It’s the most wonderful time of the year—and often the most expensive. Black Friday marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, and while savvy gift-givers have been shopping for deals throughout the year, the rest of us are just gearing up.
According to Gallup, Americans expect to spend an average of $785 on holiday gifts this year. A bit of sensible planning and some smart shopping strategies will help you keep your cool amidst the hype of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Start by making a list of exactly what you’re shopping for and a maximum budget you’re willing to spend to avoid being tempted by deals on things you don’t need. Then, do some research and make your plan:
- Scout out the specials ahead of time. Look at your favorite retailers' websites, follow them on social media, subscribe to their emails and browse their circular ads to get a heads-up on deals.
- Know the rules on returns. Be aware of the return policy for the stores you're shopping. Even the best of us make impulse buys; make sure you can return items if you change your mind.
- Practice price-matching when possible. Do some comparison shopping. If you find what you're looking for listed for less somewhere, see if another store is willing to match or beat the price.
- Find the fine print. Make sure the deal you're aiming to get is a good one. Some stores have only limited quantities of certain sale items or have other contingencies that make that bargain a lot less appealing.
- Skip the cost of shipping if you can. Look for retailers offering free shipping or free in-store pick-up to save on your online purchases.
- Put portals to work for you. Shop online portals, such as Navy Federal's Member Mall®, for additional reward points and extra discounts to help you stretch your dollars.
- Reap rewards while you shop. Use your rewards credit card for holiday shopping, taking care to make purchases that are within your budget. That way, the money you spend on others is earning you rewards!
The holiday shopping season seems to creep ever closer to Thanksgiving, with several stores even open on the holiday itself. Many are going the opposite direction as well, though, extending their blow-out sales over many days to allow shoppers to score deals on their own time. However you choose to shop this season, many savings to you, and may the prices be right!NOW WATCH: How to Shop Online with Member Mall