A return is almost always out of the question. Plus, gift givers don’t often include a return receipt, and we all know we wouldn’t dare ask for one. I’d rather admit to a crime than confess I don’t like a gift - how insulting to the gifter’s sense of aesthetics.
And-hey, I have limited drawer space. Who can keep these unwanted gifts for six months when there isn’t any space for them? I hate clutter, and unwanted gifts are just that.
This year, I am making an effort to swiftly remove any unwanted gifts from my house without hurting anyone’s feelings…and potentially benefiting others. As the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And thank goodness for that.
From the The Guardian:
“According to research published this week by the consumer body, one in four people (24%) received an unwanted or unsuitable gift for the Christmas of 2021. Meanwhile, a separate study by the personal finance comparison site Finder said £1.2bn was wasted on unwanted Christmas gifts each year.”
Come to terms with the fact that you will never use that gift and follow these quick tips to offload those unwanted gifts:
Sarah Brown via Unsplash
The most obvious choice for those unwanted pairs of mud-green sweat socks and that same fluffy robe you get every year from your Aunt Judy is to donate them. Just round up everything you don’t want and Google the donation center closest to you.
This is also a fantastic excuse to purge your closet of that pile of stuff you’ve been meaning to get rid of. A few bags of give-away-clothes will get your spring cleaning out of the way early.
Artificial Photography via Unsplash
Resale websites are all the rage right now. If you got a pair of pants that don’t fit or a sweater that isn’t your style, resell them on a website dedicated to just that. Sites like Poshmark, Mercari, and DePop are known for selling those trendy pieces of clothing you barely used.
Thrifting has never been hotter. Hop on the trend while people are constantly perusing sites for the hottest deal. Then reward yourself for being so virtuous, by dropping the cash on some fabulous things you’ll actually wear!
Jackie S via Unsplash
If you got something that you think one of your friends or family can benefit from, why not give it to them? There’s no shame in revealing that it was a gift and you don’t want it anymore…as long as you aren’t re-gifting to the person who gave it to you!
Or, keep the gifts to re-gift at a later date. You never know when you’re going to need a last minute gift. You’ll thank yourself later.
Attempt a Return
Erik McLean via Unsplash
If your item still has a tag, you can make a valiant effort to return to the store. If you can make your case, many stores won’t want to fight you on it. They may be forgiving and grant you store credit at the very least.
Plus, how to apply for unemployment.
A record number of Americans have applied for unemployment benefits in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. So many, in fact, that there has been a 3000% jump in jobless claims since early March. Unfortunately, the situation is likely to only get worse. According to Citi economist Andrew Hollenhorst, "Further job loss expected in coming weeks is very likely to push unemployment above 10%, even taking account of a potential steep decline in the labor force participation rate, as some displaced workers are neither furloughed nor looking for work."
Of course, if you've been outright fired from your job, you can at least take comfort in the fact that you face a relatively straightforward process for applying for unemployment. But what if you've been furloughed? What do you do now?
What is a furlough?
Furlough's have become increasingly common as the pandemic has continued to devastate the American job market. In short, a furlough is when an employee is put on an unpaid leave from work for an indefinite amount of time. According to the Office for Personnel Management, there are two types of furlough:
"An administrative furlough is a planned event by an agency which is designed to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work, or any budget situation other than a lapse in appropriations. Furloughs that would potentially result from sequestration would generally be considered administrative furloughs."
"A shutdown furlough (also called an emergency furlough) occurs when there is a lapse in appropriations, and can occur at the beginning of a fiscal year, if no funds have been appropriated for that year, or upon expiration of a continuing resolution, if a new continuing resolution or appropriations law is not passed. In a shutdown furlough, an affected agency would have to shut down any activities funded by annual appropriations that are not excepted by law. Typically, an agency will have very little to no lead time to plan and implement a shutdown furlough."
A furlough is, by its nature, temporary, but that doesn't mean that you can count on getting your job back. Many private and public companies have furloughed employees as a cost saving measure in hopes of weathering the economic turmoil of COVID-19 and hiring back furloughed employees as soon as possible, but as economies grind to a halt across the world, it becomes more and more likely that furlough will turn to permanent termination for many workers. As Jie Feng, an assistant professor in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations told the Society for Human Resource Management, "Unlike layoffs, furloughs reduce labor costs without adding new costs such as severance packages and outplacement services." That means that, unfortunately, your company may just be putting off termination in order to avoid the costs associated with it.
