5 Holiday Store Return Policies You Need to Know

young couple exchanging christmas gifts (series)You likely already know how to spot a good Black Friday deal (electronics are almost certainly on your list) and how to plan your shopping schedule so you hit all the best sales (cutting short your Thanksgiving dinner is practically a must).

But do you know how to return a deal that turns out to be less than what you expected?
Here are some Black Friday return policy dates and details you should know before bargain hunting at some of the biggest stores.

Best Buy

Before you scoop up discounted video games or reduced-price cellphones, know your return options. At Best Buy (BBY), purchases made between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 have an extended return period that lasts through Jan. 15. Some things are excluded from this extension, including cellphones and devices with a carrier contract, as well as AppleCare and Geek Squad Protection plans returned without a product.

Additionally, some products are final sale, which means they’re nonreturnable. These include digital content, prepaid cards and opened consumable items including batteries, ink and 3-D printer filament, among others. Check the specifics for an item before you buy.

Best Buy purchases can be returned in-store (regardless of whether you purchased them online or in-store). Just remember to bring along your receipt, the credit card you used or your photo ID. Returns can also be made my mail, but you’ll have to pay for postage.

Target

At Target (TGT), most unopened items in new condition can be returned within 90 days for a refund or exchange. Exceptions include open music; movies; video games; and software, which can’t be returned, but can be exchanged in-store for an identical title on the same or a different platform.
Electronics and entertainment items have a 30-day return period. But the return period for electronics and entertainment products purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 won’t start until Dec. 26.

Amazon

Typically Amazon (and most sellers on Amazon) allows customers to return items within 30 days of receipt of shipment. But that period has been lengthened just for the holidays. Purchases shipped by Amazon.com (AMZN) between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned all the way through Jan. 31 for a full refund.

But there are a few things for shoppers to keep in mind: Marketplace sellers are subject to this same holiday window as Amazon unless otherwise noted. View a seller’s specific return policy to see if the dates differ or not.

Amazon also has specific return guidelines depending on the type of purchase you make and which product category it falls in. Fine art purchases with a value of $75 or more, for instance, must be returned with trackable shipping. Gift cards can’t be returned, except as required by law. Groceries and wine can’t be returned to Amazon, but may be refunded. Consult the website’s full return policy before buying.

Staples

Staples (SPLS) customers can return their purchases for any reason, and the return policy period for electronics has been extended.

Electronic and furniture items can usually only be returned within 14 days, but for purchases made between Nov. 22 and Dec. 24, that period lasts until Jan. 16 (or as regular policy allows, whichever is later).

There are exceptions, though. Gift cards and phone cards are neither returnable nor refundable. Opened software packages can only be exchanged for the exact same title. Downloadable software can’t be returned or exchanged.

Sears

Select items purchased at Sears (SHLD) between Nov. 8 and Dec. 24 will carry extended return periods. Under this special holiday offering, products that would normally have a 30-day return period can instead be returned all the way through Jan. 24.

But shoppers should be cognizant of what they choose as a gift this year, as not everything you buy on Black Friday will fall under this extended window. For instance, Christmas items like trees and decorations can’t be returned after Dec. 25. And certain other products (including vacuum cleaners and major home appliances) as well as purchases that typically carry a return period of less than 30 days won’t be covered by the extended seasonal policy.

Read Between the Lines

Black Friday shopping is all fun and deals until you get stuck with a gift you don’t want. Check out the full return policies of the stores above or any other store you plan on shopping at this season. Most policies are clearly articulated on the “return” page of a retailer’s website.

Tips to Pare Down Your Christmas List Without Looking Cheap

closeup portrait of grumpy...
The holidays can be a social landmine. There are so many emotions and expectations tied up in gift-giving. Rather than risk offending someone, we often go overboard and end up with a gift list nearly as long as Santa’s.

Whether your budget is stretched thin or you have had it up to here with Christmas commercialism, there are simple ways to reduce the number of gifts you’re giving without looking like a skinflint.
Following are five tips for doing this successfully.

1. Start with the low-hanging fruit. I’m talking about the people you give to out of habit or obligation. The nephew you haven’t seen in three years who never says thank you for the holiday check? Cross him off the list. The neighbors who moved in 2008 and are your Facebook friends now? They don’t need a gift either.

