Thanksgiving is in the books, and the holidays are approaching full-steam. While many well-organized friends and family members may be putting bows on the gifts they bought in July, most of us are prepping for full-blown holiday mode. Whether you’re scouring the web for bargain travel deals, or getting your shopping list in order, you’re not alone. In fact, the National Retail Association says the holiday season accounts for as much as 40 percent of annual retail sales. Here are some tips for a well-balanced and joyful holiday season.
Don’t feel bad if you’re getting a late start. According to Google, while 30 percent of consumers started their holiday shopping before Halloween, the majority of people started making holiday purchases right after Thanksgiving and will continue to shop until the last minute.
While it makes great sense to make a list and stick to it, be open to shopping at different stores if the price is right, and consider shopping online or on your mobile device – even if you’re physically in the shopping center. Many retailers give secret bargains, such as free shipping or hidden discounts, through emails or social media posts. Plus, you can comparison shop to see if there’s a better price elsewhere on an item you want.
Financially, it’s important to keep your accounts safe while you’re shopping. According to mycreditunion.gov, criminals and scammers use many techniques to fool potential victims. Online and stripped gift card scams, phishing schemes, charity scams and fraudulent classified ads and online sales could take the joy right out of the season. Just remember – do your homework, and take heed of the old adage: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
The movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” is the tale of a perfect storm of maladies that hamper the best of intentions during holiday travel. According to the Travel Channel, there’s several ways to get to your destination with your finances, your sanity, and your holiday spirit intact.
First, keep your money and finances safe and protected. US News & World Report gives some great suggestions. Be sure to carry at least two cards with you, in case one is stolen or compromised. Or carry pre-paid debit cards with a limited amount loaded. At security checkpoints, put your bags on the conveyor belt just before you step into the screening area to keep your belongings nearby; and avoid keeping cash, credit cards and wallets all in the same bag or pocket when you leave your hotel – divide them between your travel partners, or carry them on multiple areas on your body.
The Travel Channel suggests finding an alternative road route with less traffic - it could mean an unexpected adventure that will be remembered for years. If you’ll be in the air, check airline restrictions so you won’t get caught off guard with a bag that’s too large to stow, or may cost you extra because it’s too heavy. Many savvy travelers have taken to shipping their bags and gifts to their final destination, rather than taking a risk of losing or damaging them in flight.
Load travel apps into your phone that will keep you updated on flight delays, or will give you suggestions on the cleanest restrooms and cheapest gas while you’re on the road. Plan on catching the earliest flight of the day - those planes have the best on-time performance, plus you’ll have time to reschedule if the unexpected happens, such as bad weather.
Be sure to have healthy snacks and drinks on hand – even if that means stocking up at the airport after the security checkpoint. Because there’s nothing worse than being hungry – except being hungry while stuck on the tarmac or at a road closure.
Caring for Yourself and Others
While the refrain of the holiday season is generosity, it’s just as important to be generous with yourself. Money Crashers has some great steps to prepare for a stress-free holiday season.
It’s important to understand that while the holidays are all about traditions, it’s OK to reconsider or reassess those traditions to make them better fit into your lifestyle. Traveling long distances, creating elaborate meals, or having one person always play host may not be feasible anymore. Maintain a realistic schedule for yourself and your family.
Take it easy on yourself. While a burned sweet potato casserole may seem like holiday Armageddon, remember that nothing ever goes as planned. Manage expectations of yourself and others, and embrace change. You may be surprised that perhaps that casserole crisis becomes a treasured memory.
Get your last-minute items off your list – and get rewards! If you’re a Nusenda Credit Union Visa® Platinum Rewards credit card holder, you’ll get bonus points year-round by using your card (one point for every dollar spent on every day purchases), and three bonus points per dollar spent using your card for restaurants, hotels, and/or airfare purchases through the end of the year. If you’re a Nusenda Platinum Cash Rewards credit card holder, you’ll earn 1% cash back year-round and 5% cash back using your card for restaurants, hotels, and/or airfare purchases through the end of the year.