Press Releases


For Immediate Release
November 30, 2006 Contact: Charles Evenson
608-266-2026

Gifts, Guidelines and Guarding Your Money During the Holidays

Seasonal Financial Tips for Consumers

(Madison) ) The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) today offered a list of suggestions to help make Wisconsin consumers aware of financial safety concerns, gift ideas and wise money use during the holidays. These tips can help citizens avoid the urge to splurge, prevent large post-holiday debt, avoid financial crimes and maximize the value of their own money.

“This time of year the financial pressures on all of us are tremendous,” said DFI Secretary Lorrie Keating Heinemann. “I urge people to exercise restraint, use caution and stay within their means. It is possible make the most of your own money and reduce financial stress.”

These financial tips include:

  • First Decide How Much Money You Can Afford to Spend
    Review your budget. Have you saved throughout the year? If so, congratulations! If not, rein in your inner Santa. You have to make do with your November and December budgets. Don’t let your gift-giving exuberance lure you into unmanageable debt.
  • Make a List—Check it Twice
    Remember when you made that list for Santa? Experts agree that it helps to write down a holiday gift list of all the people for whom you plan to shop before you hit the stores, malls or turn on your computer. It serves as a road map that helps focus your shopping.
  • Curb Impulse Spending
    Inoculate yourself against impulse spending by sticking to your list. It will help you stay focused and avoid whim buying when you walk into stores, look at advertising flyers or when you visit online merchants.
  • Don’t Go on Shopping Spree With Your Credit Card
    Credit is neither good nor bad. It depends on how you use it. Don’t be seduced by tempting ads and displays and rack up huge charges. Take only the card you plan to use when you go out shopping. Always keep your credit card in sight when making a purchase. Be sure to check your statement. Investigate any unauthorized purchases.
  • Save Money by Giving of Yourself (Literally)
    Give a gift you created, made, baked, cooked, etc. Your talents, time and energy are often appreciated more than something you buy. Remember those coupons we gave our parents for a hug or a lawn mowing? Think how you can use the same idea as an adult.
  • Stay on Budget
    Save your holiday receipts. Total them up daily. Or do it two weeks before the holiday. Seeing your receipts is a reality check. It tells you how well you are keeping to your budget and how much you have left to spend.
  • Guard Your Identity
    Is a credit card, a debit card or a check the safest? It’s best to use a credit card when not using cash. The Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection (privacy.wi.gov) notes that if your identity is stolen your credit cards loss is limited to a maximum of $50. Many card issuers now even have $0 liability. On the other hand, there is no limit on losses from bank accounts. An identity thief could wipe you out if he or she gets your bank account number.
  • Get a Free Copy of Your Credit Report in January or February
    If an identity thief has been at work over the holidays, your credit report will probably tell you that. If you suspect identity theft, get a copy right away. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies each year. To get yours, go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228
  • Be Careful with Gift Cards
    The Office of the Comptroller of Currency cautions consumers to know the terms and conditions when buying gift cards. Check on fees, if any, that apply after sale that reduce value, expiration dates, procedures to follow if lost or stolen, locations where the card can be used, and what to do if there is a problem with the gift card.
  • Give the Gift That Keeps on Giving—Education
    Open an EdVest account (www.edvest.com). EdVest is a way for families to save for their children’s future education. It offers tax benefits, flexible contribution options and professional money management. A contribution of only $250 is required to open an account.
  • Keep Your Guard Up When Shopping Online
    Scammers love Internet shoppers. Some tips for avoiding them include: never pay cash—most credit card companies do not hold customers responsible for unauthorized charges; research the seller—see if the merchant is listed in BBBonLine’s database of trusted sellers; trust your instincts—if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Do not email financial information or respond to emails asking for such information; keep a paper trail; only shop on websites that are encrypted or protected by passwords; and protect your computer with up–to-date anti-virus software and firewalls.

These tips will help consumers keep spending to a level consistent with their means and avoid post-holiday debts. If you believe your identity has been stolen, contact the Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection at 1-800-422-7128 or privacy.wi.gov. For additional financial tips, contact Dave Mancl at DFI’s Office of Financial Literacy at (608) 261-9540 or visit www.MoneySmartWI.org.