Likely, many of the people who fall into the casual acquaintance category aren’t expecting a gift and won’t even notice if you stop mailing them the annual fruitcake.

In the event you do get caught off-guard with a present from someone you crossed off your list, it is always a good idea to have a couple of relatively inexpensive, but nicely presented, gifts at the ready.
For example, soap that is beautifully wrapped with a sparkly bow, a bottle of wine in a gift bag, or goodies such as jam or candies can make great presents.

For more inspiration on how to use holiday deals to buy discounted presents for the entire year, check out Tips to Score a Year’s Worth of Gifts at Rock Bottom Prices. You can also find cheap gift ideas on our Deals page.

2. Tackle the family and office Christmas party. Gift-giving expectations run the gamut during family and office parties. Some parties may not include any gift exchange while others operate under the expectation everyone will be gifting to everyone else.

If yours falls into the latter category, it’s time to rein in the madness. The key is to find a couple of like-minded people on your side. If you have a co-worker or cousin living on a tight budget, he or she could be your ally.

Once you have a couple of people who are ready for a change, approach the person in charge to propose an alternative. It could be your boss, the HR director or the grandma who hosts the holiday party each year.

Be sure to stress you have loved past parties but budgets are really tight this year — or your kids simply have too much stuff. Then, propose something different, such as secret Santa arrangements or the “white elephant” game.

3. Consider the creative use of cards. You may like some people, yet don’t interact with them on a regular basis — the postman, co-workers the next department over or the custodial staff at your kids’ school.

Rather than eliminate them completely, move them from the gift category to the card category. Read The 20-Cent Greeting Card for ideas on making something that’s both inexpensive and impressive.
If you’re short on time, hit your local craft shows to find some handmade cards — in my area, you can regularly find crafters selling cards for $1-$2 each. Then write a heartfelt note and attach a piece of candy to the outside.

4. Use charitable donations with caution. Giving charitable donations in someone’s name can come across as either very thoughtful or very cheap.

Typically, I only recommend this strategy if you know of a cause that is particularly dear to the recipient. For example, if Grandpa Joe died of cancer this year, you could make a donation to the American Cancer Society or a hospice in the name of the “Smith Family.”

5. Keep it real with those who understand. Finally, don’t be afraid to be open and honest with good friends and close relatives. Tell them you love the holidays but hate the commercialism. Or explain you lost your job and are flat broke this December. Perhaps you simply have too much stuff.

Whatever the reason, ask if you can skip your traditional gift exchange. You could suggest going to the Christmas concert, seeing the latest blockbuster or maybe even ordering pizza and hanging out for the night instead.

The Best and Worst Things to Buy in December

2015 Los Angeles TimesDecember is a month when most people can’t avoid shopping. You may have skipped Black Friday, but the holiday season is a different beast altogether, with gifts from loved ones, friends and people you barely know coming at you from all angles.

Maintain lots of holiday cheer by shopping wisely with our December buying guide. We’ve pored over the extensive DealNews archives from years past to guide you in your quest for the most savvy purchases in December.

And while you’re at it, consider subscribing to the DealNews Select Newsletter to get a daily recap of all our deals. You can also download the DealNews app for mobile savings.

Shop for Toys During the Mid-Month Sweet Spot

Black Friday and Cyber Monday were extremely good for toy deals this year, but the sales won’t end there. We typically see a high number of toy sales during the middle two weeks of December. Moreover, the ratio of deals that feature Editors’ Choice prices increases significantly during this time as well. The first week of December last year featured 27 percent Editors’ Choice deals, while the following week had 42 percent.

For 2015, we recommend shopping Dec. 7 through Dec. 20. Whatever you do though, don’t wait until the week of Christmas. The number of discounts drops off significantly and many of the offers are of lesser quality.

Keep an Eye Out for Gift Card Freebies

A popular promotion throughout the month of December — especially amongst restaurants — is to offer a free gift card to shoppers who purchase one as a gift. For example, last year California Pizza Kitchen offered a $20 gift card to anyone who purchased $100 or more in gift cards. Retailers, on the other hand, are more likely to offer a gift card with purchases that reach a certain order threshold, such as L.L.Bean, which currently offers a free $10 gift card to any customer that spends $50 or more.

