Track prices online
I AM NIKOM/ShutterstockYour bank account can take a hard hit during the holidays, so you'll need as many bargain shopping tips as you can get. Websites like Amazon are constantly adjusting the prices of items, meaning savvy shoppers can keep their eye out for savings if they check back frequently. But who has the time to refresh every few hours? Try camelcamelcamel.com: Search for any item and track its price history—it'll show you a graph and the highest and lowest price positions it's had over the past several days. Close to the lowest point? Snatch it up now.
Believe in the Invisible Hand
Jacob Lund/ShutterstockOnline shopping has become the preferred method of shopping for many people, thanks in part to the way Cyber Monday boosted online purchases. But odds are, you're not using the Internet to your full advantage. Visit getinvisiblehand.com to install the Invisible Hand extension on your computer or download the official iPhone app. Whenever you're browsing for items online from retailers like Lowe's or Sears, it'll automatically search alternatives and notify you if there's a better deal elsewhere.
Try shopping on a Tuesday
TukkataMoji/ShutterstockYou already know that Tuesdays are no longer the best day to buy plane tickets. However, according to a New York Times report, online retailers tend to offer the best deals on Tuesdays. Better yet, try Tuesday morning: That same report suggests sales tend to go live early.
Also try shopping late
leungchopan/ShutterstockIt's true that sales start in the early morning hours, and even these everyday purchases are cheaper before noon. Yet Business Insider notes that if you shop after 6:00 p.m., some retailers will already have sales for the next day activated, allowing you to get great deals without setting your alarm.
Content continues below ad
Nils Versemann/ShutterstockYou may not like to do all of your shopping online, but it can still help to check websites for deals. Retailers like Target will price match if you ask the cashier, says The New York Times. Depending on what you're looking for, thrift stores may be your unlikely but surprising solution for cheap gifts. Take a hint from these thrift shopping secrets to find the best vintage items.
It's OK to procrastinate
Jason Batterham/ShutterstockDon't assume that the best times to shop are when stores advertise "Holiday Sales." Use this guide to find cheap buys every month. Consumer Reports actually says the best deals on coveted electronics tend to come after Black Friday and Cyber Monday and before December 13. The New York Times says you can wait even later, with the best deals actually coming the week before Christmas.
Don't buy clothes before Christmas
Creative Lab/ShutterstockDedicated bargain site DealNews.com knows that sales on apparel can be tempting, but explains it's much better to wait for clearance discounts in January. Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't expect a new itchy sweater from Aunt Millie.
Wait on booking those plane tickets
Africa Studio/ShutterstockPro travelers use these insider secrets to travel cheap, and that includes buying their plane tickets at the right time. DealNews.com noticed that airfare for international travel is a much better deal in January and February, not November and December. The Caribbean can wait until Valentine's Day.
Content continues below ad
Use your own price scanner
Wedding photography/SutterstockSometimes, we can't help but want to buy anything and everything we lay our eyes on, especially if it's at a favorite store. In fact, there's a scientific reason why you spend so much at Target. Luckily, there are now tons of smartphone apps to keep you focused on what you really need to buy and on getting the best deal. Apple users can download Price Scanner UPC Barcode Scan or Shop Savvy Barcode Scanner, which scan barcodes and locate better deals and relevant coupons. Walmart and Amazon have the same function in their own apps to find deals in their respective stores.
Get cash back from your purchases
ptnphoto/ShutterstockCash-back shopping sites literally pay you to shop, whether it's a gift for your second cousin once removed or yourself. These sites earn commission on what they sell when they refer a customer who later makes a purchase, according to Forbes. As the customer, you get to share that commission in the form of cash back, which can range from 1-30 percent of the cost of the purchase. Popular cash-back sites include Ebates and Mr. Rebates.
Don't calculate in your head
Leszek Glasner/ShutterstockMaybe in a clear state of mind, you're great at math, but who knows what stress can do to your brain? Stores even manipulate their discounts as one of their tricks to make you spend more. Try an app like Discount Calculator (iOS, Android, Windows Phone): You input the price of the item, any relevant markdowns, and any sales tax so you can see exactly how much you're spending.
Make a list
Olena Yakobchuk/ShutterstockHave you heard of "decision fatigue"? According to The Atlantic, the more choices you make at once, the worse your judgment becomes. One way around grabbing too many items or overspending is to make a simple list of specific gifts you're looking for and referencing it throughout the day.
Content continues below ad
Load your iPod with soothing music
SpeedKingz/ShutterstockMark Ellwood, author of Bargain Fever, recently told TIME that stress can actually make you spend more. (By the way, here are some more ways stress affects your brain.) He suggests listening to calming music when shopping to avoid busting your wallet.
I AM NIKOM/ShutterstockWhen looking for gifts for others—especially when it comes to clothes, bags, and similar—try visiting Pinterest for inspiration. Chances are, you'll stumble across boards curated by others with great ideas you would never have thought of. Shopping for someone who lives in a different part of the country? Pick up the best gift from your state and send it along with a postcard that says, "Wish you were here!"
Give a DIY gift
Prostock studio/ShutterstockWhat could be more thoughtful (and inexpensive) than a homemade gift? Get little ones in on the fun, too, with these simple crafts that make great gifts. It could be as simple as handmade stationary or jewelry or as complex as a holiday scavenger hunt around the house with each clue referring to an inside joke only you two know. Just because DIY gifts don't have a lot of monetary value, that doesn't mean they can't have the same—if not more—sentimental value.