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Ellen Phillips
One of my Go-To-Gals for story ideas is Kyle James, founder and owner of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. Through much internal independent research, Kyle discovered the best days after Black Friday but between now and Christmas to shop for gifts, a list from which I've consolidated the following:

Tomorrow though the 17th are great deal-making days to buy video games and new gaming system bundles. According to rather-be-shopping, sites and/or stores such as Amazon.com, GameStop.com, and Target, among others, offer great deals.

Tomorrow also promises sales in the areas of stocking stuffers and laptops. Gone are the days that I experienced as a child when Santa filled my father's hunting sock (the longer the better) with apples, oranges, nuts, candy canes, and a shiny silver dollar. Nowadays, the "stuffing" becomes anything from small pieces of jewelry to online gift certificates for specialty presents. Too, if in the market for a laptop, check out Costco.com which, in years past, gave shoppers some super deals on laptops from different manufacturers.

Traditionally, since the beginnings of Old St. Nick (Saint and Santa), kids have been the primary beneficiaries of holiday goodies so, obviously, toy items continue to be a huge percentage of all purchases. This coming Wednesday the 16th begins the moment of truth (and higher sale prices) from merchants' attempts to bring in those shoppers who want to finish up their shopping in time enough to still enjoy the last several days before the big day.

After buying up enough for all the little kiddies, let your (Internet) fingers do the shopping at the hardware store/section for some anxious big kids. Whether a huge box store like Home Depot to the much smaller Ace Hardware, fantastic online deals have abounded in past years. Furthermore, in the next days leading up to the 24th, visit in-store where we ofttimes find even more savings.

December 18th is a biggie. From clothing and accessories to more mundane items like kitchen tools, Friday is the day to star the calendar.

For those who missed Cyber Monday — always the best day for apparel and footwear online coupon codes — then make the plunge for second best this week. Even better, the 18th is annual Free Shopping day, when hundreds of online merchants guarantee by-Christmas Eve delivery at no extra charge. (On the other hand, if shoppers prefer the scenery and crowds, purchase in-store on December 20th.)

While not a day for me, as I'm not known as the Cooking Queen by any stretch of the imagination,, December 18th is also the ideal time for real kitchen royals. Whether beautiful sets of chine or an inexpensive crock pot, buying on this day can really save bucks. Not only are online sales prevalent, but also a number of retailers offer the Free Shipping Day guarantee.

Obviously, these days aren't the only deals available over the next couple of weeks. I urge readers to take to the Internet and research their favorite stores. Find out sale specifics of what's on your Santa list as well as the best date(s) before you head out the door. Perhaps the money we save by taking advantage of all these savings can go towards making the holidays a bit merrier for folks less fortunate. (A word of caution, though: be sure you've established an email account strictly for shopping transactions; this way, your normal inbox won't be deluged with ads, notices, and just plain spam. And, believe you me, too many merchants LIE when they tell us to simply click to unsubscribe for future mailings.)

Contact Ellen Phillip at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com

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