5 Holiday Mistakes That Could Cost You

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The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to enjoy vacations, catch up with family and old friends, and eat great food. While the holidays are about quality time and making memories, it’s easy to get caught up with spending money. Here are five holiday mistakes to avoid this year so you can enjoy the season with your finances intact:

  1. You’re shopping without a budget or list.

It’s incredibly kind to get each of your relatives, colleagues, and in-laws thoughtful presents and cards to show them your appreciation, but your wallet might be crying for help after your first few purchases. One of the biggest financial mistakes you can make during the holidays is shopping without a spending plan.

When you’re shopping for loved ones, you’re imagining how happy they’ll be when they receive your gift. But remember, financial responsibilities don’t go on vacation during the holidays. Create a budget for your holiday spending. Once you know how much you can afford to spend, create a list that fits your budget.

This way, you’ll be able to purchase the items you plan for and know for sure that you didn’t bust your budget. Here’s a free holiday budget printable to get you started.

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  1. You’re volunteering your home, food, and car to everyone.

If you’re the person that always offers food, transportation, and lodging to everyone, you might want to try a new approach this year. It’s thoughtful to go the extra mile during the holidays, but don’t stretch yourself or your pockets too thin.

Consider splitting the responsibilities with your friends and family. You might not think you’re overspending by being so accommodating, but the more people there are in your home, the more likely you are to receive a high utility bill at the end of the month. You’ll also be surprised at how many trips you might have to make to the grocery store to restock on food, drinks, and toiletries.

You can suggest hosting a potluck style gathering this year. With a potluck, each guest is responsible for bringing at least one dish, beverage, or party supply. At a minimum, you’ll save money on food and drinks. If you need napkins or disposable utensils and plates, you can make one guest responsible for those items as well.

If you have a ton of relatives who need to be picked up from the airport or train station, see if you can rope in other family members to help with pick-ups and drop-offs. This will help you save on gas, time, and energy.

Splitting responsibilities will help you enjoy the holidays without being completely stressed out.

  1. You’re shopping too late.

So you’ve created your list and a tight budget, that’s great! Don’t wait until the last minute to actually make your purchases. By then, sales may be over and supplies will be limited.

Start your shopping early so you can snag deals while they’re still available. When you have ample time to cross items off your list, you’ll have time to compare prices and bargain hunt. Some stores offer price matching, so keep that in mind as you start shopping and placing your online orders.

Time is of the essence. Shopping early will give you time to figure out what you actually need and get those items at the best price. When you wait until the last minute, you’re much more likely to bust your budget because you’ll just be rushing to cross people off your list instead of specific items that fall within your budget. Here are some tips to help you save while you shop.

  1. You’re relying on your credit cards.

Do your best NOT to rely on your credit cards during the holidays. If you can’t afford to buy it now, don’t create a bill for yourself later. Once the holidays are over, you’ll be faced with a potential mountain of debt that you’ve built.

The holidays are a great time to enjoy the company of your loved ones, but you shouldn’t feel like the only way to show your love is through expensive presents and festive decor. Enjoy the holidays in a way that doesn’t destroy your finances. This year, make it a goal to spend quality time.

If an unplanned expense does occur during the holidays and you have to use your credit, here are some tips for using your credit card.

  1. You’re trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Don’t make the holidays a competition about who can wear the most expensive clothes, buy the flashiest gifts, or serve the swankiest dinner. Make the holidays about creating lasting memories and enjoying time with your loved ones, or simply yourself.

Darlene Aderoju works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support Americans to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org.

Avoid the Holiday Hoaxes

Online Shopping – Secure or Not Secure?

It’s commonly believed that a website is safe if it has a green lock icon in the address bar of the browser. Not only is this false, but now half of all phishing scams are hosted on websites whose Internet address is marked by the green lock and begin with HTTPS, according to an article on Krebs on Security. Phishing is a fraudulent online attempt to steal personal information.

A green lock indicates that your information is being encrypted, but that doesn’t mean the site is trustworthy. Before shopping or purchasing online, look for any signs that the site might be fraudulent, such as misspelled words or outdated graphics, and only shop from businesses you’re familiar with to help reduce the likelihood of your information falling into the wrong hands.

Secret Sisters – Naughty or Nice?

Undoubtedly, every year during the holiday season a viral gift exchange known as “Secret Sister” has a social media rebirth. This gift exchange not only exposes your personal information, but it often leaves participants without anything to show for it.

The big hook? For only $10, participants are told they could receive up to 36 gifts. The rules sound simple enough. A list of six names along with personal contact information is passed around. Participants are supposed to send a gift to the person at the top of the list, move the second name on the list to the top spot, and then the participant adds his or her own name to the new #2 spot on the list. The last step is simply to forward the list on to six more people. A type of pyramid scheme, this holiday gift exchange is worse than a lump of coal in your stocking. Passing around this list exposes everyone’s personal contact information all over social media and the web – possibly to strangers all around the world. In addition to the likelihood of having personal data land in the hands of a grinchy criminal, pyramid schemes are illegal and participants could be charged under a variety of federal and state laws. To add insult to injury, gifts usually never arrive!

We hope these few tips help you avoid scams this holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Bank of Luxemburg!

Gift Giving on a Budget

As the holiday season approaches, do you find yourself looking forward to the festivities, but concerned about the impact on your wallet? You are not alone. By doing some planning now, you can simplify your gift giving. Here are ten ways you can enjoy this special time of year and keep spending in check:

  1. Food. Consumable items are very popular during the holidays. The recipients may enjoy the product themselves or share it with others when entertaining. Consider special breads, beverages, fruit baskets, snack items, regional favorites, and gourmet coffees and teas.
  2. Go green. Find locally grown plants, flowers, and dried wreaths. Another option might be to purchase colorful washable napkins, placemats, dishcloths, reusable bags, and lunch bags with individual containers for sandwiches and snacks.
  3. Set limits. This could be done by establishing a dollar amount per gift, completing your shopping in only one or two trips, purchasing one gift per family, or committing to doing all your shopping locally.
  4. Made by you. Make your own food specialty. Knit a scarf. Hand craft an item. Create an annual holiday ornament. Give a framed photo.
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  5. Hobby-related gift or gift certificates. Consider the recipient’s hobbies and interests. Are there gardeners, chefs, woodworkers, knitters, readers and gamers on your list? Gift accordingly by providing them with the tools or materials to do what they enjoy.
  6. Agree on a gift challenge. Discuss this idea well in advance of the holidays with those whom you regularly exchange gifts, but make it fun. You might suggest handmade items only, gifts under $10, one gift for a whole family, limit shopping to consignment or thrift store finds or pick a theme such as useful or consumable items only.
  7. Purchase the same type of gift for everyone. It could be umbrellas, scarfs, journals, board games, puzzles, nice pens, throws, books, or flashlights and batteries.
  8. Recipe Book. You could make up a recipe book with family favorites or provide a blank recipe book for the great cooks in your life.
  9. Coupons for your services. Offer your time and abilities. You can create coupons related to your skills. Perhaps it is cooking a favorite meal, snow shoveling, home repair or an oil change, mending, guitar lessons and so on.
  10. Create a special memory. Look in newspapers or online for special events this holiday that are free or low cost. Instead of purchasing gifts, make a date with your family and friends to enjoy an event together and get together for desserts and coffee.

Most importantly: enjoy your holidays!

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