Survive Black Friday and all your holiday shopping

This was originally published on Monday, November 25, 2013, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

This week starts off the holiday season with Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. It is considered to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Many stores have extended hours, from early morning to late night. But how do you survive a marathon of shopping?

• Store circulars and fliers: Do your research for the best deals. You may be overwhelmed when walking into a store and your list will be helpful to stay on track. Pay attention to how long the item is on sale.

• Prioritize: Decide which gifts are the ones you really want to purchase, have a limited quantity or are really popular. These items will run out the fastest and you may lose out on a good deal.

• Food: Bring along snacks and drinks to keep up your energy. It will also keep you on your holiday budget since you will not have to purchase food.

• Bring a friend: Nothing is worse that standing in line for hours without someone to talk to. Friends can hold lines as you go hunting. They also can be a voice of reasoning.

• Have a good attitude: You will get irritated, but if you approach the crowds and lines with a good sense of humor and attitude, it will not be so stressful.

The Monday after Thanksgiving (our Tuesday) is another busy holiday shopping day, but without the lines or crowds. Cyber Monday is a great day for online deals. Here are several tips to help:

• Deals: Look for deals that interest you and compare prices.

• Shipping: Some sites will offer free shipping. Others will treat Guam as an international country and will only ship through couriers and not the postal service. Visit websites and research what shipping policies are offered. If the package is going regular mail, not priority or express, it is sent by boat and will take much longer to arrive. Shipping costs vary and should be added to your holiday budget.

• Return policies: If you are sending your package to another address, make sure that the person can return the gift without any hassles.

• Coupons: Some stores will offer online coupons for additional savings. Some will send it to you if you have signed up for their email newsletters.

• Secure sites: Never give out your birth date or social security when checking out. I recently experienced an attempt by a third party to get my personal information online. It was very believable, however, my instinct prevailed and I prevented it. Here are a few things to look for to ensure that you are purchasing through a safe site:

Use familiar websites and watch your spelling in the website address.

Look for https:// at the beginning of the checkout webpage address. A little padlock icon will appear to the right or left of the address bar.

Ensure that your antivirus and/or firewall programs are up-to-date.

Use strong passwords and do not save your credit card information on a website.

Whether shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or just holiday shopping, be sure to stay on top of your credit card statements. If you see a discrepancy, alert your bank as soon as possible. Because your card is used in many different locations, it makes it easier for bogus purchases to be charged to your card.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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