Your holiday shopping is destroying your marriage

Here's a topic that will make Thanksgiving dinner awkward: How much are you spending on gifts this season? Six out of 10 Americans said that holiday spending is a source of marital and familial strife, according to a recent survey from Affirm, a company that offers financing for purchases. Affirm polled 1,000 adults in an online survey in September. A third of the respondents are already fretting over how they will cover this year's spending, be it in cash upfront or on plastic. "The average credit card has six kinds of fees; some have as many as 12," said Ryan Metcalf, chief of staff at Affirm. "You have no idea what that debt will cost you in the next three, six or 12 months." Here's how to keep your holiday shopping spree from ruining the time you're spending with loved ones. Going into the yuletide season, many shoppers try to set up a plan to keep their spending from spiraling out of control. Yet only about a quarter of buyers draw up formal spending limits. Shoppers who finance their purchases as opposed to buying with cash will feel the pain long after the decorations have been taken down. A quarter of participants said that they will use their tax refund next April to pay off any remaining holiday debt. Buyers who whip out the plastic to buy gifts will find that they're paying far more than just the purchase price. Six Continue Reading

These tips will help you avoid scams and fraud that could ruin your holidays

You won't be the only one out looking for a steal as the holiday shopping season shifts into high gear over the long weekend.More than 70 percent of U.S. adults are expected to log on or head to malls and retail stores to do some gift buying between today and Monday, according to the National Retail Federation.The frenzy also makes it prime hunting time from scam artists and thieves. And if you're not careful, they could end up spoiling your holiday — or worse.The threat is very real. A study by the AARP found seven in 10 adults, the same percentage the NRF predicts will be shopping between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, failed a short quiz on how to avoid becoming a scam victim.A little awareness and caution, however, will go a long way toward keeping your money and identity safe. Following are some warnings and simple tips on how to avoid becoming a victim. They come from a variety of sources, including Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, Call for Action, AARP, Better Business Bureau, Scambusters and others:Here are their warnings about common holiday scams, along with tips on how to avoid them. Here's a quick overview. Package TheftProblem: Convenience is driving a boom in online shopping, but there are risks to consumers. Thieves and scammers watch for opportunities to swipe boxes off doorsteps after the FedEx or UPS truck pulls away.Solution: If you work during the day or can't be at home when the package is scheduled for delivery, have the the package sent to a work address or or a trusted friend or neighbor.Tips: Hill said Amazon customers can have their packages left at an “Amazon Locker” to be picked up at their convenience. There are eight locations for this service in the Indianapolis area. A similar service can be requested for UPS and other major mailing companies. Data BreachesProblem: Data breaches are scary and unpredictable, leading to identity theft and crooks getting Continue Reading

Try these apps to simplify your holiday shopping

Every week, Simply Money’s Nathan Bachrach, Ed Finke and Amy Wagner answer your financial questions. If you, a friend, or someone in your family has a money issue or problem, please feel free to send those questions to [email protected] Ashley from Amelia: Are there any apps you suggest using for holiday shopping? I have a huge family, so my budget would appreciate any help you can offer.Answer: First off, great job in determining a budget before you set out to shop! It’s easy to reach for your credit cards during this season, especially when the average American spends $967.13 during the holidays. This time of year can really break the bank if you aren’t careful. Make sure to also include food and travel expenses in your holiday budget. These expenses can be costly and add up quickly.When managing your budget during the holidays there are plenty of apps you can use stay on track. “Holiday Planner Lite” helps you manage your entire budget, not just gift shopping. You can track different categories such as airfare or hotel stays. If you’re just looking to manage your gift budget, you could use “Gift List Manager.” This app allows you to track all your gifts. It shows you what you ordered, what’s been shipped, what was received, and what’s been wrapped. Since you say you have a large family, this app could help keep you organized and know what’s missing.“GiftPlanner” is also a good app to use to track purchases. You can even use it after the holidays are over. You can send your friends and family gift cards directly from the app, bookmark items online, and track your budget during this season. The app “Santa’s Bag” is a good one for tracking spending, too.If you’re looking for an app to help you shop, try “Red Laser.” This app allows you to scan barcodes and search for the best prices online. It can also find coupons for the item Continue Reading

