U.S. Markets closed

These 16 Insider Secrets Will Make You a Smarter Holiday Shopper

Cameron Huddleston

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 16 Insider Tips for Smarter Holiday Shopping

The cost of holiday gifts, decorations and food can quickly add up and put a big dent in your budget. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, the average consumer is expected to spend an average of $1,007.24 this holiday season. In an effort to keep your costs down, GOBankingRates asked coupon experts to share their strategies for finding the best deals and making the most of seasonal shopping. Follow these smart insider tips to start saving money over the holidays.

1. Sign Up for Alerts

If you know which stores you plan to shop at during the holidays, sign up for coupon alerts ahead of time, said Kyle James, founder of coupon site Rather-Be-Shopping. You can sign up at sites such as Rather-Be-Shopping and Offers.com to receive notifications when retailers are offering coupons.

And if you visit a retailer’s site and get on its email list, you’ll typically receive a first-time subscriber discount, such as 15 percent off or $25 off a $100 purchase, said Kendal Perez, former savings expert with Coupon Sherpa. Sign up to receive these notifications using a separate email account created just for promotional messages so it’s easier for you to keep track of these offers, she said.

2. Text to Save

Many stores are taking email list sign-ups a step further by requesting your phone number to send text alerts. And, most will offer a coupon as an incentive to sign up for text alerts, Perez said.

3. Use Social Media

Like email newsletters, following brands on social media can alert you of sales and deals before they debut — which is key to having the upper hand during the holiday season, Perez said.

Shopping expert Trae Bodge also said you should follow savings gurus on Facebook and Twitter for access to coupon codes. She recommends following Josh Elledge of SavingsAngel and Jackie of GreatHerGood, who offers exclusive coupons from premier brands.

Don’t Go Broke: 50 Tips for Saving Money During the Holidays

4. Use a Coupon App

Coupons don’t just come in the Sunday paper anymore. You can easily access them while you’re out shopping with free coupon apps such as Coupon Sherpa and RetailMeNot, which provide instant access to retailers’ coupons.

“The best part of all, there’s no clipping needed,” said Jennifer Schreiner, publisher of InspiringSavings.com. “Just pull up the image on your smartphone, and give it to the cashier to scan. Voila! You just saved money by using coupons this holiday season.”

5. Find Online Coupon Codes

Retailers often list coupon codes on their websites that can be used to score instant discounts at checkout. But, you shouldn’t rely solely on these online shopping deals because they might not be the best or only discount a retailer is offering, said DealNews coupon editor Sarah Jones.

“Doing an internet search for the store name and ‘coupons codes’ or ‘promo codes’ will bring up a variety of websites that provide information on other available offers,” she said. Or, you could visit coupon sites such as Coupons.com, DealNews and Slickdeals directly to see if they have codes for retailers where you want to make a purchase.

6. Stack Your Savings

When shopping online, you can increase your savings by stacking coupon codes on top of sale prices to get even deeper discounts, said Jon Lal, founder and CEO of BeFrugal. Or, use coupon codes when shopping on cash-back sites such as BeFrugal and Ebates which partner with hundreds of retailers to let consumers earn back a percentage of what they spend on qualifying purchases. Then, you’ll get cash back on top of any discounts.

When shopping in stores — at drugstores and supermarkets, in particular — make sure you look for store coupons that you can combine with manufacturer coupons for the steepest discounts, said Teri Gault, CEO of grocery savings site The Grocery Game. She said you often can find stocking stuffers marked down at drug stores that you sometimes can get for free when combined with coupons and instant rebates.

7. Keep Expectations High for Coupon Code Discounts

For clothing and accessories, you shouldn’t settle for coupons offering discounts of 25 percent off or less. It’s not uncommon to see coupon codes for these items in the range of 30 percent to 50 percent off or more during the holiday shopping season, Jones said.

However, be aware that retailers usually don’t offer coupon codes for across-the-board discounts on tech items. “If they do, it is more likely to be a smaller discount, perhaps 5 percent to 10 percent,” said Jones. “But most retailers discount prices for tech on an item-by-item basis, either by lowering the price or releasing a code specific to the item.”

When it comes to electronics and computers, it’s more about looking for great sale prices on individual items.

8. Check for Coupons Often During the Holidays

It’s not uncommon for retailers to release short-term discounts — such as free shipping with no minimum purchase — for one day only, Jones said. These limited-time coupon codes tend to be for deeper discounts, or they might be a combination of offers that normally aren’t available simultaneously.

So if you visit a retailer’s site and aren’t impressed with its current promotion, “wait and watch for something better if you can,” said Jones. “And be sure to check on Cyber Monday, which is when many stores release their best coupons.”

9. Always Try More Than One Coupon Code

When shopping for Christmas deals online, always try several coupon codes before you check out because some retailers allow you to use more than one, Perez said.

