How to save on in-home theaters, gift cards and holiday shopping

If you are considering a home theater for the holidays, you don’t have to break the bank, but you can.

Consumers are spending twice as much on home theaters on average than the did just five years ago, according to the Consumer Electronics Design and Installation Association.

In 2010, the average cost was $16,400, in 2015, it’s $39,000.

Audio Etc. in Washington Twp. recently showed off some of the latest and greatest innovations to make your home theater the envy of your neighbors.

A couple of the mind-bending products were the 360-degree Dolby Atmos surround sound system starting at about $800, and the electrostatic hybrid Martin Logan Neolith loudspeakers.

You may want to hold your ears for this price tag — $88,000.

Those on a budget can have a very good set up with a less expensive flat screen TV and a sound-bar, according to Audio Etc. owner Kirby Gaboury, but he recommends having an expert install it and calibrate it for the best picture and sound.

Gift cards: good gift or bad gift?

I was looking for my library card in my overstuffed wallet the other day and found three gift cards.

I know they still have some sort of value, possibly just pennies.

I know that I did receive them as gifts, but was it last Christmas, the year before, my birthday five years ago, who knows?

All this shows that you probably shouldn’t buy me a gift card, but they still might be a good buy for somebody else.

Bankrate.com came out with some new data, and it appears some of the negative stigma (hidden fees and expiration dates) continues to fade out of the gift card industry.

Thirteen percent of cards purchase fees this year, down from 17 percent in 2014.

Eight percent of cards have an expiration date, and some only apply to the card itself and not the money associated with the card.

There have also been security improvements. Fifty percent of gift cards now allow users to add a security code in case the card is lost or stolen.

Saving money

It’s so easy for people to go into debt during the holiday season. Here’s how I save money and stay out of debt when shopping for holiday gifts:

  1. Make a list and a budget and stick to them. I know it’s hard, but not only can this save you money, it can also keep you from aimlessly wandering store aisles hoping the perfect gift will appear.
  2. Find a price comparison app or website and use it, even when, or especially when, you are shopping in store. It could find you a better deal at a store down the street, or online.
  3. If you are shopping online, always check for a coupon/discount code for the retailer or product. A simple Google search could save you big bucks.

Rachel Murray is a WHIO-TV consumer reporter. You can watch her reports on News Center 7, follow her on Twitter @RMurrayWHIO, and like her fan page on Facebook.

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