Shop smart for toys this holiday season

HOUSTON The reason you are seeing so much early discounting is that retailers are trying to get an early share of the market. Rivals Walmart and Target are battling to be the leader in low prices, so before you go shopping we went to check out the prices for ourselves.

With five kids to shop for this Christmas, Kristin Morran is hoping to get all her gifts purchased by the end of the month.

"I hope the bulk of it is done by Thanksgiving, yes," she said.

So she is shopping at Target and taking advantage of a coupon book, which is a catalog of toys that have dozens of coupons that can applied to some of the holiday's top toys.

"With five kids, we can always use another coupon," Morran said.

But how do the prices compare to the other big retailers?

A popular toy for kids this year is the Matchbox "Stinky the Garbage Truck." At Target, we found it for $49.99, but with a $5 off coupon available at the store, the price comes out to $44.99. At Walmart, the price of the truck is $49.99. At Toys R Us, it's $59.99. That's $15 more than Target's price.

A hot toy for girls this year is this Barbie doll embedded with a video camera. We found the best price at Walmart for $39; Target's price is $44.99 with their coupon, and Toys R Us' price is also $44.99.

While Target and Walmart are offering deep discounts on popular toys, we found Toys R Us has some of the best incentives.

Take for example a deal that expires this Saturday: it's the store's big board game sale with prices as low as $3 and $5 per game, plus mail-in rebates.

The great thing about this deal is that if you buy $35 in Hasbro games, you get a $10 Toys R Us gift card, and once you mail in the rebates, you get additional money back.

So technically after rebates and your gift card, you have the potential to get seven games for as little as $1.85 a piece. And depending on what toys you buy and how much you spend, Toys R Us is giving away $10 and $25 gift cards.

But at Target, one employee said, "You don't have to wait until Black Friday to get the great deals we have at the store."

Don't forget Target and Walmart price match, so you can bring in a competitor's ad.

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