How to Find the Best Prices this Holiday Season

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Don’t want to bust your budget this holiday season, but do want to get everyone what they want? Shop the deals. It can take a little more work, but it can really pay off in the end.

It used to be that Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, was the biggest shopping day of the season. Stores offered huge sales to get customers in the door and, for many stores, bring their calendar year sales from the red into the black.

That’s changed a bit in recent years. Online merchants focus their attention on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, and brick-and-mortar stores have expanded their sale window throughout the week. Deals start popping up the day before Thanksgiving, on Thanksgiving afternoon and evening, and during the weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Therefore, you'll need to be on alert for the whole week to really get the best deals on your Christmas purchases.

List what you are looking for and how much you want to spend. You can look up the lowest prices last year for similar items to give you an idea of what a good deal looks like. As you prepare, watch for sales and keep an eye out for the items on your list, and try not to get distracted by sale items that no one actually wants.

Pay attention to limited quantity deals and have a backup plan in case the store sells out. You may need to arrive early on the day of the sale, and it’s helpful to know the store layout so you can locate your items quickly. If you plan to try for limited quantity deals at several stores, you may even want to team up with a partner.

In the past, laptops and computers, kitchenware, and data storage have had their lowest prices on Black Friday. Cyber Monday is typically the best shopping day for clothing, and the weekend after Thanksgiving boasts great deals on large appliances and tools.

Most importantly, don’t ever forget the big picture. Yes, you might be able to get a great deal on an item, but if that item still costs more than you were planning to spend, you may be better off skipping the purchase. Sometimes a homemade gift is just as good, and far less expensive.