Helpful holiday hints from TheBAG Lady.

The following is an easy print-and take-with-you list of my favorite seasonal shopping tips. Enjoy!

* Before making purchases, ask about a store's return policy. Otherwise you may get stuck with an item you decide you don't want.

* For easy returns, always keep the tags, boxes, packaging and receipts from items you buy. Just fold the boxes down and store.

* If the sale item you are shopping for is out of stock in the size or color that you want, buy it anyway. If it is a regular item in a store's inventory, it probably will be restocked in a few days to a week. Exchange it when it the new stock is in to reap the benefits of the sale.

* Avoid buy-one-get-one-half-off sales. If it's not an item you need immediately, you will probably do better waiting for deeper discounts.

* Keep your receipts on hand when you shop. Many stores will give price adjustments if an item goes on sale for a lower price within 14 to 30 days.

* Keep weekly circulars in your car. Stores such as Meijer, Walmart, Sears, h.h. Gregg, Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe's match prices if you have a competitor's insert with you.

* Take advantage of 24-months, interest-free financing on major purchases.

* Always try to negotiate a better deal when buying a large ticket item. Try to get the delivery fee waived, as well as the fee to haul the old item away. Don't be afraid to haggle. All they can do is say no!

* To save time and recycle at the same time, use gift bags. Shop dollar stores as well as Big Lots, grocery stores and discount chains to find them for $1.

* Always read the fine print on gift cards and due bills. Many times there is an expiration date. If you don't use it you may lose it!

* Always request a gift receipt and mail in rebate forms when making a purchase. If there is a rebate, be sure to send it in before the offer expires.

* Participate in a cookie exchange with friends and co-workers. You'll get an assortment of cookies to serve to holiday guests without all the work.

* To find holiday decor on a budget, shop liquidation stores such as Big Lots first. They get overstocked merchandise from large craft chains such as Michael's, Homegoods, Marshall's, TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory, and carry a wonderful selection of discounted home decor as well. Check out the inventory of the dollar store, too. You can find some real gems.

* When shopping online, watch out for shipping charges. Try to order the amount of merchandise to get free shipping. Also check the online return policies. If the item is from a store such as Kohl's, Macy's or JCPenney you can return the merchandise to the store.

* Form a network when shopping. Let others help you hone in on the special hard-to-find item on your list. I will be moderating a forum on www.thebag.com. Post the item you are searching for and we can all help each other fill our stockings. List your request and check back often. Check what others need as well.

For now, happy shopping!