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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 May 21, 2019

13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

Creating your productivity ritual — a routine that helps you to maintain a peak level of energy can get you the best out of your days.

Part of creating your productivity routine involves removing activities that drain you (what I call “kryptonites”), and that includes your bad habits.

Like it or not, bad habits are bad for you — mentally, physically, emotionally and even socially in some cases. While some bad habits are harder to quit than others, it doesn’t change the fact that you need to get rid of them. Here are 13 bad habits to quit right away:

1. Stress Eating

I used to be a serious stress eater. I would eat whenever I felt unhappy, stressed, disappointed, anxious, or even… happy! My eating had nothing to do with being hungry, and everything to do with using food to fill my emotional voids.

While eating would comfort me, this feeling was momentary and would disappear right after I was done eating. Instead, what I had left would be the same emotional void that triggered me to eat in the first place (be it unhappiness or stress), a 2,000 excess calorie intake over what I should have eaten for the day, and anger at myself for having stress ate.

I’ve since overcome stress eating. I have healthy eating habits and a healthy relationship with food today where I no longer use food as a tool to fill my emotions.

If you are a stress eater, don’t fret — here’s how to manage your stress better:

How to Manage Stress (A Step-by-Step Guide to Turn Stress Into Success)

2. Nail Biting

Not only is nail biting unhygienic, it is also socially repelling, leads to dental problems like malocclusion of the anterior teeth,[1] potentially cause stomach problems,[2] and lead to severely deformed fingernails in the long run.

People who bite their nails tend to have shorter nails than the average person; their nail plates also experience scarring and may eventually become absent.[3]

Understand what triggers your nail biting behavior and replace it with another neutral to positive habit. Make habits to break habits.

For example, if you bite your nails when you are stressed, go for a walk or listen to music instead the next time you feel stressed.

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3. Hanging out with Naysayers

We all know these people — people who play devil’s advocate to every idea you have and every goal you want to pursue. We are already our greatest self-critics, so it doesn’t help when there’s someone beside us, ever ready to pounce on what we say and tear it down.

Hang out less with these naysayers and spend more time with supportive people who share constructive feedback instead. You will be much happier this way.

Learn how to get rid of naysayers with these 10 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Achieve Your Dreams.

4. Being with People Who Don’t Appreciate You

Haven’t all of us been in this situation before? Trying to please people who don’t appreciate us? Bending over backwards to be there for people when they are never there for us?

While we give without expectations of return, we need to draw a line with people who don’t value us because these people damage our souls.

Stop spending time with people who don’t appreciate you, and spend more time with people who do instead.

Unsure who you should get rid of? Learn about it here: 5 Kinds of Toxic People That You Need to Get Rid of Now

5. Smoking

Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death globally.[4]

In just the United States alone, about 500,000 deaths are attributed to smoking-related diseases annually. A recent study estimated that as much as one-third of China’s male population will have significantly shortened life-spans due to smoking! Gender-wise, male and female smokers lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life respectively — that’s over a decade of life right there.[5]

Not only that, smoking causes pre-mature skin aging (i.e. wrinkles), yellowing of teeth, bad breath, and worse of all — jeopardy of the health of people around you, including your loved ones. Studies have shown that non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk to many of the health problems associated with direct smoking.[6]

Smoking risks

    6. Excessive Drinking

    All of us know that drinking too much alcohol is bad for us, but do you know how bad it really is?

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    According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking too much — be it on a single occasion or over time — can seriously damage your health:[7]

    • Brain problems: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, making it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
    • Heart diseases: Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle, Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat, stroke, high blood pressure
    • Liver diseases: Steatosis or fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis
    • Pancreas problems: Pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
    • Different types of cancer: Mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, breast

    If you drink a lot, perhaps cutting it out right away will be tough. Cut down the number of glasses you drink each time, followed by the number of times you drink a week.

    If need be, seek help from an AA group — you aren’t alone in this. Change starts from today.

    7. Eating Junk Food (Including Diet Soda)

    Junk food — they are everywhere in our society today. From McDonald’s, to KFC, to Burger King, to 24-hour takeouts, junk food such as fries, highly processed burgers and sodas has become a staple in our society today.

    If you think, “Hey, but junk food is tasty!”, think again:

    A study by Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny suggests that junk food consumption alters brain activity in a way similar to addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.[8]

    “After many weeks with unlimited access to junk food, the pleasure centers of rat brains became desensitized, requiring more food for pleasure.”

    And you wonder why you seem to crave fast food when you just had some the day before?

