Preparing for the Holidays Doesn’t Have to Be a Hassle

The season of holiday shopping is here, and so is the inevitable financial stress — but you don’t have to panic. We’re here to help you conquer the chaos and take control of your finances, so you can give great gifts and feel great about what you spent too.

Budget the Day Away.

The first step for tackling the holiday shopping season is setting a budget. Your budget sets the tone of your whole shopping game plan — what gifts you can buy, which deals to look for, which payment type to use, and more.

Sure, you’ve probably heard the spiel about the importance of budgeting before. It can sound a bit intimidating or overwhelming at times — but it doesn’t have to be. Check out our budgeting guidebook or ask for budgeting help from one of our representatives to make this daunting task easier. The internet is also laden with websites and programs that can do the budgeting for you. Find what works best for you, then set up a spread sheet, scrawl it out in a notebook, or iron it out online. Find your budgeting flow.

Sit down with a nice hot cup of cocoa, wrap up in a cozy blanket, and budget away. Make a night of it and feel confident in your ability to get your finances together. You’ll thank yourself in the end.

Pick Your Weapons of Choice.

There are many ways to fund your holiday shopping. Figure out how much money you have available to spend immediately and what items you will need to buy through credit cards or fund with a holiday loan.

Our advice? Put down the high-interest rate credit cards and check out ours. Our credit cards* feature interest rates significantly lower than the national average; plus, our special holiday loan** can help you to fund your shopping and pay it off responsibly. We understand that our members have a lot of holiday cheer to spread, and we want to help you make it happen.

Start Your List, Check It Twice.

Santa isn’t the only one who should have a list. Get a pen and some paper (or save a note in your phone) and jot down everyone you want to give gifts to this season. Determine how much you can spend for each person first, then brainstorm gifts for each of your names. This is the fun part! Put on Santa’s hat and think of creative ways to show some love to your favorite people.

If you find yourself spreading your budget too thin, go back and adjust the names on your list and the spending amount. Remember, not every gift needs to cost money — don’t underestimate the joy that a homemade gift or a good deed can bring to the holiday season.

Choose Wisely.

You have your gift list, now you need to perfect it. Browse the internet to get an idea of the deals that will be happening near you, either in a store or online.

Compare deals you see for the same item across stores and websites — one company may be selling the item for significantly less than another. You deserve the best deal. Put in the work to find out which stores are promoting the best sales, and make sure the item is still in budget after you factor in taxes and shipping costs.

Finalize Your Plan of Attack.

While many companies offer deals throughout the months of November and December, some are specific to days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. These two days can easily become chaotic if you don’t have a good game plan.

Research which deals are offered online and which require you to show up in person. Because of health and safety concerns this year, many stores will most likely be shifting to an online Black Friday experience, but you should still double check. Also research store hours for any place you might need to visit in person. Store hours may likely be adjusted for Black Friday and COVID-19 precautions, so keep a close eye on company websites for the latest updates.

Another shopping holiday to look out for is the lesser known but crucially important Small Business Saturday. It falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and it is more important than ever this year. With the pandemic still in effect, many small businesses are struggling. On Small Business Saturday, local businesses usually break out great deals and some even organize seasonal events for their customers. This day is a great way to give back to your community, so look into the local businesses nearest to you and see how you can support them.

Shop Responsibly.

Now that you have a budget, a list, and a plan of attack – you are all set to shop responsibly this holiday season. The holidays are a time for joy, so don’t let your finances stress you out. Instead of panic-spending and budget-breaking, take some time to prepare and research your options, like low-interest credit cards or a holiday personal loan. You’ll be happy you did, especially when those on your gift list and your wallet are thanking you.

*APR varies up to 18% for all Visa Credit Cards when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**APR = Annual Percentage Rate. APR as low as 6.99%, terms up to 12 months, minimum loan amount is $500, and maximum loan amount is $2,400. A $2,400 loan at 6.99% APR for 12 months would have a monthly payment amount of $207.65. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. One holiday loan open per member. Refinance option for prior holiday loan is available, see credit union for details. Maximum dollar amount able to borrow is based on creditworthiness and loan term. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Personal Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

How to Keep Holiday Shopping Happy (and Safe)

Keep your holiday shopping merry and bright with these tips to help you watch your wallet, shop smart, and protect your personal and financial information.

  • Make a list and a budget. Impulse purchases (ahem, gifts for yourself) are less tempting when you have a set plan. Consider how much you’re willing to put on your credit card this holiday season, and how long it will take to pay it off. If money is tighter this year, paying for a gift over time with a layaway option may be a smarter move. Or if you can save up enough cash before you shop, that is an ideal option.
  • Do your research. Read reviews and recommendations about products, the seller, and warranties from trusted sources. If you’re shopping online, read reviews to see if items were never delivered or not as advertised. Are you donating to a charity this holiday season? Look into all the details first to make sure it’s legitimate.
  • Look for the best deals. Check out websites that compare prices for items that you are looking to buy. Be sure to also check out shipping costs for online orders and factor that into your budget. Search for coupon codes by looking up a particular store’s name along with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.” To save extra money later on, keep an eye out for rebates on your purchases.
  • Keep track of your purchases. Make sure you were charged the correct amount, and save all your receipts. If you shop online, keep copies of your order number, the return policy, and shipping costs. Be sure your packages are delivered to a secure location or pick them up at your local store. Gift cards should be treated like cash and stored in a safe place.
  • Don’t give out personal information. Protect yourself online by shopping only on secure websites with an “https” web address. Look to see what shopping apps and websites do with your personal data and how they keep it secure. Avoid any offer, phone call, text message, or email that asks you to give out your personal or financial information – no matter how great it may sound. It is most likely a scam trying to steal your identity and financial data.

Follow these five steps and you won’t have anything to worry about this holiday season (aside from figuring out how long it might take you to wrap up all those great holiday deals you purchased).

Article Source: Gretchen Abraham for consumer.ftc.gov

What Not to Buy in December

December may be one of the best shopping months. No matter where you look, it is easy to find either a holiday or year-end deal or discount for almost anything you can imagine.

However, despite all of the December sales extravaganzas, not everything is a great deal. Here are few purchases Consumer Reports and NerdWallet say are worth postponing until the new year.

Jewelry: If you want to really get the best deal wait until late January to buy any diamonds or jewelry. That sweet spot between the end of the holidays and just before Valentine’s Day is generally when jewelers and department stores launch their deepest sales discounts.

Fitness equipment: The very best deals are in the warmer months – however, there are usually sales available in early January if your fitness goals simply can’t wait.

Bedding: Nothing beats 50-75% off deals during January white sales. If you can, hold off until then to buy blankets, sheet sets, and towels. Imagine how much better you’ll sleep knowing you got them at such a discount!

Winter clothing: The end of January through early February is the best time of year to get your winter gear for less.

Televisions: Black Friday deals are hard to beat. If you missed them, try shopping for your next high-end television in late January/early February (for upcoming SuperBowl deals).

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com