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With less than a week to Christmas, it's time to get serious

By MARCELLA S. KREITER   |   Dec. 19, 2010 at 4:32 AM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- With less than a week to go before Christmas, last-minute shoppers were scrambling to find those elusive perfect gifts for the right price.

ABC offered five suggestions for Web sites that stalk deals automatically, including Groupon, which recently turned down a multibillion-dollar buyout offer from Google. Groupon, LivingSocial and ScreaminDailyDeals all offer discounts on products, services and experiences.

Sites like DealCatcher and PriceGrabber search the Web for items on your wish list. Then it's just a matter of seeing who has the best price. Zingsale provides a similar service, monitoring your wish list and sending an e-mail when items go on sale.

Friday, more than 1,000 stores started offering free shipping coupled with a promise to deliver by Christmas Eve. If you missed it, free shipping codes for retailers are listed on freeshipping.org.

And for those tired of searching for coupons, Savebrite.com maintains an ever-changing list of coupons that can be found by searching by product or store.

No Christmas tree? No problem. If shopping for and setting up a real traditional or artificial tree is just too much, there may be a solution: the collapsible pull-up tree. The tree folds flat and pulls up to stand 6-feet, already adorned with berries and electric lights. It's available from Brookstone, among other dealers.

And if there's not enough space in the living room for a traditionally shaped tree -- wide on the bottom and pointed on the top -- an upside-down tree might be the solution. About.com says the upside-down tree actually goes back to the Middle Ages and initially represented the Trinity. It fell out of favor among those who thought the practice disrespectful or irreligious, but the trend has found popularity among those who want to keep ornaments out of the grasping hands of young children and the mouths of pets.

For those who are looking for the unusual, WLS-TV, Chicago, highlighted the Banner Plumbing's Fun Tub, which installs over a regular bath tub, raising the basin to counter height to get mom and dad off the floor during children's bath time. The tubs come in several designs, including firetrucks and fairy castles.

For the green consumer annoyed by wrapping paper waste, there are fabric alternatives from such sites as Eartheasy. Care2 advises: "Begin a family tradition by making bags out of pretty holiday fabric tied with cloth ribbon, and placing your gifts in them. It is likely that everyone will really appreciate the idea of saving resources, and will save the bags to wrap their own gifts next year. Maybe someday fabric bags will be like chain letters -- you give a gift to one person, who gives it to another, and maybe one day it will be given back to you!"

For the busy female executive running from place-to-place during the day, Realtor Dorrie Freiman of Chicago has a solution for where to stow the five-inch heels while on the run. Freiman has designed a tote bag with a hidden, zipper compartment for shoes and umbrella at the bottom to keep them separate from the rest of the junk being toted around.

"Living in an area of the city that was in the midst of new construction, I'd walk through unpaved areas to get to my destination," Freiman explains on HiddenSoles.com. "To protect my work shoes I'd carry them inside my tote bag and walk to my appointments in more casual and comfortable shoes. After arriving at my destination I'd switch shoes and get to work."

Consumer Reports' favorite items of the year for $40 or less included Cooks CM4221 coffee machine, the Hamilton Beach Digital 22502 toaster, the Kidde FX340GW fire extinguisher, the Revlon Ionic Ceramic Pro Stylist and Panasonic RP-HC55 noise-canceling headphones.

For those willing to spend $100 to $1,000, Consumer Reports recommends the Casio EXilim EX-Z2000 camera, the Samsung LN46C630 46-inch LCD TV, the Panasonic DMP-BD85 Blu-ray player, the Samsung SMH9187(B) over-the-range microwave, the Porter-Cable PC18DK-2 power drill, the Kodak Play Sport Zx3 pocket camcorder, the Bosch SHE55M1(2)UC dishwasher, the Graco Vie4 stroller, the Dell Studio XPS SX8100-1408NBC desktop computer, the Kenmore 4027(2) front-loading washing machine, the Toro Super Bagger 20194 lawn mower and the Garmin Nuvi 1350 navigation system.

© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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