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.