Saturday, November 19, 2011

Credit, Debit or Cash - Holiday Shopping

Black Friday is less than a week away and there is no place I would rather NOT be than shopping at 4:00 a.m. when the stores open.  I will be in my bed sleeping off a good Thanksgiving meal of smoked turkey and ham with all the fixings.   But as we get into the season of spending, shopping and giving; here are some ideas to keep in mind.

When shopping for gifts make a list and check it twice.  Find out where you can get the best deal and make a budget for your gift giving. This may be a tougher holiday season financially so it is even more important than ever to keep both hands on your purse strings as you walk into stores playing holiday music and seeing displays that say “buy me!”  Using cash and the envelope system of budgeting keeps you within your budget.

Using credit cards provide some protection, however you may be tempted to spend beyond your budget. Credit cards are governed by the Fair Credit Billing Act which provides you specific rights to dispute your credit card charges when your purchases are not delivered as agreed.  You can also build rewards for using your credit card, whether airlines miles, cash back or points to use how you would like.  The major downside of using a credit card is that if you keep a balance, you could make the holidays last all year long or longer, trying to pay off what you purchased.

Cash and debit cards can keep you from having the credit card holiday hangover.  You will not receive monthly bills of unpaid balances.  This also helps you stay within your budget.  If you don’t have the cash, don’t buy it.  Debit cards do not offer the same as credit cards. Debit cards are regulated by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (a federal law), and you only have a specified time to dispute charges.  If you wait too long, you may lose all of your money.

If you use cash, be sure you hang on to your receipts and keep track of what and where you spend money.  Sometimes my wallet is like a black hole.  I put money in and I don’t know where it went. Receipts can also help you in returning items.

You can also make holiday gifts if you have the time and talent, but that is a blog for another day. We hope you all have a great holiday season, spend your money, time and talents wisely and -- get a quiet moment to reflect on your blessings. Happy Thanksgiving!

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