Category: personal finance

Gifting Options to Family in India + $100 Giveaway

Gifting options to family in IndiaAs someone who is living outside of India, I miss the celebrations and special occasions in the family back home. Worst of all, they get used to us being away from them. For them, the first few years are hard. After that, they’re used to our online presence and don’t miss us like before. No matter whether it’s our own parents or distant relative we love, it’s important to keep the bond strong. It’s important to remember and wish on their special occasions.

Gifting Family in India:

People who are close to us, don’t expect gifts or anything from us. But, we know they will be very happy if we gift them something that they love. When the years pass by, I no longer know my family members wants and needs. For example, as long as I remember, my mom never wore makeup. She didn’t like to wear any big jewelry or anything, nor did she like to wear heavy silk sarees. So I assumed that my mom doesn’t like makeup and not much into grooming. She recently visited us a few months back. Even though it’s her 3rd visit here, only recently I got to know that she likes makeup. Well, now it’s my turn to find suitable products for her and help her learn to apply makeup.

Gifting Fail:

Finding and deciding suitable gifts for the family members is the most painful part of India trip planning. I remember buying vegetable peelers and handbags in bulk before one of our India trips. 😉

For birthday and other special occasions, our standard gift so far has been either booking movie or ordering cake. It’s so predictable that it’s no longer a surprise for our family in India. I remember buying something from Amazon for my nephew’s birthday hoping that he would like it.  We gift everything we thought they will like it, but in reality, they might not want to watch that movie we booked or play with that toy that we gifted.

In our defense, we have very limited options to gift from here. Recently, I came across Oxigen’s digital gift services and I ordered Levi’s gift card for my brother through them. The gift card was delivered to his email directly (I got a copy of that email as well. Sweet!).

My Brother’s Experience:

  • He searched the nearby Levi’s store from the list of exclusive stores where the gift card will be acceptable
  • He went to one of the stores from the list and checked in the billing counter whether they will accept the gift card
  • He selected a shirt and bought it using the gift card

I was not completely sure of using gift cards in an Indian retal store. I was so happy that he was able to use it without any issues. Maybe I should visit India often.

Some of the highlights of Oxigen’s digital gifts are,

  • They are great as last-minute gifts when you’ve almost forgotten an occasion.
  • It works when you don’t want to or can’t make a decision on what exactly to gift a loved one,
  • It also provide flexibility when specific preferences come into play (clothes size, material, color, etc.)
  • They offer a variety of gift cards for buying both physical as well as experience gifts. For example, they have gift cards even for restaurants, movie theater, spa, travel etc

Now that we are only a few days away from Father’s day, a gift card to your Dad in India might a good option. I’m sure he would be delighted to try Italian cuisine Spaghetti Kitchen or watch a movie through BookMyShow.

Note: 

  • Even though Oxigen’s online gift cards are instantly delivered to your email, the first transaction takes 2 days to complete. I ordered their gift card on Friday and both my brother and I received the email with gift card information only on Sunday.
  • When you receive the gift card over email, it also contains the list of stores where you can use the gift card. Make sure you use in one of those stores.
  • Certain gift cards, like Cleartrip, Makemytrip and BookMyShow can be redeemed online. It differs for each gift card/type of gift
  • For any issues: the email that goes out to the recipients of the gifts has a link to FAQs and the option to contact the specific retailer for the gift card

Finally, THE GIVEAWAY:

Before going to the giveaway, I wanted to clarify that I spent my own money to try Oxigen’s digital service and even though they are sponsoring the giveaway, all the opinions are my own. I value my readers and I would not recommend anything to you that I would not use/try.

Oxigen is giving away $50 gift card for 2 of my readers. Yay! All you need to do is share this blog post on your social media page with a hashtag #OxigenUSA. You can find a variety of social media share buttons available at the bottom of this post. Choose the one that you prefer and share it to the world with the hashtag #OxigenUSA.

The giveaway ends on June 28, 2017. I will randomly select 2 winners who shared this post on social media (it can be either on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter). Both of you will get $50 gift card that you can choose from Oxigen digital service options. Shower your family in India with gifts using the gift card.

