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Last minute holiday shopping-returns & smart shopping tips
by FCNB on 

How to Be a Savvy Holiday Shopper… even If you waited ‘till the last minute

The snow is falling and coffee shops are serving up delicious eggnog flavored treats. All seems right in the world until you realize that your holiday shopping isn’t done and Christmas is almost here! Before you run out to the stores check out our tips on how to be a savvy holiday shopper.  You (and your bank account) will thank us after the excitement of the holiday season dies down and you don’t gasp in horror when you open your credit card statement.

Tip #1: Make a list and check it twice. Santa does it and so should you!
Start by setting a budget for your holiday spending. We all like to give as much as we can during the holidays but you don’t have to blow your budget and max out your credit cards to show your loved ones that you care. You will regret it come January when the bills start to roll in. Next, make a list of everyone you want to buy a gift for and set aside part of your holiday budget for each person on your list. This will help you brainstorm gift ideas within your price range.

Tip#2: Think twice before you use credit
If you are considering a purchase that doesn’t fit in your holiday budget ask yourself if you truly need it before paying with credit. Does your adorable niece really need another Barbie or will the 3 others you already bought and gift wrapped be enough? Do you absolutely have to buy yourself another party dress or will the little black dress you have only wore twice look just as great?  Give yourself a cooling off period.  Go home and consider the purchase.  If you do choose to pay with credit, make sure you can afford the payments and have a plan for paying off the balance.  Interest can quickly drive the price up if you don’t pay off your statement and all of a sudden that great sale can end up costing you a lot more in the long run.  Read our guest blog post on “Holiday credit triage” for more tips on getting through the holidays debt free.

Tip #3: Do your homework
Research products before you buy. I know I know Christmas is right around the corner, but you still have time to compare prices, after sale services and warranties. This is especially important when buying big ticket items. You may also want to check out Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety website for product recalls, warning and advisories to make sure the gift you are giving is safe.

Tip #4: Always check a retailer’s return and exchange policies BEFORE you buy.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not always have the right to return or exchange any product or cancel a service contract within 30 days of purchase. In fact, retailers have the right to set their own return and exchange policies. If the retailer does have a return policy it is up to them if they will provide you with a cash refund, an exchange on goods  or a credit slip.  Asking before you buy will save you time and money after the thrill of the holiday season has died down.  For more information on understanding warranties, check out our “Ask Before You Buy” tip sheet!

Tip #5: Know your rights when buying gift cards
People love gift cards. I mean, who doesn’t want free money to spend at their favorite store? This great gift idea will save you the headache of trying to figure out the sweater size of your significant other’s best friend’s nephew but can be a disappointment if the card has expired or has been eaten away by service fees by the time he gets around to using it.

Within New Brunswick service fees are restricted and expiry dates are prohibited with some exceptions. For more information on your rights when buying gift cards check out our Gift Cards info sheet!

Tip #6: Keep your receipts
Always keep your receipts, warranties and service contracts. You may need these to make a claim if something goes wrong or to return a product if you change your mind. It is also a good idea to ask for a gift receipt! Many stores offer gift receipts around the holidays which allow you to extend the return/cancellation period on the items you bought, making exchanges and returns much easier.


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Holiday Crash Crunch
by FCNB on 


Holiday Crash Crunch

The holidays are fast approaching!  Does the countdown to December 25th make you (or rather, your bank balance) cower in fear?  You’re not alone!  Many of us fall prey to over-spending during the holidays.  In fact, in 2014, 28% of Canadians went into debt (on average $963) due to holiday spending[1].

While the holidays can be a lot of fun, who wants to spend the next 12 months paying them off?!  In an effort to help you stay as debt-free as possible this holiday season, we’ve polled our fellow FCNB-ers and have created a series all about holiday spending.  You’ll find tips to stay on budget without missing out and to protect yourself, and more!

What do the holidays mean to you?  When I think of what I love most about the holidays I immediately think of made for TV holiday movies (the cheesier the better),  hot chocolate , cozying up on the couch with someone I love and sharing a meal with family and friends. Those things don’t have to cost a lot. So why do we spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on gifts when enjoying time with the people we love is most important?

This holiday season give yourself - and your bank account - the gift of a holiday budget! A budget can make this time of year even more magical by helping us focus on what’s important and avoid the stress of credit card bills and low bank balances.

