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SHOP SMARTER 5 things to do before buying electronics this season Words by Craig Agranoff Buying electronics during the holidays is a fun but, sometimes, harrowing experience. Halloween may be over, but the horror show of misapplied purchases and bad decision-making is just beginning. Here's what you need to do before you buy that gadget or gift this holiday season. #1 MAKE A LONG, WORDY TEENAGER'S PHONE USER AGREEMENT Got teenagers? Then you're well aware that the beg-a-thon for a new smartphone or gadget comes every holiday season. As soon as the big box store starts busting out the ornaments and red and white decorations (sometime around July), the not- so-subtle begging for the latest and greatest iDroid or whatever is underway. Make a user's agreement for them to abide by. Make it long. Get a lawyer friend to word it up so it's also complicated and full of loopholes that work to your advantage. Include things like "no more than 5 'whatevers' per day" and "talk time is limited to four hours per person per day" —especially if you have girls. Then put the phone on a contract with parental controls so you can turn it off randomly and tell them it's because they broke their contract. This allows you to extort them for extra chores and better grades. #2 USE PRICE CHECKING APPS AS THEY'RE INTENDED Get some price checking apps on your phone so you can double-check that you're getting the best deal. Then buy whatever's in front of you on the shelf instead of going to wherever the better price is because, well, time is money and that counts too, right? This is what most people who install price checking apps actually do. Then lie to your friends about how the app saved you sixty cents when you drove forty miles to the other store and bought the "exact same item." #3 EXTENDED WARRANTIES ARE FOR CHUMPS Only those who love giving away their money buy extended warranties, right? We all know this. Yet as soon as we buy something without that extended warranty, it breaks the day after the factory warranty runs out. To the bloody hour. So maybe extended warranties aren't so bad. Most big box retailers could make 50% of their profits by just selling these extended plans, so they do whatever they can to scare you into buying one. So, to avoid looking like a chump at the register, use an extended warranty purchase app like iWarrantySolutions. com so you can do it on the sly. You get the best of both worlds and can smirk knowing you're already covered for all the items they carry in the store, without needing separate plans for each. #4 ASK FOR A GIFT RECEIPT AT YOUR OWN PERIL We all know that gift receipts say, "Here's something I didn't think about much that kinda- sorta seemed to fit you, but in case my total stab in the dark was wrong, here's a way to take it back without knowing what I spent, so you can't judge my valuation of you based on the gift I gave." Gift receipts can send the wrong message. No receipt is way better. They can always re-gift the thing you thoughtlessly gave them that they don't want. Don't forget to take a photo of the original receipt, in case you want to return it and have misplaced the original, especially in the case you end up in a fight prior to the holidays. #5 USE MONEY SAVING APPS TO PRETEND YOU'RE FRUGAL There are hundreds of apps now that let you cross-shop or get coupons for items on the fly. These apps, like Retailmenot or FatWallet, are pretty good to have —if you remember to use them. Most of us, of course, install them, use them once, find out it's a hassle, and then forget the app and just pay retail. But hey, you can occasionally bust out the app and show your friends how money smart you are. So get them installed. Now. ML

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