Have you used Oxigen’s services before? What do you think of them? If not, share away this post for a  chance to win $50 gift card of your choice from their options.

If you have any questions, reach me at centsibleindian@gmail.com or leave a comment in this post.

Father’s Day Gift Ideas For Clueless Moms

Father's Day Gift Ideas For Clueless MomsFather’s day is around the corner and if any of you are looking for ideas to celebrate the special day here are some ideas for us, clueless moms 🙂

Do-It-Yourself Gifts:

If the kid is over 2 years old, it’s possible to make a DIY gift for the Daddy. Pinterest has a ton of ideas on DIYs and it’s my go-to place for any DIY project. I came across the below Finger Paint Canvas and I am totally in love with it.

(image credit)

Since Jeev is already 3 and Meera can sit and grab stuff, this DIY canvas is possible to make for this Father’s day although I’m afraid of the mess it would create when we make it. It’s relatively easy to make, yet quite a nice gift that the Daddy would love to receive.

Note: Hubby never visits my blog or the social media unless I sit with him and show him the blog. So there is no way he would know this gift idea. If you know our family outside of this blog, keep this as a secret. Will ya? 😃

Experience Gift:

experience gift for father's day

If your spouse is not much interested in physical gifts, experience gift can be an option. Who doesn’t love a ticket to their favorite game or show?

Experience gifts can be something like, massaging session at a spa, offroad biking, ticket to an event that he wants to go etc. My husband prefers experience gift and every time I bought one for him, it was a success.

We try to avoid clutter in our home. If I didn’t use a non-seasonal item for over 6 months, it goes out of the house. I just got rid of a Clarisonic Mia because I used it only a few times and personally didn’t like it even though I bought it after so much research. I’d rather experience something awesome as a gift than buying something that I might or might not use. My husband has a similar approach and this idea works for us every time without fail. However, this time I am going to try the DIY canvas idea because we are anyway looking to decorate the house and this would be a great addition.

If you don’t know where to start, Groupon can be a good option. Try your local city mom blogs that share upcoming events in the city. Ask for a good spa recommendation to your friends or in your community Facebook page.

Material Gifts:

Now we are talking about typical gifts. Here are some material gift ideas if you’re looking for one: drones, underwater camera, GoPro, bluetooth headphone, Amazon echo, wearables such as fitbit, Apple watch, electric razor etc.

What to do if you don’t know what your spouse exactly wants? If he wants a camera, do you know the exact model he wants? Personally, even if my husband said something about a product he is interested in, I still wouldn’t know the exact model and obviously, I don’t want to ask him.

If you’re not sure what your spouse wants, write the product name in a note and present to him with a greeting card. You can take him to the shop even on the same day and buy the exact model he wants. It’s a win-win because you gave something your husband wants and your husband is happy to get the product model he is interested. This note is a ticket to buy the item whenever he wants.

If you’re buying online, don’t forget to shop through cashback websites for some nice payout.

Family Gifts:

This is yet another favorite gift category for my spouse. He is always on the look out for some fun games to play with my son. Buying something your spouse likes, yet adding fun to the family is the best of both the worlds.

Some of the gift ideas are lawn games, jogger, bike trailer, backpack to carry the child on hikes, kite etc.

Picture Gift:

One idea when it comes to picture gift is to collect all the pictures of your hubby and kid(s) (just them in the picture) and create a photo book. I’m sure your hubby would love to go through this photo book more than ones and it will be his forever treasure.

Create Your Own Gift:

Does it sound fun? 😀 Create your own gift for the Daddy. Offer him personal care such as pedicure, massage or even cut the lawn once for him (if you know how to do it). He will love the little pampering by his special someone. If you can include your kid(s) in the process, it would be more fun.

We have this Conair pedicure at home and my husband enjoys a relaxing foot massage once in a while. I pamper my guy with a nice pedicure using some wonderful feet/hand creams I use. So far he never complained. Guess, its a success? 😉

Do you gift any other fun gifts to your loved ones? Would love to know as well.

