It would be next to impossible to forget that the holidays are upon us. If nothing else, the rows of Christmas trees, candles, and wrapping paper on display in local stores are there to remind us. Whether you’re someone who loves to shop (a little too much) or you find it painful to part with money, the primary challenge is how many traps you need to avoid if you want to leave a little money in your checking account.
We all know someone who could shop early but loves the thrill of 11th-hour speed shopping. One of the easiest ways to spend money on stuff no one wants is to panic shop. You only have so many hours left on the clock and still need to get purchases home and get them wrapped.
Suddenly, that tacky singing bass seems like the perfect gift for your brother-in-law, and the only thing you can think of buying for your grandmother is another candle. In short, speed shopping can lead to poor decision-making.
If you wait until the last minute to shop, you may also find that the stock at your favorite stores has been picked over.
2. Extended warranties
While an extended warranty may be a nice idea, it’s typically a waste of money. Here are a few reasons why:
- Extended warranties are not cheap.
- Chances are, the purchase comes with a manufacturer’s warranty of at least 12 months.
- If you plan to use a credit card, it pays to check whether the card offers purchase protection. Many do.
Even if the person offering you the warranty acts like you’re a putz for not tacking the price onto your bill, it’s your money, and you have the right to keep it.
3. Fighting over door-buster deals
Every year we hear about crowds gathering outside stores, only to fight their way in once the doors open. Often, those folks are there to snag advertised doorbuster deals. However, there’s a problem with counting on buying a high-end product on the cheap. Here are two major problems associated with those “unbelievable” doorbuster deals:
- While stores advertise doorbuster deals, they may not always inform the public of how many they have of a particular item. Let’s say a store claims it’s selling new iPads for $199, and people line up for the opportunity to buy one. There may only be three or four available, and once those are gone, so is the deal.
- Retailers sometimes advertise a doorbuster deal, but they’ve actually worked with a manufacturer to produce low-quality versions of that product. For example, you may think you’re buying a perfectly dependable 65-inch television from a name-brand manufacturer, when what you’re getting is a cheap knock-off of the television you hoped to buy.
If you became accustomed to online shopping during the pandemic and never quite broke the habit, you may be one of the millions who will scour the web looking for great holiday deals. Military.com reminds its readers to be on the lookout for fake shopping sites.
Here are two ways these scam sites seek to rip you off:
- By selling you counterfeit goods, some of which are difficult to tell from the real thing.
- By accepting your credit card payment, but providing nothing in return.
5. Online promises of free stuff
If you’re on social media, you may have noticed the number of companies offering you something in return for hitting the “like” button on their page. Often, it’s something tempting, like a gift card. What these con artists are trying to do is get your personal information. While they may say they need your address so they can send you the gift, they’re actually looking for identities to steal.
The bottom line is this: Do not provide anyone with your name, address, Social Security number, or any other identifying information. Once your identity has been stolen, getting the issue straightened out can take years.
General rules for protecting yourself this holiday season
- If you’re buying something locally, do not pay upfront. Let the seller know you’ll pay once you’re in receipt of the item.
- Do not make a payment via a money transfer service like Venmo, PayPal, or Zelle unless you know the person you’re sending the money to. Paying through a money transfer service is like handing the recipient cash. If you later learn that you’ve been ripped off, it’s too late. Your money is gone.
- Use a credit card to pay any time you make an online purchase. While you’re not there to look the shop owner in the eye or to examine the product, most credit cards protect consumers against fraud.
The discouraging news is that we have to be on the lookout for scams and traps. Fortunately, we know what we’re looking for and we can take steps to protect ourselves.
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