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5 Tips for November Holiday Shopping

Retailers are not waiting to unveil their most enticing year-end deals

A customer waiting to get into a department store before it opens during the holiday season.
Bloomberg / Getty Images

Black Friday is still a few weeks away, but a growing number of shoppers aren’t waiting to begin checking items off their holiday gift lists. One in 10 shoppers began their holiday shopping before the end of August, and a full quarter expected to start this month, according to a Bankrate survey.

There are plenty of good reasons to get started early: A longer shopping window makes it easier to spread out the cost of gifts, and buying some items in advance means you don’t have to worry that stores will sell out of in-demand items. Even better, you don’t have to pay extra for express shipping on items ordered online. Plus, if you shop in person, hitting up stores now means you may have fewer crowds to contend with, making for a less stressful shopping experience.

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Many retailers are recognizing that consumers are starting shopping early, so they’re not waiting to unveil their most enticing year-end deals. Here are some tips to bear in mind if you’re ready to take advantage of these early deals.

1. Keep your list updated

If you’re extending your shopping over several weeks or months, it’s especially important to stay organized. Make a list of all your recipients for the year, along with a gift idea or budget for each of them. Check them off as you make your purchases, and store the gifts someplace where you won’t forget about them.

“The biggest risk is that you end up buying double gifts for people,” says Kimberly Palmer, a spokesperson with personal finance website Nerdwallet. “That’s when you end up spending more than you planned.”

2. Pay attention to (price) history

Retailers love to make it look like they’re giving you a better deal than they really are. Use apps like Honey or ShopSavvy to see how the current price for a specific item compares to its price over time. (Use CamelCamelCamel to check price history on Amazon products.) That will give you some context for how the current discount stacks up.

3. November tech deals

Retailers rely on items like laptops, televisions and video game consoles to bring people into their stores (or onto their websites) on Black Friday, so they typically save their best prices for that day. Smartphone deals will also likely be better around Black Friday, since both the iPhone 14 and Google Pixel 7 just hit the shelves.

“It’s too early to start seeing discounts on those phones; I’d say hold off on those until Black Friday, when they might still be full price but bundled with some retail gift cards,” says Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews, a comparison-shopping site.

Online tech deals will come later in the month as well. Online prices for electronics in general will be lowest on Thanksgiving Day. The best prices on TVs will hit on Black Friday, while computers will have the biggest discounts on Cyber Monday, according to an online shopping forecast from Adobe.

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4. Ask about post-purchase price adjustments

If you buy an item that then goes on sale shortly afterward, many retailers will refund you the difference in price. (Link your mailbox to the Capital One shopping app, and it will notify you if the price drops on an item for which you have an email receipt.) Target’s “Price Match Guarantee,” for example, will refund you the difference for any item purchased in store or online if the price goes lower at Target on or before December 24.

But some retailers have restrictions on the policy, such as excluding Black Friday, so make sure you understand the details, Ramhold advises. That said, if you’re buying items at prices you feel good about, it may not be worth stressing over how the price is going to change next week.

“At the end of the day, if it’s discounted right now, and you need it for the holidays, and it’s in your budget, you can feel good about buying it,” says shopping expert and editor Kristin McGrath of RetailMeNot, a coupons and deals company. “People get too caught up in worrying about whether the price is going to drop again later.”

5. Read the fine print on returns

If you like to include gift receipts with your presents, make sure to check the details of the gift return policies for items you purchase now. A 30-day return policy on an item purchased on November 20, for example, will expire before Christmas. Some retailers, however, have special extended return policies to make this easier for shoppers. Walmart, for example, will honor returns through January 31 on all items purchased after October 1.