Holiday Shopping: 7 Ways to Save BIG

Like millions of other people, I've spent most of 2010 trying to avoid shopping in order to stay within my budget. Now, it seems we're practically being shoved through the mall doors with the onslaught of holiday scare tactics.

"Limited Supply!"

"Today Only!"

Retailers will do anything to get us shopping early and often -- talk about pressure! But before you hand a week's pay over to the mall gods, I've got some tips to save you money, time and a whole lot of headache.

Find the Perfect Gift -- We all like to think we know what our sister-in-law likes or what our 7-year-old nephew really wants. But unless they've given you specific instructions, why risk it? I'm all about's Holiday Gifts Shopping Guide. Cool finds for everyone in the family? Yes, please!

Stay in the Black
-- Pulling a Black Friday all-nighter can save you cash, but would you really be freezing your tush off at 4 a.m. if you knew you could get the same deals from the comfort of your own cozy bed? This year, many stores are bringing Black Friday online, offering shoppers similar savings during those wee hours; and some are even offering those discounts ahead of time.

Plus, Cyber Monday is only a few days later and is promising to shape up to be as big as its BF counterpart.

Shop Early -- Not only will a jump start guarantee that the items you want are still in stock, shopping early will get you better deals in the shipping department. Now's the time to save big with free delivery - don't wait!

Be Careful -- Two years ago, I purchased one of those dome climbers for my three little ones, so excited to see the look on their faces as they came down Christmas morning. Unbeknownst to me, the company I purchased it from was more interested in robbing my kids of that feeling and me of 300 bucks. After a little research, I discovered I was one of many who had been swindled by the company. My tip: Don't buy from sites you're not familiar with and ALWAYS buy with a credit card or find out your bank's policy on ATM purchases. Using cash or check is just a bad idea.

Re-Gift -- That's right, I said it. But I'm not saying to pass down that horrible vase your aunt sent last year. Many of us have unused gift cards burning a hole in a drawer somewhere. Use it! Not only is it a great way to save when you use it toward a gift for someone else, you never know if and when the store will go out of business, leaving you out of luck.

Go Social -- Chances are, your favorite stores are offering promotions through Twitter or on their Facebook page. Log on and get yourself exclusive discounts and coupons.

Write On! -- Last year, I made the mistake of keeping my kids' gifts filed in my head and not on paper. It wasn't until Christmas Eve that I discovered the gifts I had grabbed when doing a little pre-season shopping in September. I had completely forgotten! Write it down so you don't overspend or forget that precious Zhu Zhu Pet.

What are you doing to save money and time on holiday shopping this year?