Start your holiday planning with these tips

The holiday season has started! If you’ve promised yourself to stay within your budget this year and to be more prepared for the holiday madness, here are some tips to add to your shopping list.

Do make a list

Using a list, whether handwritten or electronic, remains the best way to stick to your gift budget. Knowing beforehand what gift you’ll be looking for allows you to stay focused on the task at hand.

Stick to your budget

Know your spending limit for each gift and stick to it. Studies have shown that consumers spend about 36 percent more for holiday gifts if they don’t set a limit. Using cash to buy gifts makes it less likely you’ll overspend.

Shop online

Be sure you’re buying from a reputable online retailer with a secured website with good online customer service. Read reviews of products and search for online coupons or promo codes to help offset the listed price or shipping.

Use a credit card for added protection

Using a credit card for a big ticket purchase, in person and online, may provide you with additional warranty coverage or purchase protection. Check with your cardholder for details. Try to pay off your credit card balance as soon as possible to avoid paying interest on purchases you’re giving away as gifts.

Ask about the return policy

Be sure to read a retailer’s return policy, especially for online purchases that may require that you pay for any return shipping charges. Check a company’s website for information about a product’s warranty, return policies and return process.

Can’t decide? Then get gift cards.

Take the guesswork out of shopping with gift cards. There are many types of gift cards available for purchase to use at restaurants, department stores, for online music downloads and tickets to the movies.

Need more advice about personal finances? Travis Credit Union’s BALANCE Financial Fitness Programs offers free confidential financial counseling over the phone. Learn more by visiting the BALANCE Financial Fitness website.