Editorial: Shop smart, but remember real value of Christmas

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

If you, like millions of other Americans, will shop for gifts Friday, keep this in mind: Retailers — especially locally owned companies — need your business this year.

Think of it as giving twice — first for the recipient and then for the fortunate business that gets your dollar.

However, Black Friday has a different connotation for the many people who are unemployed or who have fallen on hard times this holiday season.

Now it’s more important than ever not to overextend yourself.

The unemployment rate is 15.2 percent in Boone and Winnebago counties, which is 5 percentage points higher than the national jobless rate. Illinois’ rate is 11 percent.

According to a Tuesday story in the The Wall Street Journal, nearly one in four home borrowers is “underwater,” meaning they owe more on their home than it is worth. The story cited statistics from First American CoreLogic, a Santa Ana, Calif., based real-estate information company.

Don’t expect relief by Christmas. Economists from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. estimate that home prices won’t bottom out until early 2011.

If you are among the sad statistics, Black Friday has an more ominous connotation than usual. Instead of being a day that retailers hope to get “in the black” on their budgets because of supercharged shopping, jobless and struggling people worry how they will make the holiday special when they already can’t pay their bills.

Be assured there are lots of things you can do for free or for nominal cost.

Maybe this is the year that, in lieu of gifts, you offer to volunteer for the many organizations that need your help.

Maybe you pull together a binder of family recipes or make favorite foods for the people on your giving list.

Maybe you organize, print out and put in photo albums all those pictures that are on the memory card of your camera or in miscellaneous spots in your computer.

Maybe you pool your gift money so the youngest children on your list get what they want. The older children — and the adults — will certainly understand.

In past years, we’ve reminded readers the true meaning of Christmas is not a consumer orgy but a quiet reflection on what is most valuable in our lives.

We hope you are fortunate enough to do both this holiday season, and that you stay safe on Friday with the tips we list alongside this editorial.

Whatever your wallet holds, may your heart — this season and every season — hold gratitude and love.

Rockford Register Star

Shopping safety tipsThe National Crime Prevention Council has 10 tips to help you shop safely while getting those bargains throughout the shopping season.

10. Do not buy more than you can carry. Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.

9. Shop online with companies you know and trust. Check a company’s background if you are not familiar with it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

8. Save all receipts. Print and save all confirmations for your online purchases.  Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.

7. Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as onetime or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites.

6. Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to take a picture of your account information.

5. Deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.

4. Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.

3. Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.

2. Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies if you are using mass transit.

1. If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you get separated. Select a central meeting place and make sure they know they can ask for mall personnel or store security if they need help.

To find more useful shopping tips and personal safety information, visit the National Crime Prevention Council’s Web site,www.ncpc.org.