National Consumers League

Personal Finance

NCL Personal Finance Issues

Tips for safe, healthy, joyous holiday season

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 Shopping mall during the holidaysThe holiday season is a joyous time of year—but it’s not without potential consumer hazards. For years, NCL has offered advice for protecting your health and wallet during the holidays, ranging from tips on serving delicious and safe meals, to avoiding falling victim to charity scams, and making sure seasonal workers know how to identify wage theft. This year, our gift to our readers: a roundup of NCL’s best holiday advice.

Be careful about gifting tickets

Are you thinking about giving someone on your holiday gift list a pair of tickets to a fabulous concert or an important game? This could be the gift of a lifetime—or it could be a major disappointment. Know what type of ticket you are buying. Just because you bought a ticket doesn’t mean you can easily give it as a present. Some events have restricted “paperless” tickets, which require the buyer to show up at the venue and present the purchasing credit card and photo ID. This means you still have to go to the event with them—or they will not be able to get in. This can be inconvenient at the very least, or even impossible if you plan to give tickets to someone who lives far away.

Seasonal workers: know the signs of wage theft

‘Tis the season of temporary holiday work. As unemployment continues to hover above seven percent, many Americans may sign onto temporary work, grateful for the opportunity and without paying full attention to company rules and policies governing compensation and benefits. Short-term, seasonal work also often moves at a faster pace, and both workers and employers can forget critical pieces of information or paperwork that could affect how much a worker gets paid. One of the most important pieces of information seasonal hires need be aware of is their worker classification—whether they are labeled as an employee or an independent contactor in their job description and tax forms. Check out your state’s labor department to learn about protections.

Avoid the mall, but shop safely online

The Internet can make your shopping faster and easier, but there can also be pitfalls if you're not careful. There are ways to ensure you have a safe online shopping experience, so that gift-giving is a joyous occasion, not an opportunity for cyber thieves. Don’t shop on a public, unencrypted, or open wireless network. Save the transactions for your home, protected network. Pay the safest way—by credit card—and only purchase from sites you know and trust.

Be generous­—but cautious—with charitable donations

It’s the season for many consumers to open their hearts and wallets to a variety of charities. NCL’s hears from consumers who fear they’ve given to a bogus charity more than ever this time of year. Avoid falling victim: Local newspapers or television or radio stations often compile lists of reputable charities responding to emergencies. Consider consulting these sources for information on how to give. Be in control of what you give; proactively choose a recipient, rather than waiting for someone to contact you. If you are approached by a charity, check it out at

Make returns less stressful

As surely as people buy holiday gifts, they also return holiday gifts. Returning merchandise successfully—and getting a refund you’re satisfied with—can pose a few challenges, but there are a number of things you can do before the return, or even before the purchase, to reduce stress, ease the process, and increase the odds of a successful transaction. Know a store’s policy before you buy. Keep your receipts! Give items in their full packaging in case the recipient needs to return it.