This year, shoppers are all about the best deal. When it comes to choosing one retailer over another, 8 in 10 shoppers say their biggest incentive is whether the store offers a good deal or coupon, according to a recent survey of 1,027 adults by the coupon site RetailMeNot. But shoppers are also ready to shell out some serious cash this year, to the tune of $196 per person on gifts, up from $167 last year, RetailMeNot reports. With each person planning on buying gifts for an average of eight people, that adds up to a typical holiday budget of around $1,600.
If you’re among those who want to keep that final tally as low as possible without disappointing your gift recipients, then shopping experts have some suggestions for you. For example, did you know that buying before Black Friday can actually yield better deals, and you’ll have more control over your spending by opting out of automated messages from retailers announcing new discounts? Here are eight ideas from shopping experts on how to stay in control of your holiday spending:
1. Beware the constant promotions.
“With promotional pricing happening early and often, those sale-oriented shoppers are even more at risk [for overshopping],” says Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and author of “Decoding the New Consumer Mind.” When consumers are constantly bombarded by offers and discounts, she says, they’re more likely to eventually get worn down and make purchases that they didn’t plan on.
2. Turn off automated messages.
When consumers get pinged through app notifications or receive email reminders about deals, they’re more vulnerable to buy things they don’t really want, Yarrow says. The simplicity of paying through apps or websites can also lead to overspending, she adds. All of those technological advances, she says, “makes spending way too easy. It’s good for us to have a little more time to think about it.”
3. Make a shopping list.
Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor for RetailMeNot.com and U.S. News contributor to the Frugal Shopper blog, urges people to not only make a shopping list each year, but to make one that can be reused. That way, you keep a spreadsheet with a list of recipients, budget and gift ideas. “Most of us indulge in some form of ‘selfish shopping,’ so include yourself on the list, budget and all,” she says.
4. Start shopping early and look for discounts.
Instead of focusing exclusively on Black Friday, Bodge notes that many Black Friday sales actually start earlier, sometimes even before Thanksgiving. Whenever you’re shopping, she says, compare prices and look for coupons in advance, so you make sure you’re snagging the lowest price available. “Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean the price you see is the lowest price you can get,” she says.
5. Shop by the calendar.
Savings.com crunched the numbers on 1.5 million deals offered by 25,000 retailers from 2009 to 2013 to generate a calendar of the best days to buy certain items. The biggest surprise? The best days to buy are not necessarily the traditional shopping days of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In fact, Savings.com points out that so-called Black Friday sales actually peak six to seven days before Thanksgiving, not the Friday after it. Furthermore, the best days to buy electronics are Nov. 1, and toy sales peak on Nov. 26..
6. If you are going to shop on Black Friday, review the circulars in advance.
Brad Wilson, founder of the deal site Brads Deals, recommends heading into Black Friday with a clear game plan in mind. In fact, he urges shoppers to go so far as to check out store maps in advance so they can plan their route to the items they’re after. He also suggests price matching all items before making a purchase, to make sure you’re scoring the best deal possible. Coupon codes can also bring the final price down even further, he says.
7. Don’t fall for the doorbusters.
Wilson says he sees shoppers falling for doorbuster electronics every year, and while it’s true some of the steepest discounts are available on Black Friday, especially for HDTVs, these products typically lack certain features and quality that come with name-brand items. “You’re better off browsing an online-only retailer for your TV on Friday or over the weekend,” he says.
8. Be open to new gift ideas.
While it’s a good idea to make a general outline of what you plan to buy for your gift recipients, Lindsay Sakraida, features director at the deal site DealNews, urges shoppers to stay flexible so they can take advantage of the deals they run across. For example, instead of having your heart set on a red cashmere sweater for a loved one, plan instead to buy that person a sweater, and find the nicest one at the best price you can.
Sakraida says staying nimble within a general game plan is the key to snagging some of the best deals – and making sure you feel as happy opening your credit card bill as your loved ones do opening their gifts.