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Is early holiday shopping a good idea?

MMI Copywriter

By Kim McGrigg, MMI Community Manager

It's just a matter of minutes before retailers start decking the halls for Christmas. While some of us are still reeling from the summer heat, others are already racing off to prepare for holiday festivities. In fact, 22 percent of consumers start their holiday shopping in October. Credit counselors are often asked whether those shopping early are good planners or just looking for an excuse to spend. The answer: it depends.

Shopping early can be convenient. You’re less likely to run into crowds and you can spread your holiday budget out over several months. However, if you don’t have a spending plan, early shopping can lead to debt. After all, the more time you have to shop, the more time you have to spend. The key is to have a plan.

Know what you can afford.  With 12 weeks until Christmas, there is plenty of time to plan.  Set money aside each week so that you have money available to pay those larger bills. Or, ‘pay as you go’ to avoid relying on credit.

Know what it all costs. When preparing your holiday spending plan, realize that the holidays involve many more expenses than just gifts. In fact, studies show that consumers budget more than $500 for non-gift expenses such as travel, entertaining and decorations. Don’t forget the incidentals such as gift wrap, shipping, greeting cards, postage, charitable donations and babysitting.

Know who’s on your gift list. The good news is that, the number of people who planned to make additional purchases for themselves declined last year.  The bad news is that there is still plenty to tempt you into making impulse purchases.  Proper planning could help you stick to your gift list. Also try using your holiday spirit on other activities, ones that don’t cost a lot such as gift wrapping for a local charity, decorating, baking, or caroling.

Finally, when you finish shopping—stop! Sometimes it’s hard to resist the “one extra little gift,” however, even small items can add up to be budget-breakers. Remember, there’s more to the holiday season than shopping.

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Protect Your Identity Week

Protect Your Identity Week is October 17 - 23. Find the resources and information you need to keep your identity safe on

How to: Protect yourself from identity theft

What to do if you become a victim of identity theft

ID theft: When you know the thief

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Protect your ID during the holidays


Beware of crooks looking for more than bargains this coming holiday season. With the excitement of shopping and enjoying the festivities, it’s easy to ignore red flags and wallet safety techniques usually practiced. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), the last quarter of the year offers the biggest shopping season and the greatest opportunity for identity thieves and pickpockets to take advantage of crowded environments.

Because identity theft is still the fastest growing crime in America; affecting more than 10 million victims a year, Money Management International (MMI) in partnership with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and other NFCC Member Agencies will recognize Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW) October 17-23, 2010. Visit to learn how you can learn new safety techniques and get involved in local PYIW initiatives and events offered in your community.

With added protections, fighting ID theft is tough at best, so MMI offers the following everyday tips to help keep your information safe and secure:

  • Don’t leave your wallet or statements lying around—even at home.
  • Don’t carry Social Security cards or anything with your Social Security number on it.
  • Keep track of your credit card receipts and carbons.
  • Never tell anyone your card number over the phone, unless you initiate the phone call.
  • Never allow your credit card number to be used as identification.
  • Collect your mail regularly and destroy unwanted credit solicitations.
  • Monitor your credit statements.

If you become a victim, time is of the essence. Acting quickly can help limit the potential impact. Here are the steps to take when someone steals your identity:

  • File a police report.
  • Immediately notify issuers of credit.
  • Contact the fraud department of each of the credit reporting agencies to place a temporary 90-day Fraud Alert on your file.
  • Monitor your credit file.
  • Contact your local state Attorney General’s office, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission (877-IDTHEFT).

Identity theft is recognized as a serious social issue by agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the United States Secret Service. For more information about protecting your good name, visit or

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About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling, and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
866.530.9869 or visit

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