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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 September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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