My assignment: In 700 words or less, I’m supposed to keep you and your money safe while you’re out buying for the holidays. How about I do it in 17 words and two punctuation points: do not buy gift cards, do not shop online, and do not get talked into extended warranties!
Now, I know that will never fly. But it’s true. Some of the major scams or needless holiday spending involves things most of us do. So be careful.
People love them. So do scammers. There are cases where thieves write down the numbers they find on the back of gift cards sitting along store racks. Later, they’ll call to see if the card has been activated and go shopping on your dime.
If you can find them, try buying gift cards from a customer service person or where people can’t get their hands on them. Also, you may want to use the entire balance right after you activate the card.
Separately, never click on text messages promising free gift cards. They’re all scams.
More of us are shopping online. So how do you do it? Do you run an Internet search using words like “cheap shoes” or “low-cost TVs?” That can lead to sites that are fake. Sometimes, those sites look like more legitimate websites, and in most cases, they get your credit card information and give you nothing at all. Protect yourself! Don’t click on email links about “great deals” from places you’ve never heard of. Make sure there’s an “https://” before the web address or a green padlock to show the site is secure. For one-time buys, some credit card companies offer temporary numbers with smaller spending limits and less of a problem if stolen by thieves.
Extended warranties/service contracts
These aren’t scams. But in many stores, and online, you’re going to be hit up to pay more for an extended warranty on a product. They are big profit centers for stores. In most cases, consumer experts say they’re not good deals. Take appliances. Extended warranties can cost you more than $100. But Consumer Reports says many of the repairs don’t happen during the limited coverage time. They also don’t advise these extended warranties with car purchases. I’ve seen people pay $4,000-$5,000 for extended car warranties that have been useless. Many of the parts that can go wrong aren’t covered. And there are mileage restrictions.
When it comes to some computers, especially lap tops, the warranty might be worth it. I bought extended warranties for two different lap tops and used them for both. Consumer Reports says they may be good ideas if your laptop is used on-the-go or if you have a Mac and need the extended tech support coverage.
Bottom line? Make sure you check out all websites carefully, read the fine print on any purchase contract, research extensively, keep all receipts, and have a scam-free holiday season!
A treasured holiday tradition
Since growing up as a proud military brat, I have always cherished celebrating the holidays with family. The many incredible memories are still enriching my life today.
I love thinking back on the times I would go ice skating on frozen ponds in St. Louis, feverishly fan my arms and legs to design a perfect snow angel in Germany or sneak some of my mom’s delicious homemade rum balls.
Today, my husband, Sidney, and I are humbly and prayerfully raising twin girls who also share our love of the holidays. In our home, it is difficult to tell if the 8 year olds or their parents are more excited while counting down the Christmas calendar days.
I think the one thing I love most about the holidays is making new memories with my girls.
Over the years, our family has graciously adopted some very special traditions. We enjoy baking and decorating sugar cookies, trimming our huge Christmas tree and transforming our home into a winter wonderland.
On Christmas morning, it is so funny to watch our angels precociously creep down the stairs in hopes of spotting Santa nibbling on the treats they left on the mantle or seeing their eyes light up when they receive that ONE special gift they so desperately wanted.
But the most important tradition we share each year is donating to our neighborhood Goodwill.
Before our girls even think about writing a wish list for themselves, they collect gently-used clothes, shoes and last year’s “must have” gadgets for those less fortunate. They can hardly contain themselves while boxing up their items. It is truly wonderful to see their little hearts fill with so much joy as they get out of the car and walk their boxes into the donation center. Every year, their kindness and generosity move me to tears.
I can barely remember all the toys, games and clothes I have opened up over the years on Christmas morning, but I certainly remember all the scrumptious holiday feasts, family gatherings and charitable work we did as a family.
My one wish is that our sweet angels grow up holding onto to the precious memories we are now creating and pass our family’s treasured holiday tradition down to theirs.