Tis the season to be spending. It can be hard to get a handle on finances when you're feeling festive and frivolous--take it from a reformed over-shopper. But it's so important to rein in your budget and make a plan to keep more money in your wallet (and the bank!).

Here a few tips to help you get started.


Make a budget and follow it – Tracking your spending and following a budget are two halves of the same whole. Once you know where your money is going a budget can help define just how to make it go further.

Save yourself, well, from yourself – When it comes to holiday shopping, you can control your spending via your cards’ alerts and other features. Many debit or credit cards have the ability to be turned on and off. Ally Bank’s Debit Card Controls go a step further, allowing you to block certain categories – like toy stores or craft shops.

Don’t let your card out of sight – Unscrupulous restaurant staff and shop clerks have been known to collect credit card information with a skimming device or simply by snapping a picture.

Monitor your accounts closely – Fraudsters often sit on your bank or credit card details for weeks and months, hoping to catch you unaware when you’re back in a familiar routine. If possible, set up mobile banking alerts for your smartphone so you can spot unusual activity right away. Ally Bank customers can set alerts for debit transactions that go over a set amount.

Be wary of internet cafes and public Wi-Fi – No internet connection or Wi-Fi signal is totally secure, but there are ways to determine whether a particular network is relatively safe to use. It's surprisingly easy for a hacker to monitor your browsing on a public network, even if there's a password or encryption certificate.

If possible, use your debit card for cash access only, and avoid suspicious ATMs. If anything on the front of the ATM looks broken, dislodged, or jerry-rigged, it could mean that someone has installed a card skimming machine. It’s a good idea to have a back up plan like another card or some cash on hand so you’re not stranded with no way to pay or access funds.

This is not a sponsored post. Tips by Ally Bank.

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