Robert P. Jones and Russell James want to help you make the best choices for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and #GivingTuesday.
If it seems like the Christmas shopping season is coming early, it's not just you.
Because Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday of November, this year's – which falls on Nov. 28 – is as late as it can possibly be. But that may be good news for consumers because, rather than trying to cram the entire shopping season into less than four weeks, retailers are starting it early, offering Black Friday-like prices ahead of Thanksgiving weekend.
Should you choose to use those savings to benefit others, two Texas Tech University experts have advice and tips to help you get the most out of both your shopping and your charitable giving this holiday season.
• Technology continues to be a big-ticket item for Black Friday, particularly smartphones,
wireless earbuds and 4K ultra-high-definition TVs. Pay attention to the bundles offered
with these items.
• For the best in-person shopping experience, bookend your day. Go to the store as soon as it opens, and then take a break during the middle of the day, when the stores are busiest. Go back in the evening during the store's extended hours, when crowds are smaller. This works especially well for families with children, for whom an all-day shopping trip can be an ordeal.
• Don't forget about small businesses, even if you aren't seeing their ads everywhere. They don't have the advertising budgets to compete with the major chains, but they can still get you the products you want at a good price.
• Shopping online and picking it up from a brick-and-mortar store gives shoppers the chance to shop early and pick from a wider variety of items while reducing the risk of theft that occurs when delivered packages are left sitting on the front porch.
• "This year, there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas,
which, to a retailer, is a nightmare. So, what you see is something called 'front-loading,'
where we try to push the season forward. You'll see a very aggressive approach toward
pricing occurring now all the way through the holiday season."
• "In some cases, it really affects what you should be shopping for and when you should be making those purchases. If you are one of those parents who has small children, or if you're a grandparent who's got grandchildren you're buying for, if there is a hot toy out there, you had better buy it now, because by the time you get to Black Friday, it will be gone."
• "Black Friday in total, from a brick-and-mortar perspective, is decreasing year by year. Starting on Thanksgiving Day and going into Black Friday, all the way through Cyber Monday, you'll see that consumers are being able to leverage online options to do all the shopping they want to get done and find the deals they want to get without having to do the long waits and visit the stores on Black Friday."
• "What Black Friday is at this point, is a residual memory in the marketplace that this is a day we should be shopping. Retailers gear up for it, a lot of promotions go around it. But whether or not that's really driving the marketplace, all of those decisions from a retail perspective have all been made outside of Black Friday."
• When planning for holiday spending, whether on gifts or charitable donations, personal
savings should be the first priority.
• #GivingTuesday is appropriately timed, not just because of the holidays, but also in terms of end-of-year tax planning.
• Donating appreciated assets, like stocks that have gone up in value, can bring a double tax benefit as compared to a cash donation. If you've owned the stocks for more than a year, you get a tax deduction, and you can avoid capital gains taxes on the growth in those shares.
• "Really, it comes down to very simple financial planning: Regardless of what level
you're at, you want to pay yourself first, meaning you want to be able to save funds."
• "Obviously, the holidays are a time where we kind of want to go crazy, but I'd say most people who we are giving gifts to would rather we stay sane than have some exciting new doo-dad that we get them for the holiday season."
• "At the end of the year, people look at how much money they've made, they look at what they're going to be paying in taxes, and that's often a good time to decide, 'OK, how much should I be giving so that I can do it in the most tax-efficient manner possible?'"