The holiday season can be full of surprises: unexpected gifts and guests, chance encounters with old friends, and maybe even an important question with a sparkling ring attached. Not every holiday surprise is a good one and when it comes to spending, unanticipated fees and charges are especially unwelcome.
The chaos of the holiday season can leave anyone feeling unorganized and vulnerable to the unexpected. To avoid being unpleasantly surprised by your credit card bill come January, take heed of these 10 holiday shopping gotchas.
1. Store card discounts.
You may be tempted to take advantage of an extra 10-15% discount by opening a new store card. However, these cards have low credit limits and high interest rates, a combination that can prove dangerous to your credit score if not carefully managed. Ultimately, it’s best to avoid these cards unless you shop with the store frequently and can commit to paying off balances in full each month. Instead, stick to one credit card that provides cash back or miles and earn rewards faster.
2. Gift card restrictions.
Several doorbusters and Black Friday deals were accompanied by store gift cards, but these gift cards aren’t what they seem. They’re more like coupons, which means they can skirt the Card Act’s rules about certain restrictions and expiration dates. Instead of tucking these away for a rainy day, use them to offset the cost of gifts remaining on your holiday shopping list.
3. Refund limitations.
Getting a refund for an item you no longer want can get painful fast if you don’t know the store’s return policy. You may miss the return window since some stores have different return timeframes for specific products, namely electronics and contract cell phones. You may also get saddled with a merchandise credit instead of a refund, which will be a big disappointment if you don’t shop at the store often. In this case, you have the option of exchanging your gift card for cash using GiftCardGranny.com, or re-gifting it if youâre feeling especially generous!
4. Extended warranties.
Extended warranties are typically offered for electronics and appliance purchases and are often considered by cautious consumers who want to protect their investment. These warranties are also money makers for retailers who keep 50 percent or more of the cost for themselves. The manufacturer’s warranty is typically sufficient, plus most major credit cards offer extended coverage when you make the entire purchase on the card. For more information on these policies, consult Consumer Reports’ detailed guide.
5. Restocking fees.
Sure, you were thrilled about your new laptop purchase a couple weeks ago, but now you’re feeling buyer’s remorse or perhaps finding it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles you expected. Returning it may mean you receive less back than what you paid because of restocking fees, which are typically around 15 percent of the purchase price when it comes to electronics. To avoid restocking fees, read the fine print before you make your purchase. Otherwise, read the return policy and keep gadgets in their original packaging. Stores like Sears will waive restocking fees on unused consumer electronics if they’re returned in the original box and contain all the accessories and instructions.
6. Free shipping minimums.
Free shipping offers are everywhere this holiday season, but increasingly merchants are requiring minimum order thresholds of $50, $75 and even over $100 before you get free delivery. If you have to spend more to qualify for free shipping then it’s not free. Avoid adding more items to your online cart by holding off until the retailer promises free shipping on all orders. You can take advantage of such promotions on December 18th, this year’s Free Shipping Day, when hundreds of retailers waive minimum order requirements, offer extra discounts and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.
7. Return shipping charges.
Ordering online is quick and simple, but it could become costly if you don’t read return policies. Especially if you need to send something back, you may be facing a return shipping fee. Always review the company’s website for return policies and inquire if online order can be returned to a local brick and mortar store at no charge. You can also open a live chat with customer service to learn what your other options may be, or to request return shipping fees be waived. You’ll never know ’til you try!
8. “Buy more, save more” promotions.
The phrase “buy more, save more!” has likely flashed across your computer screen or greeted you at store entrances more than once this holiday season. Instead of offering 20-percent off your purchase, retailers have increasingly promoted tiered savings, like $10 off $50, $20 off $100 or $30 off $150 in an effort to boost purchase orders. Though $30 in savings seems like a better value than just $10, often the discount in each deal is the same. Don’t be tricked by this clever marketing strategy and enjoy whatever savings your budgeted spending gets you!
