Never pay full price. When it comes to checking off everyone on your holiday gift list, that can add up. Tight budgets around the holidays can work with a little research, though. Here's how to find bargains and how to determine what's trash and what's treasure:
1 CHECK FOR COUPONS: It's time for friends and family coupons at upscale stores. They're usually offered for a limited time leading up to the holiday shopping season.
2 SHOP EARLY: Thursday night or early Friday, when stores mark down for the weekend, are the best times to shop, according to Kathryn Finney, the creator of The Budget Fashionista blog.
3 BUY second hand: Make sure it doesn't smell musty and that it is something you would buy anyway -- don't just spend money because something's cheap, she said.
4 QUALITY CHECKS: Pull at the seams: If you can see threads or the pattern doesn't line up on clothes, it's low quality.
5 WAIT: Go for an IOU -- TVs will most likely be cheaper after the switch to digital broadcast in February, she said.
6 NEGOTIATE ELECTRONICS: Check newspaper sales fliers for competitors or look up the product online and print out prices for negotiating in big-box stores. Having something in hand will make a difference..
7 ASK FOR A PRICE ADJUSTMENT: If something gets marked down, you might be able to get money back, even if you've already bought it for full price.
8 DROP THE GUILT: Don't be afraid to negotiate. "You're not hurting that sales associate," she said. "You're helping the store by shopping."
9 DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Check prices in the newspaper ads and use the Internet for research, too. Stores that aren't doing well are more likely to negotiate.
10 CHECK BACK: Stores such as Wal-Mart and Target put things on sale three or four weeks after they've been put out. If you notice something's not selling well, you can wait on the sale.
LOOK FOR DEALS
- YOUR NEWSPAPER: Look for sales and coupons for local stores. Thursday's newspaper will be filled with fliers featuring Black Friday specials and other post-Thanksgiving sales.
- www.thebudgetfashionista.com: You'll find promo codes, friends and family discount coupons for places such as GAP and Old Navy, in-store sales (from low-end to high-end), and Ms. Finney's advice on how to be fashionable on a budget.
- WWW.DEALNEWS.COM: This sale-scouting site focuses on electronics, but it also has a category for Black Friday in-store sales. It also has listings for sales online.
- HALF.EBAY.COM: The spot for discounts on books, music, movies, games and systems. Its an eBay sister site.