Get your shop on

The tree is untrimmed, you’ve said see-ya to your crazy cousins and—woo hoo!—you have some Christmas cash burnin’ a hole in your pocket. You’re ready to rack it up at the registers, but before you begin browsing, consider these top tricks to navigating your way through the mall madness. Cinchy ways to save money and stay sane? Priceless!

Get a game plan.

Stepping into a mall post-holidays can be completely chaotic. Instead of ambling around aimlessly, you’ll wanna walk in with a good game plan.

First, set a time limit. If you tell yourself you’ve gotta jet by 7, you won’t stall over sales racks of stuff you don’t really need.

Next, choose wisely what time you hit the shops. If you’re not crazy about crowds, go on the typically slower weekday nights or early weekend mornings.

Another tip? Get a sneak peek at what’s hitting the floor the next day by shopping late at night. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a salesperson who’ll hold your selections that night and charge your card in the a.m.

Finally, wear the right stuff: Comfy shoes and light layers are key for all of that walking around, so leave the high heels at home.

Choose your crew.

Do you hit the shops solo or roll up with your crew? If you’re set on some serious shopping, you might wanna brave it by yourself, which’ll give you more time to browse the racks and try things on.

But if you think you’ll need some savvy advice (like whether or not you can pull off those corduroy leggings or sky-high boots), bring along your bestie, big sis or your mom. Just think twice before heading to the mall with your entire posse, or you may wind up spending the day getting pulled in a million different directions.

Budget right.

Now that you’re ready to shop, it’s time to start spending. We know you’ve got gift cards and holiday money beggin’ to be blown, but it’s smart to stash some cash for the rest of the year. So before you drop that dough, set a limit on how much moolah you want to part with. Then, to avoid buyer’s remorse (like last year’s hot pink faux fur boots that still mock you every time you open your closet), make a list of items that you’re looking for– and stick to it.

Get card smart.

Strange, but true: Shoppers tend to spend more when armed with gift cards. Scored a ton of them? Go ahead and buy that special something. Not finding anything amazing? Stash the card in a safe spot, like your wallet (duh!), since they’re usually irreplaceable if you lose ‘em.

Browse wisely.

So you’ve scoured the sales racks and have an armful of deeply discounted duds. Before you reach the register, take a quick inventory of everything you’re thinking about buyin’ and ask yourself if you really need it all. Sure, it’s sweet that those tees are two for $10, but don’t ya already have a stack?

Same goes for super-trendy pieces: Picking up a cute capelet or a funky fedora is fine, but don’t overdo it on of-the-moment looks. Instead, go for items with staying power (jeans, jackets, sweaters) and be sure the fit is fab, too.

“Pick and choose what works best for your body and personality,” advise Saba Salehi and Laura Schuffman, stylists for Pretty Little Liars. “If you’re uncomfortable, you won’t wear it. (Ask about the return policy and stash your receipts in a safe place, just in case you change your mind post-purchase.)

Compare ‘n’ save.

Here’s the secret to saving: Comparison shop! If you find something you love, use your phone and an app like Red Laser or ShopSavvy to scan the barcode from a price tag and check the price across the web. IF you find it cheaper online, show a salesperson proof. Most stores will match the online price provided you have evidence. And if they won’t? Just make a note to buy once you’re back home. Or, see if there are any available discounts. Sometimes, salespeople can offer up to 10 percent off to good customers.

Find off-season scores.

Grandma lives in sunny Florida, and you’re visiting from chilly Colorado? Michelle Macrinowski, assistant manager of Scoop NYC, tells us that stores often cater their inventory to the local climate, so now’s the time to snap up off-season scores. Think sundresses, flips and shorts you can be sure no one else in class will have come spring. But don’t go crazy—even savvy shoppers tend to let their guard down on vacation, which can lead to pangs of regret back home. Now that’s smart shopping!

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by Jessica D'Argenio Waller | 2/1/2016