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how to get the best deals this holiday season

The holidays are almost here! Christmas music, red cups, parkas and of course, the start of the most major shopping time of the year have begun. For me, December is always bittersweet. Working in retail is busy (which I love) but it is also the most hectic and high stakes time of the year. Huge shopping days like Black Friday and Boxing Day are coming and the sales have already started. But how do you know you’re getting the best deal? Here’s how I navigate the retail smoke and mirrors to save time and money…

1) Talk to the sales associates

Sometimes they won’t know exactly what the sales are (or won’t be allowed to tell you!) but this is a good place to start. At the very least they may know if there is special sale merchandise coming in or if current stock on the floor will be marked down. Are lots of customers asking about upcoming sales? Yes. But if you are friendly you might just get some good info.

2) Sign up for emails wisely

It’s 2015. You should probably know how to filter emails (or have an extra account you rarely use) so all the promotional ones you sign up for don’t bother you on the daily. Most stores will send out information (sales, special store hours, discount codes) before big days like black friday or boxing day to get more people shopping. You will be able to see from the comfort of your own home if it’s worth your while to head to the mall. If you hate the idea of this just check out their instagram for most of the same info.

3) Shop online

Most retailers will have the same/similar deals online. In my experience, selection and availability can be even better online and sizes don’t sell out as quickly. Sometimes the return policy is better too – though not always so measure (and read the fine print) to avoid disappointment. Even if you hit up the store you can always check online first so you know what to expect.

4) Keep an open mind

Maybe the sweater you’ve been debating for weeks doesn’t go for half price, but sometimes unexpected things can go on sale. 2 for 1 smoothies anyone? But seriously, having an idea that you want a cozy grey sweater rather than a specific cozy grey sweater from a certain store will be way more likely to yield successes during sale season.

5) Think logically

Stores are all closed on Christmas Day, yet sales are all prepped and ready to go bright and early on Boxing Day. No elves to get it done overnight either, so it has to happen before the 25th. If a store is going to mark down specific items to individual prices (and not just have a blanket promotion where all items have a certain discount) this has got to be done ahead of time. I’ve worked in a few stores where all our markdowns were done on the 23rd of December, so if you shop somewhere on Christmas Eve you might just be getting Boxing Day prices! Again, a little friendly banter with your sales associate might help confirm this. Some companies start Black Friday promotions early as well!

6) Price adjustments are your friend

Some stores have a great policy regarding price adjustments. Check when you are out holiday shopping – some places I’ve worked only require a receipt within a certain time period to refund you the difference from what you paid to the current selling price. That’s right…you shop before xmas, gift give and then get money back if the presents go on sale Boxing Day! Check your receipt or ask at the till since everywhere has a different take on this and some places don’t do it at all.

7) Hit the mall early if you’re really serious

Some stores will have special “door buster” promotions or give out discounts to the first people into their stores. I have seen some very smart people beeline around to several stores first thing, collect coupons for these deals and then come back at a leisurely pace to shop the best ones.

8) The best deals aren’t south of the border

With the Canadian dollar so low, even the greatest bargain south of the border will cost 25% more with the exchange. Now that Canada has completely jumped on board with Black Friday (it has been getting bigger and more widespread the past few years) there is no need to go to the States. Americans can benefit extra by coming here though, since their money is worth so much more than ours.

I will be working all of these big sales (okay and maybe shopping online a little!) so good luck on your quest for the hottest deals of the season. Let me know how it goes on here or on instagram!

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