Or Shop for Cheaper iTunes Gift Cards

December is by far the best month to find discounts on iTunes gift cards, averaging about three deals per week. You’re most likely to score a $50 card for $40 or other increments at 20 percent off. Buy some as easy gifts for the holidays, or stock up for yourself and effectively save 20 percent on everything you download in the coming year. To see all our tips on how you can save money on these cards, read our guide.

Tools and Hardware Deals for Dad

Does Dad want a new drill for Christmas this year? Perfect! December is an excellent time for tool and hardware deals. Typically the number of sales on tools is about a third higher than average and the total Editors’ Choice-caliber promos will double. Look for significant discounts on drills, wrenches, general tool sets and more.

It’s a Jolly Time to Buy Christmas Decorations … After Christmas

At this point, it’s common knowledge that holiday decorations see their greatest discounts after the holiday in question has passed and this is no different for Christmas. If you wait until Dec. 26, you’ll see discounts of 40 to 75 percent off seasonal goods. However, if you absolutely must buy a fake Christmas tree before the 25th, look to Target, Sears and Home Depot for inexpensive options. Also, keep in mind that any seller with fresh-cut trees is likely going to start discounting them around Dec. 20.

Stock Up on Kitchen Items for More Holiday Cooking

Although November saw a great number of excellent cookware and kitchen deals, our data shows that they should continue into December. About one in four kitchen deals in December will be of Editors’ Choice caliber, including cutlery sets, cookware and bakeware, small appliances and more. Amazon will lead the charge with these deals, offering about a third of the total sales for the month.

For Some Electronics, Wait Until 2016 Models Debut

At this point, if you’re interested in tech that typically gets updated around the time of the Consumer Electronics Show — high-end laptops and fancy TVs, for example, tend to get unveiled at the show — then you might be better served waiting until the 2016 models are announced. This way, 2015 models will start to hit record low prices. (Of course, not everything follows this cycle; smartphones tend to be announced in late spring, while Apple products keep their own individual annual schedule.)

There Will Be Fewer Sales on Eggs

While it’s true that egg prices have dropped slightly in recent weeks, they hit a record high in September due to an outbreak of avian flu over the summer. According to Bloomberg Business, the epidemic wiped out 32 million egg-laying chickens. While prices are rebounding incrementally, analysts believe there will be fewer supermarket promotions on eggs this month than there were this time last year. That means shoppers will be stuck paying full-price more often than not. Read about other foods that might experience fluctuating prices.

Snag a Car Deal on New Year’s Eve

The end of the calendar year is generally a good time period to buy a car, as dealerships are eager to clear out old inventory. But TrueCar.com found that Dec. 31 specifically tends to see the strongest average discounts of the year. In 2013, New Year’s Eve saw an average discount of 8.8 percent off. There are other ways to maximize your savings too, including tips for effective negotiation.

5 Steps to Plan Your Retirement

Happy couple smiling on beach
Only 1 in 3 Americans in their 50s has ever tried to plan for retirement, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study. And a third of those who try to plan admit that they either gave up or failed miserably. The result: Barely 20 percent of pre-retirees have a useful plan for retirement.

But making a plan isn’t all that difficult. Remember, it’s not written in stone, so you don’t need to get bogged down in details, and you don’t have to worry about getting everything right. It’s like making an outline for an essay. The outline gives you a rough idea of where you’re going. But you don’t actually write the essay until you start living your way through retirement. Here are five items to include in your retirement outline.

1. Manage your expectations. One rule of thumb says you’ll need 70 percent of your pre-retirement income to live comfortably in retirement. But that’s just a general rule. If you want to travel, join a golf club or help send your grandchildren to college, you might need more. But many people live on less, especially if they move to a less expensive area of the country and follow a simpler lifestyle.

2. Account for your changing expenses. Housing expenses tend to go down as we age, as our mortgage gets paid off and maybe we downsize to a less expensive home. Most other expenses also decrease, including costs for food, clothes, recreation and insurance. But medical care is one expense that goes up. According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, a retired married couple spends up to $260,000 over their lifetimes for out-of-pocket health expenses, including long-term care. And don’t forget to factor in inflation, which has recently been running near zero, but will more likely average 3 to 4 percent over the course of your retirement.

