What the terrible title of this blog post cleverly hides is that I have found some excellent tips for keeping you on track with your budgets and lives this holiday season (and in the months that follow it… you know, the bill-arrival months).
Here’s a look at how some online gurus are helping me keep more of my money and sanity.
Online Shopping: Be Smarter about It
Because I hate crowds and parking, I am a sucker for online shopping. It saves me time and usually money (because I’m less likely to fall for impulse buys, though I’m sure online retailers will soon find a way to sell me overpriced candy bars when I check out). But there are definitely dangers to shopping on the web. Here are some ways to avoid them (adapted from Kiplinger.com):
- Go where you know:You wouldn’t wander into a dark and out-of-the-way store without good reason, and you shouldn’t click blindly onto unknown web sites either. Be especially wary of links in emails from strangers and links that take you off a merchant’s page. There was an identity theft case a while back that the FTC caught, but that doesn’t mean the Internet is completely safe now. Do some research before you visit a site, and especially before you enter credit card information.
- Choose credit: I admit that I tend to favor my debit card over my credit card, but when shopping online, that’s generally not a good idea. Most credit cards come with more extensive protection for users (ranging from refunds for defective goods to better protection against identity theft). Remember that purchases with a stolen credit card can be canceled, but a drained bank account resulting from a stolen debit card cannot.
- Shop at home and check your statements: Using public computers or even public WiFi connections can be dicey, and invites more potential identity theft and fraud than staying in the security of your abode. And, to make sure nothing’s getting past you, be sure to check your credit and debit card statements every month with an eye for unfamiliar transactions.
- Don’t wire money: Just don’t do it to pay for something. It’s usually a scam.
Convenience: How Much Do You Need?
When things get hectic around the holidays, it can be easy to choose convenience over cost-effectiveness. But, as this post from WiseBread.com reminds us, convenience can cost big time – do you really need as much as you have? Consider these places to trim your spending to make more room for holiday travel and gifts.
- Cell phones: You don’t have to give yours up, but you probably don’t need every available upgrade – and check your bill each month. Is there a cheaper plan available? Could you catch up with more people via email or when minutes cost less?
- Televisions: How many do you have in your house? How much electricity do they use? How much do your channel subscriptions cost? I’m not preaching, but TV ownership is one area most of us could afford to cut back. (Bonus: the less TV you watch, the less you’ll “need” all the things advertised thereon.)
- Food: No, I’m not advocating starvation as a budget tool. But do you eat out a lot? Do you throw away food because it’s gone bad? Try a “food budget” for your house: track your usage for a month and look for areas to cut spending.
Any other tips? Let me know! Hooray for the Holidays and savings!