While you likely still have healthcare as a furloughed employee, its not a guarantee, so its worth verifying with your specific company what benefits you retain during your leave.
Do I qualify for unemployment if I've been furloughed?
While you wait to see how long your furlough lasts, you can at least take comfort knowing that you probably qualify for unemployment benefits, particularly as they've been expanded under the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. Usually, it wouldn't be a guarantee that furloughed workers would qualify for unemployment (it depends on the state you live in) but thanks to the new relief packaged, anyone who was furloughed due to the coronavirus outbreak qualifies for unemployment insurance. Additionally, unlike filing for unemployment because you've lost your job, furloughed employees do not have to prove they lost their jobs. Keep in mind that if you're on paid leave or are able to work from home, you won't qualify for the updated unemployment benefits.
According to CNET, you are likely eligible for additional unemployment under the new package if: "you're a part-time or self-employed worker, as well as if you're already unemployed or can't work because of COVID-19."
You are also eligible if:
- You were set to start a new job and can't because of the outbreak
- You collect veteran or Social Security benefits
- Your job closed due to the coronavirus (for instance, restaurants or businesses deemed "nonessential")
- You're not working because you have to care for children or other family members who would otherwise attend school or another facility
So, how much money will I get?
While the total sum of the unemployment money you receive will depend on your state's unemployment plan, the new federal relief package will give you an extra $600 a week on top of whatever you get through your state. It will also cover you for an extra 13 weeks in addition to whatever amount of time your state unemployment program covers. Most states unemployment benefits are upwards of 26 weeks, meaning you're likely to be covered for around 39 weeks. How much money you'll receive is entirely dependent on your state, for example, California residents get $450 a week so the extra $600 would put their weekly benefits at more than $1,000, but Florida residents get a max of $275 per week, putting their total unemployment at a maximum amount of $875.
How do I apply?
There is no way to apply for unemployment via the federal government, so you'll have to find the specific process for your state. Luckily, you can apply immediately. You used to have to wait at least a week to receive benefits, but thanks to the stimulus package you can now expect a more immediate turnaround time. While some states have waived the waiting period, others might still have one implemented. To find out what your state's unemployment program looks like, refer to the table on this site or select your state on this page.
With consumer debt hovering around $14 trillion, more of your peers are in debt than you probably think.
Outrageous medical bills, soaring college loans, and all the other emergencies in life can contribute to mounting credit card debt. That's why more Americans every day are looking to Consolidated Credit, a non-profit organization that helps pull people out of debt.
They've helped over 10 million people on average reduce their total credit card payments by 30-50%.
By working to lower your monthly payments and reduce the interest rate, the service is a no-brainer for anyone struggling with debt.
Their debt counseling services and customer service are unparalleled; those who've gone through the process of trying to manage their debt know it's tough and can't find anything that grants them more relief than Consolidated Credit.
Here are what just a few of their customers have to say about the convenient service.
"We have paid off $250k"
"My husband and I were at a point of stress, fights, and felt like we were drowning. Because of this company we are now breathing easier and making more responsible financial decisions.
By the end of our five year term (3 years in already), we will have paid off nearly 250K in debt!! I recommend them to anyone and everyone struggling." - Stacie K.
"I cannot say enough good things"
"Our [Debt Consolidation Counselor] was knowledgeable, professional, comprehensive, kind, and answered all my questions in a PATIENT AND THOROUGH context. I cannot say enough good things about [our counselor]." - Dave C.
"Very grateful for the help and peace of mind."
"I am very grateful for the help and peace of mind the Consolidated program has given me. Life can be financially overwhelming at times. It is very satisfying to have a program that puts one back on the road to financial security. Thank you, Consolidated Credit!" - Carol G.
"It becomes easier and easier"
"There is light at the end of the tunnel. I was struggling with overwhelming debt and did this as a last attempt. They definitely drilled into me that I was not being responsible, which I wasn't. After everything is set up it becomes easier and easier." - Joseph M.
"Consolidated Credit came to the rescue."
"Almost there!!! I was totally buried in debt but CC came to the rescue. I am now ONLY THREE MONTHS away from being free of seven credit card payments! CC is a God-send." - Deb F.
