Think it’s too early to start your holiday shopping? Clearly, the retailers don’t want you to think that. Starting in October of each year, you can usually walk into the seasonal section of any big-box store and see Christmas items next to Halloween costumes and menus offering a catered Thanksgiving dinner.
As much as you might despise Christmas creep, your wallet might benefit if you get into the holiday spirit ahead of time 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? Or Black Friday's younger more tech savvy sister Cyber Monday?
For one thing, not everything gets marked down on Black Friday. If you wait until then — or December — you’ll miss out on hot items and some money-saving opportunities. Here’s why:
1. There are deals now
Retailers started releasing early Black Friday deals at the end of October. This year, Target is offering a deal of the day and they allow you to preview the next four deals before they go live. Don't forget to use your RedCard and get 5% off your purchase. Don’t have a RedCard? Right now, you can get a coupon for $50 off a future purchase at Target when you open a new RedCard account thru December 9.
Costco's early Black Friday Deals are being rolled out over four weeks, from October 30 through November 27. Walmart's early Black Friday Deals began November 8 online and Walmart+ members had three hours of exclusive access and in store deals commenced on November 10.
Even though some retailers’ early discounts aren’t as deep as on Black Friday, those day-after (or day-of) Thanksgiving deals are tough to snag because they’re limited in number and may require a paid membership or subscription to get the best deals and terms.
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. Plus, plenty of retailers are offering coupons that, combined with sales, can beat Black Friday apparel deals.
Pay attention to the promotions that arrive in your inbox in the coming weeks to learn about sales. Consider signing up for text alerts from your favorite retailers. You will be notified of sales and possibly earn additional savings opportunities or free shipping.
Over the next few weeks, check Black Friday ads at Web sites such as blackfriday.com. You can try to beat those prices with sales and coupons available at sites such as Rather-Be-Shopping, RetailMeNot and Offers.com. Also check deal sites such as DealNews and Slickdeals for deeply discounted items that might be at prices comparable to those available on Black Friday.
2. 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 and competition 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 Price.com. You can track Amazon prices and get price drop alerts at camelcamelcamel. Be aware that some retailers exclude Black Friday deals from their price-adjustment policies.
3. Bigger cash-back offers and more discounted gift cards
Cash-back sites such as BeFrugal, Rakuten and Ibotta 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. The savings during these early sales combined with higher cash-back percentages could result in better prices than on Black Friday.
You can purchase gift cards that sell at a discount to their face value on sites such as CardCash and Cardcookie, then use those cards to do your holiday shopping to score instant savings. Now is a good time to buy these cards because inventory may become more limited as the holidays get closer.
4. You can pace your purchasing
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 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).
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.
Donna joined Kiplinger as a personal finance writer in 2023. She spent more than a decade as the contributing editor of J.K.Lasser's Your Income Tax Guide and edited state specific legal treatises at ALM Media. She has shared her expertise as a guest on Bloomberg, CNN, Fox, NPR, CNBC and many other media outlets around the nation. Donna graduated from Brooklyn Law School and University at Buffalo.
- Cameron HuddlestonFormer Online Editor, Kiplinger.com
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