The holiday shopping season 2021 has started early. Consumers are on the hunt for the best sales and deals provided by top retailers. While early holiday shopping is a good idea, some things might surprise you this year.

Pissed Consumer surveyed experts in shopping, retail, and eCommerce to find out the best tips and tricks for holiday shopping 2021. Uncover expert insights on how to ensure easy shopping and spend money wisely this holiday season: 

How to Avoid Overspending, Stress, and Beat the Rush During Holiday Shopping?

Trae BodgeTrae Bodge, an accomplished lifestyle journalist, TV commentator, and author of TrueTrae.com. Trae specializes in smart shopping, money-saving, beauty & style, and parenting. She has appeared on-air over 1,000 times, including Good Morning America’s GMA3, NBC Nightly News, TodayShow, Inside Edition, and network affiliates nationwide. Trae has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn and a top personal finance expert by GoBankingRates and FlexJobs. Her expert commentary has been mentioned in MSN.com, USNews.com, Woman’sDay, Newsweek, Kiplinger, Marketwatch, and numerous others.

... this year in particular, with looming product shortages and shipping delays, you’ll be glad you got some of your shopping out of the way on the early side.

How to avoid overspending during holidays?

One of the best ways to avoid overspending during the holidays is to make a list and stick to it. I suggest making a list on your phone in the Notes app, so you always have your list with you (and Notes has a handy checkmark feature, so you can tick gifts off as you buy them!)  Also, the list will remain in your phone for reference year after year.

How to make shopping easier and less stressful?

Overspending is stressful, and if you went overboard last year it might be a good time to reevaluate your gift-giving. Are you spending a lot on gifts for every member of your family? Perhaps it’s time to suggest setting spending limits, drawing names, or buying gifts only for the kids. The same with holiday gifts for your friend group or co-workers. Setting spending limits or drawing names will help keep things under control.

If the list is immovable and you have lots of gifts to buy, consider signing up for SmartyPlus, from deal site Smarty. In addition to offering you double cashback and access to exclusive sales at 5,000 retail partners, SmartyPlus is like your ultimate shopping assistant, helping you credits for price drops and rebates for shipping & return costs, plus travel perks, like car rental protection and rebates for air-travel purchases. SmartyPlus is $19 per month and you get $15 cashback for signing up.

When is the best time to start Christmas shopping to get the best deals and beat the holiday rush? 

Shopping early is a great way to avoid the holiday rush, but this year in particular, with looming product shortages and shipping delays, you’ll be glad you got some of your shopping out of the way on the early side. 

I’m expecting to see some higher prices this year, too, so it’s very important to look for ways to save as you shop. If you have your eye on one particular item, use the Deal Alert feature from Slickdeals.net. I use this when there is a specific item I need to buy, like the Super Mario Nintendo Deluxe Bowser Castle Playset or the new iPad, which will be hot this year. You enter the name of the item and then you’ll automatically be alerted when the items go on sale, saving you time and money.

You can also use a browser extension to look for savings as you browse online. Cently by CouponFollow installs in seconds and this tool will automatically notify you of available cashback offers and verified coupons, and even run those coupons for you at checkout. Such an easy and stress-free way to save!

How to Save Money for Holiday Shopping and Spend Wisely?

Ian SellsIan Sells, a co-founder and CEO of RebateKey, the prime location for people looking for deals specialized in everything related to finance, business, and eCommerce. As an eCommerce seller himself, Ian knows how sellers market their products to persuade people into buying them.

Check his expert tips on how you can save more and spend money wisely during holiday shopping.

Be aware of cross-sells and upsells. 

Retailers will employ various strategies that can make people think that they're getting a good deal. For example, many sellers will bundle a fast-moving item with a slow-moving one. While buyers may perceive that they've got a great deal, they may end up with a product that they don't actually need. The same is true when a buyer gets offered a similar item before checking out. Be sure to think if you really need the item before you check them out.

Check for coupons and rebates.

What's good about the holiday season is that there is a lot of competition among sellers. Because of this, sellers throw off deals after deals or give off rebates and coupons to sell more than their competition. For example, sellers from Amazon and other online marketplaces use our service at RebateKey to drive more sales to their products, which in turn will boost their organic ranking on the platform. Just linger and for sure, you'll be able to get good deals, ranging from 1-100% off.

Beware of pricing strategies. 

Studies show that pricing strategies, like putting $9.98 instead of $10 may give a perception that people are saving money when they are actually not. If you have deals, be sure to check the products' items separately and compare if you will actually save money if you buy the bundle.

