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Smart Buying

What's Cheap Now?

'Tis the season to find some really great deals.

These days, you can get a great deal on almost anything, from TVs to toys to travel. The recession has prompted many retailers, hotels and cruise lines to slash prices. Even high-end brands that are rarely marked down are on sale this year.

What's not discounted? The Wii, Nintendo's popular game console. "Just finding a Wii at list price is a deal in itself," says Dan de Grandpre, founder and chief executive of Dealnews, a Web site devoted to bargain-hunting. "Everything else, it seems, is on sale."

CONSUMER GOODS

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If you skipped the sales on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, don't worry. Excellent deals are still being offered all the time and should continue right up to Christmas.

Televisions. The prices on TVs are better this year than in the past because even brand-name sets are marked down, says de Grandpre. Usually it's the low-end, no-name brands that go on sale. But de Grandpre says that he has seen Samsung, Sharp and Panasonic 46-inch LCD and 50-inch plasma TVs for less than $1,000. A year ago, similar TVs sold for $1,300 to $1,500.

GPS. Last year, a basic GPS navigation system cost $150. Now, low-end models are going for $50, and basic systems from industry leaders, such as Garmin and TomTom, are $100.

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Computers. PCs have been heavily discounted for a while. So rather than slash prices still more for the holiday season, retailers will give you more bang for your buck by offering additional memory and features at no extra charge, says Kevin Strawbridge, president of DealTaker.com.

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Blu-ray DVD players. Stores have been offering deep discounts on these, says Strawbridge. He's seen Blu-ray players advertised for as low as $150, down from $300 to $400 a few months ago.

Apparel. The big news here is that the good stuff is much cheaper. Shoe designer Jimmy Choo (of Sex and the City fame) is having a 50%-off sale at its retail stores and online, and Saks Fifth Avenue has slashed prices on designer labels, such as Yves saint Laurent, Burberry and Ralph Lauren Black Label, by as much as 75%. "It's amazing to see that kind of discounting," de Grandpre says. Even trendy Ugg boots are on sale.

Toys. Although some toys -- such as action figures board games, plush toys and remote-control gadgets -- are already heavily discounted, Strawbridge says the most-sought-after toys, such as Hannah Montana and Star Wars items, haven't been marked down yet. The best time to buy toys, says de Grandpre, is at least two weeks after Black Friday (or about two weeks before Christmas) when retailers, such as Toys "R" Us, Wal-Mart and Amazon.com, slash prices to clear out unsold inventory.

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Home goods. Several retailers have slashed prices on small appliances, such as coffee makers, bedding sets and power tools, Strawbridge says. For example, Sears has knocked 50% off its GearWrench 5-Piece Metric Ratcheting Wrench Set, which is on sale for $45. J.A. Henckels cutlery sets are half-price at Wal-Mart. A Saeco Espresso Italiano espresso machine is now $500 at Costco, a savings of $300.

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TRAVEL

With the recession putting a damper on people's travel plans, hotels, cruise lines and even airlines are cutting rates to lure consumers. In some cases, the discounts are significant.

Plane tickets. Airfares are moderating after huge hikes last summer and the imposition of nickel-and-dime fees for everything from extra luggage to pillows and blankets.

"Airlines are trying to come back around and remind travelers that it is still affordable to fly," says Carl Schwartz, of CheapFlights.com. "This is sort of a peace offering."

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For example, the average round-trip domestic fare last winter was about $330. Recently, we found round-trip airfares from Pittsburgh, Pa. to Los Angeles for $200, from Chicago to New York for less than $140, and from New York to Paris or London for about $500 on airfare-comparison site Kayak.

According to Travelocity -- which reports that round-trip fares have dropped an average of $53 since October -- the average fare from cities in the U.S. to Cancun, Mexico, at Thanksgiving was $602; we found a flight to Cancun in January from Washington, D.C., on Kayak for $295.

Hotel rooms. "Hotels are hurting," says Scott Booker, of Hotels.com, "so we're seeing deals across the board." On the site we found a 10%-to-30%-off winter sale on rooms at New York City's three-star Hotel Belleclaire: Weekday rates in December are as low as $95 per night, and in January and February rates are less than $90 and $110 per night, respectively.

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Discounts on trips to Cancun don't end with the airfare. Hotels.com lists a 30%-off sale at the three-star, all-inclusive Oasis Palm Beach Family Resort and Spa. In January, a family of four can stay for $182 per night, including all meals and snacks; unlimited Mexican beer, wine and liquor; gratuities, surfboards and golf greens fees.

Cruises. You can set sail on the high seas now for about $200 less per person, according to Expedia. The site lists a Disney Cruise special of one free three-night cruise in the Bahamas (between mid August and mid December 2009) when you book a four- or seven-night cruise in February or March 2009 (except March 9 to March 20, which are blackout dates). For example, a four-night cruise the first week in February aboard the Disney Wonder starts at Cape Canaveral and stops in Nassau and Castaway Cay. Total price for a family of four (for an inside cabin): $1,646.

A three-night cruise in January through the Bahamas on Norwegian Cruise Lines' Norwegian Sky could cost a couple less than $400. The ship includes a golf center and casino, and passengers can take classes in cooking and wine tasting.

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