Planning to give your credit card a workout during this holiday season? Here are some ways to stretch your shopping budget and make sure you’re getting the best deals whether you’re at the mall or online.
With many retailers now opening on Thanksgiving, you’ll have to plan your shopping even more carefully.
- Do your homework. Most stores are releasing their Black Friday ads online weeks ahead of time. Take advantage of that added time to do some comparison shopping—and don’t forget to look online, adding in any shipping charges.
- Compare similar items. That television that’s $100 less at one store may look the same as the more expensive model, but it may be missing some features that you really want. Check model numbers carefully.
- Set a strategy. If you have a lot of ground to cover, it’s a good idea to plan how you want to spend your day. You can start with the stores closest to home, the ones farthest away or the ones that have the deals you’re most interested in grabbing.
- Look for additional discounts. Do you get an immediate discount if you sign up for an email list? Are there special savings for customers who download an app on a smartphone? (Think twice before you sign up for store credit cards, however; it’s one more monthly payment you’ll have to keep track of and one more temptation to overspend.)
- Ask if the store will match competitors’ prices, or if they give rain checks when items are sold out. You can save yourself some driving or walking time if you don’t have to go from one store to the next.
- Sign up for the store’s email newsletter, Twitter Feed, Facebook page. You often get advance notice of Black Friday bargains.
- Relax. Even if you miss out on a deal, there will probably be similar savings available before the holiday season ends.
Small Business Saturday
American Express came up with the idea of designating the day after Black Friday as a time for consumers to patronize their local small businesses. Many local municipalities and Chambers of Commerce are now promoting the idea and encouraging downtown businesses and neighborhood shops to take part.
- Look for discounts from participating merchants.
- Keep an eye out for community-wide deals. Some merchants’ associations have special drawings, or offer extra discounts or free gifts for people who shop at a certain number of small businesses.
- Enjoy the amenities. Some stores may offer coffee, hot cider, cookies and other seasonal refreshments at no charge. You get a free energy boost!
- Watch for announcements about special activities. Towns sometimes waive parking fees or have special appearances by Santa or local choirs. You can save some money and have some family fun time in the process.
After a weekend of being on your feet, the idea of shopping while sitting at your desk or on your sofa is probably very appealing.
- Check out websites in advance to see if they have their deals posted. (Again, do some comparison shopping before you buy.)
- Get online early—at midnight. It may be your best chance of scooping up those online deals.
- Watch out for deadlines. Some retailers will only keep special deals in your checkout cart for a limited amount of time.
- Watch for deals throughout the day. Some sites may offer hourly specials to keep you coming back.
- Visit online coupon sites to see if they have any special offers that you can apply to your Cyber Monday purchases.
- Look for free shipping deals. That can save you a lot.
Smart shopping through the holidays
- Budget for your shopping and stick to that budget.
- Make a list of what you need and stick to it.
- Resist impulse shopping. You don’t need to buy just because everyone else is doing it. And you don’t want to be left with a big stack of credit card bills after the holiday.
- Decide what credit card you’re using—if any—and leave all the others home. If you can’t spread charges around, you’re more likely to keep your purchases under control