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How to make holiday returns painless

You have done the holiday shopping but you may not be done with stores or stress. You mostly like will have returns.

SAN ANTONIO — Once you get or give a gift you know is not going to work, check the return policy. It will tell you the deadline and the items you need to make a return.

“It may seem like you have a lot of time, but it’s going to go by quickly,” said Andrea Woroch, a smart shopping expert. “So you need to find out what the deadline is for each retailer and make a note in your calendar or on your phone and set an alert so you don’t miss the deadline.”

Missing the return window means missing out on money.

“They’ll give you store credit on the last selling price of the item,” said Kyle James of the savings website Rather Be Shopping. “If it was way marked down, you may only get kind of pennies on the dollar.”

Saving receipts, keeping boxes, and not cutting off tags will make returns easier. Also, be nice to the sales associates. They have the power to deny your return.

“Be kind,” Woroch said. “Be courteous. Explain where you’re coming from and chances are there could be some flexibility. There could be a one-time courtesy where they change the policy for you in the moment.”

Wait until Mid-January to make a return, if the policy allows it.

“You may not want to attempt a return the week after Christmas because everyone will be returning the week after Christmas,” said Trae Bodge, a smart saving expert. “You’re going to face crowds, long lines, maybe grumpy people at the returns desk and who could blame them? What I would recommend is wait until right after New Year’s, maybe the first or second week of January.”

Stuck with store credit? Wait to spend it so you can stretch your dollars with sales.

“Give yourself time to think through what you actually need, what you could use, and you’re not really wasting it,” Woroch said. “Make sure you’re shopping those holiday sales. Look for end-of-season sales that could be on winter apparel as we go into January. There are really good sales on bedding and linens during the retailer’s white sale. So that could be a good thing to purchase.”

Know returns could cost you because of shipping and restocking fees.

“Retailers are starting to charge for returns,” Bodge said. “So do not assume that you’re going to be able to return your unwanted gift for free. You may have to pay $7 or $8 to send that gift back and, of course, that eats into the value of the gift.”

Return items in-store, if you can, to save.

Make a buck even if you cannot get your money back on a gift.

“You might want to consider selling that item,” Bodge said. “There are a lot of online platforms that will buy new merchandise from you. So, you might do better doing that versus trying to return it in-store.”

You can also save the item to re-gift, do an unwanted gift exchange with friends, or donate an item to charity.

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