Getting the Best Bargains
* The early bird gets the deal. Now -- before Thanksgiving -- is the ideal time to start your shopping. That's when everything's in stock -- and you'll feel less pressure to empty your wallet on what's left on the shelves.
* The Internet's your friend. mysimon.com, among other websites, find you the best deal, notify you when prices drop, and share consumer reviews. And even cairo.com tells you which store has your toy for the best price.
* Team up with other moms. Why not run your wish list by friends, who's also in the thick of holiday shopping? There's nothing like having your crew of personal buyers cal you if they see your gotta-have toy on sale somewhere.
* Stick to a theme. Deciding in advance to buy one type of gift -- wheter crafts or board games -- for all the kids on y our list makes store visits less daunting, and helps you stick to a budget.
* Plan for next year. Tote a small notebad in your purse for all those great gift ideas you have during the year so you'll actually remember them come the holidays. Pick up little items that catch your eye when traveling or doing errands. By December, you'll have all the stocking stuffers you need -- and can focus your sights (and money) on that impossible-to-find Dora toy.