A West Virginia University Extension agent has advice for smart shopping this holiday season amid high inflation and economic uncertainty, at a time when consumers are expecting to spend more to get less.
Lauren Weatherford, WVU Extension family and community development agent, Fayette and Nicholas counties, is available to discuss credit cards, holiday budgets, sales, price matching, saving on shipping and supporting local businesses.
“Be wary of credit cards this year. When the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, the prime rate also increases. Prime rate is the base rate credit cards use to determine the Annual Percentage Rates (APR) charged on your credit cards. Currently the average interest rate on credit cards is 19%. Some cards are charging upwards of 45%. This rate is charged monthly on any carryover balances. If you must use your credit card, try to pay it off every month by the due date. This way you receive the benefits and rewards without paying any interest.”
“Create a holiday budget. This is more than just a shopping list. Be sure to include food, party supplies, decorations, tickets to holiday events, and anything else that comes to mind. Examine the list carefully. Decide if there are things or gifts you can skip this year. Compare what you want to purchase with the amount of money you have. Assign a maximum price to everything on your list. Be sure to include yourself. This will help avoid those indulgent splurges.”
“Holiday sales started in September this year. Good buys pop up throughout the season. Do your online research to find what is expected to be the best price for special items. When you see it at that price, buy it. Don’t delay. Items in stock could run out on popular items. Spread your spending out over the months left. This also helps with paying off monthly bills. Be sure not to spend extra in December. When you have purchased what you need, don’t spend anymore.”
“Look for price-matching options to save money. Some credit cards offer forms of ‘price protection.’ Once you’ve bought the item, if you find a better price, you can file a price protection claim and have the difference refunded to your card. Many retailers offer price-match guarantees. Smart shoppers can use these offers to save. These programs do come with limitations. Some major holiday retailers don’t offer price matching during peak season. Some only offer price matching at the time of purchase, meaning you need to bring in the better price when go to buy it. Some will only offer price matching within certain geographic locations. If you are willing to put in a little work and do your research to find the best deals, this is a great way to save money.”
“Shop local to avoid shipping charges and support local business. Are there local artisans or food producers who sell something special you cannot get elsewhere? Consider gathering family recipes, documenting family traditions, or organizing videos or photos into a keepsake. Give the gift of time and work on sharing your special skills. Babysit, clean house, organize paperwork, give a cooking lesson or help fix small things around the house. Repurpose old things or search for items second-hand. Be creative and give with your heart more than your wallet.” — Lauren Weatherford, WVU Extension Family and Community Development Agent, Fayette and Nicholas Counties
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