How to tell your kids you’re getting divorced

Breaking up is hard to do. But talking about it might even be harder. There’s a right way and a wrong way for divorcing parents to spill the beans to their kids — and here’s hoping Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, heading to Splittsville, knew the difference when they told their kids. This is the conversation no parent wants to have. But if you find yourself in the same boat as Hollywood’s newest exes, experts have some advice that might minimize the blow. Put on a united front. Have the conversation together, as a family. Kids need to see that their parents can “put aside their differences for the benefit of the children,” says Dr. Ned Holstein, the founder of the National Parents Organization. “The best way to teach children is by example.” Answer their questions. Providing some certainty in a time of total flux is reassuring to children. “The more information (the kids have), to some degree, the better,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital. But don’t get too specific. Kids of all ages will want to know what happened. Make like a politician and be prepared with vague answers. “They don’t need to know what’s wrong and they won’t be able to understand what’s wrong,” Holstein says. “Just tell them that mom and dad ‘need to be apart so we can take care of you better.’” No name-calling. Leave the put-downs for the meetings with the divorce lawyer. Even if your husband or wife was a lying, cheating scoundrel, your child should not hear about it. “Children still need a good mother and father,” Saltz says. “If you say, ‘Your father is a horrible person,’ that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good dad, but you are essentially taking him away from them in their head. He’s the villain Continue Reading

How to change your paycheck-to-paycheck reality

 On an almost daily basis, I hear the phrase "paycheck to paycheck". It’s come to represent the financial reality many hard-working Americans face month after month, year after year, and then like some cruel sisyphean tale, decade after decade. Every cent of every paycheck seems vital to survival, and God forbid you miss a paycheck, because your financial world would unsanctimoniously crumble around you. I’ve been in a roughly 20-year debate with myself as to whether a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle is as involuntary as it’s often made out to be. Given that I never speak in absolutes, I’ve come to the conclusion doing the whole paycheck-to-paycheck thing is often self-imposed, but not always.Sometimes the culprit is a low wage, which may or may not be resolved by the person living it, but most of the time the problem is a less than ideal strategy set into motion early in a career and then never properly corrected. A waving white flag unknowingly replaces effort, and you find yourself saying things like “it is what it is.” But the good news is, it isn’t. I didn’t do well in college physics, but I do remember that a body in motion will stay in motion when it’s not exposed to an outside force. If you are currently living a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle, that will not change unless you introduce a new source of force into your financial life. A paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle left alone, will perpetually exist. You have to create the force.You can absolutely change your current paycheck-to-paycheck reality by re-examining instances which you’ve mistakenly held onto as truths. I’ve watched families of four struggle to make ends meet, all the while unflinchingly spending $1,100/month on exclusively organic groceries. And you wouldn’t believe the number of six-figure earning families I’ve seen bang their heads against a Continue Reading