Download our Holiday Budget template and follow these tips to stay on budget this holiday season!

Ditch your credit cards: Instead of buying gifts on credit, spend only what you can afford from your holiday savings and household budget, after your regular expenses (including savings) have been taken care of.

Plan ahead: Don’t wait until the last minute. Desperation and panic can lead to poor gift choices and overspending.

Don’t be afraid to cut back on gift giving: You (and your budget) can breathe easier - receiving expensive gifts doesn’t make us happier; in fact, one study found that receiving expensive gifts actually has a negative effect on our holiday happiness. Make cutting back fun! Download our “4 Gifts of Christmas template”. Let your kids choose something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

Don’t forget all the little extras: Gifts aren’t the only extra expense that the holiday season brings. Make sure your holiday budget also includes:

  • Travel: Whether you are travelling by plane, train or automobile, don’t forget to include extra travel costs in your budget. Even if you aren’t venturing far over the holidays be sure to include extra gas money in your budget to account for trips to the mall and visiting family and friends. 
  • Food & Entertainment: Many of us underestimate the amount we spend on food and entertainment over the holidays. Are you hosting a family dinner? Have a holiday party or two to attend? The cost of groceries, hostess gifts, restaurant bills and gifts for your office gift exchange can quickly add up.
  • Donations: Do you have a favorite charity of two that you give to over the holidays? Check our post on charitable giving for tips on avoiding charity scams.
  • Decorations: Do you buy a freshly cut tree every year or need to replace your artificial tree? Do you buy a new ornament every year to mark the season? Are you planning on buying your pets some fancy new holiday apparel?
  • Miscellaneous: Every year I am surprised at how much I spend on wrapping paper, ribbons, tape, gift boxes and bags, cards, and shipping fees! Make sure these expenses are part of your holiday budget!  You could even consider alternatives to traditional holiday wrapping that ends up in the trash can.  Try making your own by decorating craft paper and using reusable ribbon or a little bit of holiday greenery!

[1] https://newsroom.bmo.com/press-releases/2014-bmo-holiday-outlook-spending-expected-to-dro-tsx-bmo-201411030976482001


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You don’t need to be rich to give a great gift
by FCNB on 

You don’t need to be rich to give a great gift

It’s no secret the holidays are an expensive time of year. Many of us overspend without questioning if we really need to.

To help keep your holiday spending down, we’ve asked FCNB staff to share a story about their favourite inexpensive gift, and what made it special. The trend was clear: the thought behind the gifts left a much more lasting impression than the money spent on them. Read on for some ideas and stories to warm your heart!

Manon – Photo collection
“A collection of photos of happy times with people that I hold dear, and photos of my puppies! What makes this present so special are the memories that warm my heart each time I took at them.”

Caterina – Plants
“A nice, inexpensive gift is a plant, especially if you grow it at home from a seedling. My cousin once grew a bunch of lemon trees from seeds, and gave them as gifts for Christmas. My mom had hers for years.”

Alicia – Portrait of her daughter
“The best ‘inexpensive gift’ I received was a portrait painted by a close friend. It’s a beautiful watercolour of my daughter that now hangs on her bedroom wall. It was thoughtful, personal and makes me smile every time I look at it.”

Erin – Christmas plate
“A small Christmas plate. It’s not bone china or porcelain. It isn’t a family heirloom, passed from one generation to another. It’s not a valuable antique. Rather, it’s a dollar store product, probably purchased for $3. It was given to me by my son when he was three. Even as a toddler, he was fiercely independent and stubborn with an aptitude for temper tantrums and prone to feet stomping. At three, he thought the world should cater to his whims and needs. So it came as a surprise when, 16 years ago, there was a gift under the Christmas tree conspicuous for the amount of scotch tape used. And it had MOM on the gift tag. Inside was the dollar store plate – a small gift that signified to a harried mom that a tender, loving heart existed inside that three-year-old boy.”

Jackie – Holiday baking
“We can always use baked goods around the house during the holidays, for enjoying with family or for when unexpected guests drop in.”

