Five things not to do at the mall this holiday season

Retailers have their red mark-down pens out earlier than usual this year, meaning that many consumers will begin taking advantage of bargains in advance of the traditional Black Friday rush.

As consumers hit the malls this holiday season, some are experienced shoppers, having weathered many years of finding just the right gift at just the right price. Nonetheless, whether novice or seasoned veteran, it’s always smart to arm yourself with timely shopping tips.

Following are five things not to do at the mall:

  1. Do not carry your checkbook or more credit cards than you will use during that shopping trip. If your wallet is lost or stolen, this will limit the damage. Tip: Make a copy of the front and back of all credit cards, and put the list in a safe place at home. In an emergency, you will have easy access to a list of all your cards, the account numbers, and the bank’s Customer Service number to report the incident. 
  2. Do not carry large amounts of cash. Even if you are committed to paying for your purchases with cash, be aware that pick-pockets take advantage of crowded areas and distracted people. Tip: Instead, make frequent trips to the ATM to replenish your stash of cash. Or, consider using your debit card for transactions, being sure to hang onto receipts and record in your check register to avoid overdrafts. 
  3. Do not shop while in a hurry or at the last minute. You’ll end up spending more than you should simply to be able to mark the item off your list. Tip: Block out a specific time for shopping. Make your first trip a leisurely one, simply getting an idea of what’s available this year and at what price. Take notes, and once back at home, get organized for the actual buying adventure. 
  4. Do not shop without a list. Santa thinks it’s a useful tool, and so should we. Tip: Make your list specific. Don’t just include the names of those for whom you need to purchase a gift, but also include the specific item you’re looking for, and most importantly, the amount you intend to spend. Having an overall holiday budget floating around in your head isn’t good enough. Without a plan, you’ll likely get caught up in the hype and overspend in the blink of an eye. 
  5. Do not pile new debt on top of old. Some people are still paying for 2009 holiday expenses as they enter the 2010 buying season. Don’t make your financial situation worse by being one of them. Tip: Think about it, you’re buying for friends and relatives who will be the first to understand if you need to cut back. If you are in a tenuous financial situation, it will only be made worse through irresponsible spending. Consider writing a heartfelt note to those on your list, being sincere about your feelings toward them and why they mean so much to you. Most people can’t recall what they received last Christmas, but this will be a treasured gift remembered for years to come.

The holidays can be particularly difficult for those unemployed or facing foreclosure. However, even if your situation is not that serious, we’re living in tough economic times, and no one should be spending money they don’t have, Being financially responsible this holiday season is a gift to yourself and to those you care about.

This article was provided by The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). MMI is a member of  the NFCC . The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior and build capacity for its Members to deliver the highest quality financial education and counseling services. NFCC Members annually help four million consumers through close to 800 community-based offices nationwide.

 

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.