Black Friday is right around the corner, but many retailers are already offering "early" or "pre" Black Friday deals leading up to what is considered the busiest shopping day of the year.
Online retailers have joined in by offering deals on Black Friday and on the following Monday, Cyber Monday. Some stores even began advertising special holiday prices well before Halloween.
According to the National Retail Federation, 31% of consumers planned to start their holiday shopping before October; 39% start in November, and 9% will wait until December to begin shopping.
Consumers who shop the post-Thanksgiving sales can still take advantage of special offers earlier in the month, according to a news release.
Laura Hendrix, an accredited financial counselor and an associate professor of personal finance and family resource management with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, offers these tips to make the most of your money during this year's holiday season:
Decide if it's really a bargain. You must know the original price to understand if the advertised sale price is a real discount. Make sure it's a quality product and not just a cheaper product at a cheaper price. Is it something you really want or need? If not, it's a waste of money no matter what the price.
Avoid impulse buys. Advertised sale items are designed to get buyers in the door or on the website. Store displays and pop-up ads are designed to prompt impulse buys, so stick to what's already on your list.
Plan ahead. Make a list of the items you need and set a spending limit. Prepare in advance by checking ads, looking for coupons, comparing prices and loading store apps on your phone. Look for ways to combine discounts, such as a sale item plus coupons.
Read the details. Pay close attention to sale items advertised as "door busters, "while supplies last" or "limited supplies." Some stores don't offer rain checks or price matching on Black Friday. Price matching -- also called a price match guarantee -- refers to a store matching a lower price offered on the same product from another store. Price match if you can, but keep in mind that some stores do not offer price matching on Black Friday.
Pace yourself. Know when stores open and where and when the best prices are available. Some stores open on Thanksgiving evening, some at midnight, and others might offer "early bird" specials. If an important item is labeled "while supplies last," you may want to go to that store first and be in line early. Save some room in your holiday budget for future purchases. Remember, there are still bargains to be had throughout the holiday season.
"When shopping online, make sure you buy from a reputable retailer with a secure payment system," Hendrix said. "Look at return and replacement policies. Check shipping costs. The company may offer free shipping. If not, consider if the item is still a bargain after shopping costs are added. Log out of accounts and close browsers after completing financial transactions."
For more money tips, visit the extension Money Blog at uaex.uada.edu/money.
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact a local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow the agency on social media.