by Kristine George
It is the most wonderful, albeit expensive season of the year.
Another year has come and gone and here we are again, facing the busy, wonderful — and often budget busting — holiday season.
The stores are already decorated and I have already received numerous mailings toting this year’s hot toys for 2017.
While Black Friday generally marks the unofficial kickoff of the shopping season, the holiday sales begin earlier each season.
Whether you plan to brave the Black Friday crowds or opt for some cyber shopping, there are some savings and shopping strategies to save you time and money this holiday season.
Black Friday week: It used to be that the holiday shopping season kicked off with deep discounts on the Friday after Thanksgiving — and were followed up with sales that were still worthwhile but not nearly as lucrative as the sale that inspired everyone to get up early and brave the lines.
With more shoppers starting their Santa lists earlier, stores are offering more sales — both online and at their brick and mortar locations — before one ounce of Thanksgiving turkey has even been eaten.
Be sure to scope out the sales for stores you frequent — it may save you from fighting the crowds on Black Friday morning!
What’s the key to knowing when to buy the gifts on your shopping list?
Make a list and check the price points for those items throughout the season.
Knowing the price history for the item you are looking for will help you decide if the Black Friday price is worth standing in line at 4 a.m., for — or if there is a better deal at a less hectic shopping time!
Do the Math: Throughout the year, when I teach couponing classes, I always tout the importance of knowing your prices, when something is a must have price and when the sale is just … “meh.”
Before you spend one penny this season, know what the best prices are for the items you are hoping to purchase.
A great online resource is dealnews.com — you can even sign up for price alerts on your favorite items so you are notified when a price change is made.
Check out retailmenot.com or couponcabin.com for coupon codes or visit blogs such as thekrazycouponlady.com, familyfrugalfun.com or dealseekingmom.com to see what matchups are available.
Even the regular frugalistas will find that sales on the less obvious gift items will be better than usual — and if you can save some money on your food budget, it just leaves you more for your holiday shopping!
Pajamas and Price Checking: OK, I have a confession: Black Friday enthusiasts kind of scare me.
I’m not great with crowds, I hate competing for items and the general aura that surrounds many of these scenes doesn’t exactly jive with my vision for getting into the holiday spirit.
I’ve found that many of the Black Friday doorbusters are also offered online so while my more courageous bargain hunters are braving the parking lots, I am happily sipping my coffee with my pajamas on, crossing gift items off my list!
After your Thanksgiving dishes are cleaned up and your guests have gone home, fire up your laptop and see what deals you can find with a simple point and click.
Many sales flyers are available as early as Nov. 1, either online (www.blackfriday.com) or as an insert in your local newspaper.
Shop Local: As much as I love hitting the online sales, I also like getting good deals on truly unique items at my locally owned stores and shops.
There are plenty of sales to be found at your local downtown shops throughout the holiday season — often in conjunction with fun “Midnight Madness” events.
Check your local papers or tourism departments for dates of these sales events — or call your favorite local shop and find out what special sales they have going.
Starting in 2010, American Express launched its first “Small Business Saturday” event — the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday — encouraging buyers to spend their holiday shopping dollars at locally owned businesses in their communities.
Visit wwwsmallbusinessSaturday.com to learn more.
Don’t forget your local moms who own their own direct sales businesses too — they often offer Santa lists, gift-wrapping and special sales for the season.
When you buy local, you are helping another mom have a better Christmas for her own family, too.
That’s considered a “win-win,” right?
(Editor’s Note: Kristine George is a freelance journalist who resides in Easton.)