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‘Tis the season for giving – your credit card number to pay for your holiday gift purchases.  The average American will spend just over $1,000 this year on gift giving, up 20% from 2012.  With Thanksgiving falling on the latest possible day in November, compressing the holiday shopping season, the barrage of emails and commercials touting “the best prices this year” have been coming for quite some time.  It can be difficult to get into the holiday spirit when the competition for the lowest price at the earliest possible time supersedes the meaning of the holidays and reuniting with family in November and December.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for a bargain.  And if I can save money and you’ll deliver my gifts to my doorstep at no charge, even better.  Whether you enjoy the hustle and bustle of the shopping malls this time of year or plan to let your fingers do the shopping, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Have a plan.  Make sure you set a budget for your holiday spending, so it does not spiral out of control.  With sales all around us, it can be easy to get caught up in spending more than you anticipated because you’re trying to save money.  Does it make sense to order another item just so you qualify for the free shipping?  Probably not.  Calling the toll free number for the online retailer and asking the customer service representative for free shipping may do the trick.
  2. Coupons are everywhere.  Even if you are not a frequent shopper at a retail store, you may still be able to snag their coveted coupons.   Many times simply asking a sales associate for any discounts available is all you need to do.  When shopping online, if there is a box for a coupon code at the checkout, there may be a coupon floating around in cyberspace.  If you’re shopping at The Gap, simply Google “Gap coupon” and you may find several deals.  Several retailers even have a section on their website that lists all current coupons, if you just search “coupon” while you are on their site.  Stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s have a daily coupon for 40% off a regular priced item that you can pull up on your smart phone while you are in the store.
  3. Take advantage of price matching.  Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy and many other stores will match a competitor’s price or their own price if it is lowered later in the season.  One thing many people do not realize is that Citi, Discover and Mastercard all offer price matching as well.  If you buy a sweater at Macy’s this week for $79 and find the same sweater next week at Dillard’s for $65, your credit card company will refund the $14 difference.  You’ll need to show proof of purchase, proof of sale and that the items are identical.
  4. Go Prime.  Amazon offers free two day shipping on millions of items on their website.  This can come in handy if you’ve procrastinated on your gift buying.  Amazon Prime membership is $79, but there is a 30 day free trial which can get you through your holiday shopping.  Just make sure to cancel your membership prior to the 30 days if you do not plan to continue it.  As an added benefit, you also have access to unlimited Prime Instant Video for viewing movies and TV shows and their Kindle lending library.

This Thursday, I hope you plan to spend your day watching football and eating turkey with your family and not haggling with the employees of Walmart, Best Buy or Target.  You probably won’t think twice about the few dollars you may have saved and will still be able to grab great deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday season!