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December 1, 2013

Consumer Reports: Ultimate guide to holiday shopping

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 holiday purchases 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 are some tips on how to shop smarter — not harder:

• 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 your list? ShopSmart suggests trying a gift-finder tool for inspiration, such as the one at Gifts.com (gifts.com/finder).

• 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

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:

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