Every year, I offer a list of holiday shopping tips intended to help people avoid overspending their budgets. Since the holiday season starts earlier and earlier each year, I’m moving up my tips post. According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday season actually started in October.
So, here are my 2013 shopping tips as a checklist:
√ Set a budget (total and by person) and stick to it.
√ There will be sales every day leading up to Christmas.
√ Try not to buy ANYTHING at full price.
√ Understand what the word “sale” means (a discount from the REGULAR price not the LIST or SUGGESTED price).
√ The best “sales” days are typically December 10 to December 24, not Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Retailers want to sell merchandise before the holiday to avoid even bigger markups thereafter.
√ Look online for customer reviews. Sites like Amazon.com show customer reviewers for virtually every product.
√ Comparison shop for big-ticket items, including online.
√ Don’t be snobbish about shopping at mass merchants such as Wal-Mart; less ambience often means lower prices.
√ Trading down is OK, such as buying a digital camera with fewer pixels or an Amazon Kindle Fire vs. an iPad. There are big bargains on technology.
√ Look for AAA, AARP, student, and other discounts.
√ Understand what 0% financing really means. (Know when the full price must be paid off without incurring high interest charges which may accrue from the date of purchase).
√ Be careful in buying gift cards. Understand their terms, especially with regard to unused balances.
√ Don’t succumb to sales pressure for extended warranties. (For some retailers, the profit on these warranties can be larger than the profit on the sale of the items themselves.)
√ Know each store’s return/refund/exchange policies.
√ Be aware of an “open box” policy which results in a restocking fee for returns. Best Buy stopped doing this a while back after many customer complaints and the competition from online firms such as Amazon.com.
√ If shopping online, look at the total price (including shipping).
√ More sites are offering free shipping this year with low or no minimum purchase amounts. Amazon Prime includes free two-day shipping.
√ Look for ads AFTER purchases of big-ticket items; some retailers match prices up to 30 days after.