The Sunday before Thanksgiving is a day when some people will be making plans for Christmas shopping, while others may be doing some last-minute Hanukkah gift-buying.
If you’ve got some shopping to plan, and you want to spend no more than you need to, don’t stop at considering what to buy and where to buy it. Also think about how to buy.
If you’re willing to take a little extra time, you can often save money on top of the best sale prices you can find, whether you’re shopping in stores or online.
Before I detail some of those strategies, I should point out that the Sunday before Thanksgiving is the first day to register for American Express’ Small Business Saturday promotion. If you have an Amex card, sign right up, because they cut off how many people can register for the promotion.
The Amex Small Business Saturday promotion has been running for a few years, and it works like this: Register your American Express card (or cards), then shop at a participating store the Saturday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 30), spend at least $10, and Amex will give you a one-time $10 credit.
This year the promotion is worth $10 per card, down from $25 previously. That’s too bad, but it’s still $10 of free money to spend at a wide range of stores, for each Amex card registered. Visit shopsmall.com to register and see participating stores.
Now, about those other ways to save. They fall into a handful of categories, which are:
Discounted gift cards. If you know where you’re going to shop, and it’s a store that offers gift cards, chances are you can buy gift cards for that store online, at a discount. So, on top of the best deal you find, you can make your purchase with money you bought at a discount. Check out websites such as Cardpool.com, where people can sell gift cards they don’t want, and buy gift cards others are selling.
Gift cards for general retailers tend to sell at very small discounts, while gift cards for more specialized stores sell at larger discounts. For example, this week Cardpool was selling Target gift cards at just 3.5 percent below face value, but Gymboree gift cards were discounted 15 percent and Urban Outfitters gift cards were 21 percent off.
Click-through discounts. If you’re doing any shopping online, there’s a good chance you can get cash back or perks such as airline miles. Many banks, credit card companies and airlines have online shopping portals, and if you start there, then click through to shop at participating merchants, you’ll get benefits. As I’ve said in earlier columns, this is also a good way to keep your airline miles from expiring due to account inactivity.
Typically, banks want you to shop with their debit cards, credit card companies want you to use their credit cards, and airlines don’t care what you shop with so long as you have an airline miles account. Offers might be 5 percent cash back, or several airline miles per dollar spent.
Don’t forget coupons. You’ll find them in the newspaper, and you may find them in the mail or in your email in-box. Just this past week I set aside coupons that will get me a free pound of coffee, 20 percent off sporting goods and an extra 20 percent off at a bookstore.
Category discounts. If you shop with credit cards, re-familiarize yourself with the terms and different perks they might offer. Some credit cards offer extra cash-back on different shopping categories, and you may have to register to get those promotions. For example, if you have a Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa card, you could get 5 percent cash back at department and toy stores through the end of this year, if you register for the promotion.
Also, remember that some credit cards offer price guarantees and even protection for purchases. Details vary, so check the fine print for yours, or call the toll-free number on the back of the card and ask. Purchase protection can be valuable if you’re buying breakable gifts, such as small electronics, for children, because some credit issuers will reimburse you if the item is accidentally broken or stolen within a certain period of time, typically 90 days.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552.