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Holiday shop ‘til you drop, but leave your finances intact

Consider using cash to stick to your budget. If you do use credit cards, make the most of them by maximizing rewards points.

Resist the temptation to overspend this holiday season.

Resist the temptation to overspend this holiday season. Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

Ready or not, the holiday season is here and it’s time to shop, shop, shop.

What’s the best advice for surviving the annual ritual without ruining your finances?

Be patient: “The best ‘sales’ days are typically Dec. 10 to Dec. 24, not Black Friday or Cyber Monday,” says Joel Evans, a business professor at the Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University in Hempstead. That’s because retailers want to sell items before the holidays to avoid big markdowns afterward.

Resist temptation: Set a budget and stick to it. One way is to “purchase a discount gift card with the amount you intend to spend on holiday gifts. Leave credit cards at home so you don’t overspend,” says Sar Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert with RetailMeNot.com.

Don’t succumb to sales pressure for extended warranties, and know each store’s return/refund/exchange policies, Evans says. If shopping online, look at total price (including shipping).

Use technology: Go beyond researching products and prices and shopping online. Don’t forget apps. If you use credit cards, “review your rewards programs and assign which cards to use for certain purchases. The free Birch app alerts users in real time which cards to use for the most benefits . . . so you won’t have to guess which card will yield the most rewards,” says Alex Cohen, founder of BirchFinance.com.

And if you’re charging, use a credit card that offers price protection. “If you find a better deal on the same items within 60 to 90 days, you can get difference refunded to you,” says Skirboll.

Strategize: Don’t forget to look for deals at smaller, local retailers. “Independent sellers are going all out with holiday savings and events,” says Krista Fabregas, a retail analyst with FitSmallBusiness.com.

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