How to spend 10 hours in Pier Village

Upcoming events: Join Us for Asbury Park Press Night: Thursday, Dec. 1 is Asbury Park Press Night at Ice at the Pier.  Come to Pier Village and check out the new winter wonderland at Festival Plaza. Save $2 on admission and $2 off skate rentals. Adults, $10 and children, $6. Skate rentals, $2. Got to use promo code APPNight and save. Capture the Memories with Holiday Family Portraits Package: The Asbury Park Press invites you to capture the memories with a family holiday portrait at Ice at the Pier at Pier Village, Long Branch.  On Sunday, December 3, enjoy an afternoon of family skating and have a family portrait taken by a professional Asbury Park Press Photographer under the holiday tree. This special $50 package includes skating for 2 adults and 2 children, rentals for all and a family portrait. Visit use promo code APPPortrait for tickets.Asbury Park Press subscribers enter promo code APPInsiders and receive an additional $5 off. 10 hours in Pier Village: Who says Pier Village is just a summer destination?The oceanfront community is known for more than just its beaches and boardwalk.This winter, Pier Village will transform into a winter wonderland with the installation of its outdoor ice skating rink at Festival Plaza.Don't miss out. Grand opening weekend is coming up — Nov. 25 to 27 with the Long Branch tree lighting that Sunday.In honor of the Jersey Shore's very own outdoor rink, we created a guide to help you spend an entire day in Pier Village, enjoying the eclectic shops, the delicious restaurants and the luxurious spas.Here is how to spend 10 hours in Pier Village: 10 a.m. Start your day off with breakfast at Turning Point in Pier Village. The menu boasts heavenly hot chocolates, hot gourmet French press coffee, espresso and loose-leaf hot teas from green tea to herb and fruited to help warm you up before you hit the ice rink.After, indulge in a Continue Reading

Travel: How to spend your Lehigh Valley getaway

LEHIGH VALLEY, Pennsylvania – With our friends jet setting off to exotic locales, sometimes it can be frustrating to have a lack of funds or time to head out for a well-deserved vacation in the summer.However, if you’re looking for a weekend — or even just a day — away, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, which is less than two hours from the homes of most Central Jerseyans, makes for a great getaway as its home to picturesque parks, locally sourced dining options, wineries and breweries, as well as many attractions for family fun including the Lehigh Valley Zoo, The Crayola Experience, Sands Bethlehem, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom and more.It’s certainly no surprise that the area makes for an ideal getaway — the region receives 10.6 million day-trippers annually. READ: Jet-setting soon? Use these stylist’s packing tips READ: 5 best small towns in Central Jersey READ: Romantic getaway across the river“With three main cities — Bethlehem, Allentown and Easton — intertwined with dozens of small towns, Lehigh Valley is full of history, energy and action,” said Alicia Quinn, strategic brand manager at Discover Lehigh Valley. “You can really choose to have any type of getaway that you want in the area, whether it be foodies looking to indulge, a touch of history in downtown Bethlehem, activities for family fun, couples looking for a quaint, relaxing getaway, or a girls’ weekend filled with shopping, delicious food and a tour of The Lehigh Valley Wine Trail.”One of the options is Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theatre, the oldest drive-in movie theater in America, at 4540 Shankweiler Road in Orefield, which brings nostalgic summer Saturdays back to life.Open seven days a week until Labor Day Eve with some weekends open in September, the drive-in, which opened in 1934, is open rain or shine and makes for an inexpensive night out with Continue Reading

Why do you love your Valentine? Meet the winners of our contest

When we asked you to tell us why you love your Valentine in 100 words or less or in a 30-second video, we knew that we would get some heartwarming responses.What we didn’t expect was to hear from those who had truly uplifting love stories to share, from one woman whose husband donated his liver to her father when he was suffering from liver cancer, to a couple who has been married for 30 years who still calls one another just to say, “I love you.”Offered a chance to win a $150 Valentine’s Day dinner at Verve in Somerville or the Old Bay Restaurant in New Brunswick, some 50 people told us why they loved their Valentines and sent us photos of themselves and their significant other. The range of responses was impressive, including a mom and close family and friends were the Valentines of one girl, and a daughter who will also celebrate her birthday on Feb. 14 was the Valentine of a loving mother.Some of the responses are being printed in Sunday's papers, and all of the submissions can be seen by clicking here.Although the decision was difficult – and required a few tissues - the digital team selected two winners, one from our Home News Tribune market and one from the Courier News market."We like to contribute and partner with events and missions that bring the community together," said Rick St. Pierre, Verve owner. "This contest is a Verve Style-type of thing - it connects and gives."Diana Mleczko of Three Bridges has only spent three Valentine’s Days with her husband, Stanley, who she has been dating since 2008, due to his service in the Marine Corps. This year – four years of marriage and one baby later – they look forward to celebrating their fourth Valentine’s Day together at Verve.“I hadn't told my husband that I entered us, so I was extremely excited to tell him that we won and have him read my entry,” she said.Here is what she wrote: Continue Reading

