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8 Ways to Protect Yourself During the Holiday Shopping Season

8 Ways to Protect Yourself During the Holiday Shopping Season

Holiday shopping enables you to treat your loved ones to a special surprise, but it also comes with some unfortunate risks. There’s always the possibility that your gifts won’t be appreciated, but that’s not the type of risk we’re talking about. Instead, it’s important for everyone to carefully consider the necessity of taking steps to protect themselves from a long list of potential holiday shopping related issues. By doing this now, you can take a safer and more realistic approach to crossing everything off your shopping list.

1. Be Cautious in Parking Lots

Parking lots can quickly turn into a madhouse during the holidays, which makes them much more dangerous to drive and walk through. Unfortunately, this isn’t even the worst thing you need to keep an eye on. Parking lots are one of the prime abduction spots for women and children. It might seem like this would be impossible with holiday shoppers everywhere, but the reality is that more people are distracted and criminals will wait for the perfect opportunity to strike. Sadly, parking garages are even worse.

Approximately 7.3 percent of all violent crimes happen in a parking lot or garage, and another 12.1 percent occur in commercial buildings such as stores and restaurants. By remaining cautious at all times, you can reduce your odds of becoming a victim. Always keep your car doors locked, and be sure to keep your keys handy as you walk through the parking lot.

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2. Avoid Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud and identity theft is continuously on the rise, and you can be certain that these criminals will take advantage of the holidays. Your credit card will most likely be used much more frequently during the next couple of months. Therefore, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself from credit card fraud, including closely monitoring your credit score and transaction records. You should also steer clear of paying at gas station pumps and other exterior places where credit card skimmers can easily be placed.

3. Stay Home on Black Friday

Yes, Black Friday has become a major shopping event, and you might even be able to score an amazing deal. However, most stores have a ridiculously small quantity of sale items on hand, and you can usually get the same deal online. In some cases, the online sales are even better than those in the physical stores.

Black Friday has become a recipe for disaster because shoppers are forced to stand in long lines, deal with huge crowds and compete for the best prices. Naturally, this leads to violence and numerous injuries every year. There have even been seven deaths attributed to Black Friday shopping. If you want to stay safe, it’s best to avoid all of this madness and shop online instead.

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4. Don’t Overspend

Everyone wants to give their loved ones a special holiday. This is especially true for parents who have young children. Part of keeping them safe and happy, though, requires making wise financial choices.

The U.S. is currently dealing with an eviction epidemic, and millions of people will lose their home this year. San Francisco alone has approximately 2,000 annual evictions. Sadly, January and February are when a large percentage of these evictions happen because people overspend during the holidays. Make a realistic gift budget and stick with it to avoid this problem and protect your entire family.

5. Choose Safety Instead of the Hottest Toy

It is inevitable that one or two toys will become so highly sought after that they sell out nationwide. When this happens, some parents become obsessed with the idea of finding these items for their child. As a result, it is common to see hot toys for sale at ridiculously inflated prices on eBay and Craigslist.

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If you have the money for this in your holiday shopping budget, then the price increase isn’t the risk you need to avoid. However, be sure that you choose a safe spot to meet up with anyone from Craigslist or any other local online marketplace. Some police stations have set up safe exchange zones in their parking lot. Even if your local station doesn’t have one of these designated areas, it’s still wise to meet in the parking lot.

6. Leave Your Children at Home

Busy stores are not only chaotic and no fun for a child but they also increase your risk of losing them in the crowd. Because of this, most police departments recommend leaving your kids in the care of a trusted babysitter when you have to go shopping during the holiday season. If this isn’t possible, be sure to always accompany them to the restroom. It’s also imperative to teach them to go to the customer service desk if they get separated from you.

7. Shop Online From Trusted Sites

Any website could get hacked, which might compromise your credit card and personal information. Of course, the same thing could happen if you shop in person. Therefore, it makes the most sense to choose your most trusted online sites and purchase holiday gifts from the safety of your home. This will make it easy to avoid crowds, parking lots, the need for a babysitter and many other issues that plague the biggest shopping season of the year.

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If you must buy something from a site that isn’t well-known or doesn’t have a solid history of protecting consumer data, be sure to use a third-party payment processor to reduce your risk. For example, using PayPal is safer than paying directly with a credit card because the online store in question will not have access to your payment information.

8. Be Aware of Drunk Drivers

The night before Thanksgiving has become a drinking holiday, and this leads to a lot of drunk drivers and DUIs. The rest of the holiday season is also more dangerous than usual from this perspective. Be sure to remain vigilant on the roadways so that you avoid and report drunk drivers. Almost 10,000 people die annually due to drunk drivers, but you can reduce your risk by staying off the roads at night and driving defensively.

These tips may seem overly cautious or even put a slight damper on your holiday shopping mood, but they are an accurate reflection of reality. By putting these protective measures in place, you can help ensure that you won’t enter the New Year broke, injured or battling with credit card fraud. Don’t forget that you can also take advantage of cashback sites to save money while shopping for holiday gifts, and this is a great way to stretch your budget.

Featured photo credit: Antoine K via flic.kr

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Holly Chavez

Writer, Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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