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Holiday Shopping Questions Answered Early

In the series "Ask It Early," "Early Show" consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen answered questions inspired by viewers and online readers.

One viewer asked if it is cheaper to buy holiday gift items online or in the store. Where can you get better deals?

Koeppen said this year it's going to be a toss-up.

"It's been a bad economy. Retailers are still hurting. So you're going to get a lot of deals online, [and] you're going to get a lot of deals if you head out to the mall and shop at the store. But the one good thing for shoppers as you head into the holiday season: We're looking at big promotions, big sales."

And what about those deals online?

Koeppen said free shipping is sure to be one of this year's perks.

She said, "I suggest if you like to shop online, and you have specific stores where you like to go, go there, sign up for e-mail alerts so you'll know when they're offering their free shipping, and their deals."

Koeppen also gave her prediction for this holiday season's "hot" items: clothes and electronics.

"If you're in the market for either of those, you're in luck this holiday," she said.

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Another holiday season tip Koeppen shared is to shop online the night before a sale. Citing the National Retail Foundation, a retail trade association, she said you should shop the night before a big sale, after 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. She said stores have already updated their computers and have the new prices already in their systems.

"Usually the manager will give you that sale price," she said. "They'll honor it."

But what if your holiday season purchases run a bit bigger than clothes and electronics? What if you're in the market for a truck?

Koeppen said this is the best time of year to buy a truck.

She offered three tips for vehicle shoppers:

1. Shop early in the week. Koeppen said, "On the weekends, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Everybody's there, they want to buy. They can pick and choose who they want to deal with. Go on a Monday or a Tuesday when it's a little bit slow."

2. Shop at the end of the month. "Dealers want to work deals at the end of the month," Koeppen said. "They want to hit their quota."

3. Shop at the end of a model year. Koeppen said, "They want to get rid of 2009, they want to bring in 2010, so if you're willing to go for a 2009 model, you can work some deals."

Koeppen also recommended Edmunds.com, an online source of auto information. She explained you go to that Web site, type in your zip code and all the different incentives for the specific car that you're looking for will appear on the page.

Also, there are some tax rebates still out there for people purchasing new vehicles. Koeppen said you should speak with your tax preparer about the parameters of the programs, but you can deduct the sales tax you paid on a new car this year.

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