The annual Thanksgiving shopping season (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday) presents a one-of-a-kind opportunity to improve your financial well-being.
Teeming with steep discounts, rewards opportunities, and strong gift-giving potential, a strong Black Friday can leave you ready for the new year.
Use this guide to keep your holiday shopping safe, smart, and successful!
1) Safety First!
While we look forward to finding that great deal, or making life better for ourselves and loved ones through charitable giving, fraudsters look forward to the explosion of purchases and general chaos of the season.
Statistically speaking, this year you are just as likely to complete your Black Friday shopping lounging in the living room online as you are shuffling through crowded retail shops. That increase in online shopping gives fraudsters more ways to cause harm.
While no one can guarantee complete safety, here are some ways to stay safer online and in-person.
- First things first: Enroll in fraud text alerts if you haven’t already. This will give you up-to-the-minute notifications of suspicious activity on your accounts. It’s quick and easy to do, and it could save you tons of money, time and stress dealing with devious fraudsters.
- Use your chip-enabled card whenever you pay with plastic. If you are a Unitus member and have not yet activated your chip card, call 503.227.5571 or stop by a branch as soon as you can to get started.
- Use Apple Pay or other digital wallet options during checkout at participating merchants. The tokenization technology makes your transactions more secure, and as a bonus, it makes checkout much faster than inserting your chip card.
- In 5 minutes or less, learn how to protect your identity online and create an action plan to stay safe. Check out our Financial Life Minutes on Identity Protection – a quick, self-paced online interactive video to boost your security. (Be aware that this link will have sound.)
If you are ordering online:
- Update the antivirus software on your computer and mobile phone before shopping.
- Make sure you are ordering from a trustworthy website. Whenever possible, to be safe, use sites whose URL begins with “https://…” (the “s” stands for “secure”).
- Enroll in Visa Checkout. Shopping online feels great – so many options at the flick of a finger. But have you ever reached the checkout screen only to find that you needed to input your credit card information? And, oh by the way, your credit card is in the other room?
- Visa Checkout fixes that problem, letting you pay on the spot without having to enter your long card number. How does it work? Visa is connected to a large number of stores, so you can use a single login to pay for things at all of these stores, which include Starbucks, Best Buy, and Walmart.
- It works with your Unitus debit or credit card, on any device, and is backed by Visa security. It just feels nice to have that convenience at checkout.
- Never email your credit card information or other sensitive information. If they ask you to, you can be sure it’s a scam.
- Phishers and scammers may pose as retailers promising huge discounts like 60% – 80% off.
- If you receive an email or notification from a store you don’t think you have an account with, or a store you haven’t signed up to get emails from, do not click the links or open the attachment.
- Instead, check the company’s website itself to see if the sale described in the email is legitimate.
2) Save Money Mindfully
It’s an open secret that “Black Friday” discounts are no longer confined to the single day after Thanksgiving.
Deals now run the whole week of Thanksgiving, and can start even earlier in the month of November. Plan ahead to take advantage of all the deals!
- Before you buy anything, set a spending budget. This will help you avoid impulse buys and bring home everything you need.
- What is the maximum amount you want to spend this season?
- Who do you want to get gifts for?
- What do you need most urgently?
- Before you see a great deal and hit “Add to cart,” ask yourself “do I actually need this or just want it? How often will I use it? Do I currently have something I can use instead?”
- In 5 minutes or less, learn how to make a budget and create an action plan to get started. That’s in our Financial Life Minutes on Budgeting – one of the most important building blocks of financial well-being.
Don’t Forget About Cyber Monday
- The “cyber” label is outdated, as the Monday after Thanksgiving now features tons of deals on non-electronic products.
- Shoppers spent $345 billion last year on Cyber Monday, a one-day shopping record, so expect retailers to seize on this by offering more discounts this year. (See this Detroit Free Press story for more.) Didn’t find the perfect deal for you on Black Friday? Keep your eyes open on Monday.
- Use your Platinum Rewards Visa to rack up rewards. Check your rewards balance in uOnline and redeem points for virtually anything.
- Browse discount aggregator sites like Best Black Friday, Deal News, and Gotta Deal for deals. Plus, visit the direct websites of your favorite stores to find deals exclusive to their site.
3) Support Your Community
What better time to give to local community organizations? You are already planning to spend money, and you are injecting some healthy spending into the economy.
Why not save a few dollars (or hours) to give directly to the organizations who never stop working to help those in need?
- Seek out and purchase from companies supporting their community this season.
- Last year, outdoor apparel retailer Patagonia donated 100% of their Black Friday sales – which amounted to more than $10 Million – to grassroots organizations who protect the air, water and soil in local communities.
- Put your purchases to a good cause!
- Save a few dollars for Giving Tuesday, the day after Cyber Monday. Be a part of a growing movement that celebrates volunteer and charitable donations across nearly 100 countries.
- Use your skills to help nonprofits with campaigns. Volunteer your time to support a local organization. Donate a portion of one paycheck to charity. Pick whichever works best for you and make a difference! The Northwest is brimming with charitable opportunities.
- Donate to one of Unitus’ community partners, who work tirelessly throughout the year to feed hungry children, clothe and house individuals experiencing homelessness, and make life better for those who need it most.
- Plan out all the gifts you want or need to buy this season and use this massive savings opportunity to brighten the lives of your friends and loved ones this holiday season. As a bonus, you’ll have your holiday shopping done early!
- Support local businesses on Small Business Saturday! Show what makes the Pacific Northwest the nation’s go-to source for hand-crafted, high quality, artful products that impress owners and guests.
- Get outside and take in the crisp, invigorating air! The states of Oregon and Washington are offering free access to all of their state parks on Black Friday! Take the family on a trip and celebrate each other!
4) After You’re Done Shopping…
Once all your shopping is done, you are ready to put the final touches on the shopping season. Get yourself in the clear for the new year!
- Review your account transactions a few days after you shop. With the large transaction volume, it may take longer than usual for all your transactions to post, and a cashier may make a mistake in their hurry to push people through.
- Double check that you were only charged for what you bought. As a bonus, this is a perfect time to review all your purchases and decide if there’s anything you want to return!
- If anything looks off, call Unitus Card Services at 503.227.5571 as soon as you can to discuss and dispute the charge if necessary. We are here to help you resolve the charge.
- Plan a day to wrap all the gifts you bought for your friends and family. Add labels, write notes, and package them as needed to get a jump on your holiday gifting. Your future holiday self will thank you for it!
Once the shopping is all done, you are free to get cozy at home and spend quality time with family. Or take a trip to visit extended relatives. Or volunteer for a local nonprofit organization!
However you choose to do the Thanksgiving shopping season, be safe, be smart, and enjoy the holidays.
If you think this article has been helpful for you, pay it forward – share this article with a loved one and help give them the tools to make their holiday season as good as can be.
Posted By: Jacob Schnee
About the Author: Jacob joined Unitus as Marketing Specialist in March 2015 and transitioned to Marketing Communications Specialist in March 2017.
His experience has spanned hospitality, business development, consulting, and marketing in various industries along the east coast, west coast and in between.
When he is not developing internal and external communications for Unitus, he is engaging in recreational fitness, studying personality types and exploring the outdoors with his wife and dog.