10 Tips to help you hunt for a bargain

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Never pay full price. When it comes to checking off everyone on your holiday gift list, that can add up. Tight budgets around the holidays can work with a little research, though. Here's how to find bargains and how to determine what's trash and what's treasure:

1 CHECK FOR COUPONS: It's time for friends and family coupons at upscale stores. They're usually offered for a limited time leading up to the holiday shopping season.

2 SHOP EARLY: Thursday night or early Friday, when stores mark down for the weekend, are the best times to shop, according to Kathryn Finney, the creator of The Budget Fashionista blog.

3 BUY second hand: Make sure it doesn't smell musty and that it is something you would buy anyway -- don't just spend money because something's cheap, she said.

4 QUALITY CHECKS: Pull at the seams: If you can see threads or the pattern doesn't line up on clothes, it's low quality.

5 WAIT: Go for an IOU -- TVs will most likely be cheaper after the switch to digital broadcast in February, she said.

6 NEGOTIATE ELECTRONICS: Check newspaper sales fliers for competitors or look up the product online and print out prices for negotiating in big-box stores. Having something in hand will make a difference..

7 ASK FOR A PRICE ADJUSTMENT: If something gets marked down, you might be able to get money back, even if you've already bought it for full price.

8 DROP THE GUILT: Don't be afraid to negotiate. "You're not hurting that sales associate," she said. "You're helping the store by shopping."

9 DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Check prices in the newspaper ads and use the Internet for research, too. Stores that aren't doing well are more likely to negotiate.

10 CHECK BACK: Stores such as Wal-Mart and Target put things on sale three or four weeks after they've been put out. If you notice something's not selling well, you can wait on the sale.


- YOUR NEWSPAPER: Look for sales and coupons for local stores. Thursday's newspaper will be filled with fliers featuring Black Friday specials and other post-Thanksgiving sales.

- www.thebudgetfashionista.com: You'll find promo codes, friends and family discount coupons for places such as GAP and Old Navy, in-store sales (from low-end to high-end), and Ms. Finney's advice on how to be fashionable on a budget.

- WWW.DEALNEWS.COM: This sale-scouting site focuses on electronics, but it also has a category for Black Friday in-store sales. It also has listings for sales online.

- HALF.EBAY.COM: The spot for discounts on books, music, movies, games and systems. Its an eBay sister site.

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