|For Immediate Release
|November 30, 2006
||Contact: Charles Evenson
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
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.
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
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
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.