The Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is arming holiday shoppers with information as the busy season continues.

“This is the time of year when we’re all rushed, but don’t let that blur your shopping judgment,” said Kim States of the BBB. “Shoppers need to think before they buy, particularly this year when budgets are tight and there are seemingly good deals on every corner.”

BBB suggests people:

Budget. Plan your holiday expenditures. Along with your list of gifts, include holiday cards, stamps, entertaining, and clothing. Keep a running total to make sure you don’t spend more than you budgeted.

Comparison shop. Don’t rely on ads that claim to offer the lowest prices. “It is almost impossible for a company to have the lowest price on every item, every day,” a release said. “Comparison shopping is an important key to finding the best value. Apply this rule to going-out-of-business sales too.”

Restocking fees. Many consumers are looking for big ticket items for holiday gifts - especially due to the digital television transition in February. Ask the store if they charge a restocking fee if the product is returned.

Return policies and refunds. Ask for the store’s return policy before you buy. Companies are not required to give you your money back, but they need to post their return policy prominently. Keep your receipts in one place so you don’t lose them. Many companies are tightening their return policies and will likely require you to produce a receipt for a return. When making a purchase, ask for a gift receipt and tape it on the inside of the gift box to make returns easier for family and friends.

Gift cards. If you purchase a gift card this holiday season, check for an expiration date and ask if there’s a dormancy fee. If you receive a gift card, you should redeem it promptly.

Beware of fees. Many gift givers are foregoing gift cards this year in favor of bank cards. But consumers need to ask up front what fees are associated with the card they are purchasing. “All too often the large print giveth and the fine print taketh away,” States said. “Read the terms and conditions.”

Getting the real deal. Do you know if a sale is really a sale?

Check out the company. If you are shopping a company for the first time, be it online or in the mall, take a minute to contact the BBB at 888-5353 or

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