Hey, remember when you had so much fun dressing like a sexy nurse for Halloween? Remember when you passed out candy and carved pumpkins and watched scary movies on cable, savoring the crisp nuances of autumn that seemed to last forever? FORGET IT. It's Christmas now. Santa and his band of comptroller elves are on their merry way to a mall near you. They want you to get a store credit card and earn reward bucks and spendspendspend!
People will pony up 3 percent less on gifts this year, according to the National Retail Federation. New promotions will battle for your cash from now through Christmas.
"They're very targeted, so one weekend might be apparel and the following weekend could be electronics," said Kathy Grannis, a federation spokeswoman. "Retailers are trying to win over as many shoppers as they can because they know that it's particularly hard for people to spend on gifts."
The Deal Divas, the St. Petersburg Times' team of shopping addicts, braved the tinsel tempest to find the best (and weirdest) holiday bargains you can get right now. Note: Prices can vary from store to store and change when corporations hand down last-minute edicts. Don't come after us with pitchforks.
Clothes and accessories
• Mortify your husband with flannel Christmas boxers from Old Navy, three for $19.50. Women's Christmas tree pajama pants were on sale for $10. Open an Old Navy credit card and save 30 percent more. Yay, debt!
• American Eagle was decorated like a Vermont tree farm. This is your mecca for terrifying woven woodsman hats. Otherwise, mix-and-match tees were buy one, get one half off. Clearance clothes were an extra 30 percent off.
• At Ann Taylor Loft, receive a $25 savings card for every $50 you spend on full-priced items until Nov. 29. Similar deal at Justice, a store for girls and tweens, where you get a $40 credit with every $50 you spend. Journeys had an extra 40 percent off sale prices on certain shoes. We spied a pair of Doc Martens Mary Janes marked down to $19.99 from $100.
• Victoria's Secret's rabid salespeople will entice you to fondle pushup bras in the middle of the store. Get past the uber-pitchmen to find gift sets like PINK brand glitter tank top and pajama bottoms, coupled in a cute box for $49.50. When you make a $10 purchase, you get a Secret Reward card worth from $10 to $500. Here's the catch — you don't know its value until your next visit from Dec. 1 to 24. Tricky.
• Macy's has prepackaged, big-name jewelry at good prices. We saw a Lucky Brand necklace draped on a scented purple peace dove sachet, $25, Betsey Johnson bracelets swaddled in pink leopard boxes, $35, and delicate Etienne Aigner bracelets, $25.
• At Kay Jewelers, get a $100 "Santa's certificate" with every $300 you spend, good toward your second purchase through Jan. 17.
• Sears, which extended its layaway option to the Web, is getting an edge on day-after Thanksgiving sales. Every Saturday until Thanksgiving, check out "Black Friday Now" sales from 7 a.m. until noon. Today, deals include a 42-inch Zenith plasma TV for $499, down from $649.99.
• Not to be outdone, today Walmart kicks off its first weekly savings event for electronics. Get a $498 42-inch Sharp HDTV, a $298 HP Notebook computer and a $148 Sony Blu-ray player. And get a $100 Walmart gift card to use on future purchases when you buy an Xbox 360 Arcade Console for $199.
• At F.Y.E., most new CDs were permanently reduced to $9.99 or $12.99, and there were good deals on box sets, if you're into Linda Ronstadt and Rod Stewart ($19.99) or random Celtic sounds ($9.99).
• Best Buy has a ton of Blu-ray titles on sale through today. A sample of $14.99 offerings: 2010: The Year We Make Contact, American History X, the Perfect Storm and the Road Warrior. For $9.99: Beerfest, Blazing Saddles, Interview With the Vampire and The Wedding Singer.
• This is the year of the free add-on. Do reconnaissance at Toys "R" Us in the sales guide, called "Our Biggest Big Book Ever!," located near the front door.
• There are big savings on doll houses, which mostly appear to be electronic these days. Get a free Daisy Greenway camper ($29.99 value) with purchase of Caring Corners Mrs. Goodbye Interactive Dollhouse ($69.99). Get a free Precious Places Royal Vehicle ($11.99 value) with purchase of a Precious Places Swan Palace for $49.99 (yeah, we don't know what that is either).
• For the boys, add a free Hot Wheels stopwatch to any Hot Wheels purchase of $20 or more. And get a free Toy Story backpack with any Toy Story purchase of $30 or more. Buzz Lightyear wings!
• Teach them competitive bloodlust early with a free family game night trophy— just purchase Jenga, Twister, Battleship, Life, Pictureka!, Scrabble, Trouble, Operation, Monopoly or Sorry!
Home decor and tchotchkes
• Nothing says "I don't know you very well" like a candle. Pier 1 has some good deals on autumnal scents (since autumn is apparently over, according to the man). We saw Cinnamon Bark and Napa Valley Harvest candles marked down to $5.
• Bath and Body Works has collectible candles for $20 with a $20 purchase. The candles are a $35 value, shaped like snowmen, reindeer and teddy bears. Also, a bunch of body care items are buy three, get two free.
• Engraving haven Things Remembered offers $20 off a visit from Dec. 1 to 31 when you spend $100 or more. Maybe stock up on photo snow globes, on sale for $29.99.
• And what are the holidays without something completely bizarre? Try Brookstone's wall-o-gifts, arranged by price point. A talking remote thermometer, $69.95, lets you know when dinner is ready from 300 feet away, in case you live in a wind tunnel. To that end, wireless TV headphones are $49.95. An automatic wine opener is $39.95, which you'll need to cope with the beeping thermometer. Remote control helicopters are two for $50.
• Not ready to think about December just yet? As part of its $20 Thanksgiving dinner package, Walmart is offering 12-pound turkeys for less than $5. Merry ThanksHalloweenXmas.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8857. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3337.