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Kip Tips

5 Reasons Not to Wait Until Black Friday to Shop

It can make financial sense to buy holiday gifts sooner rather than later.

Courtesy Jim Chambers via Flickr/Creative Commons

Think it’s too early to start your holiday shopping? Clearly, the retailers don’t want you to think that. Walk into the seasonal section of any big-box store and you’ll likely see Christmas items next to Halloween costumes and decorations. In fact, a few of my friends told me that some stores they had been in this week already had removed all the spooky items from their shelves and replaced them with ornaments and tinsel. Sorry last-minute Halloween shoppers: Your kids will just have to don a sheet and trick-or-treat as ghosts this year (or go as Santa because you'll find plenty of red hats in stores).

SEE ALSO: 15 Web Sites for Finding Deals Online

As much as you might despise Christmas creep, your wallet might benefit if you get into the holiday spirit now and actually start buying gifts. What about Black Friday, you say, the day after Thanksgiving that supposedly marks the start of the Christmas shopping season because everything is on sale?

Courtesy Jim Chambers via Flickr/Creative Commons

For one thing, not everything gets marked down on Black Friday. If you wait until then -- or December -- you’ll miss out on some money-saving opportunities. Here’s why:

There are deals now. Two years ago, retailers started releasing early Black Friday deals at the end of the first week of November, says Regina Novickis, a consumer expert with Slickdeals. Then last year, Amazon and Walmart launched sales the first day of November. This year, Amazon already is offering daily "lightning" deals on items on its holiday toy list. Even though some retailers’ early discounts aren’t as deep as on Black Friday, Novickis says those day-after (or day-of) Thanksgiving deals are tough to snag because they’re limited in number and require jumping through hoops such as lining up before sunrise.

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Apparel in particular is something you should buy now because several retailers already are offering discounts of 40% or more on sweaters, jackets, boots and other cold-weather clothing, says Rather-Be-Shopping.com founder Kyle James. Plus, plenty of retailers are offering coupons that, combined with sales, can beat Black Friday apparel deals, he says. RetailMeNot.com Senior Editor Trae Bodge recommends paying attention to the circulars that arrive in the mail in the coming weeks to learn about early sales and to sign up for e-mail alerts from your favorite retailers to be notified of savings opportunities.

Over the next few weeks, check leaked Black Friday ads at Web sites such as BFAds.net, then see how close you can get to those prices with early sales and coupons available at sites such as Rather-Be-Shopping.com, RetailMeNot.com and Offers.com. Also check deal sites such as DealNews.com and Slickdeals for deeply discounted items that might be at prices comparable to those available on Black Friday.

You can buy now, save later. Even if the items on your Christmas list aren’t on sale now, you might be able to take advantage of retailers’ price-adjustment policies to buy them at full price then get a refund for the difference when they go on sale. This will help you avoid the crowds that will flood stores during holiday sales and ensure you get the items you want before they sell out. An easy way to monitor the price of an item after you buy it is to set up a price alert with a Web site such as Priceblink or TrackIf. Be aware that some retailers exclude Black Friday deals from their price-adjustment policies. For more information, see 18 Retailers That Offer Price Adjustments.

Cash-back offers will be better. Cash-back sites such as BeFrugal.com, eBates and FatWallet allow shoppers to earn back a percentage of the money they spend on qualifying purchases at their retail partners. Many of the top retailers will increase cash-back offerings during pre-Black Friday sales, says Brent Shelton of FatWallet. The savings during these early sales combined with higher cash-back percentages could result in better prices than on Black Friday, Shelton says. Learn more about cash-back shopping sites.

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You may find more discounted gift cards. You can purchase gift cards that sell at a discount to their face value on sites such as CardCash.com and Raise.com, then use those cards to do your holiday shopping to score instant savings. Novickis says that now is a good time to buy these cards because inventory may become more limited as the holidays get closer.

You can spread out the hit on your wallet. Bodge says that it’s smart to space out your shopping over a longer period of time because your budget will feel less of a pinch if you just buy a few things each month. If you do all of your shopping at once closer to the holidays, you’ll be more likely to turn to credit cards to cover the expense (unless you were diligent about cutting costs to save enough for a holiday shopping spree). Plus, if you wait until the last minute to do your holiday shopping, you’ll be more likely to overspend. As the holidays get closer, the priority for consumers becomes crossing items off their shopping lists and not getting the best price. And if you shop online, you may have to pay more for expedited shipping for gifts to arrive in time for your holiday celebration.