How to Avoid 5 Common Holiday Shopping Pitfalls

Most of us are planning to spend a little more on holiday shopping this year — an average of more than $1,000, according to data recently released by Discover, and Americans are again looking to squeeze the most value out of every shopping dollar.

That’s why the leaked Black Friday ads are being scrutinized now and why some savvy shoppers are reading credit card agreements to see which cards offer price protection, extended warranties, cash back or special holiday deals.

We are looking to get maximum bang out of our shopping bucks.

And those looking to separate us from our money know our intentions and create offers — and scams — with that in mind.

Therefore, what a great time for you and your congregation to check out Freed Up Financial Living and Freed Up from Debt.

Gift cards are great stocking stuffers, and people love to receive them. So when you get an email saying you’ve qualified to buy a $25 card for just $10, it can be tempting.

Follow the link, and you’ll likely be asked for enough personal information to make an identity thief very, very happy. Resist.

It is possible to get a gift card at a discount. Some merchants offer them at, say, 5% to 20% off face value, and sometimes you can redeem rewards card points for gift cards.

Those are legitimate ways to save. Also, many people resell old gift cards online at a discount.

Opening store cards just to get the promotional discount

As you are finishing your purchase transaction, the cashier cheerfully inquires, “Would you like to save 20% on your purchases today?” Well, yes, you probably would.

The catch is you will need to apply for the store credit card. And you’d like the discount.

But would you like the card? The card application will trigger what is called a “hard inquiry” on your credit report, which will result in a small, temporary drop in your score.

Also, adding a new card can impact the age of your credit history, a major factor in your credit score. So that discount may carry a cost you had not anticipated and may not be able to afford.

In addition, if you plan to take out a mortgage to buy or refinance a home in the near future, you may want to think twice. Lenders don’t want to see that you are adding lines of credit right before you apply.

But if it’s a store you patronize regularly and the card — and the timing — are a good fit, a store card can be a fine idea. But read the fine print and think carefully about it before you apply.

Zero-percent financing offers from retailers

Being able to finance a purchase without interest is tempting, and 0% offers can be useful, but only if you are able to pay for the item in full and within the allotted time.

If you feel certain you can do that, it’s still a good idea to ask the retailer what the price would be if you paid cash. If the cash price is lower, is the financing really free?

Keeping track of purchases in your head

Let’s just say come January, almost nobody is pleasantly surprised that they didn’t spend nearly as much as they thought.

(Besides, you may have seen a deal that was just too good to pass up, and maybe there’s still room in the budget but you’re just not sure.)

Not keeping track also opens up the possibility that with almost no time left, you discover you forgot to buy a gift for someone (hello, gift card display at the grocery store), and your budget goes out the window.

Keep receipts and keep a running total.

Leaving yourself off the list

Although the percentage of people who plan to buy a gift for themselves is down slightly, it’s still north of 50%.

When the buy-one, get-one deal tempts you beyond your strength, or you have an utterly human moment of wanting to treat yourself after shopping or cooking for others, go ahead.

No need to feel guilty for that (massage, Kona coffee, whatever your particular treat happens to be) — it was accounted for in the budget.

“How to Avoid 5 Common Holiday Shopping Pitfalls” was provided by

November 2013 Transforming Truths

As Jesus and his disciples were on their

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way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” –
Luke 10:38-42

There is perhaps no better place to see how stressful the Christmas season can become than the parking lot of a shopping mall in the weeks before Christmas. Some people, it seems, will run you over for a parking space.

Let’s face it, even with the best of intentions, the Christmas season can all too easily dissolve into a frenetic scramble to decorate the house, put up the tree, send Christmas cards, bake, shop, and attend various holiday gatherings. As we get ready to celebrate our savior’s birth, we need to be intentional if we are to avoid becoming “distracted by all the preparations.”

Especially at this time of year, Jesus’ teaching that “only one thing is needed” helps keep us focused on what matters most. This month’s Transforming Truth reminds us that Jesus doesn’t need the perfect feast prepared in his honor or a house decorated in Martha Stewart fashion. He asks only for our relationship, our time, our listening ears.

It’s not to say that holiday rituals are unimportant. It’s just to say that in the midst of it all, we need quiet time simply to be in relationship with Christ, to reflect on the meaning of his birth, and to hear what he is saying.

Stories of Transformation