The holiday shopping season is upon us! While Black Friday used to be thought of as the first day to shop and search for sales, that’s no longer the case if you want to score the best deals and promotions that retailers have to offer. Major doorbusters and crowds still arrive at stores on Black Friday and yes, Thanksgiving, but each year more retailers have sales events that begin even earlier in November and last right up until Christmas Day. This is especially true in the last few years, when we had a shorter season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
So now that you know to alter your expectations on when to shop this year, here are some guidelines for how and when to buy everything on your shopping list at its lowest possible price.
Plan ahead: Before you plan when to hit the stores or the web to make your purchases, make sure you plan ahead as much as possible. Now is the time to create your shopping list and set a budget. Make a note of which items on your list require a certain brand or model, because these will be more crucial to buy early on to avoid stores running out of inventory. If you have a few favorite stores where you know you’ll be shopping, sign up for their email list, download their apps and connect with them on social media. You never know when stores might share a special deal with insiders.
Get your timing right: Electronics include some of the hottest gifts every year, and gifts like TVs, e-readers, mobile devices and one of the newer categories — wearables — are in high demand, so look for deals earlier. 2013 saw discounts on these products in the first two weeks of November, and Amazon.com is already featuring Black Friday sales early, including electronics from 20 to 50 percent off — and a few items are seeing even steeper discounts. For gaming consoles, try to take advantage of bundle deals that include accessories and games to get the best value. You will see good deals on these on Cyber Monday.
Toys offer a slightly different story. While many stores release their holiday toy catalogs as early as October, it’s better to wait and make your purchases in late November or even December. If you can wait, past years indicate that prices will see a steep discount in the week before Christmas, as retailers are eager to unload inventory before the big day.
When it comes to clothing and apparel, you can find good deals on the web all throughout the holiday season, but Cyber Monday remains an important day to take advantage of online sales, and this includes clothing and apparel. Check the stores you normally frequent in-person; they might have special deals online that day.
For household items and décor, which are staples during the holiday season, the best sales occur during early December. However, this doesn’t include holiday-themed decorations; stock up on these during sales right after the holidays for really great deals.
This is also a good time of year to buy tools, and if you have a few on your shopping list for gifts, you have a flexible amount of time to buy. Sales will kick off on Black Friday and continue through December.
Some final tips: For newer, more popular items, make sure you keep an eye on sales early and compare prices. There are a lot of helpful websites that will monitor the price of an item for you. If you buy something and find it later at a lower price, you can always ask for a refund for the difference. Just check a store’s price-adjustment policy first.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask a store if they will match another store’s lower price. Price matching is becoming more popular, especially as brick-and-mortar retailers want to compete with online prices.
Shopping online has its own perks; in addition to avoiding crowded shopping malls and parking lots, you can easily search for more ways to save through coupon codes, free shipping offers, earning cash back and more. Bonus if you’re able to combine all these for maximum savings.
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When to Buy Everything on Your Holiday Shopping List originally appeared on usnews.com