Nifty Or Not?


The Nifty Shopper –

Thrives for the hustle and bustle of the season. Since Halloween, Christmas lists are planned out – who’s getting the new ipad, and who’s getting a lump of coal. If gifts aren’t purchased, wrapped, and hidden already; they’re mapped out like an architect’s blueprint. They are so annoyingly organized, that admiration is still transparent through jealousy.

The Last Minute Shopper –

This is the [guy] on Christmas Eve running around the different areas of one department store attempting to purchase and wrap all gifts in one night.  Although many stores may have deals and sales supporting this habit, this shopper tends to spend the most because of no purchase power. They’re tight on time – so they grab what’s within reach which is sometimes inflated in price, and then still spend extra money to have the associate wrap it because they do not have time to do so themselves. Don’t be that guy!

Then there is the In-Betweener …

The in-betweener is interesting… they like the idea of Christmas, but are not fans of the reality of shopping. They tend not to have much of a plan; other than to start shopping prior to Christmas Eve and  making a list of presents on a napkin during breakfast that very same morning. They can lean either way; for example there are nifty in-betweeners (like me!), or last minute in-betweeners (oh, I know a few). As a nifty in-betweener, I’ve planned who’s getting what, and began setting a budget. I’ve even suggested that my family do Secret Santa this year to alleviate thinking of gifts, and spending, for the dozens of family members that gather together for the holidays. I sound pretty nifty right? Too bad I’ve yet to step foot in a store.

Becoming a nifty shopper –

If you haven’t began already, Start NOW! Waiting until the day before Christmas qualifies you as a Last Minute Shopper, and no one wants to be that guy. You’ll need a blueprint; starting with a checklist ensures that no one is forgotten and you can note your idea for their gift right next to their name. Also setting a budget is critical in making sure that you don’t spend more than you can afford. Layaway options can be a blessing or a curse – depending on who you ask. Personally, I find layaway to entice spending more than intended.

Christmas Checklist

  •   $20 Mom & Dad – books
  •   $0   Siblings – coal

Doing a little online research helps plan which stores has a better deal for the gifts you want. Many stores offer free to low cost shipping – so you probably don’t even need to leave the house. Online shopping is an alternative to the standard in-store appeal and can be conducted for those who are more comfortable.

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Posted in Budget, Shopping

Tis’ The Season…

The-season-of-givingThe holiday season is here and we are driving our loved ones crazy for an updated version of a gadget we already own. As much as it is the time of year where we sit in anticipation of all the gifts we are bound to receive; this is also the season of giving, predominantly to those who need it most. The tri-state area is still suffering from devastation from Super Storm Sandy, and still is in need of funds and resources. Although parts of the metro area is beginning to establish some level of normalcy through tremendous recovery efforts, the loss of homes and belongings are still very much widespread through many areas; particularly, Staten Island, Breezy Point, the Rockaways and many more. Unfortunately in a time of desperation, there are people taking advantage of those in need through price gouging and worst yet donation scams. How does one give the gift of giving without being harmed simultaneously?

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Posted in Identity Theft

The Unbanked…

In an age of technology, and having necessities readily available, there are still millions of Americans that are unbanked, or do not hold a checking and/or savings account. For many, they do not trust banks, they aren’t convenient enough, or are afraid of bank’s commonly known fees. Whichever the reason, many are turning to check cashing places, prepaid debit cards, and other institutions that are more incline to charge fees and take advantage of the unbanked market.

Banking institutions have developed a muddy reputation over the years.  Between the mortgage crisis, bail outs, and CEO’s stepping down; reasonably so, Americans are scared and doubtful of banks. That still shouldn’t stop the average Joe from having a basic checking and/or savings account. As tempted as we are to just put money under the mattress like in the olden days, mattresses aren’t FDIC insured!

So first, the perks!

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Posted in Miscellaneous

After The Storm…

The Tri-State area has been disaster stricken with devastation, and many have lost power, homes, and their lives. Even after a week has passed New York City struggles to regain a level of normalcy, and people are fighting to make their odds and ends last. It’s not easy to get back on one’s feet after such great loss, but communities, companies as well as government are coming together to ease the transition.


FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency and Red Cross has partnered to provide relief stations for food, water, clothes emotional support and other basic necessities. Call 311 to find the nearest commodity station near you.

Corporations such as Disney, NewsCorp, Lowes, Toyota, and WellsFargo, just to name a few have provided millions of dollars to aid and assist those in need. Macy’s is also contributing matching donations as well as a discount on purchases to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.


Post Factum – Being prepared is the best thing anyone can do. There is no way to stop disasters before they hit, but taking precaution and saving for worst case scenarios is the best form of preparation. Many people went without a paycheck this past week because they were unable to make it to work. That can be anyone of us at any moment. Putting away a little at a time may not add up to be much, but a small cushion can be more promising.


Our hearts go out to those who lost anything and everything this past week. We wish families a fast recovery and restoration of a lifestyle before the storm.

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Posted in Budget, Emergency, Miscellaneous, Savings

Personal Finance On A Napkin

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courtesy of

“Carl Richards, a financial planner, has been explaining the basics of money through simple graphs and diagrams” – The New York Times

This was truly too good not to share. In “Paper And A Pen”, I mentioned that I use a spreadsheet. I see that others use napkins! To see more of Carl Richards’ napkin sketches, visit These were just a few of my favorites, you are welcome to share yours and what tools you use to plan your finances.

Coretta T. Nicholas

Posted in Miscellaneous

Paper And A Pen…


Society today tends to be so obsessed with being over-everything; from over-eaters, to even over-exercisers. So much, that we are often inclined to forget this little word called moderation, in which anything is possible for as long as it’s done with balance. One of our worst offenses is that of over spending. We all fall victim to spending more than we intend from time to time through impulse shopping or even poor money management. Breaking such cyclical actions is only as hard as you make it out to be, always begin by writing things down.

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Posted in Budget

New Job…New Card…

The Hunt –

You’re on a quest for a new job; you’ve searched every crevice of Google, asked all your friends, and even friends of friends for some pull. If you apply that same momentum to your credit card search, you may find the credit card that best appeals to you. So what do you look for when you’re in pursuit of a new credit card? APR! The interest rate that you sign up for determines how much lenders are charging you for your purchases. Promotions are great, such as ‘0% APR for 6 months’ – but read the fine print, after that six month probationary period, interest rates can fly right up to 25% thereafter.

The Interview – Make an Impression

Credit card companies look at your credit score first. You know you wouldn’t show up to a job interview in the sweats and flip-flops your mom has begged you to burn, then why apply for a card with blemishes on your credit report. Take care of all the ugly marks first by clearing current debt. Show your new employer or your new lender that you’re trustworthy.

Congratulations, You’ve Got The Job! Now Keep It…

Employers as well as lenders are always checking up on you; they want to make sure they did the right thing by trusting you with this new job or credit card. I don’t know how you pulled it off, but something worked! Their ‘checking up on you’ is sometimes with good intent; recognize your hard work, reward your for being so awesome at your new responsibilities with benefits like employee discounts or in the case of credit card benefits – cash back rewards. Other times can seem more probationary; like making sure you’re arriving to work on time (or at all), or monthly updates to credit reporting agencies Transunion, Experian and/or Equifax. Make sure when they do check in, you’ve already got your morning coffee or in other words, on-time payment to your credit card.

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Posted in Credit Cards
The Coalition’s mission is to assist consumers, particularly vulnerable populations, in understanding and improving their ability to manage their financial affairs. We are also committed to empirical assessment, including our own programs, and to studying key issues affecting consumer finance.

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