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Unless you’re Susie (or Steve) Shopper — that mystifying sprite breezing through holiday prep every year — shopping for the holidays can be downright overwhelming. Buying all that food and gifts (and trying to save a penny or two along the way), can feel like a full-time job. These five smart shopping strategies can help you give Susie & Steve a run for their money.

1. Save on Food

Feeding your family is expensive enough, but add a cavalcade of guests and you’re looking at a hefty price tag. There are ways to save outside of clipping traditional coupons. If you subscribe to a food delivery service like Fresh Direct, keep your eyes peeled for digital coupons as you shop the site. You may be required to click on them — rather than the deduction occurring automatically — but it’s worth the extra step.

A price club membership, like at a Sam’s Club or Costco, can save you a bundle, but there might be even more savings you can capitalize on. Look for special offers on their website or on your favorite coupon site before making your monthly pilgrimage to the store.

2. Stay Loyal

You may want to take a few minutes to sign up for the loyalty programs at stores where you usually shop. Stores like Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Macy’s and CVS Pharmacy will give you bonuses like exclusive coupons and cash back once you hit a spending threshold. And these programs are free!

Because dragging those cards around on your keychain can be a pain, you can scan your cards into a loyalty card app. These clever creatures hold all of the relevant data from your loyalty cards electronically. When you’re in-store, simply open the app and all your info is ready for scanning at the register.

3. Be in the Know

You can sign up for emails from your favorite holiday stores and coupon sites, but don’t forget their social media feeds, which can often provide sneak peeks and access to exclusive deals. Speaking of coupon sites, in addition to following the big guys, don’t ignore savings gurus, like Josh Elledge of Savings Angel or Jackie Berlowski of JackieDeals. They have curated or exclusive coupons that could help you save on items you are planning to buy.

4. Get Smart

You have your smartphone with you 24/7 so you might as well put it to work. Before heading out to the stores, load up your phone with the following apps: a grocery coupons app, a general coupons app for gifts and decor, apps for your favorite stores, like Nordstrom, Walmart and Target as well as a parking app, which can help you find parking at the best price (unless you’re going to the mall, where parking is typically free).

5. Know What to Buy When

Retailers like Walmart, Target and Amazon kicked off their holiday sales in early November, so keep an eye on them for discounts that appeal to you. If you’re braving the crowds on a big sale day like Black Friday, you may want to avoid doing all of your shopping on that day. Black Friday is a good deal day for electronics, apparel and beauty so focus on those categories — especially on deals of 40% off or more — and do the rest of your shopping another time. You can safely wait on winter apparel and toys, which will likely go on sale after the season is over.

Remember, it can help to look for savings wherever and however you can get around the holidays since big credit card balances can hurt your wallet and your credit. (You can check your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com to see if your credit card balances are an issue.)

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Image: Jack F

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