Money Matters

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Make the most of your next shopping trip

With the economy on the rebound, shopping trips are once again becoming an indulgence for men and women alike. Responsible shoppers know to spend within their means, but shopping excursions can still be enjoyable even for those shoppers with limited budgets. The following are a handful of ways shoppers can make the most of their next shopping trips.

* Employ the buddy system. Most activities are made more enjoyable when friends are along for the ride, and shopping is no exception. Shopping with friends can make the trip more fun, and friends can offer their opinions on everything from clothing to appliances. In addition, friends can discourage one another from spending beyond their means.

* Comparison shop. Many shoppers feel that finding a good deal is the most fun part of shopping. Anyone can walk in off the street and pay full price for an item, but savvy shoppers pride themselves on finding the best deals. Shoppers can start their comparison shopping even before they visit their favorite retailers, comparing online prices with the prices they are likely to pay in-store. Such research may also unearth sales that are not heavily advertised, netting shoppers even more savings. Shoppers who find items at heavy discounts online may even be able to find retailers who will match those discounts in-store. But that requires shoppers do their homework first.

* Take advantage of retailer apps. Many retailers now have their own smartphone apps, which can net shoppers even more savings. Before heading downtown to shop till they drop, shoppers should download apps from their favorite retailers. Such apps can alert shoppers to any sales and may even make them eligible for special discounts available only to the smartphone users who have downloaded the store app. In addition to retailer-specific apps, shoppers may be able to take advantage of coupon apps that collect information on various in-store and online promotions and alert customers to such deals when they are within spitting distance of the stores. Such apps are typically free and can save shoppers substantial amounts of money.

* Develop a plan. Once they have set aside a day for some retail therapy, shoppers should plan where they want to shop and make a list of what they need. Shoppers can still make some time for window shopping, but spending too much time gazing into store windows can cost shoppers time to purchase those things they truly need. Make a list of stores anyone going on the trip wants to visit, and then allow yourselves ample time to get what you need and gaze at what you want.

Many shoppers find their shopping trips are now few and far between. But there are ways that savvy shoppers can still visit their favorite retailers without busting their budgets.