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Holiday shopping secrets you may not know

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Updated: 1/17/2013 10:15 am

The holiday season always brings a crush of expenses that can quickly add up. Between finding gifts for loved ones and friends, hosting gatherings, purchasing holiday foods and decorating the house, sometimes funds can be depleted quickly.

Here are five holiday shopping secrets you've probably never heard. Use them to make ends meet now through the end of the year.

Tip 1. Technology can be your friend. Use your smartphone to download apps that allow you to compare prices on specific products at other stores or even online. Carefully analyze the price results - you may discover the cost of driving several miles to reach another store won't save you any money in the long run. However, if you find a better price online, remember that you can often find a code or promotion for free shipping.

Tip 2. It's always a good idea to keep an eye on prices - and save your receipts. Retailers often will honor a reduced price - even up to 30 days later - typically with just a receipt. It never hurts to ask. So hold on to receipts, especially for last minute gifts, save the shoppers and fliers that appear in your mailbox and retrace your steps through the stores you've already visited to be as diligent a shopper as you can.

Tip 3. Sign up for online daily coupon and deal sites. Carefully search the emails you receive on a daily basis, looking for gifts for your loved ones. You can find massage treatments, theater tickets or even art classes at discounts of up to 50 percent or even higher. And when you purchase these items as gifts, the recipient has the option of redeeming them several months later, when the timing is right for them.

Tip 4. Give your budget a boost. Installment loans are one way for families to cover unexpected expenses. These medium-term paycheck loans are larger than traditional payday loans and have lower interest rates, but are paid back on a schedule over several months, rather than the next pay day, allowing borrowers to feel less pressure about meeting due dates.

Tip 5. Know when to shop for what. Looking for stocking stuffers? Buy art supplies, stickers and themed school items after the back-to-school season to get the best prices. The week after Halloween is the perfect time to find candy as it is heavily discounted. The day after Thanksgiving is a great time to find other stocking-size items such as socks, wallets, earrings, etc. at unusually low prices. You may even find that shopping for these smaller ticket items allows you to avoid most of the Black Friday chaos. And if your family is holding a Christmas gathering after Dec. 25, you'll be able to find good discounts on toys, stocking stuffers and even decorations for next year in the days after Christmas. For additional savings, shop the dollar store for neat toys that make great stocking stuffers for children.

The secrets are out on how to make the most of your budget during the holiday season. Put these tips to use and enjoy the celebrations this year.

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