenses, build for retirement, ensure a healthy emergency fund AND all of the year-end holiday shopping that creeps up on us this time of year without stressing out? We think this question is worth more than the brief and basic answer: “spend less and save more.” While these words are true, they are easy to say and much harder to do without some specific actionable ideas. We’ve pulled together some of our own best practices and a few tips from some very smart people who have shared their proven wisdom online to give you what we hope is a useful approach to saving your mind and some money this year.

1)    Savor life.

Experiencing life’s indulgences less frequently, yet truly appreciating them can help you enjoy them more and save money. An attitude of gratitude and being mindful about what you experience (before, during and after) can help you get much more pleasure out of much less. Sometimes we take the wonderful little things we have for granted. Frequent indulgences – whatever that is for you – that you barely take time to notice because they have become routine, are fairly easy to cut in half or more.

Savoring life also gives you the permission to take a little time for yourself. You’ll be deliberately slowing down – if even for an extra 60 seconds – to savor the flavor of your meal, appreciate the way the frost causes the morning sun to sparkle on the trees as you drive to work, or bask in the compliment that was just given to you in a meeting.

2)    Make and use a Shopping List.

This is a personal tried and true habit that also happens to be favorite tip of many experts according to an article in the Huffington Post. Whether grocery shopping or gift shopping, having a list and sticking to it is essential for avoiding distractions, discounts and discoveries that unexpectedly add to your total expenditures. In short, your list will keep you focused.

Knowing what you are planning to buy also allows you to price check specific brands, models, packaged quantities and more comparison details between competitors ahead of time. Much of the adrenaline rush of shopping will be expended through the process and you’ll know that you truly want and need the item(s) by the time you are ready to make your purchase by price checking ahead of time. So, when it comes to holiday gift shopping, act like Santa. Make a list. Check it twice. Don’t be naughty and treat yourself nice by sticking to your budget.

3)    Buy local when possible.

This one may seem counter-intuitive when local prices are often a little higher than those deals online and when time is crunched around the holidays. Supporting your local businesses is a “big picture” savings plan that is difficult to see in the short term on your personal bank statements, yet very visible in the benefits it has on the overall health, wealth and quality of life in your community. Local economic impact of supporting main street businesses sustains your local tax-base, which funds the maintenance of your local streets, utilities, parks, protection, schools and many, many other services we tend to take for granted as Americans. Paying a few cents or dollars more for groceries, gifts and other necessities this season helps ensure many local families dependent on the income of their small businesses and your community as a whole is thriving.

4)    Shop when you are at your best, or enlist help.

Buying everything locally is not possible, so for those things you can’t get near home on your list, look for the best deal elsewhere. Shop when you have the energy and try to avoid crowds that will wear you down. When you have a list in hand and get to the stores when you are fresh and on a time schedule (vs. tired and impatient in busy stores or lulled into clicking around websites late into the night), making wise spending decisions is much easier. If you can’t shop when you have the energy, enlist the help of an assistant* to do it for you.

5)    Procrastinate.

Rarely is procrastination a recommendation. However, when it comes to saving money when shopping online you may find it helpful to go ahead and add items to your wish list, or even fill your shopping cart, but wait to complete your checkout process. Move on to another task before paying for at least a day, or even longer. If the items are still something you are thinking about a week later and you can envision more than one occasion you’ll put the purchase to good use, AND you still have a discount for free shipping and/or can take advantage of a discounted price, go ahead and complete your purchase. If you haven’t thought about it since the adrenaline rush of adding the item to your list, you don’t really want it and definitely don’t need it. Whew! The fun was in the shopping, not the buying. Mission accomplished.

6)    Be thrifty, not wasteful.

Stop “saving yourself money” by buying things just because they are on an irresistible sale, or because you have a coupon. And, stop “saving” by buying in bulk at big box discount stores. You may feel like you are being thrifty, but chances are the extra food will sit in your pantry past its expiration date or supplies will collect more dust than they clean. Unless these things on sale or in bulk are things you actually need and use regularly, you are not doing yourself, anyone else, or the earth any favors. That being said, if you do find a great sale or do need a large quantity of something, and it is less expensive to buy it in bulk, go ahead and save yourself some money.

7)    Buy quality over quantity.

This mantra’s wisdom applies to everything from shoes to furniture to food. It also applies to holiday shopping when you expand the word “quality” to include “heartfelt meaning” over “checking a task off the list.” Focus on quality and meaning over quantity and appearance in your gift giving. A heartfelt gift that shows a person you have really been listening to them throughout the year beyond just exchanging words is far more memorable than trying to impress with many meaningless gifts or a gift that costs many dollars. And, to lessen the shopping stress if you feel you haven’t done a great job of listening this year to know what that special something might be…. give them an experience you can share together within the next 90 days or sooner to solve that challenge. A gift certificate to dinner and tickets to a game, play, concert, or charity fundraiser are all great options. How about a round of golf, a class to learn a new skill, afternoon at a spa or some other activity that gives you the opportunity to visit? The gift of your time and commitment to strengthen your friendship will give you both something to look forward to.

