Orange and black decorations don’t get a fair shake. As soon as Oct. 31 passes, they’re thoughtlessly dumped into carts and sold on the curb at a discount just to clear the way for their red and green counterparts. (Or the trendier silver and green this year, as the color fashionistas have announced.)
Shoppers everywhere are already lost in a sea of tinsel and twinkling lights, caught up in the holiday hype. As the big shopping days draw near, word of great bargains and huge savings encourages extra spending. Before you rush out to get the best deal, consider some of these common holiday shopping myths.
Black Friday is King: Black Friday has somehow become legendary. There’s a perception that camping overnight in the freezing cold and trampling complete strangers is the best way to get a good deal. In actuality, Black Friday came in behind both Cyber Monday and Free Shipping Day in online sales last year. Instead of risking losing an arm as you grab this year’s hot toy, wait for one of these other shopping holidays. Don’t worry; the special offers will keep on rolling.
It’s Now or Never: The door-busting, red-tag, super-special sales going on for the next month aren’t as exclusive as many merchants lead you to believe. Stores such as Best Buy and Walmart have announced they’ll continue to honor their price matching policies through the holidays. The window of opportunity is different at each store, so act fast if you find a lower advertised price on something you already purchased.
Extended Warranties are a Must: Since retailers are slashing prices on expensive items, they have to make up the extra income somewhere. That’s where the warranty comes in. Extended warranties tend to have a much higher profit margin than the electronics and appliances you’re buying, so stores push them hard during the holidays. In most cases, the warranty from the manufacturer is sufficient. Even if something goes wrong, repair costs tend to be on par with what you’d pay for the warranty itself.
It’s the Thought that Counts: If you’ve ever been lucky enough to receive a Big Mouth Billy Bass, you know “it’s the thought that counts” is a big pack of lies. Just because you shelled out a few bucks and put a present in a box doesn’t mean it’ll be appreciated. When you’re giving presents, either give it some real thought or don’t give a gift at all. There’s no point in wasting your money on something that will wind up in the local landfill anyway.
Attendance is Required: When you see a line of feverish shoppers forming around the block, get comfortable and kick your feet up. What those deal hunters don’t understand is that stores have limited inventories. After those supplies run out, you’re out of luck. These days, few retailers require you visit a store to get special pricing. Shop online and you’ll have access to the full inventory; no trampling necessary.
Buy Now, Pay Later: When the sound of your credit card being swiped has replaced the melody of “Jingle Bells,” it’s time to reevaluate your holiday shopping plan. Instead of racking up debt on your credit card, consider using layaway. It doesn’t come with the same interest charges and allows for manageable payments. However, know what you’re committing to and consider these do’s and don’ts before signing the dotted line.
It’s New or Nothing: Americans have an obsession with new. We want new cars, new houses and about 50 percent of the time, new spouses. However, when it comes to holiday shopping, brand new isn’t always the way to go. Buying refurbished or pre-owned can end up saving some serious cash. Apple has a refurbished section in their online store and each item lists how much you’re saving. Plus, refurbished items from Apple come with a one-year warranty, new battery and new outer shell.
Early Bird Gets the Worm: When it comes to holiday shopping, “the early bird gets the worm” is an axiom you’ll want to forget. Though having your gifts bought and wrapped before Thanksgiving reduces stress levels, it doesn’t help you find good deals. As the holiday shopping season wears on, merchants often adjust their prices to stimulate sales. Waiting a little longer gives you more flexibility to find the best deal, or at least take advantage of some price-matching policies.
Re-gifting Is Wrong: The negative stigma surrounding re-gifting is slowly lifting and the once frowned-upon practice is being embraced. If anyone objects in this era of heightened eco-consciousness, simply explain you’re doing your part to save the planet. Though no longer shunned, re-gifting still requires some tact. Don’t risk it if you can’t remember who gave you the present originally. For more advice on tasteful re-gifting, try some of these regifting tips.
Gift Receipts are Gold: Gift receipts seem like an act of merchant generosity, but it turns out they have a sinister dark side. Walmart is currently facing a class-action lawsuit for failing to provide customers using gift receipts with a refund for the original purchase price. Since these receipts don’t include a price, the suit alleges Walmart was providing refunds at current, lower prices and not at the original value. Gift receipts can still be lifesavers, but you want to make sure you know all of the rules and restrictions.
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles.
Photo courtesy of Richard Collinson