It’s here! Holiday shopping season. So, during this time of year, it’s important to be smarter with your money including holiday shopping on a budget or protecting your finances during a busy spending season. We have great advice to help you make smarter financial decisions during the holidays.
Holiday Shopping on a Budget: Less Money, More Merry!
Holiday shopping on a budget shouldn’t leave you feeling like old Mr. Scrooge. It’s not necessarily about buying less, it’s about buying smarter. Consider the following to make sure your holidays are merry, bright, and debt-free!
Don’t Believe the Hype
“Lowest prices of the Season!” “60-inch Flat Screen TVs for just $50!”
With all the advertising buzz that goes into Black Friday and other after-Thanksgiving shopping days, you might think that the deals offered then are the best you’re going see. But before you are swayed by a Black Friday or Cyber Monday special that’s too good to pass up, do a little research first. There’s a reason a retailer can afford to sell a big screen TV for $50, and it’s probably because the quality of the item is not the best.
Also, consider this promotional tactic. When retailers announce that an item was “Previously $100, Now on Sale for $50,” the law says their “previously” price needs to represent the price that the item sold at for a certain percentage of the year. This can cause retailers to inflate their prices to show a bigger savings.
As a savvy shopper, you should know the everyday prices of the items you want to buy, especially if it’s a big-ticket item like electronics or the trending toy of the season. This way, when retailers start to promote discounted prices, you’ll know what you’re really saving.
Wait for the Best Discounts
When you’re holiday shopping on a budget, discounts and coupon codes can go a long way towards making your dollars stretch. Also, they’re scientifically proven to bring happiness!
Sign up for promotional emails from the stores you shop at most frequently and you’ll quickly receive emails that include a percentage off savings, BOGO deals, or free shipping. You’ll soon notice a pattern on when retailers offer discounts and determine the maximum discount that each retailer is willing to offer. There’s no sense in jumping on a 20% off coupon when you know this retailer offers 40-60% off savings on a regular basis.
Easily Save All Year Long
Consider opening a holiday club account to easily put money away all year long to spend on holiday shopping. Holiday club accounts allow you save a small amount each week and watch your holiday shopping dollars grow with very little work on your part. Do a little bit of pre-planning to determine what gifts you’ll need to buy and what type of budget will be required. Then, choose a dollar amount to transfer into your holiday account at specific intervals and you can easily turn $25 a week into $1,300 at the end of the year to put towards your holiday shopping.
Keep Your Identity Wrapped Up During the Holidays
While the holidays are a time of giving, they can also be a time of taking. This is prime season for scammers and thieves to target your holiday spirit. Follow these 10 sensible precautions for protecting yourself and loved ones.
Shop Smart In Stores and Online
1. Keep track of your cards and wallet. Don’t lose sight of your wallet, purse, or phone in the hustle and bustle of shopping. In stores, it is easy to forget your credit or debit card after check out. After every transaction, return your card to the same place in your wallet.
2. Guard your PIN. If you pay with a debit card in the store, block the keypad with your body while you enter your PIN.
3. Watch what you say. In stores, you may be asked for personal information such as your phone number, address, or birthday as you check out. Speak quietly to the clerk.
4. Too-good-to-be-true could be a trap. Don’t fall victim to rock-bottom prices from unknown internet retailers—these could be fake stores run by fraudsters.
5. Don’t make purchases over public Wi-Fi. If you shop using your mobile phone in public, stay on your carrier’s cellular network. Free public Wi-Fi can be much less secure.
Trust Your Instincts
6. Give, but verify. You will probably receive more phone, mail, and email solicitations from charities near the holidays. Use caution with unfamiliar charities. Do your research first.
7. Avoid phishing attacks. Government, banks, and credit card providers will NOT ask for personal information via an email or by calling you. If in doubt, hit delete or hang up. Go to the organization’s website or call using a phone number you looked up yourself.
Guard Your Privacy
8. Customize your social media privacy settings. Take advantage of your options in social media privacy settings. Are you sharing information with friends only or the public?
9. Coordinate with family. If your kids or Aunt Edna share family photos with you tagged in exotic locales, they may show up on your social feeds.
10. Don’t leave packages or mail unattended. An overflowing mailbox or packages on the front stoop are sure signs your family is out of town.