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Clark’s #1 secret to avoid overspending this holiday season

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Mike Timmermann |
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All year long,‘s Michael Timmermann is sharing quick and easy ways to save money as part of our Michael Saves series. Check in every Monday as he puts new and familiar savings strategies to the test. Sign up for our newsletter to have these stories delivered to your inbox!

There’s something different about the 2017 Christmas shopping season that could lead to wasteful spending.

Money expert Clark Howard says Black Friday is now a state of mind and not an actual day, so you can expect to find great deals from October 31 to December 10 โ€” a roughly six-week period.

Retailers are hoping that they’ll get consumers to spend more money by spreading out the sales this year.

How Clark avoids holiday overspending

RELATED: This retail secret may trick right-handed shoppers into spending more money

Clark told me the biggest problem for your wallet during the holiday shopping season is that you spend a lot more time in stores and shopping online than you normally would.

Does the scenario below sound familiar? I think we can all relate to this…

Jill: I just got the best gift for Jack and it was 40% off. I think he was the last person on my list, so I’m done. How did you make out?

Karen: I’m still trying to find something for my mom. She’s just so hard to shop for! Maybe we can try the other shopping center down the street?

Jill: Of course, let’s get out of here. Maybe I’ll find something for myself! Can we stop by the coffee shop before we head over? My treat.

In this scenario, Jill gave herself permission to continue spending money because she bought something on sale โ€” which is just what retailers want you to do.

Clark’s tip: Do not use a shopping cart!

Clark says the danger is that the longer most people shop, the more likely they’ll buy things they just don’t need.

Here’s a solution: When shopping in physical stores, Clark says he doesn’t get a shopping cart and buys only what he can carry in his hands.

“By not having a cart, I limit the temptation,” Clark said. “I will physically put things back if I can’t carry them.”

Save your savings

I think Clark’s strategy is great, but I’ve decided to test out another money-saving trick to keep myself from picking up every little thing with sale tag on it.

For the months of November and December, I’ve set a goal to save my savings.

For example, let’s say that I found a great gift on Amazon for $30, but the original price was $50. I’ll put the $20 that I saved into a special bank account for this challenge.

Usually retailers make the savings amount easy to find, as on this receipt:

Bottom line

So many of us are quick to tell family and friends about the great deals we find, but it’s not really a deal if you turn around and buy five more things that aren’t in your budget.

This challenge is about rewarding yourself for smart shopping habits by saving for the future. Who’s in?

Check out more from our Michael Saves series:

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