Heading into the holiday season without a serious shopping plan makes a busted budget a sure bet. While it’s difficult to predict certain expenditures down to the penny, you can in fact take several steps to ensure you are getting the best bottom line price possible. Here are five of my personal favorites.

Portals:

Many credit card companies host web-based shopping portals for their members which offer significant discounts on purchases with established corporate retail partners. I’ve seen deals for online shopping with companies like Sears, Footlocker, Bass Pro and even Ann Taylor Loft. Savings on family travel expenditures are possible as well, with some credit card companies having partnered with companies like Royal Caribbean and Travelocity to provide discount perks for customers with high reward points totals.

Apps:

If you’re looking for resources for more effective retail savings, it doesn’t hurt to search out a shopping app or two that will help you make decisions on the fly. There are a myriad of options out there to suit practically every need. Searching for product sustainability ratings, comparing prices and even checking others’ reviews of a product under your consideration are all possible with the proper application, making shopping with your smart phone a really smart idea.

Gift Cards:

If stopping at twelve different stores and coordinating a major gift-wrapping event aren’t on your list of fun holiday activities, consider reducing your stress and streamlining the process by ordering the delivery of gift cards online. There are gift cards available for every interest and dining preference, including gift cards for vegan fast food, camping gear stores and even clothing retailers. To get the best deal possible on restaurant gift certificates, consider shopping at Restaurant.com, where most $25 restaurant gift cards cost you only $10.

Automation:

This is another tip for active credit card users. A number of credit card companies negotiate automated, in-store price discounts for members that shop using their actual card. Banana Republic, American Eagle  Outfitters and Budget Rental Car, among others, have all partnered at one time or another with credit card companies to offer this service. Calling your credit card company to see if this is something available to you as a member could mean big savings if the places you shop the most happen to make the list.

Memberships:

Typically, associations with large membership numbers are able to negotiate price breaks for their members that can be accessed by showing a card with a membership number. Here in the States for example, national teacher and realtor associations receive discounts on anything from chain book store purchases to rental cars and name-brand shoes.

While scouring the sales flyers and clipping coupons are certainly helpful, they are far from the only holiday savings strategies at your disposal. Incorporating automated discounts, shopping apps and bargain gift cards into the mix can go a long way towards keeping your winter holiday expenditures under control and on budget. Do you have any secret tips for streamlined holiday savings? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.