Hot holiday shopping tips

Every Thanksgiving night I always find myself wondering if I will be in line well before midnight to break down the door for the plentiful Black Friday deals, or if I will opt out of the madness and wait for Cyber Monday to roll around. But what do you do after Black Friday and Cyber Monday? If I have learned anything from my stellar shopping habits of holidays past, I have learned how to combine price matching, free shipping, and variety of other door-busting deals that lead me to splendid savings no matter what.

I shop now

Since in-store and online deals change from week to week starting in October, I keep a close eye on all of the lowest priced swag from my favorite stores. I use price-matching guarantees to my advantage and free shipping promotions just at the right time to save even bigger. I watch the fliers and online prices to time my holiday purchases and maximize every dollar. The way I see it, there's no reason not to start shopping early.

How I use price matching

I shop Target and Best Buy against each other and even use the information I get from their online rivals Amazon and Wal-Mart to compare and shop for the best deal. Since most retailers will not just meet (but beat) the lowest advertised price by either a certain dollar amount or percentage, I compare and contrast the lowest possible offer by doing my homework ahead of time. For help, I usually visit PriceGrabber.com for price comparison options in my never-ending quest for bargains.

I use Freeshipping.org

I use my E-bates cash back rebate portal in conjunction with free shipping offers from retailers I locate through freeshipping.org. This method helps me find the sites with the lowest price and free shipping offers for the holidays -- and throughout the year.

I steer clear of gift cards, unless...

Generally, I steer clear of gift cards, because they don't save me a red-hot cent compared to deep discounts and incredible deals. However, if I find gift cards for less than their face value on EBay or other online gift card discount sites, I make sure I take advantage of those as best I can. In general, I can save as much as 10 to 25 percent off face value when shopping for holiday gift cards this way.

I don't layaway

Layaway is okay for some people, but not for me. The extra fees and hassle that go along with layaway (in my world) simply isn't worth it. Instead, I save, budget, and plan for the holidays so that I always come out ahead, and I usually start planning for the next holiday on December 26th.

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