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40 Savvy Tips to Save Money on Christmas Shopping

Use these essential money-saving tips so you and your bank account glide smoothly through the holiday season.

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Butter up sales associates with your charm

The nicer you are to store employees, the less you spend. “Nobody realizes that there are hidden discounts in almost every shop you walk into,” says Mark Ellwood, author of Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World. “All it takes is a smile and a little charm.” Don’t assume there aren’t any discounts in a store just because you don’t see any sale signs. When you walk through the doors, exchange pleasantries with the first salesperson you see, then ask about any discounts for the day. Often, you will save a few bucks or learn to wait and come back for a sale in a few days. Make sure you know the nearly invisible ways stores trick you into spending more.

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Know your limits

Don’t fret about buying your family an overload of presents for Christmas. They will also receive gifts from relatives and friends, so there’s no need to spoil them too much if you’re watching your budget. Jordan Page, author of the Fun Cheap or Free blog, recommends giving your kids two presents: the bigger gift from the parents and a smaller one from Santa. “Parents feel a lot of pressure about Santa gifts,” Page says. “This way it gives the parent more control and the kid is more understanding about what they do and don’t get for Christmas from Santa.” Use these psychology tricks to spend less in stores.

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Embrace online shopping

Surfing the web for Christmas presents is great for two reasons: You avoid the holiday crowds and it keeps you from grabbing more than you need. “At a brick and mortar store, I find things I never needed that I have to have, but online shopping restricts me,” says Sami Cone, author, blogger, and creator of the Family Money Minute podcast. “When I’m shopping online, I know what I want, I search it, and I buy it.” Here are more tips for saving money on holiday shopping.

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Make a gift list

Create a shopping plan at home so you’re not swayed by store marketing strategies. Play-it-by-ear shoppers never fail to overspend, but thrifty shoppers know how much they are going to spend and what they want to buy before they enter the store. These are the spending habits personal finance experts hate the most.

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Opt for a layaway plan

For people with a limited income, layaway plans are much gentler on your pocket book and credit score. You simply grab your item, bring it to the layaway desk, and pay off your purchase in feasible payment chunks. Once it’s all paid off, you can take it home with you! Burlington Coat Factory lets you layaway your purchases all year for a $5 service fee and 20 percent deposit toward your payment. Make sure to plan ahead for this option, otherwise you may not have your gifts in time for Christmas.

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Grab a shopping buddy

Most coupons require you to spend a certain amount of money to get the discount; the kicker is, you miss out on the deal if you didn’t plan on spending that much. If there’s a deal you just can’t turn down, take a friend shopping. You can pool your purchases and both nab the savings.

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Skip the mall

As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Thrift stores and garage sales are hidden treasure troves filled with potential presents that won’t empty your wallet. “This time of year, tons of donations flood into thrift stores, from parents clearing out toy rooms to people doing some good,” Page says. Make sure you know which items to never buy online.

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Download coupon apps

Technology is every savvy shopper’s savings dream. Up to 78 percent of millennial parents use their smartphones to research products, check prices or availability, or even pay at the checkout, according to the National Retail Federation. A simple swipe of your finger allows apps like Shopular to show you all the sales in your favorite stores.  RetailMeNot provides coupon and promo codes for both online and in-store shopping. This is the best time to buy thesecheap finds throughout the year.

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Buy experiences

It’s easy to get caught up in the materialism of the holidays and forget the true meaning of Christmas: making memories. Instead of buying futile trinkets that will just gather dust, spend your shopping money on, say, a vacation or a zoo membership. Groupon is a handy site for snagging discounted rates on spa days, dinner dates, excursions, the theater, and more.  “Our family would rather sacrifice the stuff so we can make memories together,” Cone says. These are a few bucket list vacations that are cheaper than a trip to Disney.

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Don’t forget about price matching

Skip the crazy Black Friday lines at the mall and hit up the stores in your neighborhood and you might score some deals. Before you make the trek out, call the store and ask about their price matching policies. If they say yes, go to the store and show the cashier a competing store’s sales ad on your phone or in a flyer so they can match their competitor’s sale price. If you can handle the crowds, many big retail stores like Target also tout their price match policies. “There are too many shops and not enough shoppers,” Ellwood says. “Shops need us more than you need them.” These are the money-saving secrets Target employees won't tell you.

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