Diane – Handmade doll clothes
“When I was a little girl, my mom used to make Barbie doll clothes for my sister and me for Christmas. She often made copies of our own clothes, or she would take leftover fabric from her New Year’s Ball gown to make similar gown for our dolls. My sister and I loved those clothes and our Barbie dolls had the best wardrobe in the whole neighbourhood. It was only years later that I understood the true value of this handmade gift, when I decided to continue the tradition by sewing doll clothes for my own daughters. That’s when I realized how finicky and time-consuming it was to make such clothes. It’s a true labour of love.”

Alaina – Homemade mittens
“I love receiving homemade gifts.  Growing up, each year I looked forward to a homemade pair of mittens from my grandmother. I have carried on the tradition and now make my niece and nephew something homemade each year – mittens, hats, slippers, Christmas ornaments, etc. I also send my sister’s family a Christmas cookie parcel. The whole family loves it and looks forward to it each year. It doesn’t cost much money, and they love snacking on their favourites and trying out some of the new cookies I send each year.” 

Check out our new holiday budget to help you manage your spending this holiday season.

The holidays are supposed to be about enjoying time with your friends and family, not stressing about how much money you’ve spent or the size of your credit card bill. The stories that our staff have shared may help you keep your holiday spending in perspective. What was your favourite gift?


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Your Financial Rights and Responsibilities
by FCNB on 


Your Financial Rights and Responsibilities

The more you know and understand about your financial rights and responsibilities, the easier it is to avoid costly surprises and to reach your financial goals.  We all have a responsibility to inform ourselves of fees, rates, terms and penalties associated with financial services and products.

Always ask questions and read the fine print before signing any agreements for these and other financial products or services:

Working with a Financial Advisor

The role of your advisor is to give you helpful, informed advice as you build and carry out your investment plan.  To do this, your advisor will need to ask you questions and get to know you.

Learn more about Advisor and Client roles

You also have the right to ask questions and understand why certain products or services are being recommended.

PRO TIP: Use this workbook to record the answers:Use Five Steps to Choosing an Advisor (PDF)

Warranties

Did you ever buy a product that didn't work, was defective or didn't live up to the dealer’s promises or your expectations?   If a product is defective, you may have the right to return it if the retailer is unable to fix the defect and is not able to replace the product. 

In these situations you have rights under legislation called the Consumer Product Warranty and Liability Act.

Learn more about warranties.

Curious about your rights and responsibilities when dealing with a financial institution?  You may also like:

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada is responsible for protecting consumers of financial products and services. The Agency has the tools, tips and resources to help consumers better understand their rights and responsibilities when dealing with a financial institution. https://goo.gl/FuAj2Q



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Celebrity Endorsements: Don’t have stars in your eyes
by FCNB on 


Celebrity Endorsements: Don’t have stars in your eyes

Don’t be fooled by an investment endorsement from a movie star or professional athlete on TV, radio or social media.

Just because a famous person has endorsed an investment product doesn’t mean it is legitimate or appropriate for all investors.

With billions of dollars flooding into initial coin offerings, celebrities like Floyd Mayweather, Jamie Foxx and Paris Hilton have promoted new cryptocurrencies on social media.

But celebrities, like anyone else, can be lured into participating (even unknowingly) in a fraudulent scheme. What’s more, celebrities are sometimes linked to products or services without their consent. Earlier this month, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission issued a statement warning celebrities they may be violating the law if they make paid endorsements of cryptocurrencies without disclosing the payments.

Even if the celebrity endorsement and the investment opportunity are genuine, the investment may not be a good one for you.  Before investing, always do your research, including these four steps:

  • Check out the background, including registration or license status, of anyone recommending or selling an investment.
  • Learn about the company’s finances, organization, and business prospects by carefully reading any prospectus and the company’s latest financial reports.
  • Consider the investment’s potential costs and fees, risks, and benefits in light of your own investment goals, risk tolerance, investment horizon, net worth, existing investments and assets, debt, and tax considerations.
  • Never make an investment decision based solely on a celebrity endorsement, or other information you receive through social media, investment newsletters, online advertisements, email, investment research websites, internet chat rooms, direct mail, newspapers, magazines, television, or radio.

Investors are also encouraged to contact the FCNB if they have any concerns about unsolicited investment opportunities or about the legitimacy of an investment opportunity. Being an informed investor is the best defense against investment fraud. New Brunswickers are encouraged to become informed investors by using FCNB’s free online resources.


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