Surviving the Holidays
There's so much to do at this time of year - shopping,
mailing cards and gifts, cooking, baking, decorating, and more. And when you're
in a rush, it's easy to get flustered. Check out these 20 quick tips from the Federal Citizen
Information Center to help you shop, cook, and decorate for the holiday season.
- Start shopping as early as you can, so you will have
enough time to compare prices.
- Homemade gifts or gifts "in kind" are free or low -
cost alternatives to store bought items. For example, offer to baby sit a
friend's children on a Saturday night. It costs you nothing, strengthens your
friendship, and your friend saves money by not having to pay a sitter.
- Since it provides a visual reference, paying cash may help you avoid
overspending. You will be less tempted to make a big purchase if you see how
many bills it will consume from your wallet!
- Pick pockets look forward to the holidays as much as
everyone else. Stow cash and credit cards in zippered compartments and always
keep one hand free.
- Stow your purchases out of sight in the car. Leaving
them in the back seat may tempt a thief.
- If you purchase gift cards, caution the recipient
that the value may start to shrink if he or she waits too long to use it. At a
minimum, you will lose $1.00 per month once the card is one year old.
- Bank issued gift cards that you can use in any store
are convenient, but in addition to reducing the value over time, banks may
charge fees to reactivate gift cards that have gone unused for six months or
- Know how long you have to return an item. Apparel
merchants, department and discount stores, and catalog merchants often allow
returns as long as 90 days after purchase. Electronics and appliance chains
might give you only 7 days.
- If you plan to do a lot of your holiday shopping
online, exercise caution. On less expensive items, the shipping charges can
cost almost as much as the item itself.
- Document the dates of your online purchases. Read and
print out any email messages you receive from the merchant after you place
your order. They contain important details such as your order number, when the
item will arrive, and your options if the item you want is not available.
- Be aware of what children's and consumer products have been recalled
recently. At the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's website, you can
sign up to receive recall notices via email.
- The Postal Service website can help you address that
letter to Santa, as well as buy holiday stamps.
- Want to send a package across the country, to an
armed forces member, or to someone overseas? To ensure that it arrives in
time, visit the Postal Service's website to view shipping deadlines.
- Be sure to wrap your packages securely. For example,
put tape all the way around boxes that have a lid.
- If you are flying and carrying gifts with you, the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) recommends you leave them unwrapped. TSA may
have to unwrap gifts to screen them more closely.
- When thawing turkey in the refrigerator, allow one
day for every 5 pounds of weight.
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
operates a meat and poultry hotline, in case you have any questions about
cooking temperatures and times.
- Exercise caution when transporting food to family
gatherings. Keep cold foods cold (40 degrees or below) and hot foods hot with
appropriate packaging for the trip.
- Visit FirstGov.gov for help with cooking for kids and for groups. You
can also view regional recipes and ones from famous Americans.
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has advice on how to
decorate your home safely. For example, artificial snow spray can irritate
your lungs and strings of
lights should be examined each year for fraying or other damage.
- "Test" trees before buying to make sure they are
fresh, not dry.
- Avoid tree trimmings that look like candy. A small child may mistake it
for the real thing.