5 Holiday Shopping Tips That Will Save You Money

With Black Friday looming, be sure to review these tips before you head out to the stores.

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With Black Friday within reach and Christmas right around the corner, many people are starting to think about holiday shopping. Whether or not you plan to brave the storm this Friday, here are some tips to help you come out on top this holiday shopping season.

1. Create a holiday shopping budget.

Hopefully, you have been saving up for the holidays. If not, don't worry, just do your best this year and plan to do better the next. Whether or not you have money earmarked for gifts, you should create a holiday shopping budget. Make a list of people that you want to present with a gift and write down the gift ideas along with the amount you want to spend for each person. Be realistic with what you can afford! Now tally everything up and you’ll have your total cost. If the total is too high, either scale back on all the gifts, or make the tough decision of giving to fewer people this year. Whatever you do, create a realistic budget that you won't regret after the holiday season is over.

[See How to Stay Safe While Shopping Online.]

2. Scout out your gifts.

If you can afford to, buying locally is a great way to put money back into your community. However, you might not be able to find what you want locally, or the price might be so high that you want to make your purchase elsewhere. Whether you are planning to buy locally or online, you should first check out online coupon sites to see if you can find coupon codes and discount promotions for your purchases.

These sites sometimes offer discounts that stores do not advertise and have deals that could save you significant amounts of money.

[See 5 Websites That Save You Big Money.]

3. Comparison shop.

Don't take the first "good deal" that you stumble across. Suppress your impulse to grab the deal right away and check out a few other sites or stores to see if you can find an even better deal elsewhere. Be sure to also check out items similar to the one that you intended to buy. Occasionally, you will find significantly better deal without sacrificing too much on features and functionality — this is especially true for computers and electronics purchases.

4. Buy with a credit card.

Credit card use is not right for everyone, so if it is not for you, don't use it! If you can handle credit cards without much trouble, use them. Credit card companies usually provide additional warranty on your purchases and offer you a level of protection against damaged and/or defective products. Moreover, you can get cash reward on your purchases. For instance, Discover Card is currently offering a great promotion. It includes: 5 percent cash-back bonus in department stores and clothing stores, and a double cash-back bonus on up to $1,000 in online purchases through the end of the year. That is an excellent way to save a little more money on top of everything else.

[Visit the U.S. News My Money blog for the best money advice from around the web.]

5. Understand the price protection policy.

Be sure to ask about the price protection policy that each store offers. Some stores do not offer this protection, buy a few do. The protection period varies from store to store, but it is typically between 15 to 30 days. With price protection, you can demand a refund of the difference if the store reduces the price on the item you purchase inside the protected period.

For the power shoppers, you may even want to wait on your purchases so that the price protection period ends a few days after Christmas. This way, if the store offers an "After Christmas Sale" you can try to get some money back.

Good luck with your holiday shopping!

Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance Blog, which covers a wide range of personal finance and investing topics, with features that include reviews, comparison guides, and Q&A sections.