The holiday season is here. Shoppers all across the country are hurrying to finish their holiday gift buying, and following this advice from University of Tennessee Extension can help save shoppers both money and headaches.

"The holidays can be one of the most stressful times of year financially," says Ann Berry, professor and family economics expert with UT Extension. "Traveling to see loved ones can be expensive, with meals, lodging and fuel costs. Purchasing gifts can sometimes get out of hand, with a growing list and an exploding budget. But there are many practical ways to minimize stress and have a peaceful, restful, fiscally responsible holiday season."

Berry suggests shoppers make a list and a budget before ever starting their Christmas shopping. For those with extended families, determining who and who not to buy gifts for can be particularly difficult, so determining a budget is crucial. Having a list can help shoppers avoid the easy folly of buying two gifts for one person or perhaps leaving someone off entirely.

Berry adds that doing some research ahead of time can help shoppers locate products and sellers they trust, with warranties that are reliable. For those shopping online, check for reports of items not being delivered or received not as advertised. Looking for deals can also help a holiday budget stretch further. Check online for coupon codes, discounts, or free shipping. Always compare prices between local stores and online retailers, and watch for rebates for extra savings.

Keeping track of purchases alongside a recipient list can be helpful, too. Make sure the scanned price is accurate and keep all receipts. For shopping online, keep copies of order numbers, refund and return policies, and shipping costs. Have packages delivered to a secure location or pick them up at a local store.

Berry's final caution is for consumers to protect themselves online by only shopping secure websites with an "https" address. Never give financial information in response to holiday money-saving offers, as these might be scams or identity theft schemes.

For more information on this or other family and consumer science topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached at sphill24@utk.edu or 615-444-9584.

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