Black Friday has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t bargains to be found. You still have 24 more shopping days until Christmas to find a little something for everyone. Here are some tips for making it through the holidays, and beyond, while still saving money.
Add items to your online shopping cart and step away. Some retailers will recognize that you’ve left items in your cart and send a coupon code as an incentive to close the deal. I most recently experienced this with Pottery Barn.
Be wary of rebate offers. Rebates often require the purchase receipt and a UPC code to be mailed in, which would ruin the product’s packaging. If the item is a gift, that could be a problem if it needed to be returned. Look into what’s required before springing for a rebate deal and always ask for a duplicate receipt if you do make the purchase.
Shop around for gift cards. Even though many stores, like Kroger and Walmart, offer gift cards to various restaurants, stores and online services they’re not always the best deal. Occasionally Target and CVS offer rewards or discounts on gift card purchases.
Some stores and restaurants offer incentives, like additional free gift cards, if you purchase them at the brick-and-mortar location. For example, Outback Steakhouse is offering a free $20 bonus card for each $100 purchased in gift cards.
It’s also possible to find discounts on gift cards online. Best Buy.com has offered discounted iTunes gift cards in the past.
Keep all of your receipts in one place. There’s nothing worse than having to return an item and not get the full purchase price back because the receipt went missing. Find a system that works for you.
You’re not safe if you only buy gift cards. It’s wise to hold onto those receipts as well in case there’s an issue redeeming the cards.
If you do happen to lose a receipt, check the store’s return policy. Some retailers, like Lowe’s, can look up the purchase with the credit card merchandise was bought with.
Research offers from your bank and credit card. Many banks and credit companies offer incentives during the holidays for extra cash back or discounts. You’re not always automatically enrolled, but can be as simple as calling or clicking to sign up. I recently received an offer for discounted hotels and airfare from Bank of America.
Look out for frauds. My rule: If a deal seems too good to be true it probably is. This is especially true with online shopping, but can be a problem in retail as well. Research companies before you make a purchase and if possible speak to a real person before you hand over any information.
There’s no shame in coupons. Just because you’re buying a gift doesn’t mean you can’t save as much as possible. Use coupons, daily deals, store rewards and any other discounts you come across. The recipient will enjoy his or her spoils no matter the cost.
Beware of flash sales. Yes, some of these are great deals — but not all of them. If a sale is timed or warns of “limited quantities” our first instinct is to snatch it up. Research all of the items on your shopping list in advance so you know what a good price is and you could avoid paying too much during a “sale.” There’s also a lot of fine print that can be attached to these deals, so research the return policy, shipping costs and any additional fees before you commit.
Consider freebies with purchase, but don’t let those seal the deal. Some freebies are worth it, while others are a decoy. A free $20 gift card with the purchase of a product could be used for more shopping or as an additional gift. Free products with purchase, like free games with the purchase of a game system, are often items with little value. You may not be getting a deal in that case.
Take store rewards into account. If there’s not a better offer available, buying gift cards at Kroger for four times the gas points (available at most stores through Dec. 9) is a good deal. If you’re an avid Walgreens or CVS shopper, buying gift cards at those retailers that are accompanied with big ExtraBucks or Balance Rewards can pay off in the long run.
Use common sense and be a smart shopper. Don’t stress over pennies and don’t shop around so much you run out of time. The holidays are about being around friends and family more than anything, even though finding the perfect gift can feel pretty fantastic, too.
What’s your best tip for making it through the holiday shopping season?