It isn’t always obvious that this can be done. If you enter a code and still see the coupon code box open, it’s possible that another one can be entered, Jones said. Be aware, though, that you typically can’t combine more than one general percent-off or dollar-off code. It’s more likely that a retailer will allow you to combine one of these codes with a category-specific or free shipping code, said Jones.

More Savings: Cutting Out These 15 Expenses Will Save You $9,295.94 a Year

10. Use the Live Chat Option

If you can’t find a coupon code on a retailer’s site or through an internet search, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Many big online retailers employ live chat operators who are standing by to help you with your holiday shopping, James said.

You should take advantage of this option to ask if a retailer has a coupon to help lower the price of your purchase. “You’ll be amazed how many operators have a list of coupon codes on their desk ready to hand out to those who ask,” he said.

11. Join Loyalty Programs

If you shop at a store regularly — especially during the holidays — join its loyalty program if it has one. This is a good way to get exclusive coupons and discounts, Bodge said. For example, members of Macy’s Star Rewards will often be greeted with surprise offers when they check out, she said.

To avoid missing out on savings, Bodge recommends scanning your loyalty cards into the Stocard app, which holds all of the information electronically. When you’re in a store, simply open the app so your card can be scanned.

12. Look for Coupons in Magazines

Pay attention to all the paper inserts in magazines because some are valuable coupons for subscribers. Perez said she once paid $10 for a $50 pair of pants from New York & Co. using a coupon she received in Glamour magazine. She also found a $10 off coupon to the now-defunct Sports Authority from her subscription to Yoga Journal. “Keep your eyes peeled for these deals, and use them during the holidays for extra savings,” she said.

13. Use a Coupon Clipping Service

A great way to save at the supermarket when stocking up for holiday parties is to use a coupon clipping service. Maura White, founder of Happy Deal – Happy Day! said certain coupon clipping sites charge a small fee but tend to offer coupons with higher values than those that arrive in the mail or can be found in your local paper. Popular coupon clipping sites include The Coupon Clippers and Klip2save.

“Coupon purchasing is cheap,” she said. “Depending on the value of the coupon, I pay usually between 10 cents and 20 cents per coupon — well worth it if it means bringing home multiple freebies.”

14. Get Warehouse Club Coupons

If you plan to take advantage of your warehouse club membership to get holiday deals or buy food and beverages in bulk for a holiday gathering, don’t overlook the opportunity to score additional savings, Bodge said. “Look for coupons on the store’s site or on your favorite coupon site before heading out the door,” she said.

15. Don't Overlook Black Friday Coupons

Black Friday is known for the deep discounts retailers offer. But you shouldn’t assume that just because stores are having sales that they aren’t offering coupons as well, said Mary Hoover, founder of MissionToSave.com.

“Be sure to check the current promotions at your favorite stores during this weekend,” she said. “You may find percent-off coupons, gift card offers and promo codes that are still valid during this prime shopping weekend — and you will save even more.”

16. Coupons Aren't Always the Best Way to Save

To get the best deals on your holiday shopping, don’t let one coupon code keep you from scoring better savings opportunities. For example, using an online coupon code on a smaller purchase at Store A might only cover the shipping charges. Meanwhile, Store B doesn’t have a coupon code available for the item you want to buy, but it might have a comparable sale price and offer free shipping.

Keep reading to see the moves you should be making to get ahead on holiday shopping.

More on Shopping

We make money easy. Get weekly email updates, including expert advice to help you Live Richer™

Taylor Bell contributed to the reporting for this article.

  • What's the Average 401(k) Balance by Age?

    What's the Average 401(k) Balance by Age?

    It can be hard to determine exactly how much you'll need for your own post-career days, but finding out how others are planning—or not—can offer a benchmark for setting goals and milestones. k) Plan Balances by Generation The good news is that Americans have been making an effort to save more. According to Fidelity Investments, the financial services firm that administers more than $7.4 trillion in assets, the average 401(k) plan balance reached $106,000 in the second quarter of 2019.

  • 42% of people say this is why they aren't investing in the stock market
    Yahoo Finance

    42% of people say this is why they aren't investing in the stock market

    A recent JPMorgan Chase survey of about 1,200 investors and non-investors says it boils down to liquidity. The survey found that 42% of those who weren't investing yet were staying out of the stock market because they believed they didn't have enough money to invest. Kelli Keough, digital wealth management head at JPMorgan Chase, tells Yahoo Finance's “The First Trade” non-investors, those who are not in the stock market, say it's a struggle to save enough money to invest.

  • The 10 Best Value Stocks to Own in 2020

    The 10 Best Value Stocks to Own in 2020

    The past five years have not been good for buyers of value stocks. Overall, value stocks have been underperforming their growth brethren since at least 2007. Arnott went on to suggest that if the economy slows down at some point in 2020, growth stocks will have nowhere to hide — leaving value stocks to attract the lion's share of the buyers.

