Deals! Deals! Deals!
Chances are, prior to reading this, you have been exposed to many “Cyber Monday” advertisements today. In fact, if you rewind the clock, you probably saw “Black Friday” ads rolling into “Cyber Monday” ads over the weekend, and before that, “Black Friday Preview” sales earlier in November.
Naturally it’s great to get discounts for holiday shopping, but it can be overwhelming, especially if you set foot inside the stores, though combing through all the web deals can be dizzying as well!
In today’s post, we’re going to review 5 Steps to Optimize Your Shopping this Holiday Season; we’ll focus on how to minimize overwhelm in the holiday shopping process while maximizing not only your discounts, but also the amount of cash back you receive.
(1) Determine the shopping style that works best for you
Determining the shopping approach that works best for you — whether that’s in person or online (or a combination of the two) is surprisingly a good first step. It gets back to the idea of self-awareness: Know what works for you. For instance, personally I do not like large crowds. In the past, if I went to an overly crowded store, I was actually more apt to leave early and give up on shopping (foregoing some deals) because it was just too much for me. Now that you can buy a lot online, doing a significant amount of online shopping is a legitimate option.
Therefore, it’s good to get a rough idea of how you need to allot your time — will you set a time to go to the store, or carve out some time to comb through stores on the computer? It’s good to ask yourself what you can physically (and mentally) handle.
The step of understanding how to carve out your time (so that you’re not panicking last-minute as the holidays approach) helps with the process of organizing yourself and being more efficient.
(2) Organize Yourself with a Shared List
My next recommendation is to organize yourself with a list. Taking a few minutes to write the names of everyone you need to shop for, and writing out the status update and possible gift ideas can help tremendously. Further, even if your spouse does not get too involved with the shopping, just sharing the list can help you feel less alone in the process.
This year, I decided to make a simple Google Spreadsheet to organize my holiday shopping, and I set it up so that it’s shared with my husband’s Google account. I made significant progress over the weekend once I organized the list (and it feels great to mark off “ordered” or “completed”)!
This list worked hand-in-hand with step one for me, because I was able to figure out who I could shop for online, leaving just a couple gifts for in-person shopping (which I plan to do when it’s a bit less crowded)!
(3) Discuss Expectations with Family
Sometimes part of the stress of holiday shopping includes not knowing what to get people. More recently I have tried the approach of actually talking with family members to get a sense of what they might need, or if they prefer to be surprised. If someone identifies a few items they might need, then it’s easier to keep an eye on those types of items for deals, and it eliminates the overwhelm of not knowing what to purchase.
(4) Learn how to Maximize Your Discounts
Sometimes holiday shopping can be stressful if you find out you didn’t get the best deal possible. To ensure I do not miss out on deals, I carry coupons in my purse (I have a big bag…) and I regularly purge the ones that expire. I used to keep coupons for department stores separately, and then I wouldn’t have them with me when I needed them. Carrying the most current ones has helped ensure I get deals if I do set foot in a store.
Another way to ensure you get the best deals, particularly if you’re shopping online, is to do an email search. If I think I’m about to purchase something in a particular store online, I search the store name in my email account to make sure I didn’t miss any coupon codes that are relevant.
(5) Get Cash Back
More recently, “cash back” credit cards seem to be very popular (I see tv commercials for them all the time). In other cases, you can get points, rewards, or airline miles for your credit card purchases. It’s a personal decision on what kind of rewards or cash back you’d like, but it’s important to consider which card you want to use (if you use one) in order to get the benefits that are the most meaningful for you. Don’t forget that using your department store card can also mean extra discounts sometimes, too!
Interestingly, there is actually another way you can get cash back, that can potentially multiply the benefits from using your reward-based credit cards, and that’s through online cash back services. The one that I’m very familiar with is Ebates. Basically, before I shop, I log into my Ebates.com account (free to create, and sometimes they give you a $10 credit just for signing up — check the current details). From there, I click on the store that I want to shop in, and it tracks my shopping trip from there. If I purchase something from that store, and Ebates says “10%” cash back, that means I get 10% back for my purchases (on top of any other discounts I might have gotten through my cards, etc.)
It’s easy to forget to shop through Ebates, but it’s worth it. It’s also important to mention they have a convenient button for your browser now so that you don’t necessarily have to login if you install it. So far I have generated over $200 in cash back from them, (over $170 in 2016 alone!) Every quarter, they mail a check to my house with the cash back I received, and I simply cash it or deposit in my account.
Today, on Cyber Monday, the cash back is double in some cases. Be sure to check Ebates as you shop today (Macy’s has 12% cash back as an example).
Naturally it can be overwhelming to prepare for the holiday season, especially in terms of holiday shopping, but I hope these five steps about organizing and maximizing your discounts will help you! Good luck out there 🙂
*Note that if you join Ebates through the Ebates link inside this article, I may receive a small credit since it is my referral link. However, I recommend their service regardless based on my experience with them.