Money

5 shopping hacks that can save you hundreds of dollars this holiday season

Saving money over the holiday season is easier than you may think.

"The world is filled with little bits of information that can save you money or make you money," writes Yahoo tech columnist David Pogue in "Pogue's Basics: Money." "There's hardly a single area of life that doesn't harbor money-saving secrets."

Here are five of Pogue's best shopping hacks that could save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars this year.

Pay attention to when you shop

When you shop is just as important as where you shop.

"In certain industries, the prices for products always drop at certain times of year, like clockwork," Pogue writes.

There are two times when you can expect significant price dips, he notes: When demand is highest, such as toys before Christmas or TVs before the Super Bowl, and when demand is lowest, such as with candy after Halloween or holiday decorations after Christmas.

Black Friday, as always, is going to be a great time to score deals, but if you're up for it, you may want to look for discounts starting on Thanksgiving Day. It's the single best day to snag top discounts.

Do your research and use online resources

Before you buy anything, head to retailmenot.com, Pogue says. It's essentially a massive collection of coupons that you can use in physical stores and online.

"You just search for the store you're shopping in or the thing you're about to buy," he explains. "You'd be amazed at how many times out of 100 there's a discount waiting for you."

There's also camelcamelcamel.com, which tracks prices of things sold just by Amazon. It lets you know when a price drops and also shows the price history for any item. Finally, check out coupons.com, redplum.com and smartsource.com, where you can scroll through hundreds of available coupons.

Get free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime comes with an annual membership fee of $99, but "if you place more that a few orders a year from Amazon and watch just a few of the free movies, you'll make your money back," Pogue says.

Prime perks include: Prime video, Prime music, early access to special deals and sales, free two-day shipping and even free same-day shipping in big cities. Pogue estimates you could save over $700 a year if you're placing two orders a month, watching a movie a week, and reading a Kindle book a month.

"Overall, Prime is an excellent deal," the tech columnist says. However, he does warn that members "tend to wind up buying more stuff from Amazon, and more often, than they otherwise would have."

Pro tip: You can share your Prime account with another person to cut the annual cost in half.

Use apps to ensure you land the best deal

Sometimes shopping online can be much cheaper than shopping in a physical store. Other times, the price differences are negligible.

Apps like PriceJump let you scan bar codes and compare prices from stores nearby and at thousands of online vendors.

Read more about price-match apps out there that can help you find bargains.

Use a credit card that will pay you back

"If you're not using a cash-back card, you're making a big mistake," Pogue writes. "It's free money. … The best ones credit you with, for example, 2 percent of everything you buy — and 5 percent on certain kinds of spending, like restaurants or travel."

Pogue recommends checking out these no-fee cards that offer great rewards: Citi Double Cash, Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature, Chase Freedom, and Blue Cash Everyday.

Of course, if you open a new credit card, you'll want to make sure you pay more than the minimum balance on your cards each month. Interest rates vary depending on the card, but credit cards charge an average of 15 percent on unpaid balances.

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published in November 2016.

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