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Holiday Spending: Be smart, be careful and be safe with these planning and protection tips

Published on November 17, 2021 | Webster Bank

Updated on October 25, 2023

These past few years have been like no other and consumers are shopping differently than ever before.

According to a recent Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey, “17% of consumers say they feel optimistic about their financial situation going into the holiday season.”

So, how can you avoid the pressure to overspend? Many consumers appear to be exploring creative, yet practical, ways to make budgets stretch. Your best strategy is to plan your shopping upfront.

Effective planning tips

  1. Make a list of those you plan to buy for, noting at least one gift idea for each person on your list and where you might find it, at the best price. This can help you avoid the trap of making your decision while online (or in the store) when impulse buying may cost you more than you can really afford to spend. Even better, consider exchanging names among friends or family with a set dollar limit to purchase a gift for one person. Remember, it’s quality, not quantity that matters when giving.
  2. Set a limit on the number—and cost—of the gifts you plan to buy. This will help you stay within your budget and still allow you to purchase something for everyone on your list. Keep track of how much you’re spending through mobile banking, and be aware of how much remains so you don’t exceed the total amount you set for holiday shopping. To stretch your budget, look to discount sites and stores to buy “stocking stuffers” all in one visit, to, again, help you avoid impulse buys. Also, think about pooling your resources with other family members to buy gifts for individuals, particularly if it involves a rather expensive present.
  3. Start early. 26% of consumers already started their holiday shopping in August. By starting early, you can take advantage of “lowest” pricing promotions, usually offered early on in the season, like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. (Be aware, however, sometimes deeply discounted merchandise comes closer to the holidays.)
  4. Pay with available funds, whenever possible. Use cash, check, debit card or mobile payment apps, like Zelle or Apple Pay, which let you transfer funds directly from your account to pay for items. Choosing these modes over credit cards let you avoid high interest rates and the enticement to “pay later”, which can lead to a larger debt than you can afford.
  5. Give a gift card… when in doubt. You’ll avoid overspending because you are selecting a pre-determined amount that fits your budget and lets that special person select an item they really want at their favorite store.

Important cyber protection tips

Finally, if you’re among the 57 percent of consumers who are planning to do more than half their holiday shopping online this holiday season, take precautions to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.

Here are a few ways you can stay safe while shopping online:

  • Make sure the antivirus software and operating system on your computer or mobile device is up to date to block online threats.
  • Set secure passwords and be selective with the automatic log-in feature that can prefill your usernames and password.
  • Always sign out of online shopping sites when you are done.
  • Utilize any face or fingertip recognition features, if offered.
  • Use secure browsers that can encrypt your information; look for a picture of a lock on the status bar.
  • Clear your cache/browser history often.
  • Stick with reputable, big-name retail shopping sites, since they’re most likely to have stringent data security in place.
  • Don’t click on links or attachments in emails from people or retailers you don’t know.
  • Use mobile payment services to pay online, which use authentication tokens that are worthless if stolen.

Bottom line: plan out your holiday shopping. You’ll enjoy the experience and feel better about your finances when January rolls around.

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The opinions and views herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations. Please consult professional advisors with regard to your individual situation.

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