Consumer IQ

Memorial Day Shopping and Travel Secrets Of a Consumer Advocate

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One of the busiest days of shopping is just around the corner. And if this Memorial Day is anything like last year, chances are you’ll be heading to the mall or out of town on a trip.

Either way, you’ll spend a lot of money.

An IBM survey of social media sentiment found a 46 percent increase in the amount of conversations about Memorial Day travel compared to the previous year, for example.

It tracked a similar sentiment when it came to spending, a finding businesses almost certainly took to heart.

Since travel and consumer spending are two areas I specialize in, I thought I’d take a minute to spill the beans on how this consumer advocate spares his family and himself the indignities of Memorial Day.

Make it a commerce-free holiday

Pie in the sky? For some families, maybe. But making Memorial Day about cook-outs and togetherness takes the emphasis off the commerce.

It’s a classic distraction maneuver, and I’m here to tell you that it works.

If you can persuade your family they’re better off skipping the mall and heading to the park for a barbecue, then you’ve covered a likely money pit. Good for you!

Set a budget

If your family is hell-bent on visiting the shopping center during the Memorial Day weekend, then set reasonable boundaries and manage your family’s expectations.

Just because that $899 dress is on sale for half-price doesn’t mean your teenage daughter has to have it.

OK, maybe it does, but if you set a $200 spending limit (that’s a hypothetical number, by the way) then she’ll know it’s off-limits.

One word: Staycation

Memorial Day is considered the first day of the summer travel season. That’s three months!

It’s not a race. Plan your summer getaway during the little lulls that come after the holidays, like the week after Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

You won’t have to share the beach with a million other people, and you might get a deal, too.

Instead, stay close to home and plan a day-trip or two, an activity known as the “staycation.”

Do free stuff

Instead of heading to the local amusement park on staycation, consider this: Many towns have parades and festivals that take place on Memorial Day weekend.

These events generally don’t cost anything and when you plan a picnic or barbecue afterwards, they’re super easy on your budget.

When it comes to planning their Memorial Day, many readers get unnecessarily stressed out. They try to squeeze a mini-vacation into the long weekend, which forces them to spend more money than they want to and adds to the pressure.

By staying close to home and avoiding the traps that ensnare consumers at this time of year, you can relax and recharge your batteries before heading back to work the next week.

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or send him your questions by email.