    While it may not be possible to remove junk food completely from our diet right away, we can reduce our junk food consumption starting today. Instead of soda, opt for a fruit juice (fresh juice, not the carbonated kind) or mineral water. Instead of fries, switch to mashed potato, a salad, or rice (many food outlets allow for this today). Instead of a fried meat patty, go for a grilled one.

    Where possible, opt for healthy food joints like salad bars and delis as opposed to fast food outlets. Every little step goes a long way.

    Here’re some healthy snacks ideas for you: 15 Healthy Snacks You Should Always Have At Home

    8. Eating Too Much Red Meat

    There has been conclusive evidence that consumption of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer; and suggestive evidence that it increases the risk of oesophageal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and endometrial cancer.

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    In addition, some studies have linked consumption of large quantities of red meat with breast cancer, stomach cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer![9]

    Personally, I’m a vegetarian so I don’t consume red meat, but for those of you who consume red meat, do watch out and limit your intake — better still, cut it out of your diet. World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting intake of red meat to less than 300g (11 oz) cooked weight per week, “very little, if any of which to be processed.”

    Of if you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian, check out this guide: 5 Practical Tips For Starting a Vegetarian Lifestyle

    9. Watching Too Much TV

    I stopped watching TV since eight years ago and I have never regretted it. Every once in a while I will switch on the telly to see what is on, and then I will switch it off because it’s just the same boring shtick over and over again.

    Watching TV, particularly well-written dramas, can be a good way to unwind. However, remember that TV isn’t your life.

    Spending three hours every night watching TV will not change your life for the better. Rather, using that time to reflect on your life, take stock, and take action on your goals will.

    It’s not easy to remove TV from your daily routine right away, but follow these 6 Steps To Remove TV From Your Life.

    10. Being Late

    Not only is being late being rude to others, it also means that you’re always rushing from one place to another, playing catch up in your agenda, and having to apologize to every person you meet.

    Stop being late and not being punctual, but practice being early instead. Target to arrive 15 minutes earlier before any appointment and bring along something to do in those 15 minutes (or longer if the other person turns out to be late). Then you can stop playing catch up and stay ahead in life.

    Learn more tips about how to be more punctual here: How to Be On Time Every Time

    11. Being in Bad Relationships

    Are you always dating the wrong guys/girls? Do you end up with jerks all the time? Well, you may not be able to stop yourself from meeting bad partners but you can certainly stop yourself from furthering contact with them, spending time with them, or even… entering into a relationship with them.

    I used to invest myself in this guy who was nothing but toxic for me. After a good five months of experiencing nothing but getting burned over and over again, I realized that he was a total waste of my time and I deserved better. I decided to cut him off, and it was soon after that I met my soulmate.

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    Learn about why you shouldn’t stay in a bad relationship and how to deal with it if you’re in one: Why Trying Hard to Stay in an Unhappy Relationship Is Not Love, but Fear

    12. Leaving Things to the Last Minute

    Burning the midnight oil isn’t fun — it’s exhausting.

    Those of you who got through college by burning the midnight oil would have learned this the hard way. Not only is it damaging for your body, it is also mentally draining as you’re constantly in a hyper-tense mode, feeling anxious about whether you can finish your work on time.

    Start today on a new note. Rather than react to your deadlines, be proactive about them by planning ahead, identifying what needs to be done for the week, and getting things done in advance.

    By staying ahead of your tasks, you can also use your extra time to plan ahead in your life and get more things done.

    Take a look at this guide and learn how to stop procrastinating: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    13. Focusing on the Negatives

    In every situation, there are two ways you can react: zoom down to the problem areas and crib about how things aren’t the way you want, or celebrate the areas that are going well and work on making everything better.

    Many of us see the importance of doing the latter but in practice, we do the former. Why though? Criticizing and focusing on the negatives is easy but it doesn’t empower nor inspire us to be better.

    Make a change — for every negative encounter you run into, I challenge you to identify three things that are good about it. Practice doing this for one week, and by the end of the week you’ll find that your first instinct is to think positive, not negative.

    And here’re even more ways to help you stay positive: 11 Tips for Maintaining your Positive Attitude

    The Bottom Line

    So here you find the 13 most common bad habits and their consequences on your mind and body. The good news’ you can quit them all.

    Just spot out your own bad habits and take my suggestions to quit them. Then you’ll find your life a lot healthier and happier!

    Need more tips to break your bad habits? Check out these articles:

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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