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Saving money during the holiday season can be easier than you think

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Updated: 1/25/2013 10:31 am

(BPT) - If you are like most Americans, you will likely spend an average of $764 on gifts alone this holiday season, according to a Gallup survey. When totaling up the cost of gifts with extra trips to the grocery store, dinners out to toast the season and travel costs to visit loved ones, you're looking at quite a holiday spending spree. While we all recognize that we spend a little extra during the holiday season, there are ways to give yourself a present this season and have your money working for you. With a little savvy planning, families can lessen the burden of holiday expenses on their budgets and earn some added value with their purchases.

'Not everyone has to shop for a family of eight like me, but no matter what size your family, those holiday expenses can quickly add up,' says Colleen Burns, a savings expert, who is also known as 'The Mom on the Run' and Shell spokesperson. 'The good news is there are always things you can do to keep your costs down without sacrificing all those fun gifts, meals and travel plans.'

Here are a few tips for keeping your holiday expenses down this year:

Choose your food wisely: When grocery shopping, consider alternating frozen, canned or dried items for fresh to help reduce costs. These items often have the same - or even better - nutritional values as fresh because they're processed quickly. When eating out, choose a lunch item rather than a more expensive dinner entree option.

Earn rewards:Take advantage of loyalty programs that help you earn rewards for significant savings. One example, the new Fuel Rewards Network program, or FRN program, allows you to earn rewards on everyday purchases that are redeemable for potentially huge fuel savings at participating Shell stations.

Here's how it works, when shopping for clothes, household supplies or even holiday gifts online, simply go to the Online Mall found on fuelrewards.com to find your favorite brand name online retailers like BestBuy.com and jcpenney. You can earn 5 cents per gallon in Fuel Rewards savings for every $50 you spend, with some online merchants offering two times, five times, 10 times rewards or more so you can multiply your savings even faster. You can also earn additional rewards when dining at participating local restaurants, grocery shopping at participating grocery stores and when using eCoupons downloaded from fuelrewards.com.

While the average saving is around $.32 per gallon according to fuelrewards.com, some savvy consumers have saved really big and paid just pennies per gallon on Shell fuel. You can learn more and sign up for the free FRN program by picking up an FRN Card at a participating Shell station and activating it online at fuelrewards.com. You can also request an FRN Card online at fuelrewards.com during the sign up process. Program availability and ways to save vary by location.

Comparison shop: Let technology do the hard part for you - try one of those handy shopping apps to compare prices so you know exactly where to go to find the best deals. You can check out pricing and deals at home or on your mobile device - perfect for people on the go.

Check labels: Always read the tags and labels on what you purchase. When shopping for clothes, avoid purchasing clothing with tags that stipulate dry clean only. The ongoing cost of cleaning the garment will quickly exceed the original price. And at the grocery store, always look for an expiration date to avoid wasting food and money; food items to really pay attention to include meat, dairy and spices.

'Using eCoupons, shopping for discounts, purchasing lower-priced items and earning rewards all add up when applying these savings to holiday shopping,' says Burns. 'By following these tips, you can stretch that family budget a little further, so it's easier to keep in the holiday spirit.'

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