KNOWLEDGE CENTER: Tips to manage increased holiday spending costs this year [Column]

With the continued impact of inflation on consumer costs, this year’s post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend and Cyber Monday saw spending at a record pace.

For many shoppers, higher costs drove increased spending while others may have been planning to spend more anyway, as reflected in a recent WSFS Bank Money Trends study that found 54% of consumers in the Greater Philadelphia and Delaware region planned to spend the same or more on gifts this holiday season than they did last year.

However, 41% indicated they would spend less on gifts, and nearly half (46%) planned to spend less on dining out during the holidays.

Regardless of how your budget is impacted by rising costs this year, it’s crucial to manage it wisely to keep your finances in good standing.

Here are a few approaches to consider.

Stay Mobile

Use your mobile phone or device to track spending by setting up a holiday spending plan that can be accessed while on-the-go. There are several ways you can set your plan and tracking up, including using a spreadsheet app or setting up a savings or spending account specifically funded with your holiday budget that you can keep close tabs on from anywhere.

Setting up buckets for each person you are shopping for or for dining out while shopping can also help you move your budget around as you spend, so if you found a great deal for one person’s gift, you may have wiggle room for someone else’s that you can track.

Review Your Accounts’ Policies

Now is an ideal time to check your credit and banking accounts to make sure you are keenly aware of credit limits and useable funds.

For credit card limits, don’t just use the maximum available balance as a guide — that’s what your budget is for. With rising interest rates, this is an especially tricky time to make sure you can pay back what you spend on credit when it is due to avoid costly interest charges.

When managing your bank accounts, make sure you are paying close attention to balances and know your bank’s policies on maximum transfer amounts and overdraft protection and services.

Even with the best money and budget planning, sometimes inadvertent overspending can happen. Some people prefer to have a linked account, like savings or a line of credit, to cover potential overdrafts, while others prefer to enroll in an overdraft service that may initiate a fee, but avoids transactions being declined if sufficient funds are not available.

Keep in mind that not all overdraft policies and fees are the same. Look for a bank that provides options like no-cost overdraft protection transfers to help you manage your accounts and cover for an overdraft, and that doesn’t charge a fee when they don’t pay from your account due to insufficient funds.

Talk to your banker to determine your options and what works best for your spending habits and budget.

Protect Yourself From Fraud

No matter how you track spending and manage your accounts, keep a close eye on individual transactions online or using your mobile device to identify any potentially fraudulent activity.

When shopping in-person or online use your credit card if you can, as most credit cards provide maximum liability protection for fraudulent transactions. For debit cards, simple things like memorizing your PIN and shielding keypads when using them can help you protect yourself.

Make sure all your antivirus, anti-spyware and browser updates are installed as well before doing any online shopping and accessing your banking and credit accounts.

Finally, set up fraud alerts for your accounts and make sure they come directly to your mobile device so you can stay on top of anything suspicious. And remember, your bank will never call you and ask for your Social Security Number, account number, or passwords.

If you do notice suspicious activity, call the phone number on the back of your debit card, monthly statement or credit card immediately.

Shelly Kavanagh is Senior Vice President, Director of Retail Delivery for WSFS Bank. Prior to her current role, Kavanagh served WSFS as Director of Retail Strategy, Regional Manager, Retail Program Manager, and Small Business Relationship Manager. She brings more than 16 years of experience in banking.

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