Personal Finance

Roundup: Ten Best Holiday Shopping Tips From Around the Web

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I am not a great shopper. I love a bargain but I really, really don’t enjoy the hunt. (Though I will often research a purchase to death.) So I turned to the pros to collect ideas for the best holiday shopping strategies for Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

Have a grand plan. I think most shoppers devise one plan for Black Friday and a separate plan for Cyber Monday, but I create one grand plan, so I know which gifts I should venture out for on Black Friday and which ones I can purchase online the following Monday from the comfort of my own home without paying higher prices. Trying to come up with two different strategies will lead to a lot of unnecessary overlap and redundancy in your preparation. For Black Friday specifically, make sure you plan a great itinerary around only the best places to shop for Black Friday shopping deals and sales; by doing your homework ahead of time, you can avoid shopping at stores that don’t have the best prices and will simply waste your precious time on this big day. Lastly, don’t underestimate the benefits of Cyber Monday: There are no lines, no rude people, no driving around, and often, no taxes. —From Andrew Schrage, MoneyCrashers.com.

Check out the not-so-secret ads. It’s easy to scope out the ads early by typing “Black Friday 2011″ in your favorite search engine. The actual ad pages are scanned in as soon as they are available. Stores often leak them on purpose to create buzz. Some sites to try include BlackFridayAds.com, ShopLocal.com, DealNews.com, and CyberMonday.com.” —From Gary Foreman, Stretcher.com

Turn your smartphone into a shopping tool. Not sure if a sale is a bargain? Want to be able to shop anywhere, anytime for holiday gifts? Download top shopping apps that can make it easy to do just that. Shopping by The Find, for example, gives coupon codes and shipping deals for each product and lets you set price alerts so you won’t miss out on deals. And Black Friday apps by TGI Black Friday Fatwallet.com and DealNews.com promise to deliver updated news about deals from multiple stores. —Source: Deanna Templeton, Credit.com.

[Related article: Top 5 Free Black Friday & Holiday Shopping Apps]

Realize that Black Friday sales are not always good deals. There was one year my husband and I decided to get up early like so many do on Black Friday. We left the house around 4:00 a.m. and were in line at Best Buy before the doors opened. When the doors opened, we went crazy piling junk into our cart. Why do I say junk? Because we had NO reason to be buying all of the stuff we bought! We got caught up in the frenzy and found ourselves buying things we didn’t need. This brings me back to my most important tip: Make a List and Stick to it! —From Liza Ford, AddictedtoSaving.com (By the way, Liza will be posting Black Friday and CyberMonday deals on her website all day Friday and Monday.)

Shop early, snag free stuff: To lure shoppers into stores, some are giving out free gifts to early birds. For example, J.C. Penney will hand out some 1.9 million Disney snow globes, while some lucky Old Navy shoppers will get Kodak EasyShare Sport digital cameras. And Sears will be giving away some Thomas Kinkade collectible ornaments and Craftsman tool bags in stores. —From Bruce Horovitz USA Today

Take advantage of price-matching guarantees: Many stores will match other retailer’s advertised prices and actually refund the difference if you find a lower price within 30 days of your purchase. To keep tabs on lower prices, enter your purchase into PriceProtectr.com which will monitor it for you, and send an email alert if a lower price is found. The service saved me more than $100 in one year. Note that some stores won’t match Black Friday discounts. —From Luke Landes, a.k.a. “Flexo”, ConsumerismCommentary.com

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Get rewarded: Certain reward credit cards offer larger cash back bonuses on specific categories of purchases over the holidays. One example: Chase Freedom Visa. You can earn 5 percent cash back on dining, department stores, movie theaters, and charitable organizations through the end of the year. I love that this card gives cash back for charitable donations. If you can swing it, now’s a good time to give to your favorite charity. —From Beverly Harzog, Credit.com

Use the right card: Shopping online? Use a credit card to get additional protections that debit cards don’t offer. If the item you order online is not delivered as agreed (wrong color or size, or arrives after a promised delivery date) you can dispute the purchase with your card issuer. With a debit card, you must deal directly with the merchant. Visa and MasterCard both offer zero liability for most fraudulent purchases on credit and debit cards, as long as you notify the issuer right away of the loss or theft. The key difference between debit and credit is that with a debit card the money will be out of your account and you’ll be trying to get reimbursed. —From Gerri Detweiler, Credit.com.

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Get hip to shipping: If you’ll be traveling to grandma’s house for the holidays, why not ship gifts directly there? You can save money by avoiding the extra charges for checked luggage that many airlines charge. And it’s hassle-free as well. As a bonus, many sites offer free gift wrapping as well. (Just make sure recipients know not to open the packages before Christmas Day!) —Source: Matt Granite, Gannett

Get, and give, gift receipts: Gift receipts list the item purchased, but not the price paid. Tuck the gift receipt inside the box to make it easier for the recipient to exchange or return an item that doesn’t fit, or isn’t quite what they wanted. —Source: Donna Montaldo, About.com Coupons/Bargains Guide.

We’d love to hear how you are saving money on holiday shopping this year. Feel free to share your tips below.

Image: Thomas Hawk, via Flickr.com

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