Holiday savings and holiday scams
This is my last week of blogging for the year. Thus, although there are still 10 shopping days left until Christmas, I wanted to share a few final holiday shopping tips and holiday scams to avoid.
Holiday Money Saving Tips
Cash vs. Gift Cards. It used to be considered tacky in North American culture to give cash. Hence, many people have resorted to purchasing gift cards. However, as CardSwap points out, anywhere from 10-20% of all gift cards are never redeemed. Alternatively, gift cards issued by malls, as opposed to individual retailers, tend to have various restrictions on what stores you can redeem the card at.
Gift cards are certainly useful presents if you know the person frequents that particular store. However, if you are buying a gift card from some large chain that the person may not necessarily shop at, your money may have gone to waste. I am of the school of thought to give cash with a nice card suggesting they use the money to their heart’s content if you are trying to buy something for someone who has everything. Obviously, don’t give your boss cash (“I really don’t need to give Johnson a raise this year. He’s so loaded, he’s giving me money!”).
Use your credit card points for more than just travel miles. I wrote about this several weeks ago but I am cashing in my Visa Avion points to buy a wide variety of presents. I end up saving a lot of cash that way.
Ask for the boxing day special. Although many retailers have already priced their goods to liquidate, it never hurts to ask for a boxing day special now. Retailers have had an extremely rough run this year and anything that converts inventory into cash will be a welcome offer (as long as it is not insulting).
Ask for a rain check at the holiday sale price. Even though the item may be out of stock, you might as well lock in a lower price by asking for a rain check.
Holiday non-deals and Scams
The holiday non-deal. I received a mailer from Bell promoting that “Boxing Day comes early this year” by offering high speed internet for $26.95 per month with a little “1″ footnote beside it. Flip to the footnote on the back page.
Here are the actual terms and conditions: (i) the cost is not $26.95/month but $41.95 less a $10 credit for first year and a $5 Bell Bundle discount; (ii) the offer only applies if you sign up for the “Bundle” (which I am assuming is television, cell-phone and internet) so add the cost of canceling your cell-phone or cable if you are not a Bell customer; (iii) a customer must pay the following extra fees: (i) $29.95 one time activation fee (waived if you are a Bell TV subscriber), $3.95/month modem rental, $2.00/additional GB above $25. I am not picking on Bell per se since their mailer is typically of many holiday non-deals.
As lawyers say, the big print giveth, the small print takenth away. It is easy to be fooled by the holiday non-deal simply because there is so much happening that you do not focus on the details. Remember always to read the fine print. Many businesses will extend deals past their expiration date if you ask nicely. The key is to sit down in a quiet place and understand the deal if the offer is some type of long term commitment (like internet or cell phone).
Fake charities canvassing for money. A common scam during the holidays. The FTC has a very useful list of signs that the charity approaching you may actually be part of a charity fraud. It is unfortunate that people would stoop to such depths but just remember a few bad apples should not taint the good work many legitimate charities do all year around.
The free sample online offer. Ellen Roseman has an article on the pitfalls of the free sample on line offer.
eBay and CraigList fraud. Be extra careful on eBay purchasing from a vendor who has little to no history on eBay. They are either out to make a quick buck (legal but they will attempt to extract a punitive price- I remember trying to buy a Wii Fit last year and people were selling a $100.00 item for upwards of $500.00) or are fly by night operations who never intend to sell you anything and are engaged in fraud.