Besides your home, one of the most expensive purchases you will make is a vehicle. When shopping for a car, it is important to know how much of a monthly payment you can afford, if you need to borrow the money. Here is a calculator from MSN Money to help you determine what kind of monthly payment you can afford. Along with the monthly payment you also need to consider the costs of interest payments, tax/license, gas and repairs/maintenance.

Some experts suggest not to spend more than 20% of your net take home pay on car payments. Another rule of thumb I have heard of is that if you cannot pay it off in 3 years, you may not be able to afford the car.

Also, when shopping for a vehicle, consider what kind you need and what it will be used for. If you plan on putting quite a few miles on it, consider the gas mileage.

The monthly payment may not seem like a lot, but you need to take into consideration the other monthly payments you have. A variety of monthly payments can add up quickly.

Nancy Kvamme

I saw a recent post on how to make a Pottery Barn type candle with mainly items that can be found at the dollar store.

When I was looking at the Pottery Barn website I found a couple of other items that could be made for a fraction of the price. Check out the hanging mason jars and hurricane lanterns.

This is part of a 90 day Holiday Countdown, previous posts can be found here

Nancy Kvamme

In a previous post I mentioned an upcoming book by Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom. Her publisher is offering a free chapter of her book on saving money on groceries without needing to use coupons.

Nancy Kvamme

Frugal Toys

With the holiday gift giving season, one of the jokes is that many kids have almost as much fun with the cardboard boxes than with the actual gifts. There was a recent post on the 5 best toys of all time. These include sticks, cardboard boxes, string, cardboard tubes and dirt.

There are also posts on how to make marshmallow shooters and soap crayons.

Here are some other ideas of easy homemade toys.

It is not always necessary to spend a lot of money on gifts. Another tip I have heard of is to put some of the toys away for a few months. Once you bring them out again the kids may be more interested in them since they are some what new to them again.

This is part of a 90 day Holiday Countdown, previous posts can be found here

Nancy Kvamme

The Suze Orman Show airs on Saturday nights on CNBC. One of the segments of the show is “Can You Afford It” where people call in with their income, debt and other information and what they want to purchase. Suze then tells them if she thinks they can afford to spend the money.

Last night, one of the callers was calling about $15 per day for coffee and lunch with friends. Most callers have a total amount for a trip or item. Suze pointed out that she stated it as $15 per day since it doesn’t sound like as much money as stating it per month or year. For a month it would be $450 and yearly it would be over $5,000. After reviewing her financial information, Suze denied her.

This is a great reminder of how a few dollars here and there can add up to a significant amount over time.

I suggest to people to track your expenses for at least a week or preferably up to a month to realize where your money goes. Keep track of every thing you spend money on and then take a look at it to see if any can be cut out or cut down.

Nancy Kvamme

Crockpot Caramel

I have seen online on how to make caramel in the crockpot with just a can of sweetened condensed milk. I tried it the other night and it worked. If you submerge 1 or 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk (with the labels removed) in a crockpot. Fill the crockpot with water and cook on low for 8-9 hours. Allow to cool in the crockpot for a couple of hours.

Thru Tuesday, Hornbachers has the milk on sale 2/$3 and it may be on sale at other stores for the holidays.

It can be used for ice cream topping, fruit dip and other uses. I made cupcakes yesterday with devils food cake mix. I mixed the cake mix as directed and put enough in each cup to cover the bottom, then put some caramel and Heath baking chips in each cup. I then covered each with more batter and more Heath chips.

This is part of a 90 day Holiday Countdown, previous posts can be found here

Nancy Kvamme

During the holidays is also the time that most people show their gratitude to people who do services for them by giving them extra tips. Many people wonder how much to tip. There was a recent article on holiday tipping. Along with guidelines for tipping it also has suggestions of how to handle tipping if your economic situation has changed.

One suggestion if money is tight is the consider tipping what you can and including a note that says “this tip is not reflective of your service but rather of my budget. Then once your financial situation improves you can send a more appropriate tip.

Many people are in financial situations that they may not be able to tip as much as they usually do, but this also may affect the people that do services for them. Many people that do services rely heavily on tips besides their pay, so when people can’t afford to tip as usual this may also affect their finances.

This is part of a 90 day Holiday Countdown, previous posts can be found here

Nancy Kvamme

One activity that many families do as part of the holiday season is to make or decorate gingerbread houses. You can buy kits that have the gingerbread already made and decorations ready to make the houses. Or you can make your own from scratch.
Here are some ideas and recipes for making your own gingerbread houses.

There are also patterns and ideas for making them from cardboard and other things so they will last from year to year.

Nancy Kvamme

One thing about the holidays is sending Christmas cards and/or letters. For many people this is one time of the year that they hear from some family and friends.

If you don’t feel like you have the time or money to send traditional cards, Crystal from Money Saving Mom has some ideas such as email messages and others.

In some cases, people send cards after the holidays when they have more time.

Nancy Kvamme

There are varying thoughts about giving gift cards as gifts. Some people think there is not enough thought given when purchasing gift cards. But if you can purchase gift cards for a store or restaurant that you know the recipient is interested in it could be a better gift, they can use it to buy something they want. Also, if they get multiple cards from different people they can possibly purchase something more expensive that they would not normally be able to purchase.

If you do give giftcards, it may be possible to combine them with other items to make a gift basket instead of just the card. Some examples are bookmarks with a giftcard from a bookstore or coffee mug, cookies with a coffee gift card.

Here are some ideas for packaging gift cards and other gift wrapping ideas. One idea is to make a snow globe from a jar. One note mentioned in the post is that if you put a gift card in a jar like this, to not leave in the water for longer than a week. They tested a gift card after a week and it still worked but did not recommend to leave it in the water for much longer than a week.

Nancy Kvamme