How to stretch your budget for the 4 most expensive holidays

“Not another holiday,” moaned a co-worker. “I just spent all my money on St. Patrick’s Day. I hope my next paycheck stretches far enough for some candy for the kids.” It’s easy to forget about holidays when you put together a monthly budget, but if you take a look at a calendar, you’ll notice most months have them. Unfortunately, celebration is rarely cheap. Christmas can easily add up to hundreds of dollars. Even the meager corned beef, cabbage and pint of Irish stout for St. Patrick’s Day means a larger-than-average grocery bill. Some holidays tend to cost more than others, and for different reasons. However, there are four that drain the wallet more than the others. Taming these celebration budgets requires an understanding of why they cost so much. Christmas. Christmas is expensive for one reason: Santa Claus. He isn’t real. If he were, you wouldn’t be spending an average of nearly $550 on gifts and almost $750 total, according to a 2012 estimate by the National Retail Federation. The sad reality of a world without St. Nick makes Christmas the most expensive holiday by far. How to rescue your Christmas budget. Saving money on Christmas is all about your skills at shopping for Christmas gifts. Gifts make up nearly three-quarters of the average budget, which means big savings on your overall spending if you know how to shop. Luckily, the golden rule to gift shopping is simple: start early. Those who start Christmas shopping months in advance tend to stick to their budgets. That’s because early-bird Christmas shoppers have time to wait for sales and coupons that can add up to big savings on such a large budget. Mother’s Day. Mom is a big deal, and our budgets reflect our appreciation by making the second Sunday in May the second most-expensive holiday. The average budget for Mother’s Day is a little more than $150, with more than 85 percent of Americans who celebrate the Continue Reading

New movies: ‘Thank You for Your Service,’ ‘Jigsaw,’ ‘Suburbicon’ and more

Soldiers fight two wars: the one in combat, and the one when they get home after combat. In "Thank You for Your Service," a group of U.S. soldiers return home from Iraq, but home, between post-traumatic stress and memories of war, turns out to be another form of conflict. Written and directed by "American Sniper" screenwriter Jason Hall, "Service" is based on a book by embedded Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Finkel. The eclectic ensemble cast includes Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Joe Cole, Amy Schumer, Omar J. Dorsey, Beulah Koale and Keisha Castle-Hughes. "Thank You for Your Service" is rated R for violence, pervasive language, drug material and brief nudity. It runs for 109 minutes. In uber-suburban 1959, a couple's home and world are turned upside down when thugs break in and knock out the family with chloroform — a violent act that triggers deception after deception in a world where nothing is what it seems. That goes for "Suburbicon," too; it's written by Joel and Ethan Coen, but it's directed by their frequent foil George Clooney, with Matt Damon as the in-it-up-to-his-eyeballs father and Julianne Moore as his frail wife and her twin sister. Oscar Isaac, Noah Jupe and Tony Espinosa also co-star. The early reviews are mixed. " 'Suburbicon' is just too obvious in its satirical depiction of the dubious morality and social inequality behind the squeaky-clean façade of postwar American life, though it's watchable enough," Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney wrote.  "Suburbicon" is rated R for violence, language and some sexuality. It runs for 105 minutes. The "Saw" saga is back. Every Halloween weekend from 2004 to 2010, theaters have had a new movie in the "Saw" series — launched by the low-budget original, about people forced by a madman to do unspeakable things to each other to survive. "Jigsaw" picks up the bloody thread more than a decade after Continue Reading