Six Tips for a Safe and Secure Holiday Shopping Season
Avoid holiday shopping pitfalls with these expert tips from the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.
Create a Well-Planned Budget
A budget isn’t just a list of figures; it’s a plan of action that enables you to spread holiday cheer without financial fear. Start by evaluating your overall expenses and set a realistic spending limit. Break down your budget into categories such as gifts, decorations, and travel. Consider using budgeting apps or tools that can help you track your spending in real time. A solid budget ensures that when the holidays are over, your bank account isn’t.
Guard Your Personal Data
Your personal and financial information is as tempting as the cookies left out for Santa. Only shop from secure, well-known websites. Look for URLs that start with “https,” where the ‘s’ stands for secure. Be cautious of emails or ads that offer unbelievable deals—they might be bait to get your personal information. When shopping in person, keep your credit cards secure and cover the keypad when entering your PIN.
Research Before You Leap
Before you purchase from a new retailer, read reviews and check their authenticity with the Better Business Bureau. When purchasing high-ticket items, ensure you buy from an authorized dealer to avoid counterfeit products. The more you know about who you’re buying from, the less likely you’ll be disappointed.
Deal or No Deal?
In the sales season, it’s wise to avoid grabbing the first deal you see. Use price comparison websites to ensure you’re getting the best offer. You can also leverage these websites to investigate whether the business you’re considering offers any coupons for an extra discount on your purchase. Read the fine print—what looks like a great deal may include hidden costs such as high shipping fees.
The Return Policy
Before you buy, know how you can say goodbye. A clear understanding of return policies is crucial, especially if you use buy now, pay later apps. Keep your receipts organized and know the time limits for returns or exchanges. Some stores offer gift receipts, a convenient way for the gift recipient to return or exchange a present if it’s not quite right.
Don’t Get Wrapped Up (in Scams)
Scammers often wrap their schemes in holiday packaging. They know people are looking for great deals and can quickly click on a sale. If you encounter an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be particularly cautious of any retailer asking for payment in gift cards or wire transfers; these are red flags for fraudulent activity.
For more tips, advice, and educational resources, visit our consumer landing page.