First, forget the mall and try shopping online. "There are some great deals online this year, and particular retailers are eliminating their minimums and offering more free shipping," says Grant. You may end up getting a better deal online than you would at the mall. Another bonus? You won't have to hunt for a parking space either.
Many shoppers are looking for this year's hot ticket items like Guitar Hero III and Hannah Montana dolls. But this year's most popular toys might not be so easy to find. "Because sales were so slow starting out, a lot of retailers are not ordering more holiday inventory," says Grant. She suggests starting your shopping early because once those hot toys are gone, they probably won't be back until the holiday rush is over.
Besides finding the most popular toys, parents this year are also concerned with finding safe toys for their children. Numerous toy recalls have many parents confused, so Grant suggests visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website to get the most up-to-date information. You can visit www.CPSC.gov by clicking here.
By visiting the website, you can sign up for the CPSC's email alert system. You'll receive an email each time a new toy is recalled. "You do want to watch out in stores," says Grant. "Big name retailers are very good about clearing their shelves, but online retailers and smaller retailers may not be as on top of it." Grant also suggests checking every gift your child gets from someone else to be sure that it hasn't been recalled as well.
If jewelry is on your shopping list this holiday season, be sure to watch out for the strength of the dollar against other world currencies. "Consumers are going to see higher prices for things - particularly gold jewelry and jewelry with diamonds in it," says Grant. "Because jewelers tend to reprice depending on the market value, you really want to look based on quality and then figure out what the best price is." Remember - a bigger price doesn't mean a better piece of jewelry.
Also, if you can help it, try to be a loyal shopper this year. Sign up for frequent buyer clubs and discounts wherever possible. "Slow sales this year really work out in the consumer's favor," says Grant. "You're going to see... a lot more emails this year... free shipping and bonus discounts," says Grant. If you shop at a particular store often, those discounts can really add up.
For more information on holiday shopping, as well as other personal financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.
By Erin Petrun