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Having a budget, plan can keep your family's finances safe during Holiday shopping frenzy

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 27 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Sheree Paloutzian, from right, her mother, Raelene Macdowell, and sister Sydnee Crawford, make their way through the Mt. Shasta Mall in Redding, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. The group had been shopping since 4 a.m. Friday. They have participated in Black Friday shopping for 10 years. (AP Photo/Greg Barnette, Record Searchlight)

Greg Barnette, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — The average consumer spent $423 between Thursday and Sunday, up more than 6 percent over last year, while overall spending jumped nearly 13 percent to an estimated $59.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Seasonal shopping continued with Cyber Monday and was expected to net record sales, as a projected 129.2 million shoppers said they planned to shop online Monday. That's according to a survey sponsored by Shop.org, which noted 106.9 million shopped online during 2010's Cyber Monday.

Welcome to Tuesday. Now that the frenzy is over, the real work begins, and both financial and Internet security experts are urging caution and the need for good judgment.

While some analysts have predicted mediocre sales this year due to economic concerns, overall holiday sales are expected to rise 4.1 percent compared with 5.6 percent sales growth last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Overall holiday sales are projected to hit about $586.1 billion. The average American shopper is expected to spend $749.51 this holiday season — up $9 from last year. 

Make a spending plan

Maintaining a sense of fiscal responsibility is the key to avoiding any major financial pitfalls, said Craig Israelsen, associate professor in BYU's Department of Family Life. He recommends implementing a spending plan to avoid racking up debt after the holidays.

"The plan is misconstrued by people as meaning, 'I can't do stuff,'" said Israelsen, who teaches personal and family finance at BYU. "The whole point of the spending (plan) — i.e. the budget — is to guide us to do the things that we ultimately want to do.”

He said having a plan prevents reckless spending, just like discipline prevents reckless eating for physical health.

"If you keeping spending too much, then you are going to have to spend less at some point in the future to pay back all the money you owe people — particularly your credit cards," Israelsen said.

"Ultimately, the budget is not a heavy-handed, onerous, fun-sucking part of our lives," he said. "It's merely a plan to allow us to do what we most value."

Seek out secure websites

Each year, a greater portion of holiday sales is conducted online, according to the National Retail Federation, which estimates that Internet sales will account for more than 52 percent of consumers' holiday purchases this year.

To that end, the Utah Department of Commerce advises consumers to be especially vigilant in protecting their personal identification information when making purchases online.

"Make sure that you do your homework about the site (you're buying from)," said Francine Giani, the department's executive director. "Make sure that you're going to a secure website. Make sure the site you're going to has been around for a while and hasn't cropped up overnight."

Giani said that during the holiday season in particular, her office receives complaints from consumers regarding online purchasing. With so many shoppers choosing the Internet, safety is becoming more important than ever to avoid identity theft, she said.

Be leery of 'special' promotions

Software maker Norton warned that cybercriminals look to capitalize on the online shopping frenzy through fake sites and scams masquerading as "special" promotions.

According to the 2012 Norton Cybercrime Report, cybercrime costs $110 billion annually, claiming 556 million victims each year.

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