Light the torches and get out of the house, my friends, this is the month for Hogmanay.
Hogmanay is usually called New Year’s Eve in North America, but in Scotland, where Hogmanay is beloved, it can be a three- to five-day festival of fire and fun that begins with First Footing.
The first person to step over your threshold in the new year is the First Footer and it shouldn’t be just anyone. The First Footer has to be a tall, dark man and he has to step in before anyone else. A blond or red-haired man won’t do and a blond or red-haired woman is actually bad luck.
The requirement for a dark-haired First Footer probably has roots in Scotland’s history. Given the many Viking invasions of the country, there were plenty of times when a tall, blond dude at your door was probably carrying an axe — never a great way to start the year, or anything else.
The good news is that the neighborhood First Footer will bring blessings in the form of small gifts. Wishes for warmth during the year, a piece of coal. For food, shortbread. For the flavor of life, salt. For joy and prosperity, a wee dram of whiskey. Lucky you, if you have a lot of friends bringing blessings.
Later, neighbors and friends drink a toast to the New Year and sing Auld Lange Syne.
After First Footing comes fire, and plenty of it. Scots like fire festivals and they are found throughout the fall until the end of January. For Hogmanay, bonfires burn throughout the country. Revelers in the coastal town of Stonehaven wear kilts and swing big baskets of fire. In Edinburgh, enormous wicker figures (such as a bull) become a towering bonfire amid fireworks. Also in Edinburgh, 15,000 people carry torches through the street, according to Scotland.org.
Debt management: the pros and cons of 3 debt repayment strategies
Here’s an evaluation of three basic debt management strategies.
Make the minimum payments on all accounts
The minimum payment is the amount that the borrower is required to pay back to the lender by a certain date. Keep in mind that missed payments will tank your credit score, so it’s important that you cover at least this amount each month.
• Pros. The minimum payment usually amounts to only two to five per cent of the balance owed.
• Cons. If you only make the minimum monthly payment, you could end up spending more than twice the original amount. This is because interest will keep accumulating on your debt.
Prioritize low-balance debts (the snowball method)
This approach to debt reduction involves the borrower strategically paying off multiple loans by prioritizing the account with the lowest balance first. This is done by consistently repaying more than the minimum amount owed on the account.
• Pros. Focusing on the smallest balance and quickly clearing it provides a strong psychological incentive to maintain good financial habits.
• Cons. Not prioritizing loans with a higher interest rate may not make financial sense in the long term.
Prioritize high-interest debts (the avalanche method)
Another, faster way of clearing multiple debts is to prioritize paying off the high-interest loans first. Once again, you’ll need to consistently pay more than the minimum amount on the associated account. However, this method reduces the overall interest you’ll pay.
• Pros. This method will ensure you pay the least amount of interest possible.
• Cons. Reducing debt this way requires a lot of discipline. In addition, it doesn’t provide the same quickly-gained sense of accomplishment as the snowball method.
Overall, it’s a good idea to make more than the minimum payments on your accounts. In addition, while prioritizing high-interest-rate loans is ideal, dealing with smaller balances may work better for you.
12 great reasons to buy local
1. Help create jobs
If you buy your holiday goods from local shops, you’ll help generate a need to hire more employees. Retail jobs are relatively easy to qualify for, meaning that people who otherwise struggle to find work have a better chance of being hired. This allows them to secure income during the holidays and hopefully year-round.
2. Enjoy local traditions
3. Support non-profits
Small businesses tend to give more money to non-profit organizations, especially local ones. By completing your holiday shopping in the area, you’re ensuring they can give generously to organizations that help the less fortunate and other people in your region.
4. Get better customer service
Local business owners are passionate about their products. By buying local, you ensure that you’ll get the very best recommendations possible when making purchases. In fact, personalized customer service is a sure-fire way to guarantee you’ll get the perfect presents for your loved ones. And, even if you don’t, returning items will be a cinch.
5. Reduce your carbon footprint
Shopping locally is the eco-friendly thing to do, especially if you skip the car and do it on foot. Less driving translates to a decrease in fuel consumption and a smaller carbon footprint overall. In addition, local products haven’t traveled long distances to get to you. This holiday season, shop local to help protect the planet.
6. Stay informed
Visiting local shops during the holiday season is a great way to stay informed about what’s going on in your community. You’ll find out what holiday events are taking place, get insider tips about the best products around and reinforce your sense of belonging.
7. Meet Santa
Bring the kids along with you and turn your holiday shopping excursion into an outing for the family. The little ones can meet Santa, you can do a bit of browsing and everyone will enjoy indulging in a cup of hot cocoa afterwards.
8. Find unique presents
It’s easier to find something truly unique when shopping locally. While you could purchase artisanal creations off the internet, buying something from a local artist ensures it’ll be as special as the person you’re getting it for. Some items can even be personalized.
9. Get fresh food
Visit butchers, breweries, bakeries and gourmet grocers in your area to enjoy an outstanding holiday feast. In fact, buying local is the best way to find exceptionally fresh produce, pastries, meats and dairy products. In some cases, you may even be able to sample them beforehand. Plus, your local retailers can give you advice on how to prepare their products.
10. Eliminate stress
Shopping locally is a great way to eliminate stress. This is because you don’t need to worry about when packages will arrive or the possibility that they might get stolen. Plus, you don’t have to be concerned about returns or exchanges, as these things are super easy to do when you buy your items from the retailers in town.
