Beware These 3 Tricks Stores Use to Get You to Pay More During the Holidays

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  • Not all holiday deals are actually worth it.
  • Savvy shoppers should always read the fine print to learn about any strings attached to a sale or offer.

You may not be saving as much as you think you are.

The holiday season brings in big bucks for most retailers, with Americans spending billions on Black Friday alone. Most companies try to entice shoppers to their storefronts by promising deep discounts and generous return policies. And when you're caught up in the frenzy of trying to get that last flatscreen TV before the hundred other people that are also eyeing it, it's easy to take retailers at their word.

But the truth is, not all holiday "deals" are actually worth it. Sometimes, the fine print buries secrets that will pop that festive holiday mood of yours in a hurry. Here are three of these practices to watch for if you want to be sure you're really getting a good deal.

1. Suspending price matching

Many retailers claim that they'll match their competitors' prices if customers can prove that the competitor is charging less for the same item. This might be the rule during most of the year, but a lot of companies silently suspend this option during the holiday season. That means you either have to buy the item from the retailer offering it cheaper or get comfortable paying a higher rate.

2. Misleading advertising discounts

Companies often advertise the original retail price when an item is on sale to make you feel like you're getting a good deal. But the original price isn't always accurate. I remember one time I bought a dress online at full price for about $50. Later, I returned to the same retailer and saw that the dress I'd bought was now on sale for $40, but the original retail price was listed as $60 instead of the $50 I actually paid.

If you don't want to run into this problem, start scoping out your holiday purchases now. Make note of the regular retail price of each item so you can tell how much you're actually saving when it's offered at a discount. And if you find a great price during your research, don’t be afraid to buy early. A lot of stores now offer great sales before Black Friday.

3. Requiring mail-in rebates to get deals

Some companies promise savings only if you mail in a rebate form, along with your receipt, for the purchase. If you follow all the steps, you will get some money back, though it may take a little while.

Companies make these deals inconvenient because they're hoping that some people won't take the time to send in their rebate forms. If they don't, they end up paying full price for the item and the retailer keeps their extra cash.

If you come across one of these deals, make sure you keep your receipts and pay attention to the terms of the rebate. You may have to submit them by a certain date if you want them to count.

Ultimately, you have to remember that while stores may offer discounts around the holidays, they're really out for their own bottom line. If you want to ensure you're getting a fair deal, you need to read the fine print and compare prices across several retailers. If you do this, your bank account may not take such a big hit this year.

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