Money Matters: Doorbusters or wallet busters?

Education Resources, Finance 411,

It’s easy for the holiday season to sneak up just a blink after back-to-school and the last of summer’s heat waves. But shopping season is coming quickly and now is the time for savvy shoppers to start planning. The National Retail Federation predicts an increase in holiday spending this year with potentially big deals attracting consumers to overstocked retailers.

But a sale price does not necessarily mean value. Now is the time to start tracking the prices of those must-have holiday gifts and electronics (there’s an app for that) to see if those Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals are really the best.

Start planning early because sometimes better sales can be found before Thanksgiving and the unofficial kickoff of holiday shopping. For some items, like winter clothes and fitness equipment, after Christmas may actually be a better time to shop, so it could pay to wait. Toys are often not the best Black Friday purchases either, with trackers showing better prices around 10 days before Christmas.

What about those doorbuster deals? Buyers should do their homework first.

Check the specs on those deeply discounted TVs. They may be lower quality items and not worth fighting the crowds trying to grab limited quantities. It may still be worth waiting in line for less deeply discounted but higher quality models of electronics like TVs, gaming systems, phones and fitness trackers including brands that rarely go on sale, but many tech sales will be offering older models.

And appliances? There may be good Thanksgiving weekend deals, but shoppers that can wait until New Year’s Day or a three-day-weekend like Presidents Day may save just as much, if not more.

Jewelry purchases are worth a little extra consideration, too, as their prices are more closely tied to market rates than seasonal sales.

How else can consumers maximize their holiday budgets?

Using a rewards credit card for purchases, as long as the balance is paid each month to avoid interest charges, can provide a break on holiday spending. And reward apps are growing in popularity, offering cash or gift cards based on purchases of certain products or at certain retailers.

The holidays may be the biggest time of the year for shopping, but with some planning and research, it doesn't have to be a wallet buster.

Weekly Money Matters personal finance content for your newsroom is sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education