  • 4 Marijuana Stocks to Buy for the Big 2020 Rebound

    4 Marijuana Stocks to Buy for the Big 2020 Rebound

    The big rebound in pot stocks can be attributed to favorable fundamental developments (multiple cannabis companies have reported strong fourth quarter numbers in early January), favorable legal developments (among other things, Illinois just legalized recreational marijuana), and a whole bunch of investors deciding that with the new year, comes new opportunity. Demand trends will re-accelerate thanks to new vapes and edibles products, as well as retail footprint expansion. Revenue growth trends will improve.

  • Business

    Barron's Picks And Pans: Apple, Boeing, Disney, Tesla And More

    Barron's Roundtable panelist Rupal Bhansali's makes a case that Apple Inc. NYSE: AAPL) is disadvantaged on many fronts and trying to play catch-up in "Time to Short Apple, Says Rupal Bhansali. Yes, Short Apple."

  • Top Tips to Reduce Required Minimum Distributions

    Top Tips to Reduce Required Minimum Distributions

    Holders of individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 401(k)s, and other qualified retirement accounts are required to take distributions from those accounts beginning at age 72. These required minimum distributions (RMDs) force the account holder to take a taxable distribution based on the account balance at the end of the prior year and their age. The logic behind requiring distributions is that the government wants to collect taxes for all of that tax-deferred growth (as well as the original tax-deferral) and that the investor will likely be in a lower tax bracket during retirement.

  • Best Buy launches investigation into CEO Corie Barry
    American City Business Journals

    Best Buy launches investigation into CEO Corie Barry

    Best Buy Co. Inc. CEO Corie Barry is under investigation by the retailer's board after it received an anonymous letter alleging an inappropriate romantic relationship between Barry and another executive before she became CEO last year. It claimed that she had been romantically involved with former Best Buy Senior Vice President Karl Sanft in the period before she took over as the company's CEO, the newspaper said. Best Buy's board has hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP as part of the investigation.

  • Will you ‘feel pretty stupid’ holding cash? One trader revisits Ray Dalio’s laughable call and warns of a similar drop

    Will you ‘feel pretty stupid’ holding cash? One trader revisits Ray Dalio’s laughable call and warns of a similar drop

    Almost exactly two years ago, investing legend Ray Dalio turned heads with one of the worst short-term market calls in recent memory. The Bridgewater Associates founder, in an interview at the World Economic Forum back in January 2018, told investors that they were going to “feel pretty stupid” if they were holding cash as stocks climbed toward record highs. So, how stupid did they feel?

  • Dramatic video, truck crashes offroad near trooper
    Associated Press Videos

    Dramatic video, truck crashes offroad near trooper

    Officials in the US state of Iowa are urging people to use caution and stay indoors if possible as blizzard conditions continued to wreak havoc in northern and central parts of the state on Saturday. Jan.

  • Why ‘irrationally bullish’ investors are getting nervous as the stock market races to uncharted territory

    Why ‘irrationally bullish’ investors are getting nervous as the stock market races to uncharted territory

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) traversed a milestone at 29,000, the S&P 500 index (SPX) followed with its own landmark turn above 3,300 and the Nasdaq Composite Index (COMP) is rallying like it is 1999. Another way to think about, the ferocity by which stocks have climbed in the first three weeks of this year, S&P 500 gains have already exceeded the 2020 estimates for nearly half the 18 analysts surveyed by MarketWatch. “We stay irrationally bullish until peak positioning & peak liquidity incite [a] spike in bond yields & 4-8% equity correction,” wrote analysts at Banc of America Securities on Friday in a weekly research report on the state of the market.

  • Ocasio-Cortez sums up inequality in 5 words after Dow breaks through 29,000

    Ocasio-Cortez sums up inequality in 5 words after Dow breaks through 29,000

    That's “inequality in a nutshell,” according to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who fired off those words in a tweet response to NBC's coverage of a fresh high for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)on Friday. The New York Democrat was making the point that while the blue-chip index rallied more than 20% last year, U.S. average hourly earnings gained less than 3%. And since stocks are generally held by those with higher wealth levels, the data would support her “rich getting richer” stance.

  • FCEL Stock Very Well May Be the Next Renewable Stock to Soar

    FCEL Stock Very Well May Be the Next Renewable Stock to Soar

    FuelCell Energy (NASDAQ:FCEL) often gets compared to Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG). Both companies ostensibly are “fuel cell” plays, yet their operating models are completely different. After all, Plug Power uses fuel cell technology to power forklifts and other electric vehicles.

  • Is FuelCell Energy’s Business Truly Sustainable?

    Is FuelCell Energy’s Business Truly Sustainable?

    Is FuelCell Energy (NASDAQ:FCEL) sustainable? InvestorPlace.com contributor Josh Enomoto remains skeptical. He calls FCEL a “penny stock.” He believes its 700% rise since November can't be maintained, especially since fuel cells require expensive materials like platinum to produce. FuelCell Energy had been in a long-term trading range at about 25 cents per share, but opened for trade Jan. 17 around $2.25 with a market cap of $443 million.

  • 7 5G Stocks to Connect Your Portfolio To

    7 5G Stocks to Connect Your Portfolio To

    Large-Cap Stocks to Give a Wide Berth In other words, 5G doesn't just offer an industry from which to pick stocks to buy. Instead, this technology enables other technologies to flourish. It's a force-multiplier, one that comes around only once every several years.

  • Should Your Required Minimum Distribution Be in Cash?

    Should Your Required Minimum Distribution Be in Cash?

    Should you take your RMD by getting the cash or transferring the stock to another account? According to Michael J. Garry, managing member and chief compliance officer at Yardley Wealth Management, it doesn't matter for tax purposes. "There is usually little, if any, tax efficiency added by taking in-kind distributions instead of cash.

  • Snap Gaps Out Of Base
    Investor's Business Daily Video

    Snap Gaps Out Of Base

    The parent company of the popular Snapchat app soared Friday after UBS upgraded shares to buy from neutral with a 24 price target.

  • 3 Factors to Consider Before Gambling on GE Stock

    3 Factors to Consider Before Gambling on GE Stock

    Once an iconic industrial giant, few companies have suffered as ignominious a loss as General Electric (NYSE:GE). In fact, the GE stock price peaked in the 2000s era dot-com bubble, never threatening to regain its former glory. Not only did GE stock peak roughly 20 years ago, it plummeted following a sizable rally leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.

  • Tesla Hits All-Time High Before Being Downgraded: Where to Now?

    Tesla Hits All-Time High Before Being Downgraded: Where to Now?

    So, where is Tesla headed? This week, analysts have been throwing the hat in, offering takes on the electric vehicle company from all possible angles, with the most recent rating being a downgrade. In this article, we'll take a look at three different ratings from the analysts.

  • Should Insider Buying Tempt You Into These 7 Stocks?

    Should Insider Buying Tempt You Into These 7 Stocks?

    Conversely, insiders buying shares suggests that the executive group is bullish on the company's near-term prospects. Investors may search out large-capitalization companies that had insiders buying shares in recent months. There are four technology companies, two consumer discretionary firms and one health company that have reported notable insider buying activities.

  • Disadvantages of Roth IRAs Every Investor Should Know

    Disadvantages of Roth IRAs Every Investor Should Know

    A Roth IRA is a tax-exempt retirement savings account that holds investments that you choose using after-tax money. If you're thinking about opening an account, consider the disadvantages of Roth IRAs first. Roth and traditional IRAs are excellent ways to stash money away for retirement.

  • 3 ETFs to Buy Instead of Popular Mutual Funds

    3 ETFs to Buy Instead of Popular Mutual Funds

    To that end, investors in some popular mutual funds could be better suited making the switch into ETFs. For investors in tax-deferred or tax-free accounts, the switch is easy. For investors in taxable accounts, you need to weigh the potential hit from the switch.

  • Business

    Bulls And Bears Of The Week: IBM, Microsoft, Tesla And More

    Also, the next phase of presidential impeachment process has begun. Benzinga continues to examine the prospects for many of the stocks most popular with investors. The following are just a few of this past week's most bullish and bearish posts that are worth another look.

  • The odds aren’t in stock-market investors favor, says billionaire Howard Marks

    The odds aren’t in stock-market investors favor, says billionaire Howard Marks

    Legendary investor Howard Marks likes to analyze probabilities and he's determined that when it comes to the stock market, chances of healthy, future returns are falling, he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. In the Tuesday interview, Marks equated buying financial assets to games of chance like poker or Black Jack, where results are determined by “skill, luck, and hidden information.” He made a similar comparison in a quarterly report to investors.

  • What's the Difference Between Retirement in Canada and America?

    What's the Difference Between Retirement in Canada and America?

    Key Differences: Retirement Savings Plans When it comes to saving for retirement, Canada and America both offer individuals similar financial vehicles with similar tax advantages. Canada's RRSP vs. America's Traditional IRA In Canada, Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) allow investors to receive a tax deduction on their yearly contributions. Money invested in the plan grows tax-deferred, which advances the benefits of compounded returns.

  • Business

    McDermott International may file for bankruptcy as soon as next week - Bloomberg

    Oilfield services provider McDermott International Inc is preparing to file for bankruptcy as soon as next week, Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Reuters. McDermott is discussing a restructuring plan in which its debt could be converted into equity, with its group of lenders getting the majority of the shares, the report said.