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Savvy shoppers share tips, deals

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†Shoppers surveyed by the National Retail Federation intend to spend $704, on average, on holiday gifts and seasonal items, down 2 percent from last year. But they plan to spend more — $130, on average, up 16 percent from 2010 — on everyday clothes, electronics and other items for themselves and their families.

†Overall online holiday spending is expected to reach $60 billion, a 15 percent increase from 2010 and about one-third of all online sales volume for the year, according to Forrester Research.

†In stores, forecasters are looking for shoppers to spend 2 to 3 percent more this holiday season, about half of the spending increase in holiday spending in 2010 from 2009.

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Updated: December 26, 2011 8:39AM

Four of Chicago’s savviest shopping and social-media bloggers gave the Chicago Sun-Times these exclusive tips for finding savings and great gifts this holiday season.

Leyla Arsan is a 39-year-old Gold Coast blogger at and Three years ago, she started her own digital and social-media marketing firm, Lotus Marketing Services.

She suggests these money-saving tips:

†Sign up for e-mail alerts from favorite retailers.

†Google a retailer’s name and the word “coupon” or “promo code” to bring up any discount codes available.

†Check out’s coupon finder, and use mobile web tools such as Groupon, Yelp Deals, Google Places and ShopSavvy. For gifts for your favorite prankster, check out

MJ Tam, editor of Chicagonista, is a Chinatown resident and mother of children ages 4, 8 and 11.

As a digital mom and 12-year blogger, Tam relies on apps and websites to find great deals. She also recommends signing up for your favorite retailers’ updates and newsletters. Tam also says:

†Fan your favorite retailers on Facebook.

†Follow them on Twitter. Check out @blackfriday or @blackfridayweb.

†Download the Black Friday App.

†Check out

In addition, check deal blogs. In Chicago, Tam’s favorites include Frugalistic Mom, A Savings Wow and Antoinette Peterson’s Sister Save-A-Lot.

Antoinette Peterson, a Morgan Park mom of daughter Madison, blogs to help save others money at Sister Save-A-Lot.

Her suggestions:

†Divide and Conquer Black Friday shopping. Take a partner and divide up the shopping list to ensure that you both get the items you were looking for.

†Use coupons that allow you to take an extra percentage off. For example, Children’s Place items will be 30 percent off, and if you add the retailer’s 20 percent off coupon, you are saving even more on kids’ clothes. (Sign up for the stores’ e-mails to get the extra savings coupons.)

†Take advantage of Wal-Mart and Target “ad match” opportunities. Check other retailers’ offers to match their rivals’ prices.

Lesley Tweedie, 31, of Roscoe Village, co-owns Roscoe Village Bikes with husband Alex, and she founded for online shoppers who shop locally. She has a laid-back approach to holiday shopping:

If it feels hectic or stressful, slow down, pace yourself and try to have fun. A gift is meant to make the recipient feel special and cared for. If you find something that fills the need and is in your budget, get it and check it off your list.

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