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How to beer-proof your budget

(NC) It may be that time of year for green beer and cheer, but beware, money and alcohol don't mix.

That online shopping spree with a glass of wine or suds in hand may have seemed like a great idea at the time, but now, along with the credit card statement, often comes buyer's remorse. Mixing shopping and alcohol can lead to blown budgets, credit card abuse, and even identity theft.

Alcohol knocks down our inhibitions, making us more impulsive and less able to stand up to temptation. We tend to spend more money after a drink or two. Retailers recognize this and send “happy hour” marketing emails, or they launch online sales later at night to catch the post-bar crowd. To guard against such practices, it's worth noting that March 15th is Consumer Rights Day, the perfect time to develop your skills as a smart consumer.

Here are some tips to “booze proof” your budget and to avoid waking up with a spending hangover:

Leave credit cards at home or in another room. If you know you'll be sipping a little, leaving the cards at home can help remove the temptation to spend more than you have. The simple act of having to walk to another room may be enough to deter (or at least give you time to reconsider) the purchase.

Make a list and stick to it. If you do have shopping to do, make a list of things you need to purchase. Put the price of the items on the list for that extra reminder of your budget. That way, even if you do have a little extra holiday “glow” while making purchases, they're ones you have already included in your budget.

Shop first. If you are meeting friends to do some shopping and socializing, and you know there will be alcohol involved, get the shopping done first. Then relax and enjoy a social drink without worrying about waking up to find out you're the proud owner of a new cashmere sweater that looks alarmingly similar to one you already own, or a leather recliner for your man-cave that you don't recall purchasing.

Don't auto-save passwords on your computer or cell phone. If you have to type your password in 3 or 4 times before getting it right, it could be a good reminder that now might not be the best time to be making purchases. Not keeping yourself logged in, or unchecking that “remember me” option, can help avoid filling up your online shopping cart with items and being able to conveniently check out with one click.

Keep receipts. Always keep your receipts. If you do wake up with a regrettable purchase, you may be able to return the item under the store's return policy. But remember, a store does not have to take it back just because you changed your mind. Each store sets their own return policy, so know the details before you make a purchase.

More information about smart spending, budgeting and preventing buyer's remorse is available on the Financial and Consumer Service Commission's website at

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