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$ave Me: How to save on holiday gifts, in advance

Are you ready for the holiday shopping season?

Although retailers have been talking up Christmas promotions for months, decent holiday sales are still a few weeks away. But preparing now can help you stay on track.

Last year, the National Retail Federation expected consumers to spend about $750 on gifts and other holiday purchases, and this year, that figure could be even higher. The industry group's retail forecast expects sales to rise 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion.

One strategy to stretch your budget: Cash in credit card rewards. Redeeming them for store gift cards is one of the more valuable ways to use points—and means you'll need to dip less deeply into your savings account for gift budgets. At Citibank, for example, 20,000 points is enough for $200 in store cards, or just $100 in cash.

(Do check, though. At other programs, like Chase Ultimate Rewards, points have the same value toward gift cards or statement credits, which gives you more shopping flexibility.)

By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant. Follow her on Twitter @kelligrant

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