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How to Avoid Overpaying for Hot Holiday Gifts

Just because you're holiday shopping at the last-minute doesn't have to mean you have to spend a lot of money unnecessarily.

On "The Early Show," Regina Lewis, AOL consumer adviser, told which items have the highest mark-ups and how you can avoid paying too much in the holiday home stretch.

Special Section: Holiday Gift Guide

Pre-Cut Fruits and Vegetables
Lewis: "The first thing is, when you walk into a grocery store, for instance, you'll see all these chopped up items, right, diced and spliced and ready for you. Fruits and veggies ready for the holiday party. The mark-up on that is about 40 percent. It is a great convenience play, but have to ask yourself, 'Could I set up an assembly line at home and do the chopping and the kids put it on the tray, saving 40 percent."

Coffee
Lewis: "I recommend buying the ground coffee, actually a lot of value. Dunkin Donuts is selling it and you can buy it in mug, and when you give them that, there's a lot more value than a coffee gift card, for instance, for 12 cups at the 300 percent (mark-up)."

Designer Label Clothing
Lewis: "A staggering 500 to 1,000 percent mark-up, on designer jeans in particular -- a very sought-after item. … The workaround there is to go to sites like Bluefly or Overstock or certainly stores like T.J. Maxx and Daffy's.

Jewelry
Lewis: "The mark-ups on jewelry are up to 100 to 200 percent. That's why it is almost always on sale. Consumers are conditioned to buy things on sale that's why these mark-ups are so steep to begin with. You're never gonna see a sign that says marked up 70 percent, but signs that say marked down 30 percent. A workaround is a site called BlueNile.com. I spoke with their CFO, you can save an average of 20 to 40 percent on high-end diamonds. ... In fact, they sell more engagement rings than Tiffany's now because on a single karat, that is $500 to $2,000, depending on the quality."

Texting
Lewis: "They will give you the phone for a two-year contract. Text messaging is where the biggest mark-up is. Get this number: 6,000 percent. ... Because it costs the carrier almost nothing to send the text message. Make sure if you have at teen and getting a cell phone you opt for the unlimited text plan, or come January, you'll be in tears when you get the bill."

Opt for Free Shipping
Lewis: "About 60 percent of e-tailers are offering it today but it will be going, going gone, so get in on it today."

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