9. Surprise gifts.
After carefully planning your gift budget, nothing throws off your spending like an unexpected gift that you need to reciprocate. Factor this possibility into your budget now and have some inexpensive, ready-made gifts available for that moment. Holiday beverage or treat mixes, ceramic travel mugs or even an old fashioned plate of homemade cookies should do the trick.
10. Layaway cancellation.
Stores like Walmart and Toys ‘R Us had advertised free layaway programs this year by waiving start up fees. However, most stores still carry a $10 or $15 cancellation penalty, a detail often overlooked by shoppers mesmerized by program headlines. Before you open a layaway account, read the fine print and make sure you can make necessary payments in full before the end date to dodge the cancellation fine.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc., who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. For more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.
SpaceX Is Sending A Japanese Billionaire On A Trip Around The Moon
A few days back, SpaceX tweeted that they had signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard their BFR launch vehicle, with a cryptic Japanese flag emoji providing the only clue as to who the passenger might be.
Today, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took to the stage at a press event at SpaceX’s headquarters and announced that Japanese fashion magnate Yusaku Maezawa would be the first person to make the journey around the moon. The BFR Lunar Mission will last an estimated four to five days and will take place as early as 2023.
Maezawa is the 42-year-old Japanese billionaire founder of the custom clothing online retailer ZOZO, with a reported net worth of $3.6 billion. Needless to say, he’s got the wherewithal to afford such an extravagant expenditure.
“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” Maezawa said during the press conference. “Just staring at the moon fueled my imagination; it’s always there and has continued to inspire humanity. That is why I do not pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close.”
But that’s not all. Maezawa is inviting six to eight artists from around the world to join him on this mission to the Moon. The billionaire said he will invited painters, sculptors, musicians, and architects from around the world. Upon their return all he requests is that they create a work of art using their stellar trek as inspiration.
“These artists will be asked to create something when they return to Earth,” said Maezawa. “These masterpieces will inspire the dreamer inside all of us. Needless to say, we’ve always been inspired by the Moon. Take for example, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and The Beatles’ Mr. Moonlight.”
If successful, Maezawa and the people who join him will be the first humans to travel to the Moon since the final Apollo mission in 1972. But before history is made, the BFR needs to be constructed, and they’ve got five years to do so. An ambitious time table, but Musk and team believe they can do it.
The BFR Lunar Mission is the first step in Elon Musk’s master plan, as he wants humanity “to become a multi-planet civilization as soon as possible” and that he hopes to “make people excited about the future.”
Mission accomplished Elon, 2023 can’t get here soon enough!
You’ll Never Run Out Of Power Again With The 20,100 mAh Novoo AC Power Bank
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Omars Electronics, but all thoughts are our own.
How many of you suffer from charge anxiety, worried about one of your devices (phone, tablet, laptop, etc) running out of juice when you’re out and about? We’ve all been there, frantically searching for a free outlet to plug into and get charged up.
As someone who travels frequently, this is something I constantly struggle with, as it’s easy to drain your battery on a cross-country flight while playing Candy Crush or watching movies… especially if the airplane you’re on doesn’t have a USB port or power outlet.
To combat this, I always travel with a “pocket power bank”, which can charge up my phone or tablet in an emergency. But they’re not good for much else, as these little power banks simply don’t have a lot of juice, not to mention the fact that you can’t charge other devices, like your laptop (assuming it doesn’t draw too much wattage), DSLR, Bluetooth headphones, or drone.
So what’s the alternative? The 20,100 mAh Novoo AC Power Bank is your energy solution to keep your laptops, tablets, smartphones and other digital devices charged anytime, anywhere. Not only is that a CRAZY amount of battery capacity (enough to charge a smartphone more than five times), but you can charge multiple devices at once, and it supports three different types of ports: USB, USB-C, and an AC outlet.