Tips for Online Shopping During the Holidays

Julie RamholdJulie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com, a shopping comparison website. Her works and opinion have appeared on MSN, Business Insider, Lifehacker, The Motley Fool, GoBankingRates, and Moneyish.

The sooner you can put together a list of items you intend to buy, the sooner you can keep an eye out for deals.

Use cashback apps and extensions. If you're shopping online (and in-store in some cases) try to utilize cashback apps and extensions as these can reward you for purchases you're already making anyway. While some of these cashback offers might not be significant - only 1% to 2% in some cases - that can still add up when you're making large or multiple purchases.

Shop with rewards credit cards. Much like shopping with cashback apps and extensions, using a rewards credit card to pay for your purchases can result in savings that add up as well. Rewards can be in the form of cashback, which you can put towards other purchases or even bills later; rewards may also be in the form of points, which can be redeemed for things like gift cards that you can use yourself or even gift. Some credit cards offer rewards upfront as well; for example, Target's RedCard offers 5% off purchases right away both online and in-store every day.

Make your list and budget ahead of time. The best thing you can do to prep for holiday shopping any year is to make your shopping list and set your budget ahead of time. This year, it's even more important as retailers are forecasting stock issues due to supply chain disruptions, shipping delays, and labor shortages.

The sooner you can put together a list of items you intend to buy, the sooner you can keep an eye out for deals. As some stores are starting early - Amazon already has a Black Friday page populated with deals and Target is planning a 3-day event starting Sunday, October 10 - you can start shopping for gifts early. But to avoid impulse purchases, it's a good idea to do the prep now so you'll recognize a deal when you see one.

Set price alerts. If you're looking at pricier items, it's a good idea to do a little research and determine what you'd be willing to pay for them. Then, set price alerts (for instance, you can do this at DealNews), and then when the price drops, you'll receive an email to let you know. That way, you can jump on a great offer before it has a chance to sell out but without having to scour the web to find the deals yourself.

Remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The holiday shopping season is a prime time for scammers to ramp up their efforts, which means you may see them across social media, in email, or be on the receiving end of suspicious phone calls. Be very cautious about these communications and remember that if they seem too good to be true, they probably are. And if you see anything suspicious asking for personal information, be wary. Even if an email or phone call seems legitimate, you can always navigate to the site in question without clicking a link in email or hanging up and making your own phone call. If you have any doubt about something whatsoever, better to err on the side of caution.

Read reviews for sites you're unfamiliar with before purchasing from them. Check out businesses that you may be unfamiliar with online. Beware, though, that consumers are notorious for leaving negative reviews so be sure to take the time to read through even the bad ones. If a lot of them seem like petty complaints, and the reviews overall are good, you're probably fine to shop the store. But if you're noticing a trend in the negative ones - being overcharged or not receiving purchased products for instance - then you may want to steer clear, just in case.

Top Holiday Shopping Scams to Avoid in 2021

Rob ShavellRob Shavell is CEO of Abine and DeleteMe, the Online Privacy Company. Rob is a vocal proponent of privacy legislation reform, including the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). He has been quoted as a privacy expert in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Telegraph, NPR, ABC, NBC, and Fox.

Online shopping scams increase by 98% during the holidays…

The most common scams during this season

  1. Younger consumers: suckers for digital gift cards: With in-store spending plummeting, it’s no surprise that online gift card sales have exploded this year. As consumers are placing too much trust in gift card vendors for their own good, this trend has been a present for scammers, too. 
  2. Buy Online, Pick Up in Store (BOPIS) transactions. 
  3. Steal people’s information with fake delivery confirmation SMS messages.
  4. Online food/grocery delivery payments. 
  5. Loyalty points/benefits programs One way to prevent these scams are Masked Cards and Credentials. By allowing customers to mask their real card details by creating fake “burner cards” for every transaction they make, card masking makes hacked card data redundant and seriously threatens the industry. With data protection firm Abine estimating that over 10 million people in the US are using Masked Cards, scammers need to be careful not to rely on credit card fraud — unless they want to go out of business, that is.

How to avoid holiday shopping scams

Use a Masked Card for Anonymous Shopping. The best way to make sure your credit card information doesn't get leaked/compromised is to never give it out in the first place. Especially when buying from a vendor for the first time, use a masked credit card like those from Abine Blur to create a single-use credit card, limited to the amount you plan to spend on a given purchase. This way, even if your card info is revealed in a data breach or otherwise accessed, your real information is protected – and so is your money. 

Remove Your Personal Information from Data Broker Sites. For many of the most dangerous scams shopping scams, such as phishing and