December 22nd, 2011

Last Minute Holiday Shopping Don’ts

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christmas shopping

Have you finished your holiday shopping? I know I haven’t. And I’m certain that one or two of you are in the same boat. So for those of us frantically rushing to finish up our gift buying this week, here’s a quick list of “don’ts” to keep in mind.

Don’t think that more presents equal a happier holiday. As Justine learned when she “ruined Christmas,” you don’t have to spend $1,000 on a single loved one to make it a Merry Christmas. Sometimes, the gifts that are most meaningful are the ones that don’t cost a cent and come from the heart. In Justine’s boyfriend’s case, it was a free public screening of his favorite Will Ferrell flick.

Don’t apply for a store credit card just to get the Christmas Eve deals. Just a week ago, most consumers still had more than halfway to go with their holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation. Shoppers may be taking advantage of last-minute deals during Christmas Eve this year. If you head to the mall on Dec. 24, don’t be tempted by the additional discount offered if you qualify for a store credit card. Store cards traditionally have high interest rates and could tempt you to spend unnecessarily.

Don’t forget the debt you already have. Spreading holiday cheer in the form of gifts may cause you to block other financial obligations from your mind. Although you shouldn’t focus on the negative, keep in mind the debts you already have and avoid racking up more. When your credit card statement comes in January, you’ll simply be reminded of how much you owe. Before heading out on another shopping trip, try out ReadyForZero, which will gather all of your debts in one place and help you tackle them with a plan. Read more in our review of ReadyForZero.

Don’t max out your cards on last-minute purchases. Maybe you haven’t purchased something for your second cousin, twice-removed, but that doesn’t mean you need to rush out and rack up purchases on your credit cards. One of the biggest credit faux pas you can commit is to max out your credit card limits. Hitting your credit card limits will also severely increase your credit utilization rate which negatively impacts your credit score.

Don’t fall for the “randomly selected customer” trick. According to the Harvard Business Review, customers “who were told they had been randomly selected to get a discount were three times more likely to want to buy than people who believed everyone got the discount.” You may not realize how easily you can be persuaded to buy, so stick to your budget and shopping list to avoid these marketing tricks.

Don’t save your credit card information online. If your email inbox looks anything like mine, it’s being flooded with retail emails announcing your “last chance for holiday shipping.” With all of the online shopping temptations (and more streaming into your inbox by the hour), avoid the lure to save your credit card information with every online retailer. The saved information will leave your identity less secure and you more tempted to overspend. Learn about ways to protect your identity in our “Credit Karma Chat.”

Don’t forget to check your cart twice. Not only are customers manipulated by in-store displays, but also while waiting in line to purchase. LearnVest reports that retailers try to keep customers from “editing” items out of their carts by constantly updating them on waiting times and keeping waiting areas free of shelves on which to drop discarded items. The article suggests that consumers should edit their carts, and hand unwanted items to cashiers. Don’t be afraid to change your mind before purchasing.

If you’re braving the crowds this week, have your budget and shopping list at the ready so you can shop like a pro.

Happy Holidays!

Bethy Hardeman, Social Media Maven

Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.

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