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3 Alternatives to Black Friday savings

After moving to NYC, I made very little money and had to maximize every dollar I earned. That lifestyle taught me many different techniques on how to save for the things I wanted.

If you are just not into getting up at 3 a.m. to save $100, here are some alternative savings angles that may put you ahead of the game.

girl shopping in outlet mall

Small-business Saturday

If you are a huge fan of your community (you should be — it's great!), try giving gifts from local businesses. Buy from the florist, a local restaurant or an independent bookstore instead of from big-box or online stores. If you talk to the manager, he or she might even match competitors' prices.

See if any high school sports teams or scouting groups are selling coupon books. This will save you money all year long and will help your hometown.

Outlet malls

Outlet malls are great sources of discounts. Starting with lower prices than their non-outlet cousins offer, they often give further coupons and discounts in December. Many also offer AAA discounts, which you can get at some stores just by visiting the welcome center. If you are mobile enabled, Foursquare also offers discounts at some stores.

You should always ask the cashier whether there is a coupon or discount you missed and whether they can type in the code to give it to you. Try saying, "Oh, no — I think I got a 15 percent–off coupon in my email the other day. I don't have it with me. Do you have it?"

Shopping in December (in stores and online)

I've found that you can get the same or better deals well into December. Stores want to maximize profits to close out the year, so it becomes your choice of which sale to take advantage of. There are even steeper discounts at most stores and online as you get closer to Christmas.

If you are shopping online, don't pass up further discounts. Log on to Ebates.com for cash back and promotion codes for items you are going to buy. For example, on Ebates, look up the store you want and check out the promos, then click on the store and presto! You are transported to that site, and when you purchase, Ebates already knows and will send you cash back (it sends all your cash-back payments in a lump sum every three months). RetailMeNot.com is also a good source for promo and coupon codes.

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