Smart Holiday Shopping Tips

Smart Holiday Shopping Tips from your Credit Union

As your credit union, we want to help you – our member – make the most of your money and time during the holidays, while also keeping your financial information safe and secure. Smart shopping strategies during this time of year can keep your finances from going “in the red.”

Everyone is looking for that perfect gift this time of year. But that doesn’t mean you should let the excitement of the holidays take over your budget. Even if you don’t plan to spend thousands over the holidays, the following tips will help you find the best value for your money, encourage safe shopping habits and keep your finances going from black to red when shopping for deals and holiday sales.

Your Spend-Wise Strategy

Preparation is key:

  • Use a budget—and stick to it. Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend on your shopping spree, and do your best to resist impulse buying.
  • Make a list. The holidays are an exciting time, and it can be easy to get carried away. Making a list will help keep you from buying something that’s beyond your budget.
  • Know before you go. Study the ads, both, in print and online.

Gather your tools:

  • Use tech to comparison shop. You don’t have to go retailer-by-retailer to compare prices. Try Google Shopping, plus services such as NexTag. Apps such as ShopSavvy and Shopkick loaded on your phone let you scan bar codes or QR codes to compare prices, get discounts, and score coupons. 
  • Check the retailers’ apps. Major retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart have their own apps. Amazon's Mobile app, for example, lets you use a smartphone camera to scan products and price-shop online.
  • Use loyalty programs. Stores with loyalty programs may offer sales and promotions to their members first, then let them earn rewards on what they buy.
  • Get social. The Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite retailers are a great way to find out about deals and promotions. Retailers will often reward customers who like or follow them with special alerts to holiday discounts and incentives.

Other money-saving options:

  • Try an older model. When buying electronics, consider older versions that may have been the latest and greatest just a few months ago.
  • Track your spending. Review your account statements, pay bills regularly, and monitor your accounts through online banking.
  • Use your talents. Give a homemade gift of baked goods, mason jar mixes, or art. Homemade gifts can cost a fraction of a similar item from a store.
  • Use Credit Card Reward Programs. Consider using a card that offers rewards. You’re spending money regardless, so give yourself something in return.

Strategies to safeguard your credit and debit card purchases

At the stores:

  • At the cash register, protect your PIN by blocking the keypad from the view of cashiers or other customers.
  • Some non-metal keypads have heat sensors that are active for several minutes after you enter your PIN, and infrared cameras on smartphones can be used to obtain your PIN. We suggest resting your fingers on other keys as you enter your PIN.

When shopping online:

  • Do not use public wireless networks for online purchases.
  • Shop on trusted sites with https:// in the URL and be sure that an icon with a lock appears to the left. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates communication with that site is encrypted.
  • Type the merchant’s address directly into your browser; avoid links.
  • Use complicated passwords with at least eight characters. Include numbers, special characters, and upper- and lower-case numbers.
  • Keep the operating system, antivirus, and security software updated on your computers and mobile devices.

Set yourself up for success:

  • Use our online account monitoring service and report any suspicious activity to us right away.
  • Keep a list of all card account numbers in a safe place, so you can report it immediately if they are lost or stolen.
  • We recommend that you don’t store your payment information on shopping sites or shopping apps. 
  • Increase your account security by linking your debit card to a secondary account rather than your main account. Or, opt to use credit cards exclusively for purchases.

The gift of a brighter financial future
Give yourself the gift of a brighter financial future this holiday season. Open a new savings account, take financial education classes, or look for low interest loans to help you achieve your financial dreams in the coming year.