Washington D.C. – Retailers have “upped the ante” this year by offering “door busters,” “midnight specials” and other holiday sales incentives well before Thanksgiving’s Black Friday. To provide consumers with a fighting chance as they are bombarded with “deals,” Jack Gillis, CFA’s Executive Director, prepared ten tips to protect their wallets during this holiday spending season.
Top Ten Tips for Holiday Shoppers
Make a List, Check It Twice: Decide how much you can spend this holiday and stick to it. When you make your list, include an amount for each person and, if you know what you’re getting them, what you expect to pay for the item. Adding your list up at the kitchen table can be an eye opener—so make adjustments early rather than when you are running through the stores or pounding on your keyboard. And when you’re shopping, keep a running total of your spending—it’s amazing how keeping tabs on your total will protect your wallet as it fills with receipts!
You Gotta Shop Around: You can easily save 10 percent, or considerably more, by comparing prices. When shopping around online, be sure you purchase from a secure site, review receipts for accuracy, and be mindful of shipping costs. If free shipping is available with a minimum purchase, be sure the additional items are really needed and don’t put you way over the ‘free shipping’ requirement.
Give the Scammers Goose Eggs, Not Your Money: If you see a popular item online for much less than the typical price, beware—it could be from a fraudster. That amazing deal may simply be a way to get your credit card information. Stick with companies you know and steer clear of email and social network offers from unfamiliar sellers – they could be scammers who will take your money and run.
Santa’s Receipts are Gold: Whether buying online or in-store, keep all receipts—they are gold! Without a receipt, retailers will usually refund the item’s current price, not what you actually paid. And if you find an item cheaper elsewhere, many retailers will match the lower price, but only if you have the receipt.
Avoid Extra Treats: When shopping online, be careful of additional “suggested” items based upon your purchases. Your savings after searching for the best price can evaporate when you buy the extras that pop up as you check out.
Don’t Get Wrapped Up in Debt: Avoid borrowing money for holiday gift giving. Remember, the old adage—it’s the thought that counts—not the cost! If you use a credit, rather than debit card, be sure you know the day your payment is due so that high interest charges don’t evaporate the great buys you made.
Dream of a Green Christmas: To avoid overspending, consider paying with cash. Surveys show we spend more when using a credit card—doling out the “green” is a great way to limit your spending.
Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Christmas: Identity thieves love unsecured wireless networks—so only connect to networks that require a security key or certificate. If you use a wireless connection at home, be sure that the security features are turned on and set your own password, rather than use the default password.
Ask Santa About Returns: Before checking out, double check return policies and time limits. Some retailers will let you return online purchases to their stores to avoid return shipping charges, others actually provide free return labels.
Checkout with Care: Watch out for “savings” coupons and clubs when checking out—you may be signing up for a monthly program and your credit or debit card number could be transferred to a another company. These programs typically charge $10 to $15 a month and the rigmarole to cancel can be a hassle.