November 21, 2012 – Roanoke, VA – Grab your shopping bags and compile your lists, the biggest holiday shopping days are almost here! With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday all crammed into one long weekend, Better Business Bureau wants to help make your shopping adventure go as smoothly as possible. Here are some tips:
Create a budget and stick to it
According to the National Retail Federation, the average holiday shopper will spend $749.51 on gifts, decor, greeting cards and other seasonal items, up slightly from the $740.57 they spent last year.
- Step One: Consider your Income. The first step is to measure how much money is coming in.
- Step Two: Add up regular monthly expenses. Adding up expenses is usually harder than determining your income because there are so many more factors to consider. Start with your rent or mortgage, utilities and credit card payments. Also factor in other expenses for gas and car maintenance, healthcare and groceries.
- Step Three: Estimate Extra Holiday Expenses. A lot of little purchases have a way of adding up over the holidays and it’s important to consider all of the expenses of the season including:
- Step Four: Revisit, evaluate and revise your budget along the way. Once you’ve added up your income and your expenses, it’s time to compare. If more is going out than coming in, it’s time to go back over your budget and pare down expenses.
- Step Five: Reward yourself. Work into your budget a small reward that you can earn if you meet your goals. If you don’t meet your goals, you can guess where that money is going instead: Paying off your credit card bill in January.
Don’t fall for the too-good-to-be-true deal
On “Black Friday” (and every day), get to know retailers first by checking out their BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org. Compare prices before you hit the stores on Black Friday so you know if you really are getting a great deal. Newspapers will often have coupons that give discounts for Black Friday. When searching for coupons online, make sure to get them from the store’s website, not from an offsite deal promoter.
Shop small on Small Business Saturday
November 24th is Small Business Saturday, a day dedicated to supporting small businesses on the busiest shopping weekend of the year. BBB is teaming up with American Express, a BBB Accredited Business and National Partner, to spread the word on why small businesses are so awesome. Here’s a fun infographic (https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/small-business-impact) to show just how important small businesses are to our economy.
Watch out for scams
The new BBB Scam Stopper (http://www.bbb.org/scam-stopper/) website can tell you all about the latest scams, and help you learn the most common tactics used by scam artists both in-person and online. Be especially careful of holiday related scams. Be sure that letter from Santa is from a legitimate site before you share your child’s personal information. And that friend or grandchild who was mugged while traveling and needs some cash wired ASAP? That’s a scam. Don’t fall for it!
Shop safely online
November 26th is “Cyber Monday,” and there will be lots of online deals to be had. Before you surf the net, make sure your computer has the most recent updates for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Scammers use this holiday time to prey on online shoppers. Only shop on trusted websites, and look for the Ad Choices logo for sites that give you more control over whether advertisers can use your information for targeted advertising. It’s also best to use a credit card when shopping online because you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive the item you ordered.
Know your rights
Whether shopping retail or online, know your legal rights. U.S. law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren’t shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. Consumers also have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it’s the company’s policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit, so be sure you understand return policies before you buy. Keep track of all receipts and documentation, too.
For more advice on safe shopping this holiday season, visit www.bbb.org. And check us out on Facebook to stay up-to-date on the latest consumer news: www.facebook.com/BetterBusinessBureau.
If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BBB_WesternVA.