Millions of consumers have started shopping for the holidays, even as many decry the seemingly ever-earlier appearance of holiday displays and promotions. A recent survey by CreditCards.com shows that 34 million Americans have already begun Christmas shopping, and 1 million have finished shopping for the season. For those thinking about joining the ranks of early shoppers, here are some tips for finding the best deals.
Related: 16 Ways to Make Holiday Shopping More Affordable -- Starting Now
Halloween may have just passed, but holiday sales and deals have already begun. True, some items may see bigger discounts closer to Black Friday, but you don't want to risk a hot toy selling out. Hasbro's Pie Face game, for example, was sold out by Black Friday last year and nearly impossible to find again until January.
Shoppers can score exclusive deals through Target's Cartwheel app, including half off one toy a day. A pack of two Barbie president and vice president dolls (regularly $25) is 50 percent off through Nov. 26. With the promo code KIDSGIFTS, shoppers save an additional 20 percent through Nov. 5.
As part of its countdown to Black Friday, Toys R Us is offering online shoppers who buy a video game or a Lego Minecraft, Jurassic World, or Juniors construction set a second one for 40 percent off while quantities last.
Walmart is always a popular destination on Black Friday, but the megastore also caters to early bird shoppers. In previous years, Walmart has run a Super Saturday sale in early November with deals similar to those featured later in the month for Black Friday. It also offers early bird online specials and "early access" sales ahead of Black Friday.
To celebrate the return of its red holiday cups, Starbucks is offering 2-for-1 drinks Nov. 10-14 from 2 to 5 p.m. Eligible beverages include a selection of latte and mocha drinks, as well as brewed tea and spiced cold brew coffee to fuel your holiday shopping.
Enjoy your favorite coffee beverage at home with a Bluetooth-enabled Nespresso coffee maker for about 40 percent off. It's available on Gilt in two colors (black and silver) at $125 for the base model and $150 with a milk frothing attachment (regularly $199 and $249), plus a $20 Nespresso coffee club credit with code GP-10.
The holiday season is infamous for huge crowds at stores and traffic on the roads, making online shopping an appealing alternative. Many of the biggest retailers are offering free shipping on all orders through the holidays, and early birds have plenty of time to buy without worrying that gifts might not arrive before Christmas, or having to pay for rush delivery. Online stores also let shoppers pre-order popular items that aren't available yet and sign up for alerts on out-of-stock items.
Knowing the best things to buy in November can help you make the most of early-bird holiday shopping and strategically wait to buy products likely to see bigger discounts later. For example, stock up on candy now at post-Halloween prices to stuff stockings later. Also, November is prime time for sniffing out bargains on home appliances and electronics. Winter clothing and collectibles typically go on sale later.
To learn when specific items go on sale, use price alert tools such as CamelCamelCamel, Slickdeals, and MyAlerts. They track specific products and alert users to changes in price, although they differ in which retail sites they track. CamelCamelCamel, for example, monitors prices only on Amazon, while the browser plug-in MyAlerts tracks stores across the web, from Abercrombie & Fitch to Zumiez.
If you're hoping to get the holiday shopping done early and under budget, keep an eye on Amazon. The online giant typically offers Black Friday deals all week leading up to the big day and is already offering discounted merchandise in its Black Friday Deals Store. The promotion includes up to 20 discounted items a day, including electronics, toys, jewelry, and more.
Take half off a Philips Sonicare Essence electric rechargeable toothbrush (regularly $50 on Amazon) and an additional $5 off (with coupon), which reduces the price to $20, or 60 percent off. It's eligible for free shipping with an order over $49 or an Amazon Prime subscription.
Consumers can gain early access to deals by signing up for retailer membership programs. Amazon Prime members, for example, get first dibs on the "lightning deals" that precede Black Friday sales. Membership costs $99 a year (or $11 a month), but yearlong deals and perks may make the cost worthwhile.
Target typically releases its Black Friday ad three weeks ahead (around Nov. 7), and last year the discount retailer gave shoppers early access to Black Friday pricing online the day the ad came out. This is a good chance to snag a deal before the notorious post-Thanksgiving rush, although DealNews warns that better Black Friday deals eventually emerged from competitors.
Make holiday decorating easier with the Startastic laser projector, which beams red and green on your home's exterior from up to 600 feet away. The "as seen on TV" product ($30 at Target) normally requires $7.95 shipping and handling, or a minimum order for free shipping from other online retailers, but all Target orders ship free through Jan. 1, 2017.
Best Buy has historically given Elite and Elite Plus members in the My Best Buy program early access to its Black Friday deals the Monday before Thanksgiving. Although the reward program is free to join, shoppers must have made $1,500 in purchases in a calendar year to qualify for Elite status ($3,500 for Elite Plus).
Best Buy is already dropping prices on some items, such as a 14-inch Lenovo Flex 4 laptop for $270 (regularly $400), with free two-day shipping. The specs are basic, but the touchscreen can fold backward and rotate 360 degrees for different viewing modes, including use as a tablet.
For the inside scoop on products you're trying to get for less, be sure to follow brands on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and sign up for mailing lists. Manufacturers often give social media followers a heads-up on sales, deals, and new releases. The same goes for many stores.
Shoppers can chip away at a regular price of $1,350 at Adorama for a bundle that includes a Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR, two lenses, a photo printer, and other accessories. It starts with a $150 instant rebate and the coupon code CA85597013. Then mail in a rebate form to receive a $350 American Express Reward Card.