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4 Ways to Skip the Stress with Streamlined Holiday Savings Strategies

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Stressed out over the high cost of holiday shopping? Operating at warp speed with work, family and other seasonal obligations? For many of us, coupon clipping just isn't in the cards. For those searching for a more streamlined savings strategy, here are four ways to shave some scones off the final dollar amount of your holiday shopping bill. No coupons required.

Automated Credit Card Discounts: Certain credit card customers receive automated discounts and rebates with popular retailers every single time they use their card. Card holders at TD Bank, for example, get online and in-store price breaks from such entities as Banana Republic, Budget Rental Car, JC Penney, 1-800-FLOWERS and American Eagle Outfitters. That's good news for parents on the prowl for gifts that will pass muster for brand-conscious teenagers. Lists of retailers for these types of programs change periodically, so be sure to check with your card company to stay up to date on what's being offered.

Membership Discounts: Many organizations offer discounts to their paid members. You just have to remember to check their online listings to keep up to date on what savings solutions your group is being offered. This list of discounts for the National Education Association for example, lists money-saving deals on such things as national book chain purchases and name-brand shoes. Members of the National Association of Realtors receive discounts on holiday rental cars from such companies as Avis, Budget and Hertz. So if you belong to an organization of significant size, spend some time perusing their list of online member benefits. You might be surprised at what you find there.

Gift Card Balance Tracking: Traditionally, unused balances on holiday gift cards can add up to big bucks that are just lost. It happens to the best of us. Wallets bulging with everything from credit and debit cards to loyalty credit card rewards have little organizational infrastructure left to organize the overwhelming variety of gift cards that can come into our possession at this time of year. However, a new app is coming out just in time for the holidays. SWAGG, a free iPhone app due out December 8th, provides tracking capabilities for all outstanding gift card balances and options for combining them or transferring them to one main retailer to get the full bang of your gift-giving buck. The app will also work on your Droid device. And if you'd rather just get rid of your gift cards and recoup some of their value, sites like Cardpool.com will buy them from you.

Online Shopping Portals: Some credit card companies offer discounts and additional rewards when customers shop through that company's online shopping portal. For example, Discover offers an online shopping experience with partners such as Sears, Bass Pro, Ann Taylor Loft, Crate & Barrel, Footlocker and the Apple Store. Chase, Bank of America, and many other loyalty programs offer similar discounts, and NerdWallet allows you to search these bonus malls by store name. The discount finder compares dozens of stores at once for maximum savings.

Clipping coupons and comparing prices are certainly worth the effort. However, for those who are short on time as well as cash, it's nice to have a few savings strategies in your repertoire that don't require a huge investment of your valuable time.

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