The 2021 Holiday shopping season is here in full force. After a less than stellar 2020, you may be convinced to spend big on your family this holiday season. Before you head to the store and max out your credit cards, check out these holiday spending tips to keep you from turning into Bob Cratchit this Christmas.

 

Planning and Saving for the Holidays

Before you hit the shoppees and swipe your credit card, go in with a holiday spending game plan. After missing out on big family gatherings in 2020, the temptation is high to go overboard with holiday spending in 2021. Planning and budgeting for holiday spending now can save you money later, so consider starting your plan of attack today before you click "add to cart."

Here are three tips we find useful when it comes time to shop for the holidays:

 

Plan your gift recipients and Create a Holiday Budget

What we mean by that is to make a list of who you really want to buy gifts for this year. If you are included, don’t be shy! Go ahead and add yourself too! The best practice is to add a dollar amount limit you want to spend on each person. If you want to buy mom a gift and spend $50 maximum, note that. This will help guide you when you actually go shopping whether in-store or online.

Now that you know who's getting a gift, it's time to decide how you plan to spend your money during the holidays. Sometimes doing your recipient list and budget simultaneously can help, but focus on creating a budget that you know you won't exceed. This will come in handy for being strategic on your shopping trips.

 

Resist Holiday FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) 

With Black Friday being a bust and supply shortages, you might want to grab the first premium deluxe coffee maker you find that's "on sale." Avoid the temptation. Studies have shown that 9 out of 10 items on sale during Black Friday were actually cheaper or were the exact same price during the rest of the year. 1  If it's not an item that's a MUST purchase, consider holding out until sometime in 2022. A new latte maker could make for a perfect Valentine’s Treat.

 

Consider your payment methods 

If you are planning to pay with a credit card, consider using a cash-back card so you can earn rewards while tackling your Christmas shopping list. The Visa Signature Empower card from FCFCU can get you cashback you're looking for on every purchase. Looking for a card with our lowest monthly rates? Then consider the Visa Platinum. It’s still important to only buy what you can afford. If you can’t pay off your credit card balance at the end of the month, rethink the purchase, or consider a Holiday Loan with a friendlier interest rate.

 

Avoid Holiday Scammers

Now that you've planned out how you're paying for your Holiday gifts, it's time to protect your personal finances. When shopping online, be on the lookout for crooks looking to put coal in your stocking.

 

Phishing Websites That Offer Great Sales and Prices

Here, you have phishing websites that pose as online stores. They promise incredible sales for the holidays, but what they actually want is to steal your financial information. Once you input your financial data (i.e., your credit card information, among other things), you're trapped. Avoid this scam by: not clicking on every link you see. Be discerning. Visit only real online stores. It's possible to tell as most phishing sites are a little more than a jumble of keywords. Also, don't give your credit card information to just anyone.

 

Fake Products Sold for Incredibly Low Prices Online

Many scammers online rely on potential victims looking for discounts and bargains during the holidays. You might find great prices for designer items or big discounts on possible gift items. Careful, though! Scammers post great pictures, enticing descriptions, and seductive prices to lure buyers. You pay for what you thought was an excellent purchase, but when the package arrives, you realize that you actually paid for a counterfeit item. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but a lot of people still fall for it.

 

Fake Shipping Notification for Gifts You Weren't Expecting

Surprise gifts are always welcome, especially during the holidays. However, scammers can use this natural reaction to gifts to lure you into revealing information or downloading malicious software. You may receive shipping notifications through email, often using the logos of companies like FedEx to seem legitimate. The email asks you to click a link to see the parcel being sent to you.

Flexible Card Control with First Commonwealth’s Digital Banking


If you’ve got a checking or credit account list, check it twice for any unexpected or unexplained purchases. If you’ve lost one of your payment cards during the holiday rush, use card control in our Digital Banking App to quickly deactivate your card. Then, turn it back on immediately if you find it inside the pocket of your Ugly Christmas Sweater.

Unfortunately, the link is a gateway to malware. Clicking on it compromises your computer's safety and your private financial information.

Find out more tips like this on our Financial Education Website: www.fcfcuwellness.com

 

Alternative Gifts for the Whole Family

So now you know who you're buying for, are keeping it within your budget, and didn't get scammed in the process, what now? You go to buy the gifts…and you see they’re sold out. Whether it's supply shortages or scalpers, you might be running out of time to find the perfect gift. Fortunately, there are some great alternative gifts that the family will love.

 

Alternative Gifts for Kids

Remember when Pokemon was huge in the 90s? And now it's the biggest media enterprise on the planet? Pokemania has been going on for 25 years, with no slowing down, and the trading card frenzy hit a fever pitch in 2020. While kids and adults alike are trying to become the next Warren Buffet (or Logan Paul) by opening a Secret Rare Mew, the odds are shockingly low of that happening. If your kids are asking for Pokemon packs this Holiday, you can save your kids from a grouchy Christmas morning of opening nothing but Bidoof's and Bigon's by purchasing singles online. 2

Several websites sell cards for cheaper than buying packs.  With some DIY, some construction paper, and Elmer’s glue, you can make your child their very own custom Pokemon booster pack. For under 20 dollars, you can get your child a pack of cards featuring nothing but their favorite monsters.

 

Alternative Gifts for your Significant Other

How do you buy something for someone who has everything? Or, have you been living with them each and every day since March of 2020?. Millennials, more than ever are prioritizing experiences over products. Maybe there's that dream destination you've been waiting to go to, or that famed Ramen shop three states away that you've fantasized about spending your News Year's Eve at for three years. Wherever you go, it might be time to invest in a memory over another item that sits on your shelf collecting dust. If you're ready to make the jump and take that flight, but are a little short on funds, a low rate Holiday loan will get you boarded before you can say "Happy Holidays."

Saving for A Big Holiday Purchase

So you did it. You've made it through the Holidays. Now what? It's never too early to start preparing for next year by opening a savings account. At First Commonwealth, we offer Savings Accounts, Money Market Accounts, and Holiday Club Accounts. Our Money Market Accounts let you earn a higher yield without locking you into a fixed term, while our Holiday Club Accounts allow you to easily set up regular deposits that can be deducted from each paycheck. A low rate Holiday Loan is also a great choice for anyone looking to spread their holiday expenses out over a period of time with fixed  monthly payments.

 

  1. Black Friday: 9 out of 10 'deals' same price or cheaper ahead of event, Which? finds (yahoo.com)
  2. TCGplayer: Online Store for Collectible Trading Card Games