Consumer Connection: Financial Wellness for the Holiday Season
By Sonya Sellmeyer, Consumer Advocacy Officer for the Iowa Insurance Division
A recent LendingTree survey found nearly half of the 2,000 consumers surveyed are dreading the holidays due to the financial stress. There are ways to reduce the financial stress of the holidays and purchase gifts that promote financial wellness.
- Start with creating a budget for all your holiday expenses such as gas, food, decor, holiday cards, and travel. Include a predetermined monetary amount for each person on your gift-giving list. Sticking to a budget will prevent you from spending more than you can afford.
- Consider using a cashback credit card or other similar rewards offer, but only if you can use credit responsibly and can pay off the balance in full.
- If using credit cards is a struggle, consider using cash for all purchases and next year begin saving year-round. You may also want to consider a prepaid card to help you stick within your budget.
- Credit cards provide protections that may not be available with debit cards.
- When shopping online protect yourself and your money by keeping your phone or computer updated and having unique usernames and passwords for each site.
- Avoid using free WIFI and unsecured connections to make financial transactions.
- Beware of phishing, which is when a scammer sends an email that appears to be from a legit company in an attempt to obtain your personal information. If you receive an email from a retailer with a special sale offer, go to a new browser and type in the website URL to guarantee you are visiting the correct site.
- Watch for grammatical errors, misspelled or extra words or numbers in a web address which may signal a scam.
- Before doing business with a new company, read customer reviews and search the business name followed by the word “scam”. Also, be aware if there is a limited amount of contact information on the website.
- Monitor your credit cards and bank statements so you may report any suspicious activity immediately.
If you need gift ideas this year, consider these financial gifts:
- Donate to a loved one’s favorite charity and inquire with your tax advisor to see if the donation is tax-deductible.
- Purchase stock they will recognize and have an interest in.
- Contribute to a 529 plan.
- Contribute to the IRA of an eligible loved one with earned income.
- Give the gift of cash and provide ideas on how to grow the money in a CD or investment account. Save 4 Later Iowa provides financial education for free.
- Pay for a visit to a licensed financial advisor.
- Give the gift of financial learning with a book about finances.
- Purchase a savings bond for your loved one.
If you purchase or receive gifts such as jewelry, art, or collectibles make sure they are properly insured by contacting your licensed insurance agent to discuss if your new possession should be insured with a rider to your homeowners or renters policy.
If you have leftover money in your budget, give yourself a gift by placing it in your IRA, emergency fund, or that holiday spending account for next year.