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