It’s that last one that had me perk up and take notice, as I am rarely able to get through a long flight without my laptop running out of juice. With the Novoo AC Power Bank, I can plug in my laptop when I’m running low on juice and keep on going. It’s also handy if you’re traveling abroad and don’t want to buy a power adapter, or if you’re camping out in the woods. Simply charge this bad boy up before your trip, and use it to recharge your devices instead.
This actually would have been a lifesaver when I visited London last year, as I totally forgot to pack a power adaptor in my haste. Both my laptop and GoPro ran out of juice while I was out there, and I had no way of charging them back up. But if I had the Novoo AC Power Bank with me, I would have been good to go. Talk about a rookie mistake!
Best of all, the Novoo AC Power Bank won’t take up a lot of room in your backpack, as it’s only a little bigger than a soda can, measuring in at 80mm x 80mm x 155mm and weighing just 2.12 pounds. So what are you waiting for? If you’re constantly worried about running out of power, pick up the Novoo AC Power Bank (using coupon code NOVOOESS for 15% off) and leave that charge anxiety behind.
While you’re at it, make sure you check out the other sweet gear that Omars Electronics offers for power users, like their Omars 10-Port Hub (use coupon code OMARS10P for 15% off) and the Omars Beast – a crazy huge capacity 26,800 mAh 90 watt AC power bank (use coupon code NOVOOTPB for 10% off).
Last but not least, you can enter to win your very own Novoo AC Power Bank:
Here’s Your Chance To Shop Local While Giving Back To A Worthy Cause
There’s no question that online retailers like Amazon have changed the game, allowing people to purchase virtually anything with the simple click of a button, and have it delivered within a few days. It’s super convenient for sure, but at what cost?
Over the years, we have seen these massive companies put the little Mom & Pop shops out of business. But fear not, because today’s younger generation is looking to change of all of that, all while giving back to some worthy causes.
Currently, 75% of millennial consumers consider it very important to support brands that give back to society, and 37% of those same consumers are more likely to buy items associated with a particular cause. And they want to support the Maker Movement by purchasing unique and innovative products made by inventors, designers, engineers, artists and true craftsman.
One company helping to facilitate this movement is IndieDoGood.com, which helps connect small businesses with consumers through their website, with tons of unique and innovative products to choose from. And best of all, they donate 5% of your total purchase price to your favorite charity. Seriously, how great is that?
You can check out this video to learn more about the IndieDoGood story.
The company was founded by Ron and Sue Otten, driven by their passion for giving back to charities and local communities along with their desire to provide an environment where entrepreneurs can tell their story, quickly go to market, and bring high-quality, artisanal products to shoppers around the world.
Here are a few products on IndieDoGood.com that caught our attention:
Shore Boards started by building hollow-wood paddle boards, that can even be customized and are gorgeous pieces of art. These top-quality boards are handmade for all types of board sports including Stand Up Paddle Boards, Longboards, and Wakesurf boards. This video gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the way these boards are made and provides some insights to this home-grown artisan company.
MotionWise Standing Desk
Studies have long shown many health disadvantages of prolonged sitting, they call it “Sitting Disease”. As someone who spends most of my day sitting in front of a computer screen, I could definitely benefit from MotionWise’s creatively-designed standing desks that provide improved blood flow throughout your body, increased energy, better posture, while actually helping you to burn more calories while working.
Hammer Head Swim Caps
Hammer Head Swim Caps is the world’s ONLY protective swim cap. Did you know that water sports have more ER visits than football, rugby, and hockey? Hammer Head swim caps protect swimmers thanks to a patent-pending layer of honeycomb material inside the cap that helps to absorb and dissipate the shock of impact with the wall and other swimmers.
These are just a few examples from the ever-growing catalog of unique products available for purchase from IndieDoGood.com. So what do you say, who’s ready to support the Maker Movement while doing some good for your favorite charity?
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by IndieDoGood, but all opinions are my own.