Ways to save time, money during the holidays

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Shoppers are in the thick of it! The first two weeks of December is the busiest shopping time of the year. The average gift-giver is planning to spend $740 on toys, clothes, computers, stocking stuffers and more. That's more than last year, but still, we are all watching our wallets. We have some cash and time-savers that could end up saving your sanity this season.

First off: you have to know what you're looking for. Before you face the crowds, find the best deals at decide.com. You put in the advertised sale price, and it helps figure out what is and what is not worth it.

Markdowns don't have to be a surprise. Target and several other discount stores have regular markdown schedules listing exactly when items go on sale.

Another step to take before stepping inside a store: friend your favorite stores on Facebook. We found a leather jacket 50-percent off for Facebook friends of The Limited.

Save hundreds of bucks this holiday by avoiding shipping costs. December 17 is "free shipping day." Thousands of retailers have promised to ship anything you buy for free -- with guaranteed delivery by December 24.

When shopping online, Good Housekeeping says to shop at night. A lot of Web sites offer some of the best deals right after midnight. But don't fall for fake sites!

"Make sure that you understand all terms and conditions, and shop very carefully, and use your money wisely," said Judy Pepper, with the Better Business Bureau.

Shop known sites, and to be safe, pay with PayPal online. Through the end of December, if you use PayPal to buy an item online, and you see it for less, PayPal will credit you the difference.

Here's a big money-saving tip: don't self-gift! The National Retail Federation says the average shopper who will admit it, admits to spending $237 on gifts for themselves. That means over 20 percent of what you spend on the holidays, you spend on you. Skip it and save yourself a little cash for the after Christmas sales.

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