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Don’t Let Black Friday Turn Your Wallet Into a Black Hole

11/24/2015

Contact: Ashley Carr                    
(850) 413 – 2842

 
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As Black Friday and the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season approaches, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and the Department of Financial Services remind Floridians to make smart spending choices to keep from overspending and to heed warning signs to protect against fraud.
 
Before hitting the stores, make a holiday spending plan. Begin your holiday shopping with a clear understanding of what you want to spend so that bargain excitement doesn’t overwhelm your pocketbook. Many financial planners recommend spending no more than 1.5% of your annual income on holiday expenses or $750 per $50,000 of annual income. Use our easy Holiday Budget Calculator  to help determine your holiday budget.
 
As you begin your holiday gift buying, keep these tips in mind:
 
• Create a plan: Black Friday isn’t the best day to window shop. If braving the crowds, browse the circulars and determine in advance which specific items are the best deals at each store.
• Don’t fall for flashy advertising: Remember that retailers offer sale prices throughout the month of December, so Black Friday deals may not be the best time to buy. Don’t forget that many stores also offer online-only Cyber Monday sales as well.
• Keep security in mind when shopping online: Make sure the website is secure before providing any financial information. Look for a lock symbol in the web browser, which indicates a secure connection, or “https” at the start of the web address.
• Use credit when possible –for fraud protection: Many credit cards offer zero liability on fraudulent purchases and using credit cards also protects the funds in your bank account – funds that may be needed to cover the monthly household expenses. Be careful not to overspend when using credit.
• Time is not always on your side: While many retailers offer extended return periods during the holidays, make sure you’re aware of the return options on all of your purchases.
• Ask questions of callers: Never provide financial information to an unknown telephone caller. Always ask for call back information and a letter in writing that verifies the need of the call. Be wary of any caller unwilling to provide it.
Lastly, the holiday season is a time for giving and many consumers choose to give the gift of a donation to charitable organizations. However, studies show that con artists and fraudsters are likely to prey on consumers’ good will during this time of year. Before offering a charitable donation, consumers are urged to verify the legitimacy of the charity by checking to make sure the organization is properly registered with the state of Florida by calling the Consumer Assistance Call Center at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352), or out of state at (850) 410-3800. You can also visit the online Gift Givers' Guide to obtain information about a specific charity.
 
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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS).