You might be making a costly mistake if you plan to wait until Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving -- or even December to start your holiday shopping. Sure, plenty of retailers offer great discounts on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the weeks leading up to Christmas. But consumer-spending experts say that there are several reasons to start your holiday shopping now.
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You can spread out your gift-shopping budget. Rather than deal a major blow to your budget by cramming all of your holiday shopping into one month, you can lessen the impact by spreading out your purchases over several weeks, says Trae Bodge, senior editor of coupon site RetailMeNot.com. Crafting a gift list now with dollar limits for each purchase also can help you figure out whether you need to cut back on other expenses over the coming weeks to avoid going into debt to fund your holiday shopping. See How to Save $1,000 by Black Friday for ways to trim your spending or earn extra cash.
You have more time to locate deals. Three in five consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, according to the Valpak 2013 Holiday Research survey, when many retailers have big sales. But you often can find great deals on many items before the long Thanksgiving weekend, says Lynette Rice, founder of CleverlySimple.com.
A lot of stores already are releasing Black Friday ads with sale prices or lists of items that will be on sale. Rice says that she checks the Black Friday sale prices for items on her list, then looks online for coupon codes or deals to get as close to those prices as possible in October or early November. You can find Black Friday ads at sites such as BFAds.net. Compare prices at PriceGrabber.com and Google Product Search. Find coupon codes at CouponCabin.com, RetailMeNot.com and Savings.com. And you can sign up to receive e-mails from retailers to be alerted when they have sales or download their mobile apps to be notified when you're in a store if discounts are available.
Bodge says you'll find plenty of deals on apparel, small appliances and toys now. Although many electronics will be deeply discounted around Black Friday, you'll find equally good deals the first two weeks of November, according to an analysis by Savings.com.
You won't get caught up in the hype. By shopping on Black Friday, consumers often get swept up in the excitement and buy things that aren't even on their holiday shopping lists just because they think they're getting a deal, Rice says. Consumers also assume that they're getting the best price on everything on Black Friday, Bodge says, but that's not always the case. The big draw of Black Friday sales are door-buster items that are limited in number and priced incredibly low. Consumers who aren't the first in the door to snag those deals often will continue shopping even though they weren't able to buy the item they really wanted, Bodge says. They'll end up buying things that aren't on sale or marked down much.
You avoid the last-minute rush. A RetailMeNot.com survey found that more than 90% of respondents reported overspending by waiting until the last minute to do their holiday shopping, Bodge says. That's because as the holidays get closer, the priority for consumers becomes crossing items off their shopping lists and not getting the best price, Rice says. With six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than last year, she says that it's especially important to plan ahead this holiday season.