MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Financial advisors urge shoppers to stick to a budget and watch for any fraudulent activity during the holiday season.
Rad Lowery with Carolina Wealth Advisors says you need to take control of your finance now, before it's too late. Spending blindly could result in financial trouble come the new year.
The first piece of advice is to set a budget for what you plan to spend on Christmas presents, trips, and any outings or parties. Make sure that it is realistic with what money you have coming in and that it doesn't hinder you to make your monthly expenses like rent. And to be extra cautious, you want to make sure you budget through the beginning of January.
Once you have that figured out, make the list of what you intend to buy everyone and research those prices to make sure it will fit in the budget you have. Lower says as hard as it is, stick to that list. He acknowledges that sometimes it can be very difficult to buy something without getting caught up in an in-store deal. But remember, if you don't stick the that payment plan, that's where you will get caught.
"If you're not responsible enough to follow that purchase all the way through to when it actually should be paid off, you could be spending a lot more than what you're saving on the front end," says Lowery. "Sometimes it's just cheaper to pay for it upfront, than taking that department store credit card. An you can get yourself into trouble pretty quick."
And if you find you overspent on one item or one category, regroup and see what you can cut from the budget before you continue your spending spree.
If you're low on cash, a payday or title loan might sound enticing. But Lowery suggests you need to be cautious. He recommends that you first take a good, hard look at why you're short on money in the first place. If you have a consistent problem with overspending, then getting that loan is not going to help you unless you get serious about a budget.
You also need to be on the lookout for any fraudulent activity on your bank account. Lowery says this is the perfect time of year for crooks to sneak a couple small transactions on your credit card. Because those small amounts mixed in with your other holiday purchases might be easily overlooked.
"I don't think enough people are paying enough attention to what's showing up on their credit card or they don't question it," says Lowery. "If it's a small denomination, they don't question it. And if you think back on the fraud that happens that goes unnoticed, it's the small fees or transaction fees – two dollars here, three dollars here. It adds up for somebody, just not for you."
If you get a letter in the mail or an email notification from your bank or credit card company warning you of potential fraudulent activity, take it seriously. They may have flagged an unusual purchase, and they may need you to verify if in fact that came from you or if they need to shut down your card and begin a refund process.