Holiday Shopping

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Myth 3: You Have To Go Broke Buying Gifts
The average American's top holiday wishes are (1) Good health, (2) Winning the lottery, and (3) World peace. So dig deep for perspective, and refuse to spend yourself into debt this year. With a little thought and creativity, you can cut your December purchasing by half—yes, I said half. Here's how:

1. Decide who on your list doesn't need a present to feel loved/valued/professionally maintained. Make a donation to charity in their names. Voilà, you've given a bit to world peace.

2. Don't buy cards—send back the ones your friends sent you last year. After a few years, the notes become a log of your friendship (Cost: $.44).

3. Give yummy treats from your home state, like California's Marie Callender's Original Cornbread Mix ($4.54; or Rhode Island quahog (a local clam) clam chowder ($5.50;

4. For those few regular sorts of gifts you must spend more on, George Whalin, president and CEO of Retail Management Consultants, advises that you comparison shop (using Google Product Search or, be aware of online shipping costs, and shop early—two to three weeks before Thanksgiving in stores, and online in October.

Amanda Robb