Plus 5 Steps to Holiday Budget Planning
The National Retail Federation predicts U.S. consumers will spend $630.5 billion this holiday season — a 3.7 percent increase over the $608.2 billion spent last year. However, this rate is a slightly slower than last year’s 4.1 increase over the same period.
The slowdown can be attributed to several mitigating economic factors including sluggish U.S. job and wage growth. Despite the small decline, retailers are fully stocked and eagerly anticipating this year’s shoppers.
In anticipation of the upcoming shopping season, here are my 5 Steps to Holiday Budget Planning:
Step 1: Total it up. First, review what you spent last year. Make sure to include items you spent on decorations, postage, holiday cards and even travel expenses. Once you have a general idea of what you’ve previously spent, adjust that amount to fit your personal financial situation this year.
Step 2: Make a list and check it twice! Organize a list of the names of loved ones you want to purchase gifts for. Write down the amount you plan to spend on each person and aim to stick to it.
Step 3: Talk it out. Have a family meeting. Once you have a general idea of how much you want to spend this shopping season, make certain everyone else in your immediate family is on the same page. This way you’ll be certain to keep spending in check across the board.
Step 4. Buy in bulk. It’s always possible that you’ll be the recipient of an unexpected gift from a co-worker or acquaintance so it’s nice to have a few gifts at home that can be used in return. But how can you do this without breaking the bank? One way is to buy in bulk. Visit a local wholesaler and pick up a few boxes of baked goods or stationary or small household trinkets that can be used as general gifts.
Step 5. And always remember: Cash is king. Make every effort to pay for your in-store purchases with a debit card or cash. But, if you are shopping online, it is best to use your credit card. Why?
Credit Cards offer more protection for online shopping versus debit cards. If unauthorized purchases are made on a credit card, U.S. Federal law limits the cardholders liability to just $50 or so and in most cases the credit card issuer will waive that fee entirely.
Here are some quick tips for shopping online:
If fraudulent charges are made with a debit card and the activity is not reported within 2 days, the cardholder can be held liable up to $500. The cardholder may also face unlimited liability if they fail to report unauthorized charges within sixty days upon receipt of the bank statement that lists fraudulent purchases. With that said, here are 4 quick tips for shopping online:
1) Make certain that the PC that’s used for online shopping is a trusted computer with up-to-date anti-virus software.
2) Only shop on trusted and secure sites with https:// as the URL in the web address bar at the top of the screen. The “s” signifies the website is secure. Or look for a closed padlock icon on the bottom of the screen.
3) Use ONE specific credit card to make online purchases. This enables consumers to monitor activity on that card on a regular basis and be alerted more quickly to unauthorized charges.
4) Print a copy of the confirmation page that details your order for your records.
Until next time …. I’m Amber Dakar wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season!
Ms. Dakar is the author of The Busy Person’s Guide to Personal Finance, a primer to help consumers manage their finances so they can build a substantial nest-egg. She also conducts personal finance seminars where she provides concepts to attain overall financial health.