ShopSmart's Ultimate Guide to Holiday Shopping

Nov 19, 2013, 06:00 ET from ShopSmart

Money-saving shopping strategies, gift-card gotchas, DIY gift-wrapping tips, and more

YONKERS, N.Y., Nov. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Overall, holiday shopping can be stressful – from choosing the right gifts, sticking to a budget, avoiding the last minute-scramble, and more. The December 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, is stuffed with holiday advice that can help shoppers select the perfect gift (wrap it like a pro), save on their holiday purchases, get their home ready for holiday entertaining and more.

"Our goal is to bring more joy to the holiday gift-buying season by helping shoppers make smart choices," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "We wanted this issue to be a one-stop-shop to help them fine-tune their holiday shopping and entertaining game plans."  

Here's a sample of what readers can find in the December 2013 issue of ShopSmart:

Five Ways to Shop Smarter (p. 5-6)
In the December issue, ShopSmart identifies five ways to shop smarter, not harder. Here are some highlights:

  • Get last-minute gift help. Last-minute shoppers have two things going for them – deep discounts from retailers hoping to clear out their inventory and new ways to make gifting easy and even automatic. Feeling stumped about what to buy for the people left on the list? ShopSmart suggests trying a gift-finder tool for inspiration, such as the one at (
  • Avoid shipping fees. More stores are giving shoppers the option of ordering items online and picking their purchase up at a local store – eliminating shipping charges. Best Buy, Finish Line, and Target are among the retailers offering this perk.
  • Cash in coins for gift cards. Coinstar kiosks won't charge a fee when users opt for a gift card instead of cash at a bunch of participating retailers. New merchants include Applebee's, GameStop, Home Depot, and Southwest Airlines.

Gift-Card Gotchas (p. 11)
A gift card seems like the perfect option as a last-minute gift or for someone who's hard to shop for, but some still have huge drawbacks; here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Purchase Fees.  Retailer gift cards usually do not charge purchase fees; but shoppers may be charged around $3 to $5 for bank-issued cards that feature logos such as MasterCard or Visa.
  • Evaporating Value. An inactivity fee can't be charged unless a card hasn't been used for 12 months.  But the fees can kick in as long as they don't exceed one per month.
  • Lost-Card Headaches. Gift-card holders may be out of luck if they lose them.  Some issuers will replace a lost-card for a fee.  Target and Walmart will offer a free replacement with the original receipt.

DIY Fancy Gift Wrap (p. 26-27)
ShopSmart shares some budget-friendly tricks for keeping wrapping costs down from paper artist Mollie Green, author of Sweet Paper Crafts (Chronicle Books, 2013), using a few basic craft supplies:

  • Load up on paper.  Plain metallic and solid-colored papers are sold for a reasonable price at craft stores – about 20 cents to $1 a foot, which can save at least $1 a foot over high-end papers.
  • Skip wallet-busting ribbons and bows. Shoppers can buy a giant roll of red and white baker's twine for as little as $5. Or check out the sales bins at craft stores for yarn, rickrack, ball fringe and other inexpensive ribbon alternatives.
  • Save on gift toppers. Look for inexpensive knickknacks to tie on gifts at the dollar store, such as small, shiny ornaments, toy Santas, and candy canes.

Set a Game-Plan for Holiday Savings (Page 80-82)
ShopSmart's eight-step game plan will help holiday shoppers stick to their budgets and avoid some of the worst holiday shopping headaches. Sample steps include:

  • Make a list. List each person, gift, and budget.  Promise to avoid impulse purchases. Consider apps to create shopping lists, such as Smart Shopping List a la Carte (Apple), so the list is always handy.
  • Scope out sales before shopping.  Subscribe to e-mail newsletters from favorite retailers. Use one email address to corral all alerts. does an excellent job of putting sale notices all in one spot.
  • Don't bank on Black Friday. Though discounts may be tempting and shoppers can certainly get some great deals, Black Friday isn't necessarily a sweet spot for sales. ShopSmart price studies have found that when it comes to top-rated items such as cameras and TVs, prices actually dipped to their lowest point after Cyber Monday.

For more information on best practices for holiday shopping and savings, check out the December 2013 issue of ShopSmart on newsstands now. 

About Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products  and  services  annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon the publication's celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and "best of the best" lists. It's ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at

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SOURCE ShopSmart