The Coupon Mom’s Top 5 Tips for Holiday Shopping (and Saving)

by Stephanie Nelson, www.CouponMom.com

Creative strategies to save on holiday spending

This holiday season, shoppers should aim to shop strategically and expect to save big. Stephanie Nelson of CouponMom.com says there are a lot of deals to be had when shoppers follow her simple shopping tips and make a plan.

Check out Stephanie's top 5 tips for holiday shopping (and saving):

1. Plan and Budget: Come up with a holiday gift list and plan. Decide who you will be buying for, what you can afford to spend overall, and divide that among all your gift recipients. Then shop for deals, use coupons and saving strategies to stretch your budget. Remember to always search for coupon code deals before making online purchases.

2. Compare Prices: When shopping for a specific item, compare prices online before hitting the stores or purchasing online. Prices can vary significantly, and an online retailer may offer the convenience of free shipping without sales tax.

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3. Be Coupon Savvy: Use coupons to drop the price even further.

  • Sign up for email newsletters of your favorite retailers and shopping malls to be the first to receive special coupons
  • Follow a retailer's Facebook page to get access to special coupons or limited-time flash sales
  • Go to an online coupon site like http://www.CouponMom.com to find coupon codes for discounts and free shipping
  • Watch newspaper ads and catalog mailings for in-store coupons

4. Buy Discounted or Bonus Gift Certificates: Give as gifts or use them to shop for gifts.

  • Take advantage of bonus gift cards that many restaurants offer at this time of year. For example, buy $100 worth of gift cards and get a free $20 gift card!
  • Redeem cash back rebate dollars from credit card programs for bonus gift card values. For example, use $20 of your credit card rebate dollars to get a $25 gift certificate to select retailers.
  • If you are using a gift card to shop for gifts, be sure to combine them with coupons when available.

5. Save your Receipts for Price Guarantee Policies: Most stores have some type of price guarantee policy that will give you a refund if your item’s price drops after you’ve purchased it. Some stores will refund the difference in price within seven days, while others have longer timeframes. Check the retailer’s website for details or ask a store associate.

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Nelson cautions shoppers on 3 things to watch for:

1. Be sure to compare prices, either before you shop or in-store with a price comparison app on your phone. Prices can vary widely, if you're shopping in-store and discover a lower price elsewhere; you may be able to secure a price match without ever leaving the store.

2. Don't buy extended warranties on electronics. Most electronics' failure rates within a 2 year period are 5% or less, making an extended warranty a very expensive form of insurance.

3. Keep in mind that many retailers are likely to offer clearance prices as the holiday gets closer.

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In 2001, Nelson founded her free website, CouponMom.com, committed to helping consumers save money and feed the hungry by increasing food donations to hunger organizations with the Cut Out Hunger program. Her web site now has over 6 million members and her book, The Coupon Mom's Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half, is a New York Times' Best Seller. For more information, go to www.CouponMom.com.

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