Here’s how to sift through the noise and find the deals that are actually worth your money.
Reviewed.com / Jeremy Stamas
Jingle bells, sales, gift exchanges.
Welcome to the holiday shopping season.
I know, I know, it can be stressful — the crowds, the spending, the lack of time so many of us end up having.
But fear not! We’re here to help!
More: Amazon, Walmart, Kohl’s mark holiday shopping season with these great deals
Check out these tips for saving your money — and your sanity this season.
We’re calling this our Hermit’s Guide to Holiday Shopping because, our first piece of advice is to …
1. Stay home … and shop. Know that there is absolutely no reason to leave your house to shop.
Know that during Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend just about everything in big box stores (Walmart, Target, Kohl’s., etc. ) is also available online — and the online sales start way earlier in the day than the in-store sales, giving you a big head start. Gone are the days when the only way you could snag a doorbuster was to stand in line and wait for the store to open.
It’s true, some people still prefer to spend the holiday weekend going the brick-and-mortar route; they want to experience the sights and sounds of the season. But those sights and sounds have diminished over recent years because stores have sales all the time and because more people are shopping and spending online. And even those who visit brick and mortar stores on the big weekend are in and out quickly.
During last year’s Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend about 10 million more shoppers shopped online than in-store, according to the National Retail Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association. In 2015, the number of shoppers online and in-store was even.
Meanwhile online spending for Black Friday 2016 reached an all-time high of $3.34 billion, according to Adobe Digital Insights. Shoppers spent $1.93 billion online on Thanksgiving Day.
Online, you can compare prices more easily by opening up tabs on your computer, said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing for DealNews.com, which tracks discounts and deals. “You’ve got to commit to a single store if you wait in line,” she said.
The same pattern — online vs. in-store — is expected to hold up throughout the holiday season. For the first time ever, online is this year’s top holiday season destination for shopping, according to the NRF.
Stay home and you’ll save on gas and headaches. Plus, chances are high you’ll get free shipping.
2. Shop on Thanksgiving instead of Black Friday because the deals are better on Thanksgiving. Most retailers start their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving. By the time Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season — rolls around, the top items are gone and you’re forced to settle for leftovers. Do not settle for leftovers.
Competition for these discounts could be tough. Why? Because 58% of consumers — up from 40% last year — expect to shop on Thanksgiving Day, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey. Meanwhile, shopping on Black Friday will be down 24% since 2015.
3. Become friends with GottaDeal.com or DealNews.com or both. The sites do an excellent job of tracking the best discounts and deals. They also post easy-to-read scans of retailer ads.
4. Get on retailers’ email lists and like them on Facebook and join loyalty programs. You’ll get special notice of sales and discounts.
5. Sign up for a free 30-day Amazon Prime trial. Amazon Prime is one of the best inventions ever. For $99 a year, you get free two-day shipping, video streaming and music streaming. Even better, Amazon offers 30-day Amazon Prime trials for free. Just make sure to cancel your trial before you have to pay for it.
6. Do not blow off Cyber Monday, otherwise known as the Monday after Thanksgiving. Experts say Cyber Monday tends to be an especially good day for sales on things that aren’t tech or electronics-related. In other words: clothing.
And the success of last year’s Cyber Monday — shoppers spent $345 billion, a one-day online shopping record — means that retailers will likely improve on a good thing by offering even more discounts this year. If you build it, they will come? Yeah. But if you put lots of deals online the Monday after Thanksgiving when everyone is bored at work, they will definitely shop.
7. Buy discounted gift cards from Costco.com. The other day the warehouse club was offering two $50 gift cards to P.F. Chang for $79.99. Sam’s Club was also offering discounts on gift cards. By the way, it turns out gift cards are (once again) the most desired holiday gift, according to the National Retail Federation.
8. Don’t pay for shipping … Best Buy is offering free shipping through Dec. 25. Target is offering free shipping through Dec. 23. Walmart is offering free shipping on purchases $35 and over. Kohl’s has free shipping on orders $50 and up. Other retailers are expected to offer intermittent free shipping throughout the season.
9. Go small, if you do decide to leave your house. And by that, we mean shop at small, indie stores. Why? Because they tend to be less crowded than the big boxers, shoppers tend to get more individual assistance, and lots of these small stores will wrap or put your gifts into a festive bag for free!
10. Do not drink and shop. I know, I know, it’s tempting to pour yourself a glass of holiday cheer while you’re shopping online late at night. But doing so greatly increases your risk of blowing your budget — suddenly 4K TVs for everyone seems like a really good idea. And they’re not. Really.
Contact Georgea Kovanis: firstname.lastname@example.org
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