Personal Finance

From Prime Day to Black Friday to Cyber Monday: Do You Really Save on These Shopping Holidays?

woman shopping bagsThe holidays are a time for family, reflection, and shopping for the deepest deals on the hottest items. Once you’re finished unwrapping the last piece of Halloween candy, it’s pretty much go time as Christmas is just around the corner. That means it’s time to get a jump on the holiday gift shopping and you absolutely must keep your reputation as the best gift-giver around. Whether it’s the kids, your significant other, or just friends and family on the shopping list, you never disappoint and this year will be no different.

But where and when can you find the best deals? The answer may be during one of the many big sales events that seem to be holidays themselves these days. There’s no shortage of opportunities to save a lot of money on many of the big ticket items that everyone wants, from electronics to video games, Blurays to the hottest toys. All these and more are available at deep discounts on certain days of the year.

Some of these sales are more difficult to enjoy than others. Unless, of course, you are prepared to sit in line for three days just to get a 57″ LCD TV for $380. Some of these sales days may be more hype than help in trying to find just the great items and even better prices.

One thing is for sure, these sales are each promoted as the best shopping day of the year and virtually every store out there wants in on the action. You won’t just find hot deals at the big box retailers as small businesses are getting in on it as well.  Everyone is working to attract your hard-earned dollar by establishing their own day for shoppers to find great prices on enticing merchandise.

As popular as these sale days are each year, are the savings really that impressive? Can you find similar deals on any of the other 365 days of the year or are these mega-shopping events really the only time to find tremendous savings on merchandise in every department? We’re going to take a look at all of these wonderful doorbuster days to give you the full lowdown on getting those low, low prices.

Mark Your Calendars

You could say that the shopping season really kicks off in early to mid August with the Back to School sales.  This is when the end of summer is looming on the horizon and the last few weeks of warm weather and pool parties will soon give way to cooler temperatures and early mornings getting ready for the bus.

Then, before you know it, October is here. The leaves are falling, the pumpkins are out and everyone’s getting their costumes put together for trick ‘r treating. In between some of the spookiness you hear what you think is a Christmas song. Then another one.

You look at the date and it’s one week to Halloween, but you turn on the radio and you can hear Johnny Mathis singing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” in the background of a Macy’s ad. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!

Well that’s the reality now as the major stores are pushing the holiday season further and further back each year in an attempt to rake in the big bucks for their fourth quarter earnings statements. We all know that Christmas is big business and the most wonderful time of the year for retailers, but they’re really pushing hard to make you focus on your shopping sooner than ever each year. Next thing you know, we’ll start to see more Santas knocking at your door for Halloween candy than devils with their plastic pitchforks.

Since there is such a push to get consumers in the door and loosen their purse-strings, retailers are making it as easy as can be to find deals on the things we want the most. They just happen to be going out of their way to remind us to get started sooner each year. This is why Thanksgiving is the real kick-off to the holiday shopping season, and I mean the day itself as the big stores are now throwing open their doors on the day of what was once a holiday reserved solely for family, food, and football.

Now the doorbuster sales start that day, tempting shoppers with chances to score amazing deals. However, if you do decide to stay home instead, there’s always Black Friday, then Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, and even more. It’s getting so you need a calendar to keep track of it all!

Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday

They used to be two separate days and now they’re pretty much one and the same when it comes to shopping for those insane discounts on the big ticket items. Up until recently, Black Friday was the kickoff of the holiday shopping season. It started the morning after Thanksgiving, but now it’s started to take over the holiday itself as major stores like Best Buy, Target, K-Mart, and Toys ‘R Us, among many others, are opening their doors to the public as early as 6am on Thursday.

This trend has generated no shortage of controversy as consumers have begun to cry foul at this intrusion on a national holiday that is supposed to be about something much different than buying more stuff. Many stores have responded to the outcry by refusing to go with the trend, keeping their doors shut so customers and employees alike can spend time with their families.

Turning our focus to Black Friday, the day that sparked the War on Thanksgiving, it’s long been touted as the biggest shopping day of the year. The practice actually dates back to the 1960’s and has only gotten more popular, and thus challenging, to the point where it’s become a sport for some consumers.

Shoppers will camp out in line outside the big electronics stores for days, right through Thanksgiving even (which is probably where the major retailers took their cue to open on the day of now), to get discounts that are mostly unavailable any other day of the year. Black Friday is synonymous with savings.  However, the promoted deals are usually exclusive to inventories that are often severely limited.  This forces die-hard savers to stand in line for days waiting for their discounts.

