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Holiday help: savvy shopping secrets

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Updated: 2/03 12:08 pm

(BPT) - The holidays are just around the corner and with the big holiday season comes big spending. Americans spend an average of $737 on holiday gifts, decor, food and more, according to the National Retail Federation.

To help you prepare for this year's holidays without seeing a major dent in your bank account, TD Bank's Senior Vice President Matt Chevalier, offers these tips.

1. Start saving now for next year. While it may seem strange to start saving for next year already, getting an early jump will help you in the long run. Some banks offer holiday savings accounts which let you put away money all year. TD Bank's Holiday Club savings account runs from October to October of the next calendar year. This timing allows you to start saving early and use the money to purchase items earlier if you need.

2. Put items on layaway. Certain big box stores are bringing back layaway, allowing you to pay down purchases with no interest. This allows you to see less of a hit to your wallet during the holiday shopping season, and gives you time to pay for them over a few months instead of a few weeks.

3. Bring your smart phone. Many stores now offer coupons sent straight to your phone when you enter the store. You can also use an app to compare prices at local stores and check for sales. Did you know that you can track your holiday spending on the go? Many banks offer mobile apps that will link to your accounts. For example, TD Bank's mobile app will update your account balances in real time, allowing you to always be on top of your finances. You can also use apps to track your gift list, shopping budget and purchases.

4. Save on shipping. Buying gifts online may seem like a better deal than going to a store until you add in the shipping costs. Sometimes the shipping is worth the money. To determine if you are actually getting a great deal online, you need to factor in the gas and the time you spend when out shopping. You can also check to see if stores that you frequent have shipping specials. For example, some store credit cards will offer free shipping if you purchase a certain amount or more. Don't forget about Free Shipping Day on Dec. 18. Visit freeshippingday.com to see participating retailers and deals.

5. Wait until the last minute. This may sound a bit counterintuitive with all the Black Friday excitement, but it is likely you will get a better deal if you wait until closer to the holidays. As the end of the season approaches, stores are looking to unload their inventory, and they drop prices to help clear out their stock. Keep your eyes on sales circulars and wait until the items you want are available for a lower price.

6. Cash in your credit card reward points. Many consumers have credit cards that offer reward points or cash back when making purchases with the card. Make use of all those stored points by trading them in for gift cards to stores you know you will be visiting this holiday season or for items that may be on your shopping list. TD Bank's Easy Rewards credit card allows you to collect points and redeem them for items online. The online store features hundreds of items including gift cards to Amazon and Macy's and popular gift items such as a GPS and iPods.

7. Shop with cash only. Try shopping for gifts using only cash or prepaid debit cards. If you purchase gifts using only the cash you take out from the bank, you are guaranteed to stay within your budget. Before heading to the stores, be sure to stop at your bank's ATM instead of using the shopping center's ATMs. By visiting your bank, you will save yourself from avoidable out-of-network ATM fees. You can also stop by your local TD Bank to purchase a TD Bank Visa Gift Card. The gift card works like a prepaid debit card everywhere Visa or NYCE is accepted and can be used the same way as a cash budget.

Armed with these tips, savvy holiday shoppers will be able to stay well below the average holiday spending and maybe even save a few bucks this year. Happy savings.

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