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Setting and Sticking to a Shopping Budget

10 tips for creating a money saving plan and sticking to it in these tough times

1. Include everything when budgeting. One of the easiest ways to bust your budget is to fail to acknowledge the soft costs of shopping like parking, lunch at the mall, babysitting, giftwrapping, etc. Receipts and records from last year can be a great place to start. Remember, it’s better to overestimate than underestimate.

2. Involve your entire family in the budgeting process. If you expect everyone in your family to adhere to the budget, they need to have input in setting it.

3. Write it down. It’s not really a budget until it’s on paper. Having it on paper provides a way to measure your success and keeps you on task. Post it in a place for everyone in your family to see and chart your progress.

4. Consolidate your cards if making purchases on credit. Spreading purchases across multiple cards makes it more difficult to track expenses and maintain your budget. When using credit, think of it as a short-term loan and select the card with the lowest interest or the one that provides reward points or frequent-flier miles.

5. Consider giving a “bake it, make it, sew it” gift. Not only will you save money, the recipient is likely to appreciate a gift you make more than one you purchase.

6. Don’t shop for sales, shop for prices. It’s easy to find sales, but bargains might be harder to come by. Visit resources on the Web that allow you to compare prices and research product price history.

7. Consider the gift of giving to others. In these tough times, making a contribution to a worthy nonprofit organization in the name of a loved one can be a wonderful gift. You’ll be helping others in your community and you may benefit from a tax deduction.

8. Find the best deal when shipping gifts. The price to ship gifts across the country can vary greatly depending not only on the weight of the package you’re sending, but the carrier and the type of service you select. Prepare your boxes for mailing at home to save on packing supplies.

9. Ask about sales adjustments and monitor prices after you purchase. Ever purchase an item only to see it go on sale the following week? Many retailers allow you to get a credit or refund for the discounted amount. Savvy shoppers use price comparison Web sites to receive alerts when prices drop.

10. Save your receipts. Examine your receipts carefully before you leave the store to be sure all the appropriate discounts were applied. It’s also a good idea to compare your receipts with your credit card statement to ensure there are no price discrepancies.

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