But all that's out the window in these tough economic times, says Consumer Reports Senior Editor Tod Marks.
On The Early Show Tuesday, Marks observed that "you really don't" have to be an early bird to get the discounts worm, "because the deals have been around since September. I've never seen this kind of discounting in 20 years of covering retail for Consumer Reports. The sales have been fast and furious. One day, it's, 'Buy one, get one free.' The next day, it's, 'Take $20 to $50 off any order of $200.' The next day, it's, '25 percent off, flat.' There's free shipping. Everybody is offering today because the economy is in dire straits and they don't want to be stuck with inventory the end of the year."
Marks adds there's "no doubt" in his mind the bargains will be out there through Christmas, for many items.
"If you're talking about electronics," Marks says, "if you wait, you might actually find that the deals are better because, if they're not moving this stuff, they're gonna hafta cut bait and just go for the deals. If you're talking about clothing, though, you might want to early on or go to the store and buy your stuff now, because a lot of companies didn't want to get stuck with excess merchandise and have to sell it out at liquidator prices, so they ordered fewer things. That means fewer styles, fewer colors, fewer sizes, unless you move fast."
Marks cautioned that gift cards "are a double-edged sword: one of the most highly desired gifts in our survey, but the problem is many of them come with expiration dates and fees like transaction fees, service fees, inactivity fees, and it can really diminish the value of the card. Twenty-five percent of the people who got a card last year still haven't used them, so think about that!"
On his blog on Consumer Reports, "Tightwad Tod," Marks offers lots of shopping pointers. Among them:
On COUPON CODE SITES: "Sniff out bonus savings. When you shop online and are ready to check out, you might notice a little box on the page that asks whether you have a discount or promotional code. These underused codes can be a source of unexpected savings such as extra discounts of 10 to 50 percent, instant discounts off purchases totaling a particular amount, and free or upgraded shipping. It's always worth checking to see if there's an applicable coupon available. Here's where you can look: Savings.com, Shoppersresource.com, Couponwinner.com, Promotionalcode.com, and Webcouponcodes.com."
On BLACK FRIDAY WEBSITES: "Compare deals. There's no shortage of Web sites that obtain and publish advance notice of Black Friday deals at leading retailers and e-tailers. Many of the hot specials are already listed on Fatwallet.com, bfads.net, blackfriday.gottadeal.com, Dealtaker.com, Walletpop.com, Theblackfriday.com, and blackfridaydeals.us/shop. The sites often feature downloadable circulars and coupons, too. You can also find out which products come with rebates and which merchants offer free shipping."
On COMPARISON SHOPPING SITES: "Check to see if it's cheaper online. If you find a product in a flyer at a seemingly low price, go online first to determine whether you can get it elsewhere for less. Some sites that compare prices among Web retailers include Pricegrabber.com; Shopping.com; Pricescan.com, Shopzilla.com and Dealtime.com. Amazon.com is worth visiting, too, as our reader surveys have cited Amazon as one of the best places to appliances, electronics, and books at excellent prices."
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