With the holiday season drawing ever closer, stores across the country are in the throes of preparation. They’re stocking up, advertising hard, and hiring seasonally to prepare America’s retail sector for the three weeks a year that result in 40% of their revenue. Surveys have shown that half of Americans find holiday shopping both tedious and stressful, citing cost as one of the biggest culprits. Fortunately, with the right holiday shopping tips under your belt, you can prepare for a low-cost, low-stress holiday season.
The United States is home to about 200 outlet stores, each of which sell products from an average of 300 different merchants. Outlet stores can be the heroes of your shopping experience, if you know how to play your cards right. Use these smart shopping tips to take advantage of one of the retail world’s most effective money-savers.
Have a List
It’s much easier to save money if you already have a plan in mind. Because the inventory available in outlet stores varies from location to location, you won’t be able to plan online with much specificity. You can, however, keep a list of general items and maximum budgets. Write down each person you’re buying for, the type of item you have in mind, and the highest dollar amount you will spend (including tax.) If you can stick to your list, you won’t go over budget and can escape the holiday season with your bank account more or less in tact.
Set Yourself Up for Savings
Even if you aren’t an extreme couponer, the holidays are a great time to use what you can. Many outlet stores offer online coupons that you can print out at home. Before leaving on a shopping expedition, look around for coupons to the stores you plan to visit, and bring them along. Be careful not to get caught in an over-spending trap, however. If you know you only really need to spend $20 in a store, don’t resolve to overspend in order to take advantage of a coupon offering 50% off a purchase of $75 or more. It’s not really savings if you have to overspend to get it.
Use Your Eyes
Outlet stores often have great deals, but it’s important to remember that they are also interested in making a profit. Some designer outlets will carry styles not released in flagship stores, and though they do cost less than a more recognizable item, they aren’t usually worth the asking price. Other times, outlet stores will sell products that have slight defects. As long as the defect doesn’t bother you, it’s worth taking a look. It isn’t worth paying even $10 for something unusable, however.
The holiday shopping season doesn’t have to be stressful. As long as you’re well-prepared and keep your presence of mind, you’ll be positioned to save on the items you need for the season. Most of all, remember to enjoy yourself. Holiday shopping should be a joy and not a burden. Take your time, enjoy the experience, and keep it in perspective.