Money-Saving Holiday Shopping Strategy -- Savings Experiment

Holiday Store Strategy
Holiday Store Strategy

Whether you're battling the crowds on Black Friday or squeezing your shopping in a few days before the holidays, you have to get your mind, body and most importantly -- wallet -- ready for the challenge.

Before the big day you need to create a strategy. Don't just map out the stores you want to hit, but have a list of the gifts you need to buy and an itemized budget of how much you can afford to spend for each person.

After you create your gift list, remember to follow these money-saving tips. First, check coupon and promo code sites like Retail Me Not before you buy. Then get your smartphone ready with price comparison apps like RedLaser to scan a barcode and discover if you can get a better deal anywhere else. Sign up for email alerts from your favorite stores, and, finally, use social media to get the scoop on recently released specials.

If pushing through a crowd in search of the perfect gift sounds like fun, then be sure to arm your body properly. Don't bother with heels; embrace sneakers, jeans, and a comfortable top. You don't need to impress the masses in the store; you want to dazzle your family and friends with your gift-giving skills. And don't forget to bring a snack with you for when you start to get a little cranky later in the day.

For the sake of perspective, start by purchasing your less expensive gifts first. If you drop $200 on the perfect tech toy right away, a bunch of $10 items are going to seem incredibly cheap by comparison.

Most of us end up spending more than usual this time of year. Responsible credit card holders can use the opportunity to get more cash back or rewards. If one card offers a rotating 5 percent cash back for online shopping this quarter, then use it for all online spend, while another may provide 2 percent back in department stores. Use sites like to see which cash back card provides the best value for your spending habits. Just remember -- if you can't pay your balance off on time and in full, it isn't worth the rewards. Once you start paying interest to the banks, your cash back loses its value.

Those who worry about overspending at the holidays should consider leaving their credit cards at home in favor of debit cards or just cash.

Shopping without a strategy will lead to frustration, returning unwanted purchases and certainly increased spending. Don't forget to include the people in your life you need to tip or buy small presents for like the doorman, children's teachers, a babysitter or mailman.

Reduce your stress and impact on your wallet this holiday season by setting a budget, writing out a gift list, finding the cheapest deals, and actually put away the money you saved into a rainy day fund. Oh, and don't forget to tell Santa what you want this year, too!