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Between gifts, decorations and holiday travel, your wallet can take a real beating at the end of the year.  According to the National Retail Federation, consumers plan to spend around $997 this holiday season.  Whether they can actually afford to drop that kind of cash is a whole different story.  Fortunately, there are tricks you can use to reduce your spending so you’re not singing the blues when your credit card bill arrives.

Know the best time to shop

Now that it’s the holiday season, pay special attention to sales being held on Black Friday (November 26th), Small Business Saturday (November 27th), Cyber Monday (November 29th) and Green Monday (December 13th).  Chances are you’ll find a great deal that you can’t resist one of those days.

Understand that a sale price isn’t always a good deal

Stores have sales year-round, but not every deal is a bargain.  Watch out for sales that require you to buy a certain amount before you get one free.  The more you’re required to buy, the less you’re actually saving.  Some retailers also try to get you through the door by advertising an unbelievable price for certain electronics but if you read the fine print, the quality usually isn’t great or its brand name you don’t recognize.  Another thing to be mindful of that some stores base their discounts on the inflated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).  If the tag says, “MSRP: $75, Our price: $55”, that’s not a real deal because customers rarely pay the original price anyway.  It needs to have another markdown sticker to be a bargain.  Finally, a deal isn’t a deal if the cost of shipping wipes out most of your savings.

Use a cash back app or website

Get rewarded for shopping at the stores you already love.  All you have to do is start your shopping trip using a cash back website or app like Rakuten, Dosh or Ibotta.  The percentage you can earn varies by store and the app you use.  So, compare all three and choose the one that will put the most cash back in your wallet.

Automatically find and apply coupon codes when shopping online

Using a browser extension like Retailmenot or Honey can help you get what you want at the best possible price.  While you shop, they look for coupon codes and apply the one that saves you the most money at checkout.  It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Sign up for deal alerts

It’s frustrating when you miss your chance to catch an amazing deal.  But it doesn’t have to happen again.  Sign up for deal alerts with Slickdeals and get notified when there’s a price drop on the item you want.

Redeem your credit card rewards to help pay for gifts

If you’ve been accumulating credit card rewards all year, now’s a good time to cash in.  You can redeem your points for statement credits, cash and gift cards.  Plus, some retailers like Amazon let you apply your points at checkout.  It’s a great way to buy gifts without cash actually coming out of your pocket.

Avoid shipping fees

Nobody likes paying for shipping.  Sometimes it will even make you reconsider your entire purchase.  The good news is you can usually avoid the fee by meeting the minimum required for free shipping.  Alternatively, you can opt for in-store or curbside pickup.  Just place your order and the retailer will notify you when it’s ready so you can head to the store.