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--- news (11/30/2011)
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holiday season, but gift giving, entertaining and holiday celebrations can mean bad news for your finances. Keeping these ten tips in mind can help to make sure you get what you paid for and avoid starting the New Year off in the red:

1. Stick to a budget: Prepare a holiday budget before you shop. Pay with cash to keep from spending too much.

2. Use credit cards wisely: If you pay with a credit card, use just one.

3. Get your R&R – Refunds and Receipts: Ask about refund policies before you buy. Save your receipts and ask for gift receipts.

4. Check for sale prices: When you buy sale items, check your receipt before you leave the cash register. If something you by goes on sale later, ask about sales adjustment and you might get a refund or credit.

5. Get full value from gift cards: If you receive gift cards, spend them promptly. U.S. consumers waste billions of dollars each year by not using up their value. Some cards have expiration dates and fees associated with them.

6. Read the fine print: Read a contract and understand it before you sign. Check the interest rate and total cost of the item including interest. Ask yourself if the rate is reasonable and whether you can afford the item.

7. Know the way to layaway: Layaway is again popular in stores. If you buy an item by layaway, get a full description of the item, total price, amount of down payment, amount and due dates of payments, length of the hold and the store’s refund policy.

8. Be secure online: When buying on the Internet, make sure the website is secure before entering your personal or financial information. Secure websites begin with https:// rather than just http://. They also display a locked padlock on the screen.

9. Protect your personal information: Don’t be a victim of identity theft. Do not give personal information over the telephone or on the Internet unless you contacted that person or business.

10. When you give, know where it’s going: Watch out for phony charities that use names that sound like the real charities.

Adapted from Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs: “Top Ten Holiday Shopping Tips”
6/2/2012 11:48:15 AM
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