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CThe holidays are upon us, and retailers know that most of the money spent at shopping malls annually is spent during the weeks leading up to Christmas. As a result, they pull out all the stops to attract as many shoppers as possible – and with good will in the air and many deals being tossed around, it’s easy to overspend.

Top contributors to The Motley Fool, a consumer investor publication, offer their five best tips for keeping holiday spending under control:

  • Save on gift cards – Gift cards are a great choice when you can’t figure out what to buy someone. But there’s no reason to pay full price because gift card exchange services often act as a clearinghouse, buying or exchanging unwanted gift cards from  recipients for a fee and re-selling them at less than face value. Search online to find a gift card exchange and see if the card you want is available.
  • Set your own rules – Budget is more than a six-letter word. It’s a way to keep your spending in check. Before you shop, make a list of your recipients and what your budget will allow you to spend on each – and make a supreme effort to stay within your own parameters.
  • Comparison shop – Check store prices against online deals to ensure you pay the lowest price possible. Most comparison shopping apps are free, and vendors like and among others, offer price-match guarantees.
  • Drive, don’t fly – If your family is among the many who will travel for family holiday celebrations, consider driving instead of flying. Gas prices are currently low and holiday airfare is high, so driving may be a good alternative even if you have to pay for a hotel.
  • Pay cash – McDonald’s found that restaurant sales increased by 40 percent when the company started accepting credit cards. That’s because consumers are more likely to spend less when they are forced to pay in cash. Carry a credit card with you in case you really need it, but try to pay cash for your holiday purchases.