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It’s better to give than to receive, but shoppers counting on post-holiday bargains to buy for themselves may instead want to pick up a few things in the coming days.Sales aren’t always the best on Dec. 26, says Dan de Grandpre, the chief executive of sale-tracking site DealNews.com. “At that point, they’re fishing for suckers,” he says. The real deals come a day or two later, as retailers assess foot traffic, gauge how items are (or aren’t) selling, and respond to competitors.

Preholiday prices have fluctuated wildly, with some online retailers going so far as to change them several times a day, says Robin Landy, the founder of InvisibleHand, a browser tool that offers real-time price comparisons. Over the course of a week, he spotted the Altec Lansing T612 Digital Speaker iPod and iPhone dock for as little as $90 and as much as $148 — at the same store. Prices on popular Xbox game titles swung within a 32 percent range. “Timing is everything,” says Landy. “If you see something that’s a fantastic deal, jump on it. It may be cheaper after the holidays, but there’s no guarantee.”

Worst-case scenario: Buy now and hang onto your receipt. A retailer may offer a price-adjustment to match a competitor’s price or its own sale if an item gets cheaper within two weeks of your initial purchase. All you need is your receipt and proof of the lower price. (For more tips, click here.)

Consider early deals on these three popular holiday items:

Game consoles

Consoles are gaining traction as a holiday gift this year, especially the Sony PlayStation 3, says Yung Trang, the general manager for electronics sale-tracking site TechBargains.com. The console’s built-in Blu-ray player and Netflix streaming capabilities provide value for gamers who might otherwise pay an extra $200 or more to purchase that technology in separate gadgets. “Effectively, they’re giving you a huge discount,” he says. Preholiday, you’ll find more package offers for consoles and games (and in the PS3’s case, Blu-ray titles).

* At Amazon, buy a 250GB PS3 and get one free game (choice of seven titles) and two free Blu-ray titles (choice of 13). Offer good through Dec. 17.

* Best Buy offers a $40 discount when you buy a $300 Xbox 360 Elite holiday bundle (console, “LEGO Batman” and “Pure”) and a $50 Xbox Live 12-month subscription card.

Video Games

Though there can be deals, watch out as retailers try to pitch popular titles as stocking stuffers. “Once people have their consoles for Christmas, stores know they’re going to want games,” says de Grandpre.

* Wal-Mart has an online-only sale of two-for-$30 game bundles for every system. Wii users can choose from 31 game options for the bundle, including “LEGO Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels.”

* During Amazon’s 18 Days, 18 Deals sale, save on different games each day through Dec. 18. On Friday, deals included “Call of Duty: World at War” for PS3 priced at $30 instead of $60.

Blu-ray discs

Blu-ray players have become a hotter gift item as consumers switch to high-definition TV sets, says Trang. “You really need one to make the most of your TV,” he says. Like videogames, stores are more apt to drop prices before the holidays to target would-be givers rather than recipients.

* Buy.com has dropped prices on select HBO DVDs and Blu-rays. Pay $53 for “John Adams” instead of $80. You’ll save 34 percent.

* At Amazon, save up to 60 percent on Blu-ray discs, including select new releases. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is $15 instead of $36, saving you 58 percent.

* Barnes & Noble offers select Blu-ray and DVD titles for up to 50 percent off. For example, “Enchanted” is $24.50 instead of $35, a savings of 30 percent.

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