8)    Pay yourself first.

This may seem either obvious or impossible, depending on your perspective and time of life. Several of money-saver millennial Anna Newell Jones’ tricks for getting out of debt and accumulating wealth even on a relatively modest income fall into this category. 

  • She recommends setting up an automatic draft at your banking institution(s) to pull money from your checking account into your savings account every month.
  • Implement a self-tax before buying anything that falls into the “want” vs. “need” category of your spending. In other words, put the same amount of money in savings as the amount you spend on unnecessary items each month. This may not work for large-ticket items that you’ve actually saved up to buy, but it certainly is effective for tucking away a little extra cash and savoring indulgences (Refer to Tip #1, above).
  • Keep making payments after you pay off a loan. You’ve gotten used to that car payment every month. Why not keep setting aside that same amount in savings so when it comes time to buy a new vehicle several years from now, you can just pay cash and save yourself all the finance charges? You will save thousands of dollars and feel amazing when you walk out of the dealership with a new vehicle and no loan paperwork. Or, use the money you save every month to build your retirement. The more you save when you are younger, the faster and bigger your investment will grow. 

Check out Anna’s website and blogs that have been referenced on dozens of media sites from Oprah to Glamour to The Washington Post for more of her great tips on inspiring debt-recovery story at

9)    Take action with your personal financial advisor.

If you don’t have a relationship with a financial advisor, get one. If you do, make sure you meet now to review your situation for the year and complete any recommendations before December 31st. Year-end is the best time to see if your investments are still lined up with your goals. Whatever you're saving for—buying a home, paying for education, retirement, or another important goal—an annual check up will help you determine if you need to make any adjustments to your game plan according to an article by Fidelity. Tax laws change and financial opportunities come and go. Unless you happen to someone who is in the finance field or enjoys following these laws and the stock market as a hobby, chances are you have no idea how to best leverage your hard earned income. You may be able to reduce your taxable income and maximize your contributions to a tax-advantaged retirement savings account; boost your traditional 401(k), 403(b) or similar workplace retirement plan; or, reduce taxes on investment gains. This is a great time to review what circumstances in your life have changed that could have an impact on your financial situation. Arming yourself with knowledge, confronting reality, and taking action to take care of yourself and your loved ones will alleviate needless worry of the untrue assumptions we often tell ourselves and fear of the unknown.

10) Give to receive.

Charitable giving at the end of the year is one way to help others. The gift benefits someone or something in need of critical support, and it also helps you feel good about your accomplishments throughout the year that afford you the ability to share resources. There may be tax benefits to charitable gifts and the establishment of donor-advised funds as well.

Talking with our loved ones about the essential elements of your current financial situation and estate planning is also a gift that offers some stress relief to all parties involved. It opens up conversations about hopes and dreams that can deepen your relationships. Divulging the finer details of finances beyond anyone but your closest and most trusted people is not the goal. Motivating everyone in the family, including you, to get their affairs in order and sharing the basics is the objective.

Most people think their assets and decisions about their care will automatically fall to their spouse or their children. That is not the case without the proper legal documents in place for your state of residence. The state decides unless you ensure you’ve made those decisions ahead of time. Some studies estimate that over 64% of parents with children under the age of 18 do not have a formal estate plan with alternative care lined up for their children and nearly 60% of adults say they have no will in place at all.

None of us like to think about our time coming to an end, but being prepared and communicating our legacy goals with our family members is actually a wonderful burden-lifting gift to ourselves, and our family. Regardless of your age or the size of your assets, having instructions in place for what you want to have happen when you can no longer make decisions for yourself is incredibly helpful to those responsible caring for you and your affairs. Naming a health care proxy or directive, establishing a “living will” outlining end-of-life medical care desires, naming a power of attorney, setting up a trust and or will and outlining any other wishes can be done without spending a lot of money. You can use several free or very low-cost and legal online resources (WillMaker Plus 2019 from,,,, or to get these important legal documents in order. Or, go ahead and meet with a lawyer if that makes you feel more comfortable with the unique aspects of your more complex situation. Whatever the case, the relatively low expense of time and money to ensure you have these documents in place and keep them up to date are both an investment and a gift that will save you money and give you and your loved ones peace of mind.

* Balance Concierge Ambassadors help thousands of employees just like you and your team with their holiday and year-end to-do lists to alleviate some of the seasonal stress. Interested in learning more? Contact us to learn more at  877.502.2201 or Click Here.

(No advertising compensation is being received for any mention of any company or product in this blog post.)