In some circumstances, you need to rely on credit cards. When you feel like you're relying on credit cards too much, it's time to rely on Consolidated Credit. They make it easy to get on top of your finances and not only get out of debt, but stay out of debt.
Investing on the stock market can be intimidating, but we're here to help
Millennials don't trust the stock market.
That is the finding from the most recent Merrill Edge Report, which found 66% of Millennials trusted their savings accounts would be reliable in 20 years. In contrast, 71% Gen-Xers trust in their 401(k), while 54% of Baby Boomers believe in their pension. Generationally, it makes sense. Rock-solid pensions of the distant past were a foolproof reward for a life's work. The rise of the stock market from the 1980s-2000s made the same 401(k) seem like a safe profitable bet. And, the financial crisis of 2008–spurred on by massive institutional fraud rewarded with federal taxpayer bailouts—combined with years of stagnant wage growth, ever-increasing income inequality, and ever-higher cost-of-living expenses, means younger workers trust their saving accounts and nothing else. Can you blame them?
(Once and for all, avocado toast plays no role in whether Millennials save for a starter home. It's the impenetrable big-bucks-or-GTFO economy, not the breakfast food, stupid.)
It's understandable, but it's not necessarily prudent.
It's good to have savings, of course, but more as a short-term emergency fund. Long-term, there simply isn't enough of a reward. The national percentage yield average of traditional banks is only .07%, going up to 1.0% or a bit higher at at online banks. Look at it this way, banks take money from savings accounts and loan it out at much higher rates, so you're making it easier for fat cats who already live on easy street.
Investing is smarter for future financial health, and it isn't just for the wealthy. Here are some tips to get started, even with a small amount. Warren Buffett defines investing as "the process of laying out money now to receive more in the future." Your portfolio probably won't get up to $87-billion, but a little piece of Buffet's pie will offer future peace of mind. The "Oracle of Omaha" bought his first stock at 11, you've got catching up to do. Thus:
Get Started Today:
Investing can be intimidating, and nobody likes a no-fun eat-your-vegetables spending scold. (See: toast, avocado.) However, adding a few nip-and-spending-tucks, could give you an extra $10 a week, which is $40 a month to invest, almost $500 a year. Start with whatever you can afford because the longer you're in, the more money you'll make. Even if you start out with a saving account, getting in the habit is the important thing.
Collect Change in a Coffee Can:
If formal budgeting of some sort is too tough, try throwing loose change, crumpled dollar bills, and random poker winnings into a coffee can designated for investments. It sounds silly, but it adds up. It takes diligence not to treat the can as a beer slush fund, but it's an easy way to contribute more to your starter investment kit. There are also more options available if you start out with $1,000 than $100, so whatever gets you there.
Talk to a Professional:
Once you've decided investing makes sense, go to your bank and talk to someone about basic investment strategies. You may grasp the difference between low-initial-investment mutual funds (investments in a portfolio of stocks and bonds) and Treasury securities (savings bonds), but it helps to get outside advice on what is a better starting point. For a lot of us, financial literacy begins and ends with our bank accounts, so seek out those who know the basics of expanding your portfolio.
Enroll in Your Employer's Retirement Plan:
Here's a quick story about a stupid Gen-Xer, me. I once spent a year at a company without investing in my 401(k) until a co-worker told me "You know that's free money, right?" (Ron Howard voice: He did not.) The term "free money" is somewhat fungible, but many employers match whatever you contribute to the 401(k), which compounds over time. Start at 1% of your salary if it's all you can afford and increase it over time until it's a full match. Whatever you contribute, the retirement fund doubles. Call your HR department today.
Get Set Up with a Roth IRA:
If you're part of the gig economy and have no 401(k) option, then consider a Roth IRA, a retirement account that can be opened online in a matter of minutes. If you're single, under 50, and make less than $120,000 a year, you can sock away up to $5,500 a year. The beauty of a Roth IRA is your money grows tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free. There are a number of benefits for Roth IRA enrollees, including for first-time home buyers, which is something you may become even if it seems impossible at the moment. Because down the line, you will have been investing for years, right?
You don't have to wade into the murky bitcoin waters to get into investing online. There are much more basic websites and apps to help you learn and grow as an investor. One to try if you don't trust your ability to pick stocks and bonds at this point, sign up with Betterment, an automatically managed investment account that's user-friendly and charges an annual fee (as opposed to per transaction).
Good luck! And many happy returns.