 3. Don’t shortchange your life expectancy. Surveys show that over half of pre-retirees underestimate how long they’re going to live. Women underestimate more than men. According to the Social Security Administration, the average 65-year-old male can expect to live to age 84, and the average female will make it to 87. But you really need to plan for more than that. One out of five 65-year-old males and one out of three females will live to age 90. Your savings may run out, but Social Security won’t. That’s one reason to delay taking benefits as long as you can, up to age 70, so they accumulate for a larger payout later in life. But it’s not just the money. You may have more time than you think. So sitting around and relaxing may not be all you want to do in retirement. You likely have time to start a business, travel the world, develop a new skill and find a new hobby.

4. Be ready for a reality readjustment. You may have a plan, but sometimes things don’t work out the way you expect. For example, there is a considerable gap between when people think they’re going to retire, and when they actually retire. The median expected retirement age is 65, according to a Gallup poll. But the actual retirement age is 61, because layoffs and health issues cut many careers short. The Gallup poll also found that 70 percent of American workers think they will continue to work in some capacity after they retire, but it turns out that many people can’t find a suitable job. Only about 25 percent of retirees work in retirement. So whether your plans involve working or something else, do a little advance homework to see if your retirement dreams match up with reality.

5. Don’t be too proud to get help. First of all, you should find a lawyer to draft your will as well as any health directives you may need. Then, whatever your ideas about retirement, start discussing them with your spouse or significant other. You might want to buy a boat and sail around the world, while your partner may want to settle down and babysit grandchildren. A plan is just a pipe dream until you start talking and heading in the same direction. Talk over your plans with your children and friends so they know what you’re thinking. They may have some ideas or advice for you. And finally, if the world of finance seems too complicated, don’t hesitate to consult an accountant or financial adviser to help turn your retirement dreams into retirement reality.

Why the Holidays Make Us Dumb About Spending

Shopaholic overspending
NEW YORK — Financial planner Barry Eckstein has heard a lot of extravagant spending stories. But when clients were chatting with him about the holidays a couple of years ago, he couldn’t believe his ears.

The couple had bought a mink coat. Not just any mink coat, mind you — a mink coat for the their precious little Yorkie.

“It was custom-made, white and cost a couple thousand dollars,” said Eckstein, of Wantagh, New York. “My initial reaction was: ‘Oh boy.’ ”

Canine couture might not be on everybody’s shopping list for holiday gifts. But the Furry Furrier is just one end of a spectrum. For the rest of us, even when we know we shouldn’t be spending so freely, we do it anyway. It is as if we turn our brains off in November, and then switch them back on in the New Year.

Indeed, nearly 4 in 10 people say they spend more money than expected for holiday gifts, according to a new shopping survey by credit agency Experian. That makes for a whopping $806 a person this holiday season, up from $758 last year.

To finance the spending flurry, 12 percent of people are planning to open up new credit cards for the holiday season — and 9 percent predict that they will be paying off those charges late.

“The majority don’t even have a holiday spending budget in place — and it makes it very hard to plan if you don’t have a budget,” said Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of public education.

The two biggest culprits for this holiday brain freeze, according to personal-finance expert Bruce Sellery, author of “Moolala: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things with Their Money“: Tradition and guilt.

“Tradition because people think, ‘This is the way it’s always been done, and there is no other way to do it,’ ” said Sellery. “And guilt because people feel they have to buy more and more things that nobody really needs.”

Avoid the Madness

Since gift-giving is an exchange, you can help both sides avoid what Experian’s Griffin calls “Dark January.” Simply come to an agreement beforehand with the various friends and family members in your life about who will exchange gifts and a price threshold, and save everyone a ton of money in the process.

Otherwise you could fall into holiday horror stories like Brooklyn-based author and comedian Sara Benincasa. She was once given membership to an “incredibly posh” gym which cost around $3,000, she estimates.

“The person was not so subtly trying to tell me to lose weight,” remembers Benincasa, author of the new book “DC Trip.” “It felt like a pretty demeaning gift. Unsurprisingly I used the gym twice — both times just to sit in the sauna.”

To avoid similar disasters, remember that you have a choice in how your holidays are designed. Bruce Sellery, for instance, arrived at an elegant solution with his many siblings and cousins: They stopped giving gifts. This was the suggestion of his sister, a stressed-out mom of three. “She just said one year, ‘Can we stop doing this?’ It’s been so great for everyone’s stress reduction,” he said.

