25 Ways to Shop Smart

Think you're the ultimate shopper? Browse through our list and see how you can be even savvier...and you just might save some dough, too.

  1. Avoid the mall. Shop in specialty stores to get your loved ones something unique. They'll love it.
  2. If you must hit the stores, do it early in the day -- you'll beat the crowds and save your feet. (By the way, your feet will begin to swell by the end of the day. Wear comfortable shoes.)
  3. Shop between Monday and Thursday -- stores will be less crowded, and you'll get more attention from salespeople.
  4. Make a list and stick to it.
  5. Ask if you can have a discount if you pay cash.
  6. Shop online.
  7. Shop tax-free online. If the online merchant doesn't have a store in your state, no tax will be charged to you.
  8. Create a budget -- not how much you're going to spend, but how much you can spend. This means weighing your expenses with all the others -- remember them? -- so shopping is part of your overall moneylife.
  9. Don't sign up for the department store card. You're offered that tempting ''Sign up today and get an additional 10 percent off'' at the register. You'll lose with this deal. For that small amount -- as little as $10 or $20 off your purchases -- you'll spend years paying off the interest. Politely decline.
  10. Watch those deferred payment or ''no down payment'' plans that offer the option to delay payments on merchandise. All interest accrued from the date of the sale will be added to the first payment, so it's not a savings.
  11. Ask the delivery man at your local toy mart what time and what day of the week the store receives deliveries. That way, you'll be sure to get that hot toy when it arrives at the store.
  12. Map out your strategy. If you cross from one end of the same mall four times, you might have walked as much as six miles. Target the stores you want to hit and shop in turn.
  13. Take advantage of your mall's amenities. Check your packages to avoid dragging them around from floor to floor. Perhaps your mall offers the delivery service, and some even have salespeople to carry your bags to your car.
  14. Check a store's reputation with the Better Business Bureau.
  15. Are you a cook? Then get busy and give your loved ones some of the fruits of your skill.
  16. Know the refund and exchange policy of a store before you buy the gift.
  17. Protect against pickpockets by carrying your bag slung around your neck and over your shoulder. Carry money in your pocket under a jacket.
  18. Budget your time as well as your money.
  19. Pay cash. Or use low-interest cards.
  20. If shopping by catalog or online, remember to factor in delivery charges. You'll save money if you shop from one or two major catalogs and avoid having to pay delivery every time you order just one item.
  21. Keep track of your receipts for returns or exchanges.
  22. Never go shopping on the last two Saturdays before Christmas -- they are the busiest shopping days of the season.
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