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Holiday Shopping 101

Haven’t finished your holiday shopping? Don’t panic – the best deals are here now.

The holiday lights on 34th street in Baltimore are lit. Ice skaters are twirling around the rink at the Inner Harbor. And Maryland has seen its first snow of the season. The holidays are officially here.

If you haven’t finished - or started - shopping for everyone on your list - don’t worry. We have five tips to help you find the best holiday deals sans Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

The Good News - It’s OK to Procrastinate

It’s a myth that all of the best deals take place on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. This season, deals aren’t restricted to the week after Thanksgiving. In fact, because most shoppers don’t finish their shopping until late in December, stores offer big promotions throughout the month.

So, when is the best time to get the best deal? It depends on what you plan to purchase. The deal site Rather Be Shopping looks back at coupon trends to tell you exactly when to buy apparel, toys, HDTVs, laptops and more.

Look for Rebates or Cash Back

Free online services, such as Ebates, offer members cash back on orders made at specific stores. Ebates partners with popular stores such as Macy's, Walmart and Kohl's. If you already shop at these stores, it’s a simple way to earn back some of the money you spend.

Many stores also offer free membership programs where they regularly mail coupons. These programs are worth taking part in, but avoid memberships that require you to sign up for a store credit card. Stores often offer 10% or 20% off when you sign up for their credit card, but it may not be worth the one-time savings. Store credit cards often come with high interest fees that can be damaging to your budget and credit if you’re not able to pay off the balance.

Take Fees into Account

Online shopping has exploded in popularity. This year, shoppers plan to spend more than half of their holiday budget online. If you’re planning to shop online, factor in the cost of shipping and handling fees. UPS has added peak surcharges to U.S. residential packages this holiday season. Surcharges will range from 27 to 97 cents per package for customers shipping to U.S. residences in November and December.

These fees can add up if you have to pay them for each gift. To keep the cost of fees down, order gifts together from the same store. If you spend over $50, many online stores will waive the shipping fee.

Is the Price Right?

Store discounts change rapidly, so read the fine print when you see a sale sign. Review wording carefully to ensure that the deal is still being offered and take a picture of any signs for sales that you plan to take advantage of. At the register, watch to make sure the scanned price is right and that you are offered the discount. Overcharges cost you money and time, especially if you don’t notice them until after you check out. Alerting the cashier to a wrong price upfront, and having the proof of the sale with you, will save you a lot of hassle in line.

Save Receipts

Save receipts so that you can take advantage of deals throughout the month. If stores offer a sale on an item you already purchased, you may be able to show them your receipt to receive the discounted price.

Check out our blog for more helpful tips.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Financially Healthy 2018 from the Point Breeze family to you and yours.