Savvy Shopper's Guide to Holiday Sales

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Savvy Shopper's Guide to Holiday Sales
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Holiday shopping is exciting for some and dreadful for others. But love it or hate it, it’s a chance to score killer deals on gifts for everyone on your list -- yourself included. “This time of year is when everyone wants your business,” said Kathy Spencer, the Boxford, Massachusetts-based author of “How to Shop for Free.” Nail your holiday shopping this year by knowing how to scope out sales, what products you’re sure to get for a steal and how to make sure you're getting the best deal possible.

Track the Sales
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Track the Sales

Getting the best deals on holiday shopping takes some legwork. Start by tracking brands’ and retailers’ circulars and Black Friday deals as soon as you can get your hands on them, advised Mary Hall, the Los Angeles-based blogger behind The Recessionista. Search for additional coupons or sales codes online for extra discounts. This not only helps you scout out the items you want on sale, but can also help you comparison shop to make sure you’re getting the lowest price and best value out there.

Mary Hall, Creator of The Recessionista

Prep Like a Pro
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Prep Like a Pro

Before heading out to shop, make a list of everything you need, where to buy it and how much you’re willing to spend, then create a plan of action based on what stores you want to hit and when their biggest sales run. If you’re shopping for others, have a list of their sizes and preferences on hand, advised Kathryn Finney, the New York City-based blogger behind The Budget Fashionista. Also, have a back-up plan for what to buy if your first choice is already sold out, she added.

Kathryn Finney, Creator of The Budget Fashionista

Do a Practice Run
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Do a Practice Run

After you’ve narrowed down what you’re searching for and where to find it, visit the store ahead of time to see the items in person, Spencer suggested. If you’re eyeing a pair of boots, for example, go in early to try them on, find the right size and make sure they’re what you want, she advised. “When the sale hits, you can run in and grab it instead of standing there,” Spencer said. Also, see if the sale is offered online, so you can avoid the holiday traffic altogether.

Kathy Spencer, Author of "How to Shop for Free"

Bring on the Beauty
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Bring on the Beauty

If you've been holding out for a hair straightener or sweet-smelling fragrance, the holiday season is an ideal time to buy them because beauty items are often a steal during holiday sales. While you may not get a discount on makeup, Hall said you can expect to see a lot of gift-with-purchase promos, particularly at department store beauty counters. The holidays are also the perfect time to get great deals on skin-care items, like the Clarisonic skin cleansing brush, she added.

Get Your Winter Fashion Fix
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Get Your Winter Fashion Fix

Whether you're hitting big-box retailers on Black Friday or your favorite brands' stores throughout the holiday shopping season, Hall said it's a great time to pick up winter fashion staples like jackets, coats, gloves and scarves -- many of which you can get at big discounts. Discount designer department stores, like Neiman Marcus Last Call and Nordstrom Rack, are also smart stops for picking up fashionable pieces at budget-friendly prices.

Jingle All the Way
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Jingle All the Way

Looking for an easy way to spice up an outfit and stand out at holiday parties this season? Jewelry is the key, and it can be found at stellar prices during holiday sales, Hall said. "People like a little bling for the holidays," she added. "You'll generally see 25 to 60 percent off on jewelry." Shop for your beautiful baubles on Cyber Monday or in the week leading up to Christmas for the lowest prices.

Treat the Guys
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Treat the Guys

For the men on your list, fashion items like sweaters, polos and ties can be found for a great deal during the holidays, Hall said. Retailers often slash apparel prices in the days immediately before Christmas, so head to his favorite brands to get wardrobe staples and accessories then. To keep it simple, Hall suggested buying items that are likely to be one size fits all -- like ties, scarves and gloves -- and are easy to mix and match with several outfits.

Invest in High-Quality Items
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Invest in High-Quality Items

It may be tempting to grab cosmetics and other products that are majorly discounted during the holidays, but Hall said the holiday sales season is also a smart time to invest in higher-quality pieces for a lower price. "Even though you'll be tempted to go, 'Wow, that's such a good price,' it may be something you don't need and is not of good quality," she explained. Instead, spend a little more on items that are sure to last for years, like a luxe leather handbag, premium luggage and high-quality dress shoes.

Make Technology Your New Best Friend
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Make Technology Your New Best Friend

Going into the sale season armed with knowledge about what deal can be found where is savvy, but using technology in the store can save you too, Hall said. Download comparison-shopping apps on your smartphone -- like PriceGrabber or ShopSavvy -- to compare prices while shopping. If you find an item that's cheaper down the street or on the brand's website, ask a manager if she'll match it. It's also smart to follow particular brands or Black Friday-related hashtags on Twitter for news about early or surprise sales, Spencer said.

Know When to Fold 'Em
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Know When to Fold 'Em

You may have been eyeing that Louis Vuitton bag for what seems like ages, but it’s almost impossible to find certain high-end items on sale, even around the holidays, Hall said. “There are just some luxury brands that believe it lowers their cache to ever do a special or sale,” she explained. Instead, opt for mid-range designer bags and shoes that can be found on discount during the sale season. “Even the Coach store does promotions, and Macy’s has all of their designer bags on Black Friday specials,” Spencer said.

Choose Between Online and In-Store
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Choose Between Online and In-Store

It may be tempting to avoid the crowds and do your holiday shopping from home, but keep in mind that shipping and other additional fees can really add up, Finney said. If you choose to shop online, look for a coupon code first and shop only from retailers with easy return and exchange policies, she advised. If you’re buying an item that needs to be tried on or can vary in quality -- like shoes or a cashmere sweater -- in-store shopping is the best bet, Hall said.

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