Of course you do not have to go quite that far, and completely eliminate all gift-giving from your life. You can simply set an artificially low limit, and have a $5 gift-exchange among a group of friends or relatives, which are “hysterical,” says Sellery. (His own contribution to his family’s exchange one year: A collection of miniature soaps he acquired from luxury hotels.)

You can also call off the Holiday Arms Race by setting a hard cap: Agree that every family member only gives one gift to one person, in a Secret Santa-type exchange. Or take what you would have blown on gifts and select a charity together — sponsoring a child in poverty overseas, for instance, whose story and progress you could follow together as a family.

A final tip, from planner Barry Eckstein: Set a budget and do all of your holiday saving for the set amount throughout the year, in a dedicated account. Then force yourself to stick to that amount. That will likely eliminate most big-ticket impulse purchases — such as doggy mink coats.

Whom Not to Tip for the Holidays

Cash Payment TipsWith the New Year rapidly approaching, it’s a good time to reflect on the past year and think about all the people who have helped you get through it — and how best to show them your appreciation. “The root of the word gratuity is gratitude,” says Daniel Post Senning, great-great-grandson of etiquette empress Emily Post and coauthor of the 18th edition of “Emily Post’s Etiquette.” “An annual or holiday tip is an opportunity to really think about the people who are oftentimes the most important people in our lives.”

Your hair stylist, babysitter and trash collectors, for example, have helped care for you, your kids and your home, respectively.It’d be nice of you to thank them.

Emphasis on “it’d be nice.” You shouldn’t feel required to tip for the holidays at all. “It’s not an obligation,” says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas. “It depends on your budget. You really just want to tip the people that you really feel from the heart that you want to give to.”

And whether you want to or not, there are plenty of people you shouldn’t even consider tipping for the holidays. As helpful as they might have been throughout the year, you shouldn’t hand out cash or valuable gifts to:

  • doctors
  • lawyers
  • accountants
  • financial advisers

Basically, no tips for financial pros of any kind — not even your favorite personal finance writer (but I appreciate your appreciation!).

These types of professionals typically earn a nice living without relying on or expecting any gratuities. They may even be insulted by such a gesture. “You’re not going to give cash to these people; it would just not be appropriate,” says Gottsman. “If you want to show them consideration for the holidays, certainly you can send, let’s say, a tray of treats to the office.”

You also want to skip tipping your children’s teachers. As much as they do for your kids, offering them cash may be misconstrued as some kind of bribe –perhaps to boost your kids’ grades or gain them more personal attention. The same might be said of tips for the school principal or coaches. “It’s hard to say don’t tip them because they oftentimes seem the most deserving,” says Post Senning. “But it can create a potentially awkward situation if some kids in class are giving their teachers expensive gifts and other kids aren’t.”

Instead, Post Senning recommends giving deserving teachers a personal card, gift or treat — even better if it’s something your child helped make. “It’s a great way to teach kids the value and importance of thanking people without putting the teacher in an uncomfortable position.”

And at your office, don’t even think about tipping the boss. “You don’t want to send any expensive gifts up the food chain,” says Post Senning. In this situation, as well as for teachers, find out if you can get in on any group gifts.

If you’re a supervisor, don’t give cash to your staff, no matter how much you want to acknowledge their work. A deserved bonus from the company, of course, would be great and happily accepted, I’m sure. But a little extra straight from a supervisor would be awkward at best. Again, a small gift or sincere note would be a better move.

In general, be sure to check company policies before giving a tip or gift toanyone. Some organizations don’t permit their workers to accept cash or extravagant presents. For example, the U.S. postal service prohibits employees from accepting money and limits gifts to a value of $20. “You don’t want your giving to make somebody feel uncomfortable,” says Gottsman. “When somebody says ‘I really can’t,’ you have to accept that.”

Americans Pay Up to 10 Times Too Much for Medications

Female hands with prescription drugs on white background
Just 17 percent of people comparison shop for their prescriptions to find better deals, a new survey shows.

That means 83 percent are potentially paying hundreds of dollars more than necessary each time they fill a prescription, according to Consumer Reports.

The nonprofit found that medications can cost as much as 10 times more at one retailer compared with the cost at another.

Lisa Gill, prescription drug editor at Consumer Reports, tells “CBS This Morning”:

“[We] discovered enormous price variations around the country, but also within the same zip code. Most people would not think, ‘Hey, I’m going to pick up the phone and call around,’ but you can save a bundle of money if you do.”

