As your credit union, we want to help you make the most of your time and money during the holidays while keeping your financial information safe and secure. Smart shopping strategies can also keep your finances from going “into the red” on Black Friday.
This, the busiest shopping day of the year, signals the start of the holiday shopping season — and it promises to be robust. With low unemployment and increased consumer confidence, the National Retail Federation reports that Americans are expected to increase spending by 4.5 percent over last year, shelling out an average of $1,007 this holiday season.
Even if you don’t plan to spend thousands of those hard-earned dollars, the following tips will help you find the best bang for your buck, encourage safe shopping habits, and keep your finances going from black to red when shopping for deals and holiday steals.
Preparation is key:
- Use a budget—and stick to it. Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend on your Black Friday shopping spree and do your best to resist impulse buying — especially if you’re not sure how good a specific deal is. Black Friday sales, including door-buster specials, are designed to get you into a store so that the retailer can sell you something else.
- Make a list. The holidays are an exciting time, and it can be easy to get carried away. Making a list might keep you from buying something that’s beyond your budget.
- Start early. You can no longer count on checking the ads in the Sunday paper to get the best deals. To judge how good a sale may be, you’ll need to track the deals leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, too.
- Know before you go. Study the ads — in print and online — the weekend before Thanksgiving.
- Check one of the Black Friday websites. You’ll find tons of leaked Black Friday ads like net and blackfriday.gottadeal.com.
Gather your tools:
- Use tech to comparison shop. You don’t have to go retailer-by-retailer to compare prices. Try Google Shopping and services like NexTag. Apps such as ShopSavvy and Shopkick let you scan bar codes or QR codes to compare prices, get discounts, and score coupons.
- Check the retailers’ apps. Many Black Friday sites have their own apps but so do the big guys like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart. Amazon’s 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. Black Friday shopping alerts can get you first dibs on promotions, coupons, and discounts.
- 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 Black Friday discounts and incentives.
- Check the store’s policies. Almost all of the major retailers have some form of price-match policy, but some stores might suspend their price-match guarantees during the Black Friday weekend on certain items, so read the fine print.
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 a WCU VISA Rewards card and earn big, big points. You’re spending money regardless, so give yourself something in return and save $$ on a lower interest rate over the big banks.
Strategies to safeguard your credit and debit card purchases:
At the store…
- 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. Infrared cameras on smartphones can be used to obtain your PIN. We suggest resting your fingers on other keys as you enter your PIN. May seem silly, but better safe than sorry.
When shopping online…
- Do not use public wireless networks for online purchases.
- Shop on trusted sites with https:// in the URL. Be sure an icon with a lock appears to the left. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates communication with a site that 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 through U-Banking 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. Take education classes or look for low interest loans to help you achieve your financial dreams in the coming year. Stop by a branch or visit us online for possibilities. With the safety and security of Wauna Credit Union at your back, this is sure to be a wonderful holiday season!