Tips for Creating and Sticking to Your Holiday Budget

It’s that time of year again! Here are some budget conscious shopping tips as we head into the holiday season.

Set a Spending Limit: Before you start to shop, decide on an amount that you are comfortable with and can afford to spend on gifts this year. Be realistic and firm, and stick to this spending limit throughout the holiday season. Don’t forget to also factor in your regular monthly bills that will need to be paid during this time.

Don’t Forget You Might Need to Buy Other Items Besides Gifts: Other factors to include in your holiday spending budget might be travel, gift wrap, decorations, food, and clothing. These items may be outside of the holiday gifts you are purchasing, but can still add up and blow your holiday budget if you forget about them.

Do Your Research: Before you head out to the store or make an online purchase, do your research. How much do the things on your list cost, and are there any promotions or online deals you can take advantage of to save money? If the items on your list are ones you have purchased in the past, see if you have previous receipts or online order emails to remind yourself how much the items cost or where you purchased them.

Make a List: At the beginning of the season, make a gift list with one or two ideas for each person – within your budget of course. Try to create this list as soon as possible, so that if any of the items on it are on sale – you can get them early and at a discount. Be sure to also stick to your list – once it’s made, it’s made. Try not to buy extras or overspend.

Scale Back: If you’re on a tight budget and your gift list includes many people outside of immediate family or kids, you might need to consider cutting your gift list. Instead, you can always try a homemade gift that’s much less expensive for adults outside of immediate family (baking cookies, crafting something personalized) to save your holiday spending budget.

Try Secret Santa: If you have a rather large family or a big friend group – you can always try the Secret Santa gift method. This way you won’t have to buy an individual gift for everyone – you can simply pick one name out of a Santa hat, the group will set the spend limit together as a whole so it’s the same for all, and then you only have to buy one gift.

Compare Prices: Once your list is made, start doing some comparison shopping to see where you can purchase the items that will save you the most money. Check out early Black Friday deals (which many retailers have been participating in for 2021), Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday savings, and online coupons. Be sure to also sign up for emails with the retailers you plan to shop with this year, as well as follow their social media pages to keep an eye out for timely promotions.

Track Your Spending: Once you start purchasing gifts, keep a tally of how much you are spending to make sure you are in line with your original budget. Keep this as up to date as possible so you know how much you’ve spent and what is still left to buy.

Happy Holidays!

Article Source: News 12 New Jersey

This Year Start Your Holiday Shopping Early

In years past, Thanksgiving (and subsequently the holidays) have probably involved family bonding opportunities and hassle-free trips to the grocery store and mall. However, because of the pandemic and its effects on retailers and shipping delays, the holiday season might look a little different this year.

What Changed?

Because of supply chain issues, fluctuating prices on common goods, and increased consumer demand – shortages are coming into play for the holidays in 2021. Consumers can expect a “shopocalypse” as COVID-related shipping issues slow down the movement of goods from manufacturers to the shelves of retail stores.

International brands aren’t exempt from the effects of COVID, either. For example, the sales of H&M slowed down in September because of delivery delays. Nike, also lowered its sales forecast for Thanksgiving after closing 80% of its factories in Vietnam. Bed Bath and Beyond’s revenue also fell 26% due to shipping issues.

Aside from the disruptions in the supply chain – the holiday season is also shorter this year, which means that retailers have less time to sell. Because of this, most stores will be more incentivized to create deals as early as the first week of November to beat the competition. In short, you can still get Black Friday-worthy deals earlier in November – so if you can, don’t wait and risk running out of your favorite items this year.

With all of the changes happening in the supply chain, it’s vital for you to start shopping early to get ahead of the uncertainties of retail store closures and potential shipping delays.

3 Top Holiday Shopping Tips for 2021

Even though there have been a lot of changes in the retail industry, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy shopping for the holidays this year. Below are some of our best holiday shopping tips so you can still make the most out of the season!

Start Early

Unlike previous years, don’t wait for any major discounts from your favorite retailer before you start shopping. If you’re planning to get someone a new item that’s popular, buy it as soon as possible before the item goes out of stock.

Be Realistic

Some retailers are whittling down their products to ensure that they can keep certain items in stock. When buying products for the holidays, don’t fixate on a specific color or style. Be realistic and consider other styles of the same product.

Shop From Local and Domestic Stores

When shopping for gifts, buy from local and domestic stores. Aside from having the opportunity to check out the items in person – shopping from local stores (rather than buying items online), is also the best way to make sure that your loved ones receive their gifts on time.

Start Shopping Now

As you shop this year, don’t forget that 2021 has taken a toll on everyone — from small business owners to customer service associates. Help businesses recover from the pandemic by shopping early and only buying items that you need.

Online Shopping Tips for This Unusual Holiday Season

This year more so than others – given the pandemic, many people have been shopping online for the holidays instead of in the store. If you’re still shopping and getting hit left and right with emails for online sales, coupons, and deals – keep reading to find out how to save money and shop safely without exposing yourself to online fraud.

  • If you’re using a home computer to order gifts online, first be sure you have the latest antivirus software installed prior to placing any orders.
  • Take time to compare products. To get the best deal, always compare products between different stores. Do some research online, check product comparison sites, and read online reviews before you click “add to cart.”
  • Check out the seller. Confirm that the seller you are deciding to purchase from is legitimate. Look for reviews about their reputation and customer service, and be sure you can contact the seller (or that you can pay via PayPal on their site) if you have a dispute.
  • Look for coupon codes. Search for the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.” Or you can check for deals on their website or research available offers on a site such as retailmenot.com
  • Pay by credit card. Paying by credit card gives you added protections. Never mail cash or wire money to an online seller. If the seller asks you to pay this way, it is most likely a scam.
  • Use secure checkout. Before you enter your credit card information online, check that the website address starts with “https.” The “s” within any web address stands for secure. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t enter any personal or financial information. You should also see a lock icon where the secure website address is too.
  • Keep records of online transactions until you get your purchase, confirm you got what you ordered, and that you won’t have to return the item.

If you follow the above steps when buying online and purchase smart, this season of cyber holiday shopping is bound to be a breeze!

Should you happen to encounter any scams while shopping online, you can report it to the FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/

Happy Holiday shopping!

 

Article Source: S. Walker for Consumer.FTC.gov

How to Safely Shop for the Holidays this Year

It’s been a stressful year, plus now add the usual hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday season and you might start to feel a bit of pressure – especially on your budget that might have taken a big hit over the past few months. Fortunately, there are some simple steps that can help make the holiday season a little less stressful. Below are some tips on how to take advantage of holiday shopping trends to make the most of the holidays without getting overwhelmed.

Take advantage of online ordering.

With the colder weather coming, experts are predicting a resurgence in coronavirus cases. Many stores are prepared. They’re encouraging people to shop online while also increasing their capacity for curbside pick-up. There are reasons to take advantage of this service that go beyond health and safety. Often provided as a free service, curbside pick-up is great way to save yourself shopping time. Rather than gathering the items yourself, you can simply drive up and have everything placed in your car for you. Plus, you’ll resist the temptation to buy extra items you see in the store that you don’t really “need.”

Start shopping now.

According to Business Insider, increased online ordering has shipping providers predicting a backlog this season (which most people have probably experienced this year due to the ongoing pandemic). This may cause issues for last minute shoppers who are looking to get their orders in time for holiday celebrations. Another problem we’ve seen this year, is the fact that store inventory is lower and stock may run out faster than usual.  Shopping as early as possible also gives you more opportunities to take advantage of sales, and continue to save for any potential items you might still need as it gets further into December.

Keep gift giving simple.

A still unstable economy means tighter budgets for most people and concerns about spending a large amount of money on gifts. Gift cards are always a simple, practical option – which are easy to buy and send. Gift card recipients will also get the choice to be able to purchase what they truly want or need. All First Financial locations offer Visa Gift Cards available in denominations of $20 to $500, and are just $3.95 per card.* Stop by your local branch drive thru today to get yours!

Combine holiday activities.

Just like summer vacation from school, winter break can add pressure to find safe entertainment options for the family this year. Look for fun and easy ways to get the whole family involved in holiday preparations.  Make decorating into a mini holiday party with festive music. Assign everyone a decorating task and hand out prizes for different categories like “most creative” or “fastest decorator.” Instead of shopping, homemade holiday gifts can be a nice family activity. Another idea is to look for apps that blend entertainment such as reading or games with charitable causes to help kids learn to give to others, especially this time of year.

While the pandemic has changed the way we do things or may celebrate this year, there is still room for holiday joy and family memories. Wishing you and yours a happy upcoming holiday season!

*If the gift card is inactive for 360 days, an inactivity fee of $2.50 per month will be charged to the card – starting from the date of activation. If the card is lost or stolen, the replacement fee is $15.00.

Article Source: Naomi Anderson, CUInsight.com

 

How to Holiday Shop and Not Regret it in the New Year

It’s the holiday season and we love spending money on those we care about right? It’s very easy to overspend when it comes to holiday shopping.  According to a recent Gallup study, 1/3 of consumers expected to spend over $1,000 on gifts. While that might seem like a great idea in December, there may be some regrets spending that amount come January. If you’d like to avoid demolishing your budget with holiday spending this year, consider these few tips.

Stick to a set budget: It can be really easy to add a few extra items to your shopping cart when you see big sales and savings. It can be even easier if you’re shopping online. What you really need to do is plan ahead, and if you already missed the boat this year – start now for next November. Figure out how much you’ve set aside to spend and don’t allow yourself to make any last minute or impulse purchases. Think about who you’re buying for and pick out something within budget that you know they’ll love. If you’re under budget, choose some smaller items or stocking stuffers until you’ve met your spending goal.

Start early: Are you a last minute shopper who typically hits the mall on December 23 or 24? Unfortunately you won’t find nearly as many deals on December 22 or 23 as you would if you started looking in early November.  Plus, even if you do find exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll probably be in such a hurry to finish your shopping, that you may be forced to pay whatever the price tag says without any sale options since you’ll be out of time.  If you start coming up with ideas in October or November, you’ll have plenty of time to do your research, save up, and find the best deals. Don’t overpay for last minute gifts that you could have gotten on sale weeks ago.

Save your receipts: There’s nothing worse than buying someone a clothing item and then finding out you bought the wrong size. No matter what you’re buying, there’s a chance it’s going to need to be returned. If you don’t have receipts, it’s quite possible the store won’t refund your money in full. If you can remember to get a gift receipt and include it with your gift – even better!

If you would like to get ahead of the game for next year’s holiday shopping – ask us about our Holiday Club Savings Account. You can easily setup payroll deductions from each paycheck to automatically go into the account, and by October you’ll be all set to shop for everyone on your list!*

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. View full Rewards First program details at firstffcu.com.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Tips for Holiday Shopping on a Budget

‘Tis the season…to avoid going broke buying presents for your loved ones. It’s easy to do, right? Sometimes we get carried away and spend more money than we intended to. You don’t want to look like a cheap gift giver, but you also don’t want to buy the whole store either. So, how do you buy awesome gifts for everyone on your list without breaking the bank? We have a few tips to help keep your wallet full this holiday season.

Make a List, Check it Twice. Hey, the process works for Santa so it can work for you too! Start with a list of people you plan to buy for, jot down the gifts you think they’ll love and then check it twice. Santa has to buy gifts for the whole world, but you don’t have to. If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, trim your list. Look at alternatives like homemade gifts or baked goods so you can spread holiday cheer without looking like a Scrooge or going broke.

Create a Budget Based on Your Finances. Your best friend started a great job a few years ago and always gets you the most amazing gifts. However, if you’re in a different place in your financial life, don’t overextend yourself to match another’s gifts. Look at your budget and see what you can do. Don’t shop based on what you think you should spend. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” really does ring true here. It’s still possible to give thoughtful gifts to your loved ones without going into debt.

Take Advantage of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Online Deals. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest shopping days of the year. And for good reason – those are the two days you can get the best deals and save the most money. Electronics and toys are usually highly desired items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so if those are on your list, don’t miss the discounts. However if you did miss these two shopping days this year, keep checking your list and retailers’ websites and promotional emails – a lot of the time they end up extending their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales or even offering new discounts in the weeks leading up to December 25th.

Keep It Local. Shopping local is a great way to save a little cash while also supporting local businesses. Because there are fewer hands involved, buying local can often save you some money. You’ll likely save by purchasing green beans from a produce stand because the farmer doesn’t have to divvy up profits the way a chain supermarket does. It’s also a great way to improve your local economy. Plus, shopping at local businesses helps to improve your town’s economy. Follow your local news and check Facebook pages in your area to see what businesses are offering locally made products.

We know that holiday shopping can be stressful. You’re paying your regular bills, taking care of your regular expenses, and planning for holiday shopping on top of that. It can be tempting to open multiple credit cards or store cards, which often come with incredibly high interest rates. Don’t get stuck paying big balances on multiple cards. We have numerous options that can help you fund your holiday shopping without breaking the bank!

Let us help. Stop by, check out our website or give us a call to see what money saving options we have to help you this holiday season.