Tips and Tricks: Be a Holiday Shopping Pro

You’ve made your gift-shopping list and checked it twice. You’ve created your holiday budget and pledged to stick to your spending limit. Now how do you make sure those funds stretch far enough to cover the gifts you’re planning to give? Try these tips to find good deals and get the biggest bang for your buck!

Holiday Shopping

1. Know these dates

This year, the traditional mega-discount days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday fall on November 29 and December 2, respectively. But you might want to block off five full days as prime shopping time: an increasing number of retailers are opening their doors and their sales on Thanksgiving Day itself; plus, the entire weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday has become rife with bargains.

2. Understand true value

A low price isn’t worthwhile if you end up with junk. For larger purchases especially, take the time to read customer reviews on store websites as well as expert reviews on sites such as Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, and CNET.

3. Compare prices

Start by knowing the regular prices for key items. Then keep an eye out for sale prices and coupons through catalogs, advertisements, and websites such as pricegrabber.com, nextag.com, couponmountain.com, and retailmenot.com. “Like” or follow your favorite stores and brands on their social media channels, and sign up for deal alerts through websites such as dealnews.com and dealalerter.com.

4. Make a deal

Save-Holiday-Shopping

Go ahead—haggle! Experts say that about half the people who negotiate pricing get something out of it, whether it’s a dollar discount, free shipping, or a special add-on. Also look for retailers who offer a price guarantee, which means you can get a refund if the item you purchased goes on sale or you find it elsewhere for less within a specified time period.

5. Skip shipping charges

Postage costs can add up fast and blow your budget if you’re not careful. So when buying gifts that will need to be mailed, look for free shipping offers. Just beware the fine print—restrictions usually apply. If you can’t get it for free, the next best thing might be a flat rate, where you can ship as much as you need to for one price. (Your local post office also has flat rate options.)

One last tip:

As you shop, be sure to keep track of your expenses as you go. That will make it easier to keep a tight rein on your spending and avoid unplanned splurges. And remember, when it comes right down to it, the holidays aren’t about pricey gifts or glamorous gatherings. As long as you can pull your friends and family close, you can enjoy priceless holiday joy.

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