Shop smart, spend safe this season

Here are some tips for cyber shopping, online returns, and other financial advice for the year’s end.

Some cyber shopping tips for a safe holiday season
These days I find I’m as apt to reach for my phone as I am for my credit card when I buy something, whether I’m using my “mobile wallet” or a person-to-person (P2P) payment.

And of course, you probably spend as much time shopping online as I do. That’s why as we dive into the shopping season, it’s a smart time to double-click on some ways to stay safe when we’re making digital transactions.

Here are some best practices that will help keep your money safe and your holiday cheer intact. (read more)

Suspicious charge? Act fast if you think any accounts may be at risk
Maybe you saw a suspicious charge on your bank statement. Or your debit card is missing from your wallet. If you believe your account is at risk, you need to act fast. Your money could be in jeopardy.

According to a 2015 American Bankers Association survey, banks lost nearly $2 billion to deposit account fraud the year before. The recent Equifax data breach highlights how consumer information is vulnerable and how that could put your financial accounts in danger.

When faced with a compromised account, consumers can protect themselves by acting quickly in the short term and diligently in the long term. (read more)

What’s the best way to track my spending?
Q: It seems like all my income disappears by the end of the month, and I want to know where it’s going. What’s the best way to keep track of my spending?

A: You’ve already come to an important realization: Understanding your expenses will give you greater control over them.

Many people have a tough time getting to that point. Two-thirds of U.S. adults don’t keep a detailed budget that tracks income and expenses, a 2013 Gallup survey found. That’s often because they’re afraid of what they’ll find, says Maggie Baker, a psychologist in the Philadelphia area and author of “Crazy About Money.” But a deep dive into your cash flow can be the first step toward finally feeling like you’re on course financially.

“There’s a certain empowerment that comes with facing the truth,” Baker says.

There’s no best way to track where your money goes; what’s most important is following through. Understand your preferences, explore the available tracking tools and choose the best fit. Once you have results, start making small changes. Here’s how to begin. (read more)

Why our brains make stupid money choices

  • Our money illusions can work against us, treating some forms of money as less real than others, and that can really cost you.  

Money is money, whether it’s cash in our hands, plastic cards at checkout counters or encrypted bits of data coursing between computers on the internet.

But our brains don’t view all money as equal, thanks to what behavioral economists call “cognitive biases”: 

  • We spend cash more carefully than plastic.
  • We regard tax refunds as a windfall rather than a return of what we earned.
  • We’d rather have money now than more money later. (read more)

A guide to making holiday returns easier

  •  Many retailers allow people to exchange or return goods, but the policies often must be followed to a T.

The holidays are a time for celebration and gifts, but not all presents hit the mark and returning them doesn’t feel very festive. If you find yourself unhappy with a gift, you wouldn’t be the only one.  

Nearly a quarter of the people responding to a 2015 holiday survey by shopping app Retale said they were likely to return or exchange at least one of the presents they received.

A recent holiday shopping report by personal finance website NerdWallet found that clothing was the most commonly returned gift last year, at 14 percent.  (read more) 

How to refresh your finances for the new year
Q: I want to make 2018 the year I fix up my finances for real. How can I give my money a fresh start?

A: I applaud your commitment to financial fitness. This is one of the most meaningful things you can do for yourself in 2018 and beyond.

While your resolve is strongest, set aside cash for emergencies in a traditional savings account. Next, if you’re not saving for retirement, start now. 

Getting your emergency and retirement accounts started is huge, and those might be the only things you focus on this year. But once they’re set, here are ways to bring your money makeover to the next level.  (read more)

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