Keep your holiday shopping merry and bright with an early gift from the Federal Trade Commission: Tips to help you watch your wallet, shop wisely and protect your personal information.
Make a list and a budget. Those impulse purchases (looking at you, cozy sweater) are less tempting when you have a game plan. Consider how much you’re willing to put on your credit card, and how long it might take to pay it off. If money’s tight, paying for a gift over time through layaway might help.
Do your research. Read reviews and recommendations about the product, seller, and warranties from sources you trust. If you’re shopping online, check for reports that items were never delivered or not as advertised. Spreading holiday cheer by donating to charity or a crowdfunding cause? Look into it first to make sure it’s legitimate.
Look for the best deals. Check out websites that compare prices for items online and at your local stores. Remember there may be shipping costs for online orders. Look for coupon codes by searching the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.” To save extra money, keep an eye out for rebates.
Keep track of your purchases. Make sure the scanned price is right, and save all your receipts. If you shop online, keep copies of your order number, the refund and return policies, and shipping costs. Then have your packages delivered to a secure location or pick them up at a local store. Treat gift cards like cash and keep them in a safe place.
Give gifts, not personal information. Protect yourself online by shopping only on secure websites with an “https” address. Stick to shopping apps that tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure. Avoid holiday offers that ask you to give financial information -- no matter how tempting. They might be trying to steal your identity.
For even more timely tips, sign up for free consumer alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/subscribe.