Are the Store Credit Card and Accompanying Discount Worth It?

If you do any shopping at all, you’ve certainly been offered a store credit card along with a great discount. Some of these deals sound pretty good. You might get a discount and free shipping. Some cards allow you to earn cash back.

But are these deals really worth it? As with many things, the answer is, “It depends.” It’s important to read the fine print and consider all the savings and costs involved. It’s also important to be honest with yourself about your shopping habits.

Keep these tips in mind when reviewing a store credit card offer:

  1. How much are you really saving? There are different ways that a card provides benefits.
      • A card might offer 5% off all purchases. That’s great, but how much do you actually purchase in a year from that store? Calculate what your savings would probably be considering the items you usually purchase at that store.
      • Free shipping for purchases at the online store. Many stores, like Target and Wal-Mart, have online stores and will ship to your home. Some cards offer free shipping. But is all shipping free? Is it just smaller items? Read the fine print.
      • Cash back on purchases. Are all purchases included? Based on your usual shopping habits, how much would you really get back?

  2. What are the limits? Is there a limit to the cash back reward? Does the discount only apply for the first 6 months you have the card? Many perks have caps on them. Ensure you know the limits.

  3. What is the interest rate? If the card has a low interest rate, how long is that interest rate in effect? Are you good about paying your balance in full each month? How much are you likely to pay in interest each year?
      • The credit card is banking on the fact that many people will end up paying 20% in interest fees, which more than makes up for a 3% store discount.

  4. What is the annual fee? You might think there is no fee, only to find that the fee kicks in after the first year. How does the annual fee alter your expected savings? If you don’t use the card a lot, you might find that the annual fee is greater than the amount you’re saving.

  5. What is the credit limit? Most stores have low limits. One reason for a low limit is the hope that you will go over it. What is the penalty for exceeding your credit limit?

Based on this information, you can simply do the math and decide for yourself if the card is really worth it for you. There is no blanket answer. The correct answer depends on the details of the offer, your needs, and your shopping tendencies.

In general, if you will use the card frequently, the annual fee is low, and you pay off your balance in full each month, the card can be a good idea.

It’s important to remember that credit cards are notorious for offering a great deal for new customers, only to reduce the rewards, increase the interest rate, and increase the annual fee. Be sure to read the small print before signing up.

Store credit cards can offer impressive perks and an excellent opportunity to improve your credit. But these cards usually have very high interest rates. Be sure you’re getting a card that will improve your financial situation, rather than cause financial challenges.

Budgeting For The Holiday Season

The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year due to the financial pressures. Between the gift giving, holiday entertaining, and the regular monthly expenses, it all adds up to an expensive time of year!

When you budget for the holidays early, you’ll have a handle on your holiday shopping and spending throughout the season.

Benefits of a Holiday Budget

Keeping a budget during the holiday season will benefit you in many ways. First, you’ll avoid overspending, which will keep you from playing “catch up” when the season ends. Second, you’ll reduce financial stress throughout the holiday season, which will make the experience more enjoyable for you.

A couple of simple budgeting practices during the next few months will have a positive impact on your holiday spending, which can help to prevent you from going overboard or becoming overwhelmed.

Try these holiday spending budget strategies to ease financial tension during this hectic season:

  1. Create a budget. Determine how much money is available for you to spend based on your current financial situation. Be realistic with your holiday spending budget, regardless of how much or little you can play with. This is your spending limit, and your goal is to stay within it.
      • Remember that your expenses must be less than your income. There’s no need to get into extensive debt because of the holidays.

  2. Make a list. List everyone that you need to furnish a gift for so you can create a realistic plan to accommodate your gift-giving needs. Keep everyone in mind, including family members, friends, and anyone else you want to give a gift to, such as neighbors or other acquaintances.

  3. Create a budget worksheet. Create a basic budget worksheet on paper or on your computer. List every gift recipient in one column. Create a column to brainstorm ideas, a column for your planned budget for each recipient and a column for how much you actually spent on each person. Track overall budget and actual spending as well to see how you do at the end.

  4. Tweak as necessary. Make changes to your budget whenever you overspend on one person so you stay within your budget overall.
      • Try to set realistic budget amounts for each of the recipients on your worksheet in order to minimize the need for edits to your worksheet, but do not be afraid to make edits as necessary.

  5. Trim as necessary. Giving gifts to your neighbors, your children’s teachers, and service providers like the mailman is a nice sentiment, but not necessary. If your budget cannot support your list of recipients, trim the list!
      • Consider giving stocking stuffer type gifts to these recipients if you insist on giving them something for the holidays. Small gifts, inexpensive homemade gifts, or simple greeting cards are just as sentimental and memorable but will not break your budget.

  6. Start early. When working on a budget, starting early offers a definite advantage. The more time you have to get your shopping done, the more time you have to comparison shop, shop sales and look for deals. Avoid leaving your shopping until the last moment; otherwise you’ll likely pay higher prices and spend more time feeling aggravated in the lineups.

Get a Handle on Your Spending

It only takes a few simple changes in your spending and budgeting habits to improve your holiday shopping experience. By starting early and following a plan, you can overcome the obstacles of holiday shopping, budgeting, and spending with ease. Enjoy your holidays!