November Is Great For Bargains

Ever cringe when you’re looking at the price of spices? I’m always amazed at the big prices paid for such little containers. Last night, I must have spent 15 minutes in vain looking for a small tin of cumin for under $4, until I realized that was actually a great price.

Thankfully, November is the perfect time to stock up on spices because most grocery stores hold huge sales to lure in baking-happy Thanksgiving shoppers. Look for great prices on canned pumpkin, pie crusts, cinnamon, and other heavily used food items during the holiday season.

The first week of November is also a choice time to shop for Halloween bargains: decorations, costumes, candy (great for stock stuffers in December), and paper goods. Some harvest-themed items can be used through Thanksgiving.

Plan Ahead Before Black Friday

The mother of all bargain days arrives this month  — Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza and official kick-off of the holiday shopping season.

For years, I refused to go out on this day, for fear of being decked by speeding shopping carts navigated by crazed shoppers armed with fanny packs and walkie-talkies. (Yes, it happens!)

But a few years ago, we were in search of a 32-inch flat-screen TV and the Black Friday sale papers were filled with incredible deals on electronics.  

 Two places — a big box store and Office Depot — advertised one set at below $400. Great price, but which store to choose? The big box was likely to have a larger supply, but it opened at 4 a.m. which meant shoppers would be lining up before midnight. Office Depot likely wouldn’t have that many sets in stock, but it didn’t open until 6 a.m. and most people would be in line for laptops and other computer equipment.

Ultimately, I hit Office Depot and had a great experience. I got in line a little before 5:30 a.m. and bought my new TV. I was in and out of the store in less than an hour. The staff was very organized and pleasant. My advice — if you’re not up to the after Thanksgiving frenzy — is to look for bargains at smaller stores.

Shopping the day after Thanksgiving can actually be exciting. Many people make it a holiday tradition. Consider these tips before you hit the stores.

Make a list of what you plan to buy and stick to it. Do your homework before you go. Buy the Thanksgiving newspaper and scour the sale papers, Search the web for good prices. If you find good deals on these items, buy them. If not, wait a little. They may go on sale later.
Make sure you’re really getting a bargain. Just because a store says an item is on sale doesn’t mean it’s the best price.
Don’t try to do all your shopping in one day. If you are in a rush, you will spend too much and eat up any savings you received from “doorbuster” items.
Weigh the risk versus reward ratio of pre-dawn sales. You will have to wait and there’s no guarantee the item you want will be there once you get in the store. Retailers often sell a few popular toys or electronic items at or below cost to lure shoppers  into the store. These “loss leaders” typically are offered in very limited quantities and it’s first-come, first-served.
Keep your safety in mind at all times. Criminals are on the lookout for vulnerable shoppers. Keep your car locked. Store items in the trunk of your car. Have your keys in hand before you get to your vehicle. Don’t be distracted by talking on your cell phone. Be very aware of your surroundings.
When you are shopping for the holidays, remember the real reason behind the season: to celebrate family, not materialism. Happy Holidays! 

 — Bargain Beth is written by Memphis freelance writer and bargain hunter Beth Bartholomew.

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