The holidays are quickly approaching. In fact, today is “Green Monday “, historically one of the three biggest online shopping days of the season.
While it’s a time of celebration and a joyous season to spend with family, it can also truly cause havoc on our finances. But before your finances get turned upside down shopping the Green Monday deals , complete this quick financial checklist to keep you on track and your money safe.
- Create a safety plan. Unfortunately, it isn’t rare to hear about credit card fraud , especially during the holidays. Protect yourself by figuring out ways you can protect your finances. Regularly check your bank statements and credit card statements for errors or fraudulent purchases. Keep your receipts to keep track of purchases and in case you need to return items. Review your credit cards’ policies. Do they offer fraud protection and alerts to suspicious activity? Find the card that offers the best protection to use. You can also enroll in a free service like Credit Sesame  that will send you alerts.
- Create a holiday budget. If you just spent whatever you wanted to during the holiday season, chances are you’d end up spending more than you anticipated. If you’re trying to watch your spending, create a holiday budget . Write down everything you’re going to need to spend money on during the holidays including gifts (make a list of everyone you want to buy gifts for), decorations, hosting a party, gifts for attending a party, electric bills increase (i.e. factor any increase with lights and decorations), and anything else. Once you do that, you can figure out how much you can spend based on your monthly budget and plan to get through the holidays debt free .
- See what you already have. Before you run out and start shopping, do a quick inventory of what you already have on hand. Do you have wrapping paper and other supplies from last year? If you baked for Thanksgiving, there’s a good chance you already have some baking ingredients left over from the holiday.
- Sell your unwanted stuff. Instead of throwing your holiday gifts and other purchases on a charge card and accruing debt, sell your unwanted items for extra cash. Go through your closets, the attic, garage, and wherever else you might find items to sell. You can sell clothing and accessories to consignment or second hand shops, sell items on eBay or Amazon, sell books to a used book store, and even sell furniture online or at a consignment shop. For ideas see 6 Ways to Make Money Organizing Your Clutter .
- Search for deals. Once you make your list of everything you need to buy for your budget, you can also use it as a guide to find deals. If you know you’re shopping at a particular store, sign up for e-mail alerts. Many stores offer a deal, such as 15 percent off an item just for signing up for their e-mail list. You’ll also hear about sales, promotions, and receive additional coupons. If you’re looking for a particular item, don’t just go out and buy it at the first store. Compare prices at different stores to see who is offering the best deal.
What are other ways you can financially prepare for the holidays? What are your best ways for saving money during this expensive season? How are you preparing this year?