For its survey, Consumer Reports had secret shoppers call the pharmacies of more than 200 stores in six metros across the country to price five common generic prescription drugs. Their findings included:

Those with the highest prices were:

  • In Raleigh, North Carolina, the price for one month’s supply of generic Cymbalta, an antidepressant that’s also used to treat pain, ranged from $43 (at Costco) to $249 (Walgreens).
  • In Dallas, the price for generic Plavix, a blood thinner, ranged from $23 (independent Preston Village Pharmacy) to $150 (CVS).
  • In Denver, the price for generic Actos, for Type 2 diabetes, ranged from $15 (Cherry Creek Pharmacy) to $330 (grocery store Albertson’s Save-On).

Overall, the retailers with the lowest prices were:

  • HealthWarehouse.com
  • Costco
  • Independent pharmacies

Those with the highest prices were:

  • Walgreens
  • Rite Aid
  • CVS

Medication prices vary more for consumers who are paying out of pocket rather than with insurance. Consumer Reports found, however, that even consumers paying a flat insurance copay can sometimes save money by shopping around:

Sometimes the price you’d pay out of pocket (what those without insurance are charged) might be less than your copay — a fact pharmacists may neglect to mention. Case in point: Metformin — used to treat type 2 diabetes — sells for just $4 for a month’s supply, or $10 for a three-month supply, at stores such as Target and Walmart, while a copay for a month’s worth averages about $11.

6 Things to Consider Before Paying Off a Mortgage Early

Mortgage calculator. House, noney and document. 3dLiving debt-free sounds great, and depending on where you are in life it may actually be attainable. But even if you can pay off your mortgage early, should you?

Although it may be tempting, first consider the opportunity cost of paying off your mortgage early at the expense of other goals or investment options, as well as the impact to your tax situation.

Opportunity cost. By paying off your mortgage early, you’ll save on the additional interest expense that would have been incurred in your regular payments. This savings can be significant, and will increase with the prepayment amount. However, by directing excess cash towards paying down a mortgage, those funds are no longer available for investment. The lower your interest rate, the less you stand to benefit through early retirement of debt.

How can you decide whether it is best to invest excess cash or pay off your mortgage early? Consider the following example:

Suppose the stated interest rate on your mortgage is 4 percent and you are in the 28 percent federal income tax bracket. Your after-tax mortgage rate is roughly 2.9 percent, perhaps lower if you can also deduct the mortgage interest on your state income tax return. For many investors, investment portfolios are constructed using a risk tolerance that carries a much higher annualized expected investment return than 2.9 percent.

For some, the “guaranteed” 2.9 percent savings is more attractive than a higher expected market return, subject to greater volatility and risk. For those with a much higher after-tax mortgage rate, paying off a mortgage early likely becomes a more attractive option.

Here are some other considerations:

Taxes. For many, the ability to deduct mortgage interest is a key component to their tax strategy. Consider whether you will still be able to itemize deductions without mortgage interest.

Investing. Realistically consider whether you’ll invest the cash that would have been directed towards paying down your mortgage or spend it. Consider direct deposits into your brokerage account or increasing your monthly 401(k) contribution in an effort to “set it and forget it.”

Other needs. Aside from the ability to invest excess cash, are there any other more pressing goals on the horizon? Look at your whole financial situation including student loans, credit card debt and whether you have adequate emergency reserves.

Life stage. The decision to pay down a mortgage will vary depending on yourlife stage, risk tolerance and time horizon. If you’re nearing retirement you may have a more conservative asset allocation, and investing the excess cash in the market may mean taking on unnecessary risk. Being debt-free may also become more important later in life.

Time horizon. If you are planning to stay in your home for the long term, it makes more sense to consider overpaying your mortgage than if you don’t anticipate ever paying off the note.

As you weigh the options, set realistic expectations and ensure the proper plan is in place to achieve your objectives. Discuss the decision with your financial adviser and tax professional before committing to a strategy. As with all financial goals, it pays to be flexible. If you’re still unsure which direction is best or whether you have adequate reserves, think about opening a dedicated savings account for your excess cash flows and revisit the decision in three to six months. By separating the funds, you will be less likely to spend it on daily expenses while you consider the options.