What are you getting for all this trouble, besides an aching back and potential pneumonia from sleeping outside in a tent on the sidewalk for four days? The deals vary as do the quality of the products.

For every Samsung 60″ LED 4K Ultra HD Smart TV at $799 (retailing for around $1,199) or Dell 1TB 13″ laptop computer for $299, there are also the bargain brand versions of similar products at even lower prices. Gaming consoles are usually priced to fly out the door as well, along with Bluray copies of the hottest movies at 50% to 75% off and video games that have been marked way down as well.

That’s just at stores like Best Buy. Toys ‘r Us is the first stop for parents who want to get their hands on the hottest toy of the season before they’re all sold out and the only place to find them is eBay at three to four times the price.

The other popular aspect of the Thanksgiving Day/Black Friday phenomenon are the pre-Black Friday deals that go into effect even before Thanksgiving arrives. The prices are pretty good, where you can save a hundred bucks on an iPad, but the discounts aren’t as deep as you’d expect on the day of the event.

Just about every major store is part of Thanksgiving savings now, offering an array of items that have substantially dropped in price.  This usually leads to at least one or two news stories of people getting trampled in a stampede through the door of a Target and others getting into fisticuffs over a $4.00 blender.

Black Friday isn’t for everyone and many folks skip the savings – and mayhem – altogether.  For some, no amount of savings is worth having to deal with the fracas of crazed shoppers hell bent on getting their hands on more stuff. For these consumers, they choose to wait out the weekend and shop online first thing next week.

cyber monday saleCyber Monday

The companion day to Black Friday is Cyber Monday, which was established in 2005 once the digital marketplace became more prevalent as part of our shopping routines.  Marketing departments from the major retailers saw this as an opportunity to create an e-commerce version of Black Friday mere days after the actual one took place. The positioning of it as the following Monday gave shoppers who didn’t want to deal with the immense demand at the retail stores a chance to get similar deals without leaving home.

Don’t expect Cyber Monday to be just like Black Friday. Yes, there are plenty of great deals to be had on many of the items you missed out on prior, but if Friday is the day to score big on name brand electronics, Monday is the day to score huge deals on clothing and toys.

The big selling point here, obviously, is the fact that you can shop from home. However, you will still have to be on your game to find the best deals. You’re not the only one looking for those great savings. You’ll want a fast Wi-Fi connection and a strong cup of coffee so you can keep hitting “refresh” over and over until the retailers go live with their discounted items online.

Limited inventories abound here as well, just like with the department stores.  This means that if you want something you will need to work for it. The discounts are often just as good on Cyber Monday and the items will likely be tough to find at those same prices on Tuesday, just the same as if you showed up to Best Buy on a Saturday morning. There won’t be much of anything left at the prices everyone waited days to get.

Small Business Saturday

If you elected to stay home on Thanksgiving, didn’t quite get what you wanted on Black Friday, and have too hectic a work schedule to take time from your day to focus on Cyber Monday, then there’s always Small Business Saturday to find great holiday savings. It always takes place in the same weekend as the other shopping mega-holidays and was established in 2010 as a response to the other two major shopping events.

Small Business Saturday offers consumers a contrast to the large chain retailers and online e-commerce outlets where they can go into typical brick and mortar, Mom and Pop-owned stores to make their purchases for the holiday season. American Express has become a proud sponsor of the day, encouraging consumers to spend as heartily on Saturday as they would on Thursday, Friday, or the following Monday. Their advertising efforts to get the word out about Small Business Saturday range along multiple platforms including television, radio, and social media.

Unlike with Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you’re not shopping on Small Business Saturday to find insane discounts on major brands and luxury items. This is a day to support the retailers and business owners that are often overlooked in favor of the major chains that certainly don’t need any help at this time of the year.

Putting a focus on the “little guy” through this publicity effort is designed to benefit these members of the retail community while also rewarding consumers for spending their dollar with these merchants. Sure, the deals may not be as hot or as wide-ranging as you’ll find at a Walmart, but you’re doing your part to help stimulate your local economy.

The Entire Month of December

The deals don’t stop once Shoppageddon weekend is over and the cyber deals have all been scarfed up. Such as it is with the pre-Black Friday sales starting to pop up the morning of November 1st and continuing in the lead up to Thanksgiving, December 1st is when the retailers big and small kick it into high gear as there are only 24 shopping days left until Christmas.

