November and December are the months when you and other shoppers spend the most money. When you buy gifts for everyone on your list, it’s easy to splurge and swipe a credit card. You don’t see the money leave your wallet, and you don’t have to worry about the bill until it’s due. Consequently, the hustle and bustle is a scammer’s opportunity to seize your personal information.
It’s crucial to be keen on your credit card spending habits. Avoid remorse, regret, frustration, and stress by taking control of your finances now.
How to Use Credit Cards in November and December
View Your Credit Card Differently
Credit cards are plastic versions of the buy now, pay later method (BNPL). The difference is that BNPL expects payment in four monthly installments or fewer. Both allow you to bring the stuff you buy home now and pay the amount when the bill is due. Don’t treat your credit card like this; the upcoming bills will give you sticker shock. View your credit card like a debit card or cash.
You remember cash purchases from every place you visited. Be just as detailed with credit card purchases. Avoid sticker shock by keeping track of receipts. Make a copy if you send one to the recipient with their gift. Receipts are a paper trail to help you trace where the money went.
Meanwhile, debit cards are plastic alternatives to check writing. However, they connect directly to your checking account. Treat credit cards like debit cards; don’t spend more than what you have in your checking account.
Make a Firm Budget
An inflexible budget will control credit card spending for the shopping season. Most people make a budget for gift-giving, but they end up overspending. That’s because a gift-giving budget is not good enough.
A budget for the upcoming holidays must include holiday dinners, seasonal decorations, a Christmas tree, gift-wrapping supplies, Christmas and birthday cards, shipping boxes and envelopes, postage, and travel expenses. Don’t forget Christmas photos, special outfits, holiday parties, and charity donations. Looking at it this way will change the way you budget and spend.
The budget should also include what you want to buy for yourself. Begin with what you need now. Items that suddenly broke or stopped working are a more imperative purchase than upgrading your electronics or jewelry. If you get cash gifts, gift cards, or a job bonus, let that cover those upgrade splurges so you don’t go broke.
Research and Compare Items
Online stores make it easy to browse thousands of stores worldwide without leaving where they are. The comfort zone is browsing big-box stores like Walmart and Target and major online chains like Amazon and eBay. Break away from that and browse dollar shops, consignment shops, thrift stores, local businesses, online-only shops, and handmade stores (Etsy, Poshmark, Shopify, etc.). Besides expanding your horizons, check the weekly circulars in the mail for savings.
Additionally, make a list of items you want to buy. Check the deals on those items to see how much money you are saving. Compare the original and the sale prices with other stores to see which one has the better savings. If an item not on the list catches your eye and you want to buy it, don’t. That is a sign of impulse buying and a pathway to debt. Instead, wait a day to decide if that buy is worth going over budget.
Use the Right Credit Card
Rewards credit cards have cash back or points to give back to customers for using them. The right credit card will save you the most money every time you use it. That doesn’t mean using travel credit cards for travel and dining credit cards for dining, although they may have the best rates. The right credit card offers the most savings for the type of store and situation you’re in. For example, if you buy items overseas, choose a card with no foreign transaction fees or cards with foreign transaction benefits.
Use the Online Shopping Portal
The banking institution that issues the card may offer savings on its official site. You may see those savings by logging into your account or rewards page. Those savings are separate from the cash-back percentages or collected points on your credit card. To take advantage of those, use their portal to the shopping website.
The online shopping portal will keep track of your purchases and savings as you shop when you enable cookies in your browser. There are also airline credit card portals from top airline carriers that offer frequent flyer miles when you use them to shop. Compare traditional online shopping to shopping portals to determine which method offers more savings.
Stay Ahead of Credit Card Scams
Cybercriminals are waiting for you to slip up this season so they can pounce and steal your information for personal gain. They prey on emotion to catch you off guard and convince you to take action without thinking. Therefore, it’s vital to look at the email addresses of all emails to ensure they are not suspicious. Never click on links in the email, and never give out financial or sensitive information to anyone.
Legitimate companies already know your information and will never ask for it or share it with others. Additionally, go to the direct URL web address of the company in question and check your account from there. You can also call customer service to see if there’s a problem with your account or shipping information. In addition, watch out for scams in the mail and face-to-face interactions. Never give out personal information to an untrustworthy person or place.
The approach chosen with credit cards may return to haunt you in late December and early January. That worsens when you have unpaid balances before the hustle and bustle begins. The work you put into this now will pay off when the credit card bill arrives. You can pay off the bill in full with confidence. Sticker shock will disappear, and you won’t pay the minimum balance because you will have the funds to cover everything.