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Ask any personal finance expert what it’s OK to splurge on and they will tell you the same thing: a mattress.

Since you’ll spend a third of your life sleeping, it’s worth springing for a comfortable place where you’ll spend so much time.

But if you don’t know what you’re looking for or how to shop for the right mattress, you could spend a lot of money and still end up with a bad night’s sleep.

Consider these tips next time you’re in the market for a mattress.

• Take the test run seriously. So much about a mattress is subjective, so it’s important to spend some time figuring out which one feels best to you.

Bring your pillow from home (or pick a similar one from the stash kept at most stores), wear comfortable clothes and climb on in. The salespeople won’t think you’re weird, I promise. In fact, they’ll insist.

If you’re usually a side sleeper, spend five full minutes laying on your side. Test it out for a few minutes lying on your back, your stomach and your other side, too. If you really want to get the picture of what it will be like when you get it home, have your kids and dog climb in and then ask your husband to start snoring.

And remember, anything will feel comfortable after walking around a mall all day. It’s best to start fresh at the mattress store and give yourself lots of time.

• Start with the least expensive models and work your way up. Lots of companies make the same mattresses with just slight variations, slap a different name on them, surround them in luxurious marketing and jack up the price.

If you can find a mattress you like at a low price point, there is little reason to pay anything more. Since when have bells and whistles helped you sleep better?

• Consider what it’s made of. Traditional coil inner springs tend to be less expensive and tend to hold up better over time than memory foam, which can lose some of its ability to “bounce back.”

• You probably don’t need a new box spring. There is very little difference among box springs, according to the experts. If you have one that is still in good shape, continue using it with the new mattress.

If your last one is cracked or creaky, pick a new inexpensive one – there’s no need to buy a matching set.

• Buy from a store with a liberal trial and return policy. If you get your mattress home and decide it’s really not doing it for you, you will want someone who will come and exchange it for free.

Some stores will let you return used mattresses, but doing so can cost hundreds.

• Negotiate. Buying a mattress is very much like buying a car. Arm yourself with prices from other stores to help you haggle.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com. Like me on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DiscountDiva and follow me on Twitter @DiscountDivaSam.