The Draw of Online Shopping and Tips for a Successful Holiday Experience

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With the holiday season already upon us, most people are spending the most money that they do during a year. For many businesses, this means having a nice, full quarter of revenue. In fact, it’s a time period that businesses rely on in order to make a significant, visible profit.

By now, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are in the past for 2015, but that doesn’t mean that shopping is over. There are still many deals to be had up until Christmas–and even after, too. So, not surprisingly, as a consumer the chances that you’ll be inundated with offers and emails is extremely high.

This year, like in the past few years, the presence of the Internet has been felt in a dramatic way. While this year there were many people who went out even earlier on Thanksgiving day, a complementary amount chose to just do a few clicks on their computers and not bundle up in order to go out into the cold.

By now, it’s common knowledge that online-only retailers like Amazon have changed the landscape of how people shop. Many brick and mortar stores, like American Apparel, have filed for bankruptcy in recent months. In order to avoid a similar fate, pretty much every business has begun (or continued to) carve out their own space in the world of Internet traffic and commerce.

In contrast to last year where there was a push notification here and there, in 2015 there were so many opportunities to use apps on phones or tablets to access deals in a nearly instantaneous fashion. For example, Amazon made it possible for consumers to take advantage of deals through notifications, and Prime members got a buzz even earlier as a bonus.

Similarly, sites that research and compile deals, such as Brad’s Deals and RetailMeNot, took advantage of apps by communicating with consumers looking for a good deal (or two), as well.

Tips for the Rest of Season

If you’ve been around several holiday seasons, it may feel like you’re just inundated with a ton of information, and you’d rather just avoid it altogether. But we came up with a few tips to keep you feeling good throughout the rest of December.

 

  • Sleep. You need it, and you function best when you’ve clocked in a good night’s rest; it’s just like the importance of drinking water.
  • Make a plan. Write down everything you need to do and organize it, so you know what’s ahead and how to navigate.
  • Look for deals, but don’t become obsessed. Saving money is possible, and we all want to be the ones that pay the least, but you have to consider your time as a form of money.
  • Remember what the holidays are about and relax. The holidays can feel stressful, but allow yourself to experience the joy and love that come with the season too.
  • Reflect. We always have the ability to learn from our experiences. After everything is done, evaluate and think about how the experience of holiday shopping could be easier in 2016.

Do you have any other tips that have served you well during the holidays? Share it with us!

Nasdaq 100 Nearly Hits 15 Year High

Wall Street kicked off November with a strong showing. The Nasdaq 100 has finally come back to where it was when the index was at the top of its game during the dot-com stock bubble 15 years ago. The highest 2000 closing record was achieved on March 27, 2000 at $4,704.73. The Nasdaq 100 closed at the beginning of this month at $4719.05. The stock index, which is comprised of biotech and tech sector companies, has regained and surpassed the loss it suffered after the tech crash of 2000.

The market crash during the 2000 to 2002 bear market was led by the biggest tech bubble crash in history. After such a major event, many were left wondering just how the tech market could recover. But factors like inexpensive money and the massive stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve has helped the market climb out of the hole.

But skeptics wonder if the rises are sustainable and warn that another market bubble is brewing. Investors seem unphased and willing to take risks despite the expensive company valuations the tech industry is known for, the threat of the upcoming interest rate hikes, and potentially lower earnings due to a stronger US dollar. Also, the Nasdaq is not the same market responsible for the millennial crash.

Other indicators of economic health are the prevalence of lending services, such as car title loans Corpus Christi, which has remained stable for the third quarter in a row.

The Nasdaq was the go-to index of the 1990s when tech stocks like Intel, Oracle and Microsoft ascended to meteoric price levels almost overnight. Anyone with an idea and an IPO could get in on the game. Amateur day traders and investors were making a killing. Until the bubble burst.

Today’s Nasdaq is a more mature, stable environment. Investors are more cautious. And Nasdaq is no longer all tech. There are a variety of other offerings including healthcare, current favorite of the moment–biotech– and social media stocks.

The recent rise to match or surpass all time highs is attributed more to the biotech sector than the tech sector, although tech titans like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter have contributed considerably to Nasdaq’s growth. Tech is still highly represented in the Nasdaq 100, with 38 of the companies being in the tech field. And the top five performers of the Nasdaq-100 Technology Sector Index are companies with market capitalization ranging from $13 billion to as high as $500 billion.

Heading into its historic trading session, the top five Nasdaq 100 year to date winners included:

  • NVIDIA Corporation. NVIDIA is the top performing constituent of Nasdaq-100 Technology Sector Index, gaining more than bigger players like Google, Facebook, and Apple. Shares are up 41.50% year-to-date.
  • Google Alphabet. Second on the list with a 35.40% return year to date and no signs of slowing down.
  • Facebook comes in third at 30.70% stock returns year to date.
  • Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation is up by 29.34% this year. The IT, consulting and business services provider is ranked as one of the fastest growing companies in the world.
  • Citrix Systems comes in 5th on the list. The company’s shares have risen 28.68% year to date thanks to its virtual and mobile software solutions.

 

The Envelope Budgeting System and Why it Works

Most people these days understand the importance of creating a budget. A budget can help you track your spending, manage your expenses, and save money for the things you want and need.

Creating a budget can be a fairly simple prospect. Sticking to that budget, however, is a whole other story. It’s for this reason that the envelope budgeting system is such an effective tool, especially for those who struggle to adhere to the budgets they draw up.

How it Works

As the name suggests, the envelope budgeting system involves putting actual hard cold cash in different envelopes, each with a specific designation. Under this system, you’ll have one envelope earmarked for your rent or mortgage payment, another for food, a third for your cable bill, and so forth. Instead of paying your bills from a single bank account, you’ll take the money you need out of the appropriate envelope as often as needed over the course of a given month.

Let’s say you typically need $400 per month to pay for groceries. Instead of charging food on your credit card, you’d fill your grocery envelope with $400 in cash at the start of the month and physically dip in every time you go to the store.

The Downside

Technologically speaking, the envelope budgeting system is a major step backwards. After all, who wants to sit there counting out cash when bills can be paid online or via apps and debit cards? Additionally, using cash for all of your purchases means potentially losing out on the chance to build credit, not to mention the cash-back incentives most credit cards offer.

But Here’s Why it Works

Though the envelope budgeting system might seem a bit dated, it can be really effective in helping you avoid overspending. Remember that $400 grocery budget? Let’s say you plow through it more quickly than expected and find yourself with just $80 left when you still have half a month’s groceries to buy. Once you see that short supply of cash, you’ll be more inclined to shop wisely during your last few grocery runs.

The envelope budgeting system can also be extremely helpful when it comes to keeping tabs on your spending. Let’s say you withdraw $100 in cash from an ATM and use it to pay for things like coffee and restaurant meals. That money might be gone before you know it. On the other hand, if you put money into specific envelopes, you’ll know exactly where it’s going. And, because you can see your supply of cash physically diminishing in front of your eyes, you’ll be less likely to overspend on frivolous things.

The Bottom Line

While the envelope budgeting system does have a few disadvantages, it can be a great form of self-discipline when it comes to spending and saving money. If you’ve struggled to stick to a budget in the past, you may want to give the envelope system a try. Besides, there’s nothing like the feeling of peering into those envelopes at month’s end and seeing a few extra dollars lying around.