For consumers challenged by job insecurity and limited credit, it will be important to keep holiday spending in hand this year. To avoid making bad choices or buying in a panic two days before Christmas, the key is to start planning now.
Where to start » Job One is to figure out how much money you can afford to spend. Next, list people you'll shop for and set a spending limit. Pay with cash or a debit card to avoid racking up debt.
Shop strategically » To find the best deals, from computers to toys, register to receive e-mail alerts on price cuts. Sites such as Shopzilla.com, Shopping.com, Shopittome.com, Groupon.com and Pricegrabber.com have information on a wide range of goods.
Timing is everything » The day after Thanksgiving isn't necessarily the best for bargains. Nowadays, deals are offered from early November on, and the best time to buy some toys is two weeks before Christmas because of big discounts on slow-selling items.
Think about reuse » Refurbished goods on sites such as Apple.com and Delloutlet.com are great for the gadget-lovers. Warranties are the same as on new products, and some items simply were returned unused. Nobetterdeal.com sells returned items up to 70 percent off retail.
Consider cash back » Many credit cards and retailers reward shoppers with points or even cash, though experts advise you to check for fees or limits on how you can spend the payments.
Sources: Novadebt, Dealnews.com, Shefinds.com and Momfinds.com, The Associated Press