Shopping Season: Predictions, Apps and Tips


[Some content in this article courtesy of USAA.]

It's that time of year again: the fast-paced month of shopping that precedes the holidays. And despite the economy's recent ups and downs, all indications are that if anything, holiday spending will go up this season, in no small part due to smarter mobile apps to aid the shopping process.

According to a recent survey commissioned by USAA, consumers plan to buy more gifts as their sentiment toward holiday budgeting has become more positive in 2012 when compared to 2011 (53 percent vs. 45 percent). For the third year in a row, fewer holiday shoppers plan on cutting their holiday spending and creating a budget. In 2010, 40 percent of shoppers reported plans to scale back, compared to 31 percent in 2011 and 24 percent in 2012. And 61 percent planned on budgeting for their holiday purchases in 2010, compared to 57 percent in 2011 and 55 percent in 2012.

"In addition to the decrease in the number of shoppers cutting spending and budgeting, nearly half plan to use their credit cards to make holiday purchases," said JJ Montanaro, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERâ„¢ with USAA. "With only one-third planning on paying their holiday credit card balances in full immediately, it appears shoppers will be less cautious with their holiday spending. However, using a goals-based planning calculator that can be accessed no matter where they are can help shoppers set realistic boundaries and stay on track throughout the holiday season."

Mobile Shopping

This year's survey findings underscore the growing trend of mobile shopping with 56 percent of respondents planning to use their mobile devices as a tool for comparison shopping, downloading coupons, searching for availability in stores and making purchases. According to a recent survey, consumers spent more than $20.7 billion shopping using mobile devices in 2012 and tend to spend an average of $10 more per purchase using their tablet.

"While mobile shopping can help uncover deals, it's also so convenient that some people may be tempted to overspend," said Montanaro. "Shoppers need to ensure they include all types of purchases – whether mobile or in-store – in their holiday budget."

Holiday Buying Issues: A Few Reminders

Late delivery, shipment of wrong or damaged items, and hidden costs are common home shopping complaints which can become magnified during the holiday gift-buying season. Keep these tips in mind as you're making your purchase.

  • Be wary of post office boxes and sellers in other countries. It may be difficult to find the seller to resolve a problem later.
  • Know the total price. Make sure it includes all charges, shipping, handling, insurance and taxes. Coupons and other discounts should be properly deducted.
  • Make sure you are clear on what you are buying. Beware of words like "refurbished," "reconditioned," "close-out," or "discontinued."
  • Use your credit card, debit card, or bank account number for payment only, never to prove your identity.
  • Keep a record of your purchase. Save any information the seller gives you such as product description, delivery date, cancellation policy, privacy policy, warranties, and order confirmation numbers.
  • Keep track of your order. If it's late, you have the right to cancel and demand a refund.

Safety Tips for Shopping

According to the FBI, here's a few extra precautions you can take to make holiday shopping safer for you, and avoid cyber fraud:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Always run a virus scan on attachment before opening.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail to the web address link you are directed to and determine if they match.
  • Log on directly to the official website for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of "linking" to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify that the e-mail is genuine.
  • If you are requested to act quickly or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act impulsively.

For a comprehensive list of legitimate military discounts for the holiday season and all-year round, visit the Discount Center.

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