Anxious About Holiday Spending? Stretch Out Your Shopping Season

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CW57CK Halloween Dummy Dressed as Santa Claus, Wilmington, Vermont
Pumpkins, ghosts and witches are still everywhere, but retailers are already lining their shelves and websites with holiday shopping promotions. That's good news for shoppers, many of whom are willing to spend more on the holidays this year -- if they can find the right deals.

Jaquan Bland, a hospitality and customer service expert living in the Washington, D.C., metro area, and owner of All4Service, says in his house, the level of holiday spending depends entirely on the bargains he and his wife are able to find. "If you order in advance, you may still be able to get things that you won't be able to in the stores or locally," he says.

Bland says he'll rely on promotions like free shipping, loyalty credit cards and rewards programs, and "omni-shopping" -- that is, comparing what's available at their favorite stores, both online and off. "But more than likely, we'll spend more than we did last year, because our little girls want bigger and better every year!" he adds.

Bland's not alone. According to Deloitte's 28th annual survey of holiday spending intentions and trends, released last week, holiday shoppers will spend 9 percent more on gifts this year than last, an average of $421 up from $386 last year. Not surprisingly, 47 percent of shoppers expect to shop online this year. What is a bit of a shocker: Those who shop both online and in stores will spend 76 percent more than shoppers who only patronize brick-and-mortar retailers.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%And while 1 in 9 shoppers plan to get a majority of their shopping done on Black Friday, an ever rising number favor Cyber Monday and the pursuit of online retail bargains. In its annual survey of Cyber Monday trends, the website FatWallet found that more than half of those shopping the Cyber Monday sales said they will spend more this year than last. To get a jump on the sales, many will start shopping the Sunday evening before.

There are a number of reasons why customers are loosening the purse strings this year. Devin Dotson, who works at a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, says he and his partner have dual incomes this year, which could lead to more spending. Kenneth Goglia, in central New Jersey, says he'll most likely be spending "much more" this year than last given the current economic climate. "Markets are up," Goglia says. "Taxes are down and most likely will stay down."

But it's not all rosy. The online couponing site RetailMeNot released a survey that ranked Americans as some of the most anxious people in the world when it comes to holiday spending. Despite this, the survey also found nearly half of the consumers polled will spend the same or more as last year. Rather than cutting their gift budgets, some shoppers appear to be spreading their purchases out over a few months, with some even beginning their holiday shopping in September.

Spreading out your purchases can also cut your total gift bill by allowing you take a measured approach to your purchases -- and graze calmly through the next two months, taking advantage of flash sales, rewards programs, emailed specials, and social media offers as they come. And as always, you can maximize your savings by making the most of rewards programs offered by credit cards, apps, and retail loyalty programs.

7 Hot Toys Predictions for the 2013 Holiday Season
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Anxious About Holiday Spending? Stretch Out Your Shopping Season

Elmo was popular when I was a kid. He was popular in the mid-90s, when America went insane over Tickle Me Elmo dolls. And with the toy appearing on all three lists, it looks like he'll be popular this year, too. 

Centuries from now, when humanity has migrated to the stars, we'll still give our kids Elmo dolls for Space Chanukah. 

Here's another ghost of Christmas shopping past. Kmart and Walmart are both bullish on the latest Furby, which according to the product description "has a mind of its own." It goes on to say that "the way you treat your Furby will shape its personality." Incidentally, you could also describe children this way. Expect to pay around $60 for this one.
Doc McStuffins follows the adventures of a veterinarian who operates on stuffed animals, and the dolls and play centers promise to be popular again this year. All three retailers have this playset on their lists, though it should be noted that Toys R Us exclusively has the "Deluxe" version of the kit pictured here. The Deluxe set has 14 bonus pieces, including a fetching pink labcoat. Note that the Deluxe costs $79.99, versus $64.50 for the standard set at Walmart. 

Toys R Us is building tablet mini-shops in its stores, so clearly it expects kid's tablets to be a big market this season. Both Toys R Us and Kmart have the LeapFrog on their lists this year. 

The tablets cost $150 and is durable enough to withstand drops, though it's not waterproof. So if your kid is prone to pitching toys into the toilet, steer clear of this one. 

The Ninja Turtles are going to be big this year. At Kmart you can find this remote-control "Shellraiser" vehicle, which shoots sewer covers and costs around $45. At Walmart there's the Secret Sewer Lair playset, which costs $80. And at its holiday preview event last week, Toys R Us had classic Ninja Turtles figures and their "party wagon" on display. 

Basically, you can't go wrong with Ninja Turtles. (Which, incidentally, is what I tell my parents every year when they ask what I want for Chanukah.)

Both Kmart and Walmart list this one, so it looks to be this season's hot Nerf gun. As the coloring and name make clear, it's a toy weapon being marketed to girls, a rare move for Nerf. We're thinking the popularity of archery-centric movies with teen girl protagonists like "The Hunger Games" and "Brave" account for Nerf's sudden interest in selling to the female market. 

We don't recall Princess Merida or Katniss Everdeen using a hot-pink-and-purple bow, but hey, that's toy marketing for you. This one will cost $15.99 at Walmart.

Unlike other fairy dolls, this one actually flies. It must be a real fairy!

No, just kidding, it's just a toy. Get it for $30 at Walmart. It takes six AA batteries, which aren't included.

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