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What? Too soon?

In the honored tradition of holiday gun-jumping, Sears rolled out its "After Christmas Sale" today. At noon. On Christmas Eve.

They're offering a modest percentage off TVs and kitchen appliances and have put all fitness equipment on sale.

Hey, at least you can buy a treadmill today and burn off your Christmas dinner before you've even eaten it.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Tonight: A grab bag worth grabbing for?

Every Christmas Eve at midnight, offers a limited number of mystery grab bags for $1 plus $5 shipping and handling. Like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get with the Woot "Bag of Crap" (sorry, that's what it's called). But if past years are any indication, you could end up with something like this:

Of course, not everyone is going to end up getting a camcorder or MP3 player. In fact, a whole lot of folks will end up with things like a "bag of air" or similarly worthless items. But each bag is typically filled with items exceeding the packages total $6 value.

YouTube is filled with videos of people unpacking their surprise packages from

So, what do you think? Is it worth a try?

If so, check out for a list of tips on how to increase your chances of getting one of the elusive grab bags.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Dwindling Inventory?

My sister and I had a great time together at the stores Sunday, finishing up some Christmas shopping for the kids. But, with all the talk of retailers cutting down on inventory, we weren't sure what we would find this late in the game.

I must say, while at Target I did see something I've never seen at a major retailer before: an empty shelf. It was in the children's clothing department. Is this a sign of dwindling inventory or did I just catch a glimpse before it was refilled? I did notice a number of sale items at toy and book stores were scratched, smudged and banged up.

How many of you last-minute shoppers are out there? What did you find? Were the deals better than usual? Was the stock thin or sub par?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Last-Minute Deals and Free Overnight Shipping!

Still haven't finished your holiday shopping? There's never been a better time to be a procrastinator!

Tons of great online stores, such as the Gap and Nordstrom, have extended their shipping deadlines and others such as Zappos and Blue Nile are even offering free overnight shipping for delivery on Christmas Eve! has a sortable list of dozens of top retailers and their extended shipping dates, along with links to coupon codes for discounts and free shipping.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Local Coupon Book and Shopping Guide

Alllocal Buffalo First, a community group advocating local economy, has put out a coupon book and shopping guide comprised completely of locally owned and operated retailers, companies and restaurants. It's a step in the community group's initiative to build a "local, green and fair economy" in Western New York.

You can find a list of participating companies here, as well as information on where to pick them up for $10 apiece.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

How do you feel about re-gifting?

How do you feel about recycling gifts? Have you done it? Would you be offended if someone re-gifted something you gave them? How about if someone gives you something they received as a gift?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Holiday Shipping Cutoff Dates

Consumer Web site has compiled a list of shipping dates for various commercial Web sites, showing time frames for getting your packages delivered by Christmas day. It lists the last day for free or standard shipping as well as the last day for express delivery.

Here are some cut-off dates for standard shipping with delivery services:

FedEx, ground service: December 17.

U.S. Postal Service, 1st class and priority mail: December 20. If you're sending to a loved one in the military, your only remaining option is to use express mail by December 18.

UPS, standard: December 21.

The clock is a-ticking!

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Wrapping Paper

Heads up!

If you're going to be near the Tuscarora Indian reservation any time soon, you might want to stop into Smoking Joe's grocery store. They've got the best deal on wrapping paper I've seen so far: 99 cents for 50 square feet!

Have you seen a better deal? Tell us where to find it!

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Canadian Money Accepted at Par

Here's one for our neighbors to the north.

The Niagara Hobby and Craft Mart  at 3366 Union Road in Cheektowaga is taking Canadian money at par for in-store cash purchases, despite the Canadian dollar's fall to 80 U.S. cents as of Friday. The offer is good until December 24.

Niagara Hobby and Craft Mart sells such Christmas favorites as trains, doll houses, die-cast collectibles, models and slot cars. It's located about 30 minutes from both the Rainbow or Peace bridge and half a mile from that other Canadian favorite, the Walden Galleria.

The deal isn't valid with other offers, coupons, previous sales or layaway.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Need Your Ideas!

I'm working on an upcoming MoneySmart cover story, which is a last-minute shopping guide. You guys are the true shopping experts. Will you share your ideas with me on how to do last-minute shopping without breaking the bank?

How do you stay on task and on budget? Do you have favorite gifts, items, stores or traditions? Do you have strategies for cutting down on time spent in stores and money spent on gifts, cards, decorations, meals or wrapping paper?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

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