Vienna, Va. – Thanksgiving is almost here, and the season of spending is officially upon us. Despite the merry making, news of inflation and higher prices, rising interest and mortgage rates, greater volatility in the stock market and an impending recession has been dominating headlines for months on end, leaving many consumers questioning what they can do to protect their financial wellbeing. As we quickly head into the holidays, United Bank, which has been serving communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for more than 180 years, is sharing its top tips to help consumers reduce the added stress holiday spending brings and find more joy in the months ahead.
Before you begin to browse this year’s best sales, check out United’s tips for getting ahold of your holiday budget.
#1: Make a Holiday Budget – That Goes Beyond Just Gifts
Begin by making a simple list of your holiday expenses, starting with all the people you want to gift and how much you plan to spend on each of them. Remember – it’s the thought that counts. Have a conversation with your loved ones. Maybe they want to cut back too. Setting a price limit could be just what everyone wants this year. And don’t forget about charitable donations and small items like stocking stuffers, treats for teachers and gift exchanges with co-workers.
Travel is another expense you’ll need to budget for. If you’re driving, include gas and tolls. If you’re flying, include baggage fees, airport parking or the cost of a shuttle or ride service. And if you are not staying with family or friends, make sure to account for a hotel or home sharing accommodations. Lastly, don’t forget about your pets – if they can’t join you, factor in fees for boarding or hiring a pet sitter.
Next up is entertainment. If you’re hosting a party, baking goodies or enjoying a festive night out with friends, be sure to add those costs to your plan. And then there’s the décor and accessories – whether you’re buying a welcoming wreath or a sparkly new pair of shoes, account for those items too.
#2: Plan Ahead Before Shopping Sales
Make your dollars go further by taking advantage of sales on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all the others that seem to creep up earlier and earlier each year. Just don’t get carried away in the holiday frenzy and assume every item on sale is a good deal. Do your research. There are many price-comparison apps that can help you make smart choices. Though you don’t have to wait until Black Friday to start shopping – look for sales throughout the year so your budget takes less of a hit at once and you have more time to shop.
Even when you plan, you may still be hit with last-minute expenses. One way to stay ahead here is to pay with cash when you’re shopping in person. Then when you run out, you run out. You can also consider layaway programs that allow you to pay a little bit each week, interest free.
#3: Stay Safe When Shopping Online
U.S. internet users are projected to make more online purchases in 2022 than ever before. If you’ll be hitting the holiday sales virtually, make sure you protect your wallet. One easy way to do this is by keeping your computer and mobile devices up to date with the latest security software, web browser and operating system to defend against viruses, malware and other threats. Be sure to turn on automatic updates so you receive the latest fixes as they become available.
Whether you’re shopping from the comfort of your couch, the airport or over a gingerbread latte at your favorite coffee shop, secure your internet connection. If you’re using a public Wi-Fi network, be cautious about what information you are sending over it. When you are ready to check out, pay safely by making sure the website you are browsing uses secure technology. The web address should begin with “https” and have a tiny, locked padlock symbol on the page. Only shop sites that that take secure payment methods that include buyer protection.
#4: Save Money for the Holidays — And Throughout the Year
Don’t forget about your other savings goals. Take control of your finances during and beyond the holidays by starting to save early and often. Set a specific goal – like 20 percent of your take-home pay – and put that money into a money market or savings account. A savings goal calculator can help you determine exactly how much you’ll need to save each month to realize your next big purchase.
You can avoid getting caught off guard this time of year with a specialized holiday savings account that keeps your holiday money separate, like United’s Christmas Club Account. An initial deposit of only $5 gets you started, and you’ll receive a single check in October so you can start shopping.
About United Bank
United Bank is a premier community bank headquartered in Greater Washington, D.C. A subsidiary of United Bankshares, Inc. (NASDAQ: UBSI), United has consolidated assets of approximately $29 billion with nearly 250 locations throughout South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Georgia, as well as Washington, D.C., where it is the largest community bank in the D.C. Metropolitan region. The Company is committed to growing the relationships its built since 1839 and offering a competitive suite of banking and lending products, treasury management, wealth management, mortgage services, personal and business credit cards and more. For more information, visit About United.