To save your cash, it is best to use cash

Prepare yourself for the end-of-year tricks used by some shopowners to get more dirhams from your pocket.

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With the end of the year fast approaching, and bonuses imminent along with a host of festivals, retailers will be doing everything they can to squeeze every last dirham from our pockets.

Even the smartest among us will fall victim to slick marketing and be duped into spending more than we sensibly have to. Nobody wants to look like a cheapskate, except maybe our employers when it comes to handing out those end-of-year bonuses.

So, prepare yourself and be aware of the following tricks of the trade that shopkeepers use to fool you into giving them your hard-earned money for stuff nobody needs.

The maze: Ikea, for example, is especially good at this. Stores like to create a maze of displays that lead you around the shop, so you are never in a position where there is not merchandise in front of you. As you wander hither and thither, each new scene is presented for you to ooh and aah over. Sooner or later, you reach for your credit card.

The tower: at the end of each aisle, department stores build displays of goods that scream "special offer". Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But since the goods presented are nowhere near their usual shelf mates, you can't compare. Stores know, however, that simply presenting items as if they are a special offer, without actually saying so, is enough to get the consumer to load up.

The countdown: stores do everything possible to generate a sense of urgency in the run-up to the various holidays. They open early, close late and flood our letter boxes with leaflets touting sales and special offers. We begin to feel the creeping unease that if we don't stock up soon, it will be too late.

The muzak: holiday tunes, which, for example, remind us that in some corners of the world it actually snows, are a way of never letting us forget that shopping is now beyond basic necessities. Out goes the pasta and rice, and into our trolley go those bizarre English puddings.

The imagery: advertising slots on TV, on signboards and in print carry the same basic image - families getting together, delightedly eyeing piles of food and gifts around them. It's a beguiling scene and nobody wants to be left out.

The cure: there are ways to avoid the worst of the end-of-year shopping suckerdom. Here are a few suggestions. Shop online. This is a way of buying what you need in the calm of your own home or office. It allows you to make decisions that are less impulsive and based more on reason.

The plan: hoping for inspiration to strike as you wander up and down the aisles is a sure way to spend more than you intended. Instead, have a list, if possible, of what you intend to buy. This is, of course, unlikely for most of us, myself included, because it's hard enough trying to figure out what shirt to wear when I get up in the morning. But still, this would be a good idea if put into practice.

Pay cash: don't all laugh at once, but, truly, the best way to manage a budget is to spend what you have on hand, unlike Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister. This is difficult when expenses tend to run ahead of earnings, but at least make the effort to use an ATM as part of your holiday shopping; the dwindling wad of dirhams in your wallet will at least make the temptation to overspend a little easier to resist.

When shopping with children, it is best to agree to a budget beforehand. Tell them they can have whatever they want - as long as it comes in under a certain price. Little kids don't really know what's going on anyway, so short-changing them is no big deal. As for those old enough to covet the stuff they see on TV, take them shopping - but give them a wallet with a small amount of cash inside and tell them to spend it on gifts for siblings and parents. They will quickly figure out that what it says on the price tag and what they have to spend didn't always match up.