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Holiday Budgeting Tips to Save While Shopping

The holiday season is upon us, meaning that its time to give thanks, take out the Christmas ornaments and put up the tree, and go shopping for gifts. Holiday shopping can be a fun activity for most of us and it might be one of the things that we look forward to this season. For others, holiday shopping can be stressful and nerve wrecking, especially when they think about their credit card bills early next year. This article will provide you with some basic tips and information on how to be a smart shopper this holiday season without dealing with any anxiety or unpleasantness.

Create a Budget and Stick to it

Reviewing your past holiday spending can be a good starting point in creating a budget for the upcoming holiday season. Write down the amount that you think you can afford this year (plus or minus $100.00 for the best and worst case scenarios). Next, make a list of people and write down the gift you would like to give them. This may prevent you from buying impulse gifts that may stretch or exceed your budget.

Search for the Best Deals

Price comparison can be an effective tool in finding the best deals. Remember that holiday sales are not always legitimate, some merchants advertise just to entice customers to come in to their stores. When purchasing from a sale, remember to save your receipt. Many merchants will credit you with the difference in price if you find the same item for a lesser price from a competitor.

Check Merchant Refund and Return Policies

Refund and return policies can vary from store to store. Also keep in mind that refund and return policies for sale items can be different from standard store policies, especially if the item is declared as a ‘clearance’. Ask the merchant about their refund and return policies before making your purchase. Obtaining a refund or return without a store receipt is often difficult, so save yourself the headache and hold onto your receipts and other proof of purchase.

Paying for your Purchases

Paying with cash can be helpful in controlling your expenses in terms of your budget. However, carrying cash around malls and stores is dangerous, especially if you decide to do all your shopping on the same day. Shopping can be strenuous and shoppers could easily loose their concentration and misplace their wallets or fall victims to thievery.

Using major or merchant credit cards is another effective way to pay for your holiday purchases. However, you have to be cautious and use credit cards as a loan and remind yourself that credit is never free.

Debit cards are a much safer option for consumers who do not want to pay high credit card interest rates. When using debit cards, shoppers have to be careful not to exceed their balance. Doing so may result in overdraft penalties that can range from $ 20.00 – $40.00 depending on the lending institute.

You should not consider applying for a secured loan for your holiday purchases. Applying for a home equity loan or other types of secured loans can cause devastating results if you are unable to pay off those loans. These types of loans should only be considered for planned expenses (tuition, home improvements, medical) and for other emergency related situations.

Online Holiday Shopping

Shopping on the Internet can be convenient and hassle free for consumers who simply do not have the time or patience to shop at their local malls. According to eMarketer, a research firm specializing in e-commerce, U.S. consumers are expected to spend $16.7 billion on online shopping during the holiday months of November and December, an increase of 29 percent from the previous year. If you are planning to purchase items from online retailers or auction websites this holiday season, CreditGUARD of America has provided the following guidelines/suggestions to make your online transactions more secure and pleasant.

  • Protect your privacy: Only perform online transactions with companies that you are familiar with. Every web retailer should have a privacy policy on their website which should be read carefully. Do not email personal or financial information to anyone. In the past five years alone, 27 million Americans have fallen victims of identity theft (Federal Trade Commission). Various credit monitoring services such as Coach Credit Scout from CreditGUARD of America are available to consumers today. Credit monitoring services will help you detect and respond quickly to fraudulent activities.
  • Inspect the item before purchase: Examine the item description carefully. Often times the image provided on the website does not match the actual product. Also pay close attention to words such as ‘refurbished’, which normally means that the item is not in its original condition.
  • Tracking your purchase: Consumers should print and save all records of their online transactions for future references.
  • Examine shipping and handling fees: Shipping and handling fees should be considered before purchasing the item. Sometimes, these charges can exceed the original item price.
  • Examine refund and return policies: Online retailer refund and return policies can also vary from company to company. Read the refund and return policies to see if you can return the item for a full refund if not satisfied with the purchase.

Seek Help if You Anticipate or Experience Financial Difficulties

If you see a financial crisis looming or are currently experiencing one, taking steps to manage the problem responsibly can help you avoid greater financial difficulties. Non-profit credit counseling companies such as CreditGUARD of America are created to provide these services to consumers who are currently experiencing high debt and interest charges. Credit counseling companies can reduce or even eliminate debt and interest charges and can consolidate all your debt into a one low monthly payment.

** Federal Trade Commission Home Page – Holiday Shopping Tips. Retrieved from http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/holiday/

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