October 12th, 2011

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Gift buying when you’re on a budget.(Suburban Living)

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) November 24, 2005 | Holmes, Erin Byline: Erin Holmes Daily Herald Staff Writer Here’s the good news, holiday bargain hunters: Gas prices are still high and home heating bills could be a nightmare.

Yep, that’s good – at least in holiday shopping land, where economic concerns like those mean worried retailers will battle to outdo each other with low prices and big sales.

“We expect it to be a season of heavy promotions and heavy discounting,” predicts John Melaniphy III, a shopping analyst with Melaniphy & Associates Inc. in Chicago. go to website best black friday deals

And that means shoppers – even those who wait until the last minute and couldn’t spot a deal if it were staring them in the face – could catch a break.

Several companies have announced free shipping on holiday gift orders, and more bargains lie, as always, just beyond the Thanksgiving corner.

That’s not to say you couldn’t use a few tips on saving cash.

So here goes:

Shop early: Many stores will be cracking open their doors at the glassy-eyed hour of 5 a.m. on Friday – you can snag a pair of Diesel jeans for half price if you hit that store at that hour at Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora – and the best deals are sure to go fast.

So provided you can put up with the crowds (about 127,000 people poured through the doors of Gurnee Mills the day after Thanksgiving last year), that’s the way to save.

But procrastinators and late sleepers take solace: You can still grab some good deals after 9 a.m., and even after Friday.

Go online first: Most shopping centers offer an online map of their layout and stores.

The best part? Many include a list of the sales to be had.

A check of premiumoutlets.com yields a cornucopia of post- Thanksgiving sales at Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora, and Woodfield.com lets its shoppers hunt down stores and deals at that Schaumburg shopping Mecca. At gurneemills.com, you can click on individual stores to find out what deals are to be had.

Not sure where you’ll shop? Log on to more general sites, like keepcash.com. That gives you the best Black Friday deals at a variety of big-name stores, from Best Buy to Wal-Mart. here best black friday deals

Shop totally online: OK, so it’s not really as fun this way.

But with free shipping from some stores and an abundance of ways to compare prices and cash in online coupons, it’ll all but guarantee you a savings.

For hassle-free comparisons, check out froogle.com – a new arm of the Google search engine that searches for the item and gives you a list of possibilities, complete with pictures, sorted by price if you wish.

There are plenty of sites that also offer great Web deals: Try fatwallet.com and ebates.com for cash-back incentives, lists of deals of the day and coupons.

Go at the right time: There are those who’d rather put up with high prices than spend a day battling the crowds.

So shop during off hours: weekday evenings or especially early or late in the day on the weekends.

Use a personal shopper: A little-known, and free, service at Marshall Field’s and a few other department stores has professionals shop for you.

There’s no obligation to buy. Just deliver a list of what you want, and give them an idea of how much you’d like to spend.

They’ll do the rest.

Don’t go by the calendar: If you really want to save, push the holidays – or at least the gift-giving portion – back a week or so, allowing for ample time to surf the post-Christmas sales.

Those celebrating Hanukkah have it made this year; the bulk of that eight-day holiday this year will come after Christmas.

“I don’t want to be Scrooge, but … there are significant markdowns,” Melaniphy said.

But be forewarned: Those great deals come hand-in-hand with a general, and at times depressing, lack of selection.

“Certainly there are some bargains,” Melaniphy said, “but it’s been picked over.” He also suggests shopping for the 2006 holidays right when this year’s are over.

But what’s the fun in that?

Holmes, Erin