11. Support your local economy
Did you know that many small businesses make between 20 and 40 percent of their annual income during the last two months of the year? November and December are crucial months and many stores rely on holiday sales to stay afloat. This holiday season, make sure to buy local so you can directly support the area’s economy.
12. Help build your community
Cafes, craft stores and bookshops are prime venues for events that can enrich your community. Supporting these places allows them to host classes, music shows and more, which helps to both enliven the holiday season and to invigorate the local economy.
3 games to play at the office holiday party
Are you looking for a way energize your holiday office party? If so, here are three fun games that virtually anyone can enjoy.
1. Office trivia. Before the day of the event, send a questionnaire to all employees asking them about their interests, pet peeves and preferred foods, books, movies and travel destinations. Collect the answers and use them to create an office trivia game.
2. Guess the word. Write words on individual strips of paper and then fold and place them in bowls. Each team chooses a player who will have to guess the word based on clues from their teammates.
3. Gift wrap challenge. Put players in teams of two. Tie one person’s right hand to the other’s left and have them attempt to wrap a gift with their free hands. The pair that does the nicest job wins.
If you play your office games in teams, assemble the groups randomly. A fun way to do this is to cut up old Christmas cards and hand out the pieces. Teams can then be formed by those who have pieces from the same card.
To avoid holiday mayhem, you need to remain organized in the days and weeks leading up to the main event. Here’s a checklist that will help you keep track of everything that needs to be done before Christmas.
• Choose a theme for your party if you’re having one
• Send out invitations
• Decide on a menu (don’t forget to consider your guests’ allergies and dietary restrictions)
• Make separate grocery lists for what can be purchased weeks in advance and what must be bought in the days before
• Start cooking (make dishes in advance and freeze them)
• Make a seating plan and choose the table decorations
• Obtain any extra dishes, napkins or chairs you need
• Choose the music and plan party games
• Clean the house from top to bottom
• Prepare a room for overnight guests
• Make sure your driveway and walk¬way are clear
• Organize a gift exchange
• Start shopping early to avoid crowds
• Make note of what to buy for each person on your list
• Write Christmas cards and send them out early to ensure they arrive before the holiday
• Help your kids write their letters to Santa and send them off
• Buy wrapping paper, ribbons and bows
• Wrap gifts as you buy them to avoid doing it all at once, and hide them until the big day
Decorating the house
• Go through your decorations and throw out and replace anything that’s broken
• Hang outdoor decorations before the cold weather arrives
• Decorate the inside of your house
• Don’t set up your natural Christmas tree until a week or two before the day (or it will be dry by the time Santa arrives)
Getting yourself ready
• Make your appointments early (hair, esthetics, makeup, nails) to be sure you get the time slot you need
• Shop for your party clothes and visit the tailor if adjustments are needed
Keep this checklist handy to make sure you don’t forget anything this season.
Computer Security Day: November 30th
Yes of course: computer security should be serious business EVERY day. But it’s good to have a reminder.
An article on BBVA, one of the largest banks in the world, says the observance began in 1988 after the first case of malware, known as the Morris Worm. Although we are much more savvy today, we are also faced with constant threat.
Toward that end, here are some suggestions for observing the date:
* Improve your passwords. Hopefully you aren’t one of the millions who use “123456” or “password,” each of which made it to the Top 10 most common passwords in 2019. Use a password manager like LastPass, which stores and encrypts your passwords — and enables you to use something ridiculous that you’d never remember.
* Keep your software up-to-date. Yes, your laptop’s wallpaper gets wiped out and everything on your phone gets moves around or doesn’t work the same … but if you don’t have the latest version, you don’t have the latest protection.
* Don’t click on links that seem a little off — even if they come from someone you know. Learn about the various scams and how to protect yourself.
* Log out of banking or shopping sites after you’ve visited them
* Back up your data regularly. If something happens to your computer, you’ll likely have to erase everything and reboot.
Shop till you drop: 4 great reasons to hit the stores on Black Friday
Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, and stores across the country are hosting massive sales events. Here are four great reasons to brave the crowds on November 29.
1.You can get your Christmas shopping done. Black Friday provides the perfect opportunity to find Christmas presents for everyone on your list. Even if you can’t find all the things you’re looking for, you’ll likely be able to knock some items off your list and make a plan to get the rest before the big day arrives.
2. You can get ready for family visits. Stressful as it may be, receiving family is one of the best things about the holidays. One way to take full advantage of Black Friday is to purchase whatever you need to ensure that your next family visit goes well, such as new dinnerware or perhaps a second fondue set.
3. You can save on items you need. Look for deals on products you’ve been meaning to buy for a while. Whatever they are, you’re likely to find them priced for less than you originally allotted. You can use the money saved to treat yourself to lunch or even pick up extra hostess gifts for those impromptu holiday invites.
4. You can shop as much as you want. Many stores have extended hours on Black Friday. This means you can shop for as long as you want and find everything you need to buy. If you’re planning to make a day of it, however, make sure to take a few breaks.
Black Friday is a great opportunity to get everything you need at low prices. Circle November 29 on your calendar, keep an eye out for Black Friday sales and enjoy a fabulous start to the holiday season!