This Friday officially begins the holiday shopping season. The National Retail Federation (www.nrf.com) reports that holiday sales in 2012 increased 3.5% to $579.5 billion, and expects sales this year to increase 3.9% to $602.1 billion. It’s easy to over spend this time of year, and with this in mind, I put together the following holiday shopping tips to help you save time and money, avoid scams, bypass extreme post-holiday debt, and find the best prices.
Know Your Limits and Shop with a Budget in Mind
It’s best to establish a comfortable spending limit before heading out to shop. If you use credit cards, make sure you don’t go beyond your limits and that you can afford to repay the debt after the holidays. It’s also important to keep in mind that using up 50% or more of your available credit can adversely affect your credit rating. Spend smart so that once the holidays are over you are able to comfortably meet your monthly payment obligations; and make a plan to pay off the money you’ve spent once the New Year arrives.
Make a List of Who You’re Buying Gifts for and Set Spending Limits
Before you head out shopping, determine who is on your gift list and which gifts you plan on buying for them. Be sure to include everyone, even teachers, coworkers, and neighbors. By knowing exactly what you are going to buy in advance, you avoid buying more than you budgeted for. It’s also a good idea to figure out how much you actually want to spend on each person. By creating a list and an advance spending plan, you’re keeping yourself accountable, which is key to ensuring that you don’t overspend.
Comparative Shop and Always Look for Discounts
Do some comparative shopping before setting out to buy gifts. Visit online retailers to see what kind of deals they have and which site offers the lowest price. Many stores even provide printable coupons or online discount coupon codes that further help reduce your holiday spending (sometimes by up to 20%). Google search the item you plan on buying and the word “coupon.” If a discount code or printable coupon is available, it will pop-up in the search. A lot of stores will even price match in order to ensure they get the sale. There’s nothing worse than buying a gift at full price, only to see that another retailer has it for less. So, before you go shopping, compare prices – from newspaper ads to online shopping that offers free shipping and other holiday deals, do your research.
Be Selective with Your Information
Only sign-up and share your information with reliable shopping apps and Web sites. Provide the minimum required personal details and ask yourself if the company really needs your birthday or access to your current location. Because people are shopping online in record numbers during the holiday season, there are increases in fraud and a risk of permanent damage to your credit history. To prevent holiday shopping fraud in the form of having your identity stolen or your bank accounts hacked, it’s important to remember the value of information privacy.
Give a Gift Card
If you’ve had trouble finding the perfect gift or you simply run out of time, give the gift that everyone’s sure to love – a Nutmeg VISA® Gift Card. It truly is the gift for anyone on your holiday shopping list. You can even register the Gift Card to protect it in the event that it’s ever lost or stolen – something you can’t do with a holiday card filled with money.
We wish you all a happy holiday season! Thank you for choosing to bank with us.
Unfortunately, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. It can create problems with your credit, finances, employment, and even your personal assets. With the holiday season upon us, I want to remind you that it is more important than ever to be careful with your personal information. I also want to provide you with some easy “best practices” for avoiding ID Theft.
Review Credit Reports at Least Once a Year. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles consumers to a free credit report once a year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. This means you can get a free credit report three times a year – One from each credit reporting agency. You can receive reports by contacting the credit reporting agencies directly or by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Also… it’s important to know that annualcreditreport.com is the only place you can get your credit report free – freecreditreport.com is NOT free!
Monitor Financial Statements and Online Banking Regularly. You should get into the habit of checking your statements and periodically reviewing your account transactions and online activities. This will help you identify unauthorized account activities early, preventing potential losses to your personal accounts.
Shred Documents with Personal and Financial Information. Financial statements, credit card offers and billing statements are examples of documents you should be shredding.
Look Out for Scams Involving Your Personal Information. Never give any credit card, financial institution, or social security information to anyone that has contacted you over the telephone or Internet. When you contact a company, make sure you are comfortable with the company and the representative before providing any personal information. Legitimate organizations never call you directly and ask for sensitive information over unsecured communication channels.
In addition to all this, we do our part to ensure you are protected by offering an Identity Theft Program that will help fix the damage that is done if your identity is stolen. In the event that you are a victim of ID Theft and you are enrolled with us for this service, you would give us a call and we would refer you to a Recovery Advocate, who would be assigned to your case until your identity is restored. Our program also:
provides a customized recovery plan within 72 hours;
alerts the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion);
works with all government and law enforcement agencies to restore your identity;
completes all forms and follow-up on your behalf.
For more information about our ID Theft Program, click here. And for credit report resources, click here.
We are always happy to answer any questions you might have about your accounts, identity theft, or any other financial concerns. Please contact us immediately if you suspect tampering with any of your accounts. Our job is to work with you to stop unauthorized use of your accounts, and help you get things back to normal should you be a victim of identity theft.
Thank you for banking with us!
President and CEO