5 Ways to Protect Your Wallet This Holiday Season
The holiday season is a time of joy, gratitude, and celebration, but it can also bring financial stress. For service members and their families, effective financial management is crucial year-round. The holidays are no exception. If you want to enjoy the holidays without stressing over spending, then you need to be aware of the common issues that can hurt your wallet this time of year.
Here are five practical ways to safeguard your wallet during this festive season without sacrificing the joy of giving and celebrating.
1. Have a Spending Plan Before You Buy
The excitement of the holidays can sometimes lead to impulsive spending, putting a strain on your finances. To avoid post-holiday financial blues, it’s essential to establish a spending plan before diving into the shopping frenzy. Start by setting a realistic budget that includes all your holiday expenses, such as gifts, decorations, travel, and special events.
- Make a list of everyone you plan to buy gifts for and allocate a specific amount for each person.
- Consider alternative gift options, such as DIY presents or experiences, to save money without sacrificing sentiment.
2. Monitor Your Credit
Maintaining good credit is a year-round responsibility, but it’s especially crucial during the holidays when the temptation to use credit cards is high. Keep a close eye on your credit by utilizing our free Credit Monitoring tool, designed to help military service members and families stay informed about any changes in their credit reports. This is just one of the many free financial tools included in membership to The Edge, GoVA’s digital platform to build financial empowerment.
- Regularly check your credit score and review your credit report for any discrepancies or unauthorized activities.
- Set up alerts to be notified of any suspicious or significant changes to your credit profile.
3. Watch Out for Identity Theft
The holiday season is a prime time for identity thieves to strike. With increased online shopping and financial transactions, it’s crucial to stay vigilant and protect your personal information. Safeguard your identity by being cautious about the information you share online and monitoring your accounts for any unusual activities.
- Use secure and unique passwords for online accounts.
- Be wary of phishing emails and only provide personal information on secure websites.
- Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit reports for added protection.
4. Protect Yourself from Common Scams
Scammers often exploit the holiday season to target unsuspecting individuals. Stay informed about common scams and take proactive measures to protect yourself and your family. Be especially cautious when receiving unsolicited emails, messages, or phone calls requesting personal or financial information. Even banks and financial institutions should not be requesting private information or account details by phone or email.
- Verify the legitimacy of charities before making donations.
- Be cautious of unexpected emails or messages claiming to be from financial institutions or retailers.
- Educate yourself and your family about common scams to recognize and avoid potential threats.
5. Know Your Debt-to-Income Ratio
Understanding your debt-to-income ratio is a fundamental aspect of financial health. During the holidays, it’s easy to lose track of your spending and accumulate debt. Knowing your debt-to-income ratio allows you to assess your financial situation objectively and make informed decisions about your budget and expenses. Want to check yours? Use our free debt-to-income calculator here! It’s one of the many financial tools included in The Edge membership, which is free to service members and families.
- Calculate your debt-to-income ratio by dividing your total monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income.
- Aim to keep your debt-to-income ratio below 36%, as a higher ratio may indicate financial stress.
As military service members and families navigate the holiday season, prioritizing financial well-being is essential. By following these five practical steps, you can protect your wallet, reduce financial stress, and enjoy the holidays without compromising your financial security. Remember, being proactive and informed is the key to a joyful and financially responsible holiday season.
GoVA wants to empower military families to make strong financial choices. That’s why we provide scholarships for free membership to The Edge, our digital platform with interactive tools, hundreds of articles and courses, and a fun way to gain the information you need to make informed money decisions.