'Tis the season to spend time with family and friends, drink too much, eat too much and rack up ridiculous amounts of credit card debt. It's time to evaluate if it's worth breaking the bank in pursuit of that perfect holiday gift for the special people in your life. According to a FreeScore.com survey, 62 percent of shoppers were willing to break their budget if they found the right gift. But scoring that awesome present doesn't necessarily have to mean digging yourself into a debt hole. We spoke to Tom McElroy, Vice President of E-commerce at NoBetterDeal.com, to learn the insider tips to landing some killer deals this holiday season. He gave us the five things every smart shopper needs to know before they blow their life savings.
1. Cruise shopping comparison sites
Sites like Shopzilla and Nextag a good resources for people looking for a deal. They "pull the pricing information and product descriptions from multiple sites across the Internet and show you where you can get the best value," McElroy explains, but it's the consumer's job to be diligent. "At that point, the customer as to make a decision: Do they trust the company that's listed at the top with the lowest price or do they want to go with a more established firm and pay a little more?" Still, he says when you're starting to look for deals, that's the best place to start.
2. Stay in touch with social media
"The best offers are often the ones that are put out into social media. So if the company has products that you like, become a 'friend' or 'like' that company on Facebook, or get their Twitter feeds. I tend to find that some of the very best deals are coming through social media." He explains, "A lot of times, retailers have excess inventory of something that is just not selling as quickly, so they'll offer some very deep discounts on content through social media."
3. Take advantage of secondary market products
"These are products that have been returned to a retailer or a dot-com merchandiser by the customer. Most of the time, it's buyer's remorse—the customer decided they didn't want it, didn't like the color. Or, maybe they found a better price elsewhere and they canceled the order," he explains. A secondary market retailer, like NoBetterDeal.com, offers returned products that range from brand new to "as is" at reduced prices. Buying products on the secondary marketplace means you can find items in perfect condition at significant discounts, up to 60 percent.
4. Wait until the end of month (or the end of a company's financial quarter)
"I think a consistent trend that I see is that, as you approach the end of the month, or especially, the end of a company's financial quarter, you'll find very, very good deals. Most companies want to reduce their inventory at the end of each month for a wide range of reasons, especially at the end of the year. There are tax consequences to carrying inventory from one year to the next.
5. Make the holidays in January
"As a lot of products come back from the stores or are returned from the Christmas period," McElroy says, "So that's when a lot of really great products become available." On the flipside, McElroy advises you to save cash or gift cards for after the holidays. "If someone's giving you some money or a gift card for Christmas, don't use that the day after, hang onto that and wait 'til early January when a lot of online retailers will start to run specials yet again. That way, people can stretch their dollar a little further."
And one final note...
"As you're buying products that are offered on discount, make sure you check the return policies and the shipping rates," McElroy advises. "Oftentimes you might find an item and the shipping charges are just disproportionate to the price. So there are some sites out there that will merchandise at a very low price—an item that normally sells for $30, they're offering for $15--and you come to find that it's $8 to ship something that only weighs a pound." McElroy stresses double-checking shipping and return policies.