Surveys from the National Retail Federation and Information Resources, Inc. suggest that “uber-competitive bargain-hunting” will dominate as this year's trend among families who have spent the year making only purchases of necessity. But if cost is the only concern for spending-savvy "frugalistas," it could mean they may compromise safety, warn Underwriters Laboratories and the National Fire Protection Association.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are working together this season to remind consumers to think about savingsand safety. With the NFPA reporting that December and January are the peak months for the overall number of home fires, deaths and injuries, safety can often be overlooked.

Money savings can come in the form of reusing old decorations or shopping at thrift stores and deep discounters. It is also a time of year when families are celebrating and cooking more at home. But old products like light strings can become worn after years of use. If not carefully evaluated, items like these can pose a risk of fire or electric shock.

UL and NFPA offer these tips for holiday safety:

  • Shop at retailers you know and trust. Some products found at deep-discount stores may pose potential safety hazards, especially if they do not bear a recognized safety certification mark, such as the UL Mark (the letters "UL" inside a circle).
  • Just look for UL. Products that bear the UL Mark mean representative samples have been tested to UL's rigorous safety standards and found to be free of foreseeable safety hazards.
  • Examine packaging. Parents should thoroughly examine new products, especially if they have young children at home. Pay particular attention to products in boxes or packages that do not offer a brand name and manufacturer's information.
  • A fresh tree is key. "If the needles are not fresh, there is a greater risk of fire," said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications, NFPA. "While Christmas tree fires are rare, a person dies in one of every 18 reported, so it's clear they can be deadly." Ask your tree lot attendant to make a fresh cut to the base of the tree and place it in water as soon as you get home. Position the tree in a tree stand that holds at least one gallon of water and check moisture level daily. Dispose of your tree after approximately four weeks.
  • Light it right. Carefully inspect each electrical decoration - new or old -- before plugging it in. Look for cracked sockets or frayed, exposed wires that could become a shock or fire hazard. Replace damaged items with new, UL-LISTED decorations.
  • Holiday lights - indoor or outdoor? Indoor-use only light strings are marked with UL's green holographic label. Indoor or outdoor-use light strings are marked with UL's red holographic label.