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Friday, November 23, 2012 - Page updated at 04:30 a.m.

Make shopping lists, check them twice

By Susan Salisbury
Cox Newspapers

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The holidays are almost here, and shopping is on many of our to-do lists. The average person expects to spend $749 on holiday-related items this season, up $9 from 2011, according to the National Retail Federation.

Before venturing into the stores or going online, there are many things to consider, including staying within your budget and staying safe.

“Take advantage of sales to make planned purchases, but leave other items on the shelf,” said Jessica Cecere, regional president for nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency CredAbility in West Palm Beach.

“Don’t let the thought of getting a ‘deal’ cloud your judgment. Impulse purchases can create holiday debt that you will pay for well into the new year and beyond,” Cecere said.

Tips for shoppers

Make a list and stick to it. Having a list of the people you need to buy for and a budget for each person is a great way to make sure you don’t overspend. Jot down ideas ahead of time.

Plan your shopping before you leave the house. Use newspaper circulars and the Internet to plan your trip. Take a look at sale ads for Black Friday, at websites such as www.theblackfriday.com and www.bfads.net.

Get a jump-start by shopping online. There may be sale prices or free shipping offers, and there’s still plenty of time. Deals for Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, can be found at www.cybermonday.com.

Compare prices by using sites such as www.pricegrabber.com, www.bizrate.com and www.nextag.com. Look for coupons to save on in-store and online purchases at sites such as www.couponcabin.com or www.dealcatcher.com.

Don’t window shop. This leads to spending more than you planned.

Don’t take along credit cards. Studies have shown that people who use credit cards to buy gifts spend an average of 30 percent more than people who use cash.

Don’t make impulse purchases. Do your homework and make sure something really is a deal before making the purchase.

Keep receipts. Make sure you know the return policy for all of your purchases.