Saving money on holiday shopping

The holiday shopping season has arrived for millions of Americans, even if it doesn't officially kick off until the day after Thanksgiving. However, while many will scramble for any deals they can find in the coming weeks, it's important for them to be as smart as possible about how they do it. Carefully planning in this regard can actually end up saving people hundreds of dollars if they're diligent and able to capitalize on various deals.

One of the best ways to do this is to start early, according to a report from CNN Consumer Watch. Data suggests that, depending on what a person is planning to buy, there is almost always a specific day on which the deals will be the best. For example, the best day to buy toys of just about any kind is actually the Saturday before Thanksgiving (this year that's Nov. 21), and people who are able to find what they want will probably save about 18 percent versus what they would pay if they wait until the holiday shopping season officially begins.

Where else can people save?
Likewise, the day on which most electronic devices are going to provide people the biggest discount - also about 18 percent versus holiday season shopping prices - is Monday, Nov. 23, just a few days before Thanksgiving, the report said. As for jewelry purchases, the best deals are usually available on Thanksgiving itself (Nov. 26), and the discounts are even steeper at 25 percent.

However, experts caution that people looking to buy clothes for their loved ones might be better off waiting just a little bit longer, the report said. That's because the best deals on most types of clothing actually go into effect as Christmas approaches, meaning that they might have to go out and brave a frenzied shopping crowd if they want to find the best deals on pants, shirts, and so on.

Time to be careful
However, consumers might also want to start comparing prices as soon as possible, and taking advantage of any price-matching deals that might be available to them from certain retailers. It's easy to be drawn in - at this time of year in particular - by promises of big savings, but taking the time to do some homework and determine just how big of a sale it really is, and if a better deal can be found online, will likely be a useful strategy at this time of year.

In addition, though, people should try to avoid being tempted by online deals and offers of free shipping if they spend a certain amount, because these are often designed to get people to spend more even if they're saving on the product they actually wanted to buy.

Any money that can be saved at this time of year might be put to better use by depositing it in a savings account. That way, the money can be tapped later for things like paying down debt, which have significant financial benefits in the long run.

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