3 Websites To Make Extra Money

3 websites to earn extra income

Here, I’m sharing my absolute favorite list of websites that require only 5 minutes of your day to earn extra money. I have been using them for years and quite happy with the $$ I receive for my very little effort. You can find my lifetime points/earnings in the pictures as well. Have a look and let me know if you have any questions. I’m adding my referral link in a couple of them below. You can earn initial points worth $ if you use my referral link and I get some points by sharing you these websites.

Bing.com:

Bing is a search engine owned by Microsoft. Create an account at bing.com and earn points everytime you search through Bing. You’re basically registering your existing email address to start earning the points. Every day, you can earn 150 points through PC search and 100 points through mobile search (install Bing.com app). Everyday Bing also provides options to get bonus points. You can redeem these points for gift card/buy services.

I mostly use Bing.com rewards points for Skype credit or Starbucks gift card. 500 minutes Skype credit is only 4250 points. All our India calls are through Skype or Whatsapp. So having some Skype credits in handy helps with calling India numbers directly. More on that in a post here.

Instead of searching in Google, you search through Bing. The bonus is, you get to ear $$ for the searches. Double win if you ask me.

MyPoints:

I have been using MyPoints from 2009. They offer you multiple different ways to earn points. To be honest, I hardly have time to try all of them. The only option I try, yet I’m able to redeem good $$ over years is clicking the emails that they send. When I clean up my mailbox once every few days, I just open these emails and click. That’s all I do. MyPoints offers 5 points to click the email. It’s an easy money for spending less than a minute every few days. All I have been doing is, clicking the emails that they send.

Those emails clearly say “get 5 points for clicking this”. These 5 points add up and in few months you can redeem them for gift cards.

Swagbucks:

What is Swagbucks?

Swagbucks is more of a search engine that rewards you with Swagbucks for searching. When you search, you will be randomly awarded Swagbucks for searching, from 5 bucks and more.

You Can Get Free Gift Cards For Shopping, Searching and Discovering What’s Online at Swagbucks.com

These Swagbucks can then be redeemed for a variety of different gift cards and other items. I got so many Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks over the year.

Join Swagbucks!

They also offer many different ways to earn more Swagbucks. Some of the most popular ways to earn Swagbucks are doing online searches, signing up for offers, printing coupons, completing special offers, or taking polls.

How to get started with Swagbucks?

Just sign up for a free Swagbucks account. Once you’re signed up, I encourage you check out the left hand side of swagbucks home page where they list out different options to earn money. Experiment with different ones until you determine the ones that works for you.

I encourage you to set an earnings goal each day and try to login and hit the points goals, if possible. Try to invest at least 5 minutes a day, it can really start to add up!

You can get $5 Amazon gift cards for just 500 points. With few minutes of your time, you can easily hit 40-50 points a day.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions.

A Simple Habit To Increase Your Savings Exponentially

How to reduce spending

There are two ways you can create wealth. 1. Earning more money 2. Saving more. Out of the two, we have more control over our spending habits than earning more money.

Even if you have lean budget and you don’t want to reduce your spending, there is one simple way that will greatly reduce your spending.

It’s quite simple: ELIMINATE WASTE. It’s around the same line of MINIMALISM. Minimalism indirectly helps reduce the waste. Let’s say you have tried all the ideas to reduce grocery spending, and want to reduce it even further, look nowhere other than your kitchen.

  • Go to your kitchen and find out the items that are about to expire. Make some meals out of them
  • Create weekly meal planning with the ingredients you already have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. Once in a few weeks, I cook all my meal from items in the kitchen without buying anything from the store. Those are days when I get creative and cook some different meals. Some turned out to be really nice, some turned out to be ok
  • Clean your fridge, freezer, and pantry once a month. When you take everything out for cleaning, you are forced to see the unused items that are about to expire
  • Maintain a “Monthly Waste” list and stick it in the freezer. Every time we waste something, that item and its value are entered in the waste list. It’s easy to throw something and not think about it in the next minute.  But when you write the item you wasted and its value, you can feel a pinch in your heart. So next time when you waste something, you’ll think twice (the current one in my mind is unused Asparagus stems in the fridge. I’m thinking of making a soup out of it. Hopefully it turns out well)

Where to start:

Below is the timeline I follow when it comes to cleaning the unused items.

ItemTimeline
ClothingOnce a month
Kids ToysOnce a quarter
FurnitureOnce every 6 months
Anything that's torn and not fixedevery 3 months
Kids clothesAfter every season
Foodafter expiry date (obviously)
MedicineAnything that you know you won't use it anymore + expired
Makeup + skincareanything not used in the last 3 months + expired

How to avoid waste:

  • Don’t buy bulk if you are not going to use the item within 2 months
  • If the item doesn’t excite you, it has to go. Whether it’s piece of clothing or a kitchen utensil, if you don’t find it exciting to use or wear, it needs to go
  • Invest in good quality items and buy less. For example, I only have 4 kitchen vessels in total (including my pressure cooker). I cook all my meals using those 4. It’s been over 2 years since I ditched my extra utensils and I haven’t missed them so far. Try it. you’ll be surprised.
  • Have a budget (Here is more on how to start budgeting). High-quality items are typically expensive. If you buy expensive items within the budget, you cannot buy too many items and fill up the house

When you start implementing the above ideas, you might feel like you’re throwing away too many items at once. But those are the items you have not used for a whole or you can no longer use. If possible consider donating them or selling them on Facebook. Once you’re past the first step, the total waste goes down and you can eventually see a difference both in your spending as well as in your life.

Paying Cash to Grocery Shopping – Final Report

We had so many changes happened within a short timeframe. Before the move, our grocery budget was $400. Few days before the move, our parents landed. And few weeks after we moved to the new place in a new city, our refrigerator died.

With all the changes, I had no idea how much to budget for grocery shopping. To give a little perspective, we buy good quality ingredients/organic products and eat at home majority of the time. Even though we enjoy eating out, we eat at home for health reasons more than saving money. However, spending $1000 a month on groceries are not ok with me.

To recreate a budget to accommodate the changes in our life, one of the steps I took is to go all cash-in for grocery shopping. We use credit cards for all our shopping (FYI – we pay the credit card bill at the end of the months before it’s due).

Paying Cash To Grocery Shopping:

The concept is, you pay cash for all your grocery shopping rather than using credit/debit cards. Before February started, I withdrew $500 cash from the ATM, carried it in an envelope and paid only from that amount for all my February grocery shopping.

Until the last week of February, I spend around $419 (here is mid-month update). so, I had $81 left when the last week of Feb started. Since I started work during the last week of February, we did some major shopping at the Indian grocery store (the one closer to us is 15 minutes away. So, we stock up the grocery and only visit there once a month).

In that trip, I spent $144.87 for Indian groceries. So, the total spending for the month of February was, $564. My budget was $500 + $50 flex budget.

$564 is for 4 adults and 1 toddler. Even if we consider just the adults, that’s like $5 per adult per day. Even though, I went over the set budget, I’m happy.

My Opinion About the Concept:

It’s quite a different experience than swiping the card. To be honest, I could have reduced the bulk purchase and stayed within the budget. After all, I had $81 left for Indian grocery shopping. With me going back to work, we didn’t want to take a chance as we know time is more precious at this phase of our life.

If you’re struggling to stay within the budget or if you’re someone who wants to put together a grocery budget, I strongly suggest you try this method at least for a month.

When I started this challenge, I thought I’ll be spending too much time counting $$ at the checkout counter. To my surprise, it’s not the case. I probably spent few more seconds than before.

My New Grocery Budget:

This past month, I didn’t splurge much and I was doing more couponing than before. Even then I spent $564 on groceries. Groceries include food, toiletries, diapers etc. This clearly shows, we need at least $564 per month. So, I’m increasing the budget to $600 per month.

Continuing Paying Cash to Grocery Shopping:

The primary intention of this challenge was finding out grocery budget for our family. Now that I know our set budget, I’m going to go back to using credit cards. Why leave the rewards points that we get from credit cards.

But I’m definitely open to trying to challenge more often. After my parents leave, I’ll try this concept again for our family of 2 adults + 2 kids (toddler + newborn).

I’d suggest you give it a try at least once. You’ll be surprised how it affects your shopping mindset.