It's not even Halloween and advertisements for Black Friday are already popping up. The biggest day for shoppers is notorious for unruly crowds that flood stores hoping to save money during the holidays. But you don't need to wake up before the crack of dawn to get the best savings of the season.
Here are seven little-known saving money tips to help your wallet survive the winter.
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1. Get Black Friday prices without the crowds
You can get near-doorbuster prices on eBay a day or two after Black Friday, said Kyle James, founder of coupon and deal site Rather-Be-Shopping.com. It's common for people to buy items during Black Friday and then sell them for small profits online. "So be sure to check eBay on Black Friday weekend and pay only slightly more than if you had stood in line for hours," he added.
2. Don’t wait for sales
You might be able to take advantage of sale prices without having to wait for a sale. Several retailers -- including Best Buy, Macy's, Sears, Target and Walmart -- offer price adjustments if an item you buy at full price is marked down within a certain number of days from the purchase date. Typically, if you present your receipt to a sales clerk showing the price you paid, you'll be credited the difference.
In recent years, many retailers have had holiday sales and Black Friday-like deals in early November. So doing some shopping in late October could pay off if prices drop a week or so later and retailers give you a price adjustment. Keep in mind that if you wait until a week before Thanksgiving and hope for price drops during Black Friday sales, some retailers won't honor price match guarantees.
To monitor the prices of your purchases, you can sign up with websites like PriceBlink and TrackIf to receive alerts. Even if you can't get a price adjustment from a retailer, you might be able to get one from your credit card issuer. Citibank, Discoverand MasterCard offer cardholders price protection for eligible purchases.
3. Procrastinate on holiday gifts
For some items, you're better off waiting to buy them until after Black Friday. "Believe it or not, the deals on toys from stores like Toys 'R' Us, Amazon and Walmart will get better as we get closer to Christmas," James said. You'll find the best prices December 18 through December 24, he said. If you're shopping online though, pay attention to shipping deadlines so you don't have to pay more for expedited shipping to ensure gifts arrive in time for Christmas.
James also said you should hold off on purchases of high-quality HDTVs until after Christmas because the best values are in late January and early February. It's the smaller, lower-end brand HDTVs that go on sale around Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
You should also wait to buy winter apparel, furniture and high-end gaming laptops until these items go on sale after the holidays, said DealNews features editor Benjamin Glaser. If someone on your holiday gift list is expecting one of these items, consider getting them a gift card so they can get more bang for their buck when they go shopping after the holidays.
4. Buy and use discounted gift cards
Gift cards have been the most requested gift item for the past eight years, according to the National Retail Federation, but they can also help you save money when shopping. You can find gift cards selling for less than their face values on sites such as CardCash, GiftCards.com and Raise.
You can also visit Gift Card Granny or CardHub to find out which card reseller is offering the best deals on the gift cards you want. A Bath & Body Works gift card with a face value of $100, for example, is selling for $83.01 on SaveYa, a savings of 17 percent the next time you shop at this retailer.
Be aware that many gift cards that are resold come used but have funds remaining on them. So if you give one as a gift, it might show some signs of wear and tear. To increase your chances of getting a new card, look for one with a face value of $10, $15, $25 and so on rather than one with an odd face value such as $17.87.
5. Abandon your online shopping cart
Shopping online is a great way to save money because you can easily compare prices at several retailers using price comparison sites like PriceGrabber.com and Google Shopping, or find the best deals on sites like DealNews and Offers.com. Plus, it's easy to find coupon codes using sites like RetailMeNot.
A lesser-known way to get a deal when shopping online is to add items to your virtual shopping cart, go through the purchase process to the point where the retailer has your email address and then walk away, said Regina Conway, consumer expert for Slickdeals. Some online retailers will send you an email with a discount or coupon code to lure you back to their site to complete your purchase.
6. Use Amazon Prime for sales, free shipping
If you've been reluctant to pay the $99 for Amazon Prime, you should reconsider joining this membership program for the holidays. Amazon Prime has numerous benefits for shoppers during the holiday season, including early access to sales and free two-day shipping. If you don't want to commit to the annual fee, you can sign up for a free 30-day membership, Conway said.
7. Stock up on discounted non-gift items
Don't think holiday sales are just for buying gifts. Plenty of non-gift items get marked down, offering shoppers the chance to save money on everyday items, Glaser said. Many online drugstores have holiday sales, for instance, allowing you to stock up on basic toiletries and household products you'll use throughout the year.
Every year there are big sales on wine from Astor Wines and Groupon. "Not only can shoppers stock up on vino for the rest of the year, but they could save a few bucks on the bottles they will inevitably bring to all those holiday parties," he said.