In article #2 last week, we shared the importance of Research, Plan and More Research! Well now it is time to get down to the logistics of maximizing your savings.
We will be sharing a list of quick tips to help you survive physical Black Friday shopping soon, but we did want to share these tips as they can apply to all holiday shopping in-store or online.
Before we close up this series, we want to remind you of the three articles we have provided on how to make this season a bit easier on you and your pocket book. I have included the three articles below so you can jump right to the article you want. We will update them with links when the following articles are posted:
- Preparing Yourself to Help Make Your Holiday Shopping Less Painful
- Research, Plan, and More Research!
- How to Maximize Your Holiday Shopping Either at the Store or Online
Once you’ve done all the work above you’re getting ready to find that hot item, here are some things you will want to do (remember that our Black Friday specific tips will be in a separate post).
If you have done your research and decided that you have found a deal to beat your price point and that the quality meets your standards, then call the stores or go into the store and ask the following questions for in-store shopping:
- What is your return policy on items from your Black Friday sale, Doorbuster sales or any other special sales this season? Find out if there will be such things as restocking fees or a short window of returning deadline. You will want to know this to prevent buyer’s remorse on spending for something in the moment and later find out the return policy is not in your favor.
- Will you be accepting competitor’s prices or ads if I find a lower price sometime this season and/or if it goes lower at your store later on? You will want to find out what the window is to claim your lower price if they will be honoring lower prices that may come later. Some stores will give you the lowest price from the last 14 days (like Shopko and Kmart) or even longer.
- Find out if the item you’re buying includes everything you need to make the item work properly (i.e. will those extra necessary items all of the sudden not make this item that great of a deal?).
If you received acceptable answers to the above questions, then here is what we recommend you do before you go into that store and make the purchase:
- Buy discounted gift cards for as close to the amount you will be spending! First, this keeps your budget and spending in check! Second, it will save you even more and help your hard earned dollars go even further. Here are some ideas on how to claim discounted gift cards.
- Use a website called Cardpool where people can purchase gift cards for up to 35% off! You just might find a great discount on a store you were planning to shop at!
- Also check City Deals to see if they have any stock of discount gift cards for 10 – 25% or more off for the stores you were hoping to shop at. Their stock runs low on the national stores as they are popular and sell out, but you might just find a goldmine of a deal.
- If you have shopped at Office Max and earned Max Perks rewards, you can turn around and use them on gift cards – they sell gift cards to merchants all over your area, national brands! Often times, we use our Max Perks rewards for ink or other gift cards. Office Max will also run occasional promotions where if you buy certain gift cards or a certain amount, you will also receive a FREE iTunes gift card – worth looking at as you need to spend your rewards somewhere! This may be the case for Staples and Office Depot, but we personally have not tried to purchase gift cards with rewards at those two stores yet.
- Finally, check with your local stores and your local store circulars. This time of year, many merchants are offering “bonus” gift card (like a $5 gift card when you purchase a $25 gift card, etc.). Last year our local Kroger affiliate was giving $10 off the purchase of $100 or more in gift cards (they sell gift cards to many retailers in our area too), so this is like a 10% discount. In addition, these purchases also counted towards more rewards on our savings store card as an extra bonus.
- Search and/or print out a coupon to take with you. Be checking and search our site here for when we might post a coupon for a retailer. You can also check Savings.com for printable coupons or even on google with the store name and “printable coupon.” Many retailers release coupons that you can combine with sales, so you might just find an additional discount with that coupon!
Let’s not forget about how to maximize with online shopping too! This is honestly my preferred method of shopping. And, you will by no means get a lesser deal by shopping online, but in fact, might find an even better deal. Holiday shopping online is increasing by leaps and bounds every year and retailers are aware of this and making it easier and more enticing than ever to shop online!
First things first: we recommend going through a similar process as you would for in-store shopping. Find out the answers to the following questions:
- What is the online return policy? Will there be hefty fees? Are you responsible for shipping costs back? Is there a window in which you have to try/use the product to return free of charges (including free shipping) if you do not like it?
- Will you receive credit back on your credit/debit card if the price goes lower on their site? And if so, what is the time frame (14 days, 30 days). Will they inform you if it goes lower or will you need to keep you eye on it?
- Will they match another retailers online price? If so, how do you go about proving this – is it easy and worth it?
- Find out if the item your buying includes everything you need to make the item work properly (i.e. will those extra necessary items all of the sudden not make this item that great of a deal?) – just like you would if buying in-store.
So once you have gotten those important questions answered and out of the way – time to hunt for additional savings before purchasing! Again, very similar to in-store shopping.
- Buy discounted gift cards for as close to the amount you will be spending! See the list above for ideas. But you can use these gift cards online too!
- Search for coupon codes. Again be checking and search our site here for when we might post a coupon code for a retailer for online shopping. In addition, check Savings.com and RetailMeNot.com for coupon codes that might be available.
- Don’t stop at one coupon code! Many retailers will allow you to “stack” multiple coupon codes on the same transaction. Many times, we do not know if the retailer will allow it until we actually get in there and try it. Our favorite coupon codes to stack are a discount on the product PLUS FREE shipping coupon code.
- Use a cash back website. Shop through sites like Shop At Home or Ebates for up to 30% of your purchase back. These websites will give you cash back on your purchases made through retailers found on their site. Nearly every retailer is listed on their sites. Basically, before you make your purchase and actually “shop,” just head over to Shop At Home or Ebates and log-in or sign-up. Then search for retailer that you want shop through. Once you find the retailer, click through the link on the site that will take you directly to the retailers website. By taking a few extra seconds and adding these couple of steps, you could save an average of 3% more! You will receive a check from Ebates once a quarter with your total accumulated cash back once you hit a $5.01 minimum, and a check once a month from Shop At Home with a $20 minimum balance (if you have not reached your balance, your cash will just turn over to the next month). And if you have never shopped through these sites before, the first time you make a purchase, you will also receive an additional $5 cash back bonus.
With the above tips – you might be able to score the best deals for the items you want/need this season while shopping in-store.
* Thanks to Investopedia for the awesome graphic on keeping a tight rein of your budget this holiday season
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