Holiday shopping 2017: 5 retail traps to avoid

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Holiday shopping 2017: 5 retail traps to avoid
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You’ve set a holiday budget, reviewed the Black Friday ad scans and mapped out your shopping strategy to save more and spend less this holiday season.

But if you’re not careful, common retail traps could make this a Christmas to remember for all the wrong reasons.

RELATED: The best days to shop between now and Christmas

5 retail traps to avoid this Black Friday season

We know you have a lot of Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping to do, so let’s get straight to the top five things money expert Clark Howard wants you to know:

1. Don’t be fooled by misleading sales 

Retailers are aware that many shoppers can’t resist a sale, so that’s why we’re bombarded with promotions like “50% off” and “Buy one, get one free.”

However, the regular price listed on items may be inflated to make it look like you’re getting a better deal than you really are.

Before you buy something just because it’s supposedly 25%, 50% or 75% off the retail price, stop to think about whether you can afford the final price — the only one that matters.

Also, you can comparison shop in the stores using your smartphone by going to Google.com/Shopping.

2. Always get a receipt and check the return policy

Whether you’re buying for family, friends or yourself, there’s a good chance that at least one item you purchase this holiday season will have to be returned.

Many stores have special holiday return policies to give you extra time for returns and exchanges. For example, Best Buy:

“Buy your gifts and other items this holiday with the peace-of-mind of easy returns. Almost every purchase made throughout November and December can be returned through January 14, 2018. Purchases made between October 29–December 30, 2017 have an extended return period through January 14, 2018, excluding cell phones, devices that can be activated, AppleCare monthly plans, and Vivint products. All other terms and conditions of our Return & Exchange Promise apply.”

To avoid any return headaches, have a receipt either printed or emailed for every purchase you make.

3. Beware of fake retail websites

When you’re looking for deals online, clicking on Facebook or email links could take you to fake retail websites that only exist to steal your personal information.

These pages may look similar to the retailer’s official site, but it’s just a scam!

Some signs of a bogus retail website include a suspicious URL, spelling or grammatical mistakes and deals that seem too good to be true.

To find the legitimate website, start by doing a search on Google for “company name + official site.”

4. Do NOT give gift cards

If you’re struggling to figure out what to get somebody on your Christmas list this year, Clark says there’s one thing you shouldn’t buy: gift cards.

Given recent store closures, his concern is that the retailer may shut down before the gift card is redeemed.

“There has never been a year that it has been more dangerous to receive or to give gift cards for restaurants and retailers,” Clark said. “Both industries are having a terrible time right now.”

Instead of a gift card, Clark says the better gift is a greeting card and cash.

5. Store credit cards are also a bad idea!

When you’re at the register, a sales associate may ask if you want to sign up for a store credit card to receive 20% off your first purchase or 0% special financing for 12 months. Don’t do it!

The problem with one-store-only credit cards is that many of them apply retroactive interest.

For example, if you make a $1,000 purchase at 24.99% deferred interest for 12 months, you’d owe $249.90 in interest if you don’t pay off the entire balance during that promotional period.

It doesn’t matter how much is left over on the bill, you still have to pay all of that interest!

RELATED: Early Black Friday 2017: Stores open on Thanksgiving

Final thought

If you want to stay on budget this holiday season, you have to create a budget in the first place! Be realistic about how much you’ll need to spend on yourself and for loved ones — then set a limit.

And once you have a shopping list, stick to it! Resist the temptation to spend, spend, spend.

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Mike Timmermann About the author:
Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.
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