Spend wisely, CAC urges
The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is urging consumers to spend wisely during the holiday season.
Communications specialist at CAC, Dorothy Campbell, said before any holiday-related purchase is made, the family should first meet to plan a budget for spending.
She explained that this exercise would enable family members to distinguish needs from wants, and ensure that the established budget can cover items identified for purchase.
"Each year, the CAC educates consumers about managing their funds in a smart way. One of the things we advise consumers to do is to create a plan prior to shopping. So, they would sit with the family and decide how, where and how much money they plan to spend," she said.
Campbell also recommended that family members coordinate to determine specific items to be purchased. This, she said, would ensure individual needs are met. It would also safeguards, against duplicating purchases and guarantee that members get necessary items.
"For instance, the consideration for teenagers might be totally different than for toddlers or primary-school age children as well as for a senior citizen or older person in the family.
Those considerations will have to come into play when planning how much money you are going to spend," she added.
Campbell reminded consumers not to get caught up in festivities, as this can lead to overspending.
"You have to bear in mind that (Christmas) is only two weeks away from the new school term, and three weeks away from another cycle of bills. So, it has to be apparent to everybody, when you sit down to plan, that these things are cyclical. So, still have a good Christmas, but you can only manage it if you plan," she said.
Campbell said comparative shopping is one of the most effective ways consumers can ensure they get value for their hard-earned money, and consumers can take advantage of the online market.
"These days, you can go online to check the prices, do comparative shopping online, talk to friends and find out where the prices are reasonable, and then you create a spending plan," she suggested.
Campbell also urged consumers to practise responsible spending by ensuring items purchased are of good quality. As a tip, she reminded consumers they have the right to request electronic/electrical items are tested in stores before any exchange of money. She added that consumers should ask for a written warranty for electrical items, and should check the manufacturers' dates to ensure the date of purchase is close to that time.
'Balance price with quality'
"Those are some of the things that we don't normally look at. We tend to look at price, but we are saying, balance price with quality. So, check that the things are in working order before you spend," she said.
When shopping for food, ensure that the items are fresh and check for the expiry date, Campbell recommended.
"Inspect meats carefully by taking them into the natural light to check that it is fresh. Check the packaging date and ensure that it is as close to the date that you are buying as possible," she added.
Campbell also suggests that while shopping, customers make a note of prices of items, to make sure the item on the shelf matches the price on the cash machine.
She emphasised that customers should be as vigilant when using credit and debit cards to ensure no unauthorised purchases are charged to the cards.
"Ensure the cards are returned to you after you have made a purchase, that they are within line of sight, and that they are not taken to another point to be swiped or tallied, without you following that customer-care person," she added.
Campbell said customers should retain their receipts as this provides proof of purchase, and must be presented in the event the consumer seeks to exchange or refund purchased items.
The CAC is a fully-funded is Government agency, established to inform, educate, and empower consumers to protect themselves in the marketplace.
The commission conducts market research, provides complaint-resolution services and runs an active consumer-education programme. The CAC operates under the Trade Act of 1955 and the Consumer Protection Act of 2005.