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Covering Financial Bases: Holiday Shopping


Covering Financial Bases: Holiday Shopping

No sooner had the kitchen been picked up, turkey wrapped and put in the fridge for sandwiches and Aunt Elma was out the door did the phone rang with the announcement, “I’m finishing with my Christmas shopping. And I didn’t even max out my credit cards!” Turns out, a lot of folks got much of their holiday shopping out of the way hours before Black Friday officially kicked off.

For those of you who still have yet to brave the crowds or click through the savings pages on your favorite retailer’s website, there are a few things you should keep in mind so that you’re not feeling the pain when you get your credit card statement in January.

Turkeys and Gadgets

Granted, those initial door-buster sales on Thanksgiving night were quite impressive. Millions of TV and other electronic gadgets were gobbled up faster than the turkey. Black Friday proved to be another huge success; Small Business Saturday was next and as a result, millions of small business owners saw some of their biggest days in terms of sales. Now, here we are – Cyber Monday and if the past several days are any indication, we’re all in for even more savings. Here’s the kicker though – we can expect impressive savings from now right on up to Christmas – even on those days that don’t have some kind of distinction.

Why is this important? Many folks are in the midst of determining how much they want to spend and how much they want to take on in credit card debt. This also means you have a little more time to use your rewards points. In other words: Cyber Monday isn’t the last chance for saving money this holiday season. Each day moves us that much closer to Christmas, but there’s still time to rethink a few things. Keep reading for our tried and true tips that won’t weigh you down with credit card debt.

Make a List, Check it Twice

A list is a shopper’s best friend. In fact, a list that includes everyone you want to buy gifts for, along with how much you want to spend, is even better. Seeing it on paper can keep your mindful of your budget.

Everyone comes to my house for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. My list evolves from around mid-October right on to the new year,

says Mischa Little, who teaches a local financial group of women in her small Alabama hometown.

I decide what I’m cooking for both holidays and by the first of November, I’ve honed in my list for every ingredient I’ll need. From there, there’s a third column or page that has everyone’s name of who I need to buy gifts for. Three subtotals for how much it should cost – Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner and holiday gifts.

Her rule is to prepare, organize and execute.

Don’t underestimate many retailers’ price match programs. In fact, some credit card companies are even offering their own programs. CitiBank announced recently it would be roaming the internet sales and if it finds something one of its cardmembers bought recently, it would refund the difference via statement credits. CitiBank Rewind is the program and it’s getting a lot of attention. Scouring the sale papers could pay off too. Just be sure the products are exactly the same and double check other restrictions, such as offers that are good only on the pink model or a certain size.

Financing Those Gifts

You’ll also want to come to a decision about how you’ll pay for the holidays. Cash or credit? Ideally, any charges you put on your credit cards would be paid off every month. If you can’t, though, at least try not to spread the payments past three months. If you have cash, that’s always a solid choice. Pick and choose wisely if you’re combining cash and credit. Opt to charge those items that you need some type of warranty or additional protection Double check your terms and conditions, but the majority of credit cards these days have an additional layer of security that protects the buyer for damaged goods. Discover credit cards are some of the best on the market in terms of covering consumers.

There are hundreds of smartphone apps that can do anything short of providing marriage counseling. Whether its an app to keep track of your gift cards or an app that uses GPS to let you know where the big sales are, this technology is just one more tool to help you save big.

Another word to the wise: because it matters how much of your credit you utilize, choose the credit card with the biggest credit line to do your holiday shopping. Remember the goal is stay within about 25% to 30% of your credit line. Anymore than that could jeopardize your credit, even on a short term basis.

Anytime you’re treading out into the rush of people trying to do their holiday shopping, you’ll need to keep a few things front and center in your mind. Don’t carry more than what you need – and that goes for credit cards. As much as we warn consumers to shop smart online and to not use any websites that don’t have layers of security, there are still those traditional threats of pick pockets and unscrupulous sales clerks that are pros at collecting information in seconds.

Finally – after you’ve wrapped up all of your shopping, check in with us and share those tips that have worked for you.

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