December Resources of the Month

Consumer Tips for the Holidays

It’s that time of year again and it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of purchasing gifts for those we love. It’s hard to plan for the expenses you want to make and it’s easy to lose track of spending. Here are some tips to help you keep your financial goals on track this holiday season.

  • No one wants debt for the holidays: Tune out the culture of consumption. Ignore your friends’ Facebook statuses from the mall. Remember: many big spenders are even bigger debtors. YOU are on a debt-free path for the holidays.
  • Track your spending: Use a budget-tracking app for up-to-the-minute information about your spending and balances, such as www.mint.com
  • Budget your buys: Try to keep the credit card at home when you go shopping. Set a specific amount you can spend and don’t go over. Avoid the store card discount trap; do not sign up for a new credit card in exchange for 10%-20% off your purchase.
  • Find affordable treasures: Local community thrift and consignment shops offer some of the best deals. Candles, decorations and holiday-themed dishware are re-sale staples and typically come out this time of year. Salvation Army, Resource, Goodwill, Replays, etc. are great places to find unique gifts for your family and friends.
  • Get crafty: Handmade gifts, creative artwork, or homemade edibles are great ways to share the holiday spirit. Find supplies at thrift shops and make a basket of found items that fit together. Repurpose a gift from last year.
  • Fun activities for kids don’t need to cost a lot: Go to your public library and check out holiday books to read throughout the season. Use baking soda, water, corn starch & food coloring to make your own red and green holiday play dough.
  • The gift of time: Time is one of our most valuable gifts of all. Write up a certificate for a night of free babysitting for a friend with kids. Give a certificate for a 1-hour walk with your neighbor. Surprise your parents with 3-hours of yard work. Remember, 9 times out of 10, people just want more time with you!
  • Shop smart: While online shopping can be appealing to those hoping to avoid the holiday rush in stores, it is important that consumers are not sacrificing their consumer safety for convenience! There are various ways to prevent being a victim of online shopping scams that everyone should know.
    • Check to see if the business provided contact information, like a mailing address and phone number and then perform online searches of the contact information.
    • Check out complaint History on the Better Business Bureau website, www.bbb.org
    • Be fully aware of all the conditions of your purchase (shipping and handling fees, return policies, right to cancel etc.)
    • When paying for purchases, make certain the site is secure by checking that the URL begins with “https” before you type in your payment information.
    • Avoid using Mobile Apps while shopping as it is more difficult to discern if the App is secure.
    • For help with consumer-related concerns, contact the Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424 or email consumer@uvm.edu

These resources are prepared by Connie Beal, CCV’s Working Bridges Resource Coordinator from the United Way of Chittenden County. Contact Connie at 802-881-4218 or connie@unitedwaycc.org

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