So it’s game on now as the stores know time is running out and you likely have a shopping list that needs checking. The deals come fast and furious from virtually everywhere, big box and online retailers alike. This has led to two additional shopping “holidays” that are designed to get you to spend, spend, spend in the run up to the big day on the 25th.

Green Monday

A name that originated from the auction site eBay to best categorize its most lucrative sales day for the entire year, Green Monday hasn’t quite reached the fevered pitch as Cyber Monday.  This is true even if it feels like a sequel or perhaps a do-over to the Monday that follows Thanksgiving. The gross online sales of Green Monday have yet to match those of its predecessor from year to year, but this savings day is no slouch when it comes to total receipts.

The selling point for consumers to shop on this day focuses on offering serious discounts on sought-after items.  Many of the major chains from Walmart to Amazon promote it as a day that relies heavily on the use of coupons and cashback certificates in a bid to get the lowest price possible.

Green Monday is usually the day where shoppers can get a second chance on those products that were sold out in minutes during Black Friday and Cyber Monday as inventories are replenished and many desirable items are back in stock. However, with this sales event falling on the second day of December, usually just two weeks before Christmas, the sales pitch gets more intense and the discounts a bit deeper.

You could very well find a better deal on that thing you wanted just a few weeks back, but missed out on because it sold out too quickly. Now’s your chance and it couldn’t come at a better time, with just 14 days left to go! At least, that’s the sentiment behind the marketing ploy.

free shipping truckFree Shipping Day

The final push from the online retailers to urge you to get started on, or finally wrap up, your Christmas shopping. Free Shipping Day is their way of enticing you to check out the deals that are still available.  Some of these may not have as deep a discount as on other days, but you’re still getting a bargain because the retailer is covering your shipping on your purchases. Depending on what you order, that could be a considerable savings to keep more money in your pocket.

What’s even better about Free Shipping Day, and what makes it the most useful and beneficial of all the so-called shopping holidays, is that it’s tailor made for those last minute shoppers who either haven’t had the time to get to their shopping yet or have had to wait to save up enough money to buy gifts for their loved ones. Free Shipping Day not only covers the shipping costs, but it’s the last day to order items so that they arrive for your intended recipients in time for Christmas Eve. This makes shopping online much easier than even Cyber or Green Monday.

The only drawback to shopping this late is, of course, the limited inventory to choose from when shopping. Since Free Shipping Day falls on December 18th every year, just one week before Christmas, many items might already be sold out. You will definitely have to consider a trade-off when waiting until the last minute.

The Day After Christmas

That’s right, there’s a huge sale the day after the big day arrives. If the current trends are any indication, this will probably begin on Christmas morning in the coming years. They just need a fancy name for marketing purposes, but until then it’s just known as the day after Christmas and the retailers are still hungry for your money.

Since Christmas was yesterday, you’re not really going to find huge deals on desirable items but instead you’ll save some dough on vacuum cleaners, walkie talkies, and clothes of all kinds in the sizes that no one wanted before Christmas. It’s clearance time and you can get pretty lucky with low prices on random items almost everywhere from Walmart to Amazon.

The secret here is that this is the day that everyone returns the gifts they don’t want or already had.  You may be able to grab that item you were looking for in the lead up to December 25th when somebody else exchanges it for a different version or a gift card.

Amazon Prime Day

The largest online retailer in the world has its very own shopping day in July. They position it as a way to encourage people to try out their Prime membership which provides a litany of perks for members, the most popular of which is free shipping.

But what about the discounts? For a full 24 hour period there are hundreds of items that are marked down in every department.

Some of them are nominal, just a few bucks here or there on smaller items.  However, you can find major deals with discounts of a few hundred bucks off on TV’s, tablets, and other electronics. Amazon will offer their own Amazon Fire and Echo products at huge discounts.

They also try to make it “fun” by staggering their deals throughout the day, telling you when certain deals will go live and when other deals have since expired in an effort to keep you visiting the site sporadically throughout the day.

Our Final Thoughts

Savings. If you’re looking for them, then these are the days when you really want to get your shopping done. These days aren’t just hyperbole, you can actually save some serious coin if you pick and choose your spending wisely and focus on making the bulk of your purchases during the later portion of the year. Amazon Prime Day in July is a great way to get an early jump on your Christmas shopping, but there’s even hope for you last-minute, procrastinating types as well.

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