Know Before You Go Holiday Tips
Holiday shopping has a long and proud tradition in my family! Once we recovered from our Thanksgiving meal and dishes, we’d scour the newspaper ads while the TV blasted commercials as accompaniment—all in preparation for the big (shopping) day. Snow, sleet or sunshine, we’d get on the bus to be at our favorite downtown department store when the doors opened. Even as a kid, I had my shopping list in mitten, and was committed to finding bargains.
Fast forward to San Diego and the holiday season 2014! On the holiday headquarters portion of their site, the National Retail Federation estimates that the average consumer plans to spend $804, which, according to their consumer shopping survey, is nearly 5 percent over last year’s actual $767. I don’t consider myself to be a holiday shopping or travel expert, but here are some tips that I hope save you time and money.
Create a budget and use it
Before you hit the stores—in person or online—create a budget. And not just for shopping, but for the holiday season. Include travel, entertainment, groceries, decorations and clothes. Remember your favorite nonprofit organization, too, so that you have that good holiday feeling and a potential tax deduction (consult your tax advisor).
Stick to your list
One year, I did all my holiday shopping online by November 6. I thought I could relax and enjoy everything else about the holidays, but I was swept up (willingly) by the holiday excitement and went to the mall to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Mark off your list with the actual prices, and anything you’ve added, to keep track of your budget. And when you’ve checked off the items on your list, be sure to stop.
Take advantage of shopping online
Ah, the joy of comparing prices, finding deals and paying for them from the comfort of your couch (and smartphone)! I take advantage of free shipping as much as possible since our family lives back East. Just don’t let online shopping become too easy, or that budget list will have a lot of red on it.
Pay with plastic
And I’m not just saying this because I work at Mission Fed. I’ve always preferred to pay with a Debit or Credit Card because they’re more convenient (and safer) than walking around with cash, and offer the protections and benefits that come with your card. Paying with your Debit Card takes the money right out of your Checking Account, which makes it easier to stay on budget. Paying with your Credit Card gives you the benefits of that card, including earning points on free Mission Rewards or the rewards programs on other cards. If I pay with my Credit Card, I use my Mobile Banking app to transfer the money from Checking to Credit Card right away—which helps me make sure I’m living and shopping within my means.
Protect your cards
You can also enroll in Free Fraud Text Alerts at Mission Fed, or a similar service at your other credit union or bank. That way, you’ll get the news if someone is using your Credit or Debit Card in Atlantic Beach, Florida, when you’re in Pacific Beach, San Diego. The few times that I have received an alert, I had to admit that all those purchases in such a short amount of time might have looked fishy—but they were all mine.
Call with your travel plans. If you’ll be traveling, call Mission Fed or your financial institution and ask them to put a travel note on your account for your Debit Card and Credit Card. Then you don’t have to run the risk that you’ll be at a restaurant across the country where you’ve just offered to pick up the check for a family dinner, and suffer the embarrassment (and family teasing for decades) if your card gets declined.
With a little discipline, you’ll be sending yourself a thank you note in January for staying on budget. If you have some holiday tips, please share them! The more, the merrier.
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