If you're heading to the mall, do all your comparison shopping before you leave home. Do some research online, compare sales circulars, and find your best bargains. Bring the circulars with you to the store, so you can find the exact items you want and verify pricing. Also, check out apps for comparison shopping from Shopping.com, PriceGrabber.com and NexTag.com.
Some stores adjust their refund policies during the holiday season, limiting the time frame when exchanges and refunds can be made. Be sure you ask about the policy before making your purchase. If the store only offers credit rather than a refund, consider shopping elsewhere.
Of course, your best choice is to not use credit cards at all during the holidays; however, if you can't pay for everything with cash, stick with your lowest-interest-rate credit card. It will make it easier to keep track of all your holiday spending, plus you'll save on interest.
For last-minute shopping, you really can't go wrong with gift cards and gift certificates. Most stores offer them online or by phone. Choose popular department stores or websites such as Amazon.com, rather than specialty stores that the recipient may not like. Ask what to do if the card is lost or stolen, and check for expiration dates.
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