Trying to predict what readers will look for in this column today is tricky business. If you're an avid Black Friday shopper, you may already have hit the giant bargains out there and be back home for a nap -- after reading this, of course.
For those of you who enjoy a more casual pace to looking for holiday gifts, the weekend of bargains may be better suited.
Retailers will offer approximately 20,000 deals today and shoppers are expected to spend at least $400 over the weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. That figure is what was spent in 2011 and analysts think it will be a bit higher for 2012 Black Friday weekend.
Monday is now called Cyber Monday, so online shoppers should find some time to cruise the Internet and see what's out there. Always look for free shipping and secure sites.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Small Business Saturday. It's not as well known at Black Friday, or even Cyber Monday, but it is very worthy of our shopping attention. More than 95 percent of the retailers in the U.S. are small businesses, says the National Retail Federation.
That means we are missing out on great and unique merchandise by solely shopping at big-box chain stores. And, perhaps best of all, we know that the money we spend with these smaller businesses is going back into the local economy. So, look around your community and pay a visit to some of those retailers on Small Busines Saturday (or any day they're open) for sales, specials and personal attention.
I spied a unique gift for anyone who loves to read, especially in the prone position: The Peeramid Bookrest ($29.99) at Ben's Crafts & Florals in downtown Belleville. It's a cushy pyramid-shaped pillow with a bookmark and built-in pockets (for your glasses, pen, etc). It's supposed to prop a book or an e-reader at just the right angle to read -- in bed, at a table, in your lap, just about anywhere. It's on a carousel in the middle of the store.
Plus, today only at Ben's, spend $100 on any Vera Bradley purchase and get a free limited-edition holiday tote free.
Fun Spot Skating Center in Belleville begins it skate sale today. It runs through Dec. 31 with all types of skates on sale, including kid's, inline, speed, jam and precision skates, as well as wheels, bearings and accessories. "Freaky Friday" is today as well. Buy your skates today and you'll get a free month's worth of skating in Janurary.
Basket Case in Belleville will be open until 8 tonight. Sunday hours will be added from noon to 5 p.m. beginning this Sunday and running through Dec. 23.
At Grappa Growlers in Belleville today, you'll find half off wine decanters (while they last), 20 percent off select wines and a chance to taste some vino.
Mueller Furniture in Belleville is offering all its in-stock furniture on sale for 40 to 60 percent off. Extended hours today are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Small Business Saturday, 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Cyber Monday.
A reminder: The annual indoor Fall Indian Market at Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site in Collinsville is today from noon to 5 p.m., then 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. You'll find amazing works of art from more than 25 Native Americans whose works includes textiles, jewelry, oil paintings, baskets, pottery, wood, bronze, antler, copper sculptures, flutes and dolls.
Mark your calendar: The fifth annual Art & Author Holiday Market is Dec. 1 from noon to 5 p.m. at the historic Blum House in Collinsville. Meet local authors and shop for books, art, jewelry and more.
In case you happen to be yearning for a Breakfast Burrito from Sonic, they're half-price all day today at the drive-in to help fight Black Friday fatigue.
As an owner of a Kindle Fire for almost a year now, I'm sorry to say that Target has pulled all its Kindle products and accessories. You will find Nook merchandise, though.
J.Jill at the Shoppes at St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights is offering 25 percent off your entire purchase (online and in-store) through Monday. If you order online Monday only, you get free shipping, no minimum order.
Talbot's at the Shoppes at St. Clair, is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. The Black Friday specials are V-neck cashmere sweaters for $59.99 -- while they last.
For a good guide of what kind of deals you'll get today at St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights, go to the mall's website, stclairsquare.com. Under Sales and Events, click on the Black Friday Doorbusters icon. You'll find lots of sales, such as Aeropostale will have everything in the store half off all day, while Express has all its merchandise 50 percent off until noon. There's a long list worth checking out.
One of my favorite bargain-hunting stores is Gordman's in Fairview Heights. They're open 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. today; 8 a.m. to 11p.m. Saturday through Dec. 13, then to midnight Dec. 14 to Dec. 23.
One of my new favorite bargain stores is Five Below in Fairview Heights. It opened at 5 a.m. today and you still might be able to get the latest Trivial Pursuit game for $5. If not, check out new iPhone5 and iPhone4 cases ($5), Smart Touch knit gloves ($3 in a variety of colors), Stealth neon ear buds ($2.99 today only), plus all kinds of fun gifts for kids and teens.
Don't forget that Kmart is in its last few weeks in Fairview Heights. The store likely will not have all its goods on sale because some can go to the Belleville store on the west end of town. At last check, fine jewelry was 75 percent off, sterling silver 65 percent off and clothes and shoes 40 percent off.
Fans of that sometimes irritating TV duck from Aflac can now take one home and help out a good cause, too. Macy's is exclusively offering the Aflac Holiday Duck ($10 or $15) that was created by a young patient at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center. All of the net proceeds from the sale benefit pediatric cancer hospitals across the country.
Check out Buy4.com, an online shopping gateway where you can shop and donate to your favorite cause. The site will match every charitable contribution made on Cyber Monday. Visit Buy4.com, select a cause and shop online at more than 2,500 popular retailers, such as amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Target and Walmart.
Membership is free and individuals may choose from approximately 1.5 million causes already listed on the website. If they do not see their cause, members can request for it to be added. Shopping through Buy4.com does not cost any more than shopping directly on a retailer's site, and members can even save money with valuable coupons.