The first four days of the official 2014 holiday shopping season were lackluster. Sales between Thanksgiving and Black Friday fell 11.3 percent from 2013. It’s as if U.S. consumers don’t have any money.
While it’s nothing to sing about, wages are up 2.1 percent year-over-year, however consumer spending also remains flat at 2.3 percent year-over year, similar to the last two years. This suggests that, while Americans love dining out, they are refraining from spending their money in other areas. This makes us happy. We hope money is being saved and put towards investments.
The S&P 500 is up 16.27 percent year-over-year. That’s where the real economic gains have been.
If you need more finding extra money to put towards savings and investments, below are four places you may want to look.
Why don’t we call it “savements”?
Gas Up Your Accounts
Gas in October dropped 3 percent after September’s 1 percent drop. In some parts of the U.S., gas is already below $2 a gallon. Retailers are hoping money not spent on gas will be spent on gifts you don’t really need to buy for people you don’t really like. Kidding!
Keep in mind that as of 2013, 5.3 percent of the average U.S. household income was spent on gas.
Median U.S. household income (inflation adjusted) was $51,939 as of 2013. Gas has dropped about 18 percent year-over-year, $3.26 to $2.68 per gallon. This equals an annual savings on gas of $496. If this $496 in savings is put towards investments that yield 8 percent for ten years, a gas guzzling saver would more than double their money to $1,070 with no additional savings contributions.
The moral of the story is, don’t let retailers talk you into spending more money this holiday season than you otherwise would because gas prices are down. Also, don’t buy a gas guzzler if you don’t need one. This only negates your savings.
Don’t Use Your Home Like a Bank
Originations for Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) increased 17 percent or $20 billion for the third quarter due to increased home values. While this is below historical standards, it’s the highest volume for HELOCs this year and on target to be the highest year since 2009.
While increased home values are a good thing, it’s important to remember that a home loan decreases percent of homeownership. The largest portion of most American’s portfolio is their home. Increased HELOCs decrease portfolio values.
Our advice is to refrain from taking out a HELOC and let your portfolio increase in value due to appreciation. Not only is this good for you, as an individual, but if the masses accept this truth, it will continue to stabilize the housing market. If your home increases enough in value to justify refinancing your mortgage to a lower rate or for a shorter term, you will save yourself considerable money in the long-run. This savings would yield more money if invested.
Shake Your Bank’s Pockets
Did you know there is about $58 billion of unclaimed assets in banks, investment tax refunds and pensions accounts across the great U.S. of A.? This is forgotten money.
Think about how many banks and investment accounts you’ve had since childhood. Did you once have a Passbook Account? How about that bank account you opened in college? How many companies have you worked for and how many 401(k)s do you have?
There’s a chance that you, like many Americans, have money waiting to be claimed. Go to these sites to see if any of unclaimed property is yours:
One you claim and receive your new-found-money put it in an IRA, brokerage or bank account. Until now, you had no idea you had this money. So, pretend you still don’t.
Unfortunately for us, we have no unclaimed money. It was fun looking, though.
Sell or Donate Unwanted Crap
We consider ourselves anti-hoarders. Most of that is because of John’s OCD. He hates piles of crap and unnecessary items splayed anywhere in our condo. We, also, live in a 1,000 square foot condo with the same amount of storage space that was considered reasonable in 1962. This means we have friends with closets as large as our home.
This doesn’t leave a lot of room to store things we don’t need or use. Despite this, we still must cleanse our condo of unnecessary clutter every so often. We have clothes we never wore or no longer wear. We have gadgets and trinkets we don’t use and are meaningless. We certainly have enough to make a small yard sale, which may be fun with enough sangria.
There’s no reason for us to keep this stuff. Since we have it and want to no longer have it, we may as well make money from it. If you find that you’re like us or that you’re closer to a hoarder on the Clutter Collector Spectrum, make money from your unwanted wears. Have a yard sale or, better yet, make a donation to Goodwill and get a tax deduction.
If what you plan to sell or donate are mostly items you bought, rather than gifts received, you won’t break even or make a profit. You will, however, minimize losses. Put your earned money or tax savings in investments and in time you’ll make a profit.
That’s our guide to finding lost money. We’re sure there are many more ways to find money. Ultimately, if you put your found money into savings or investments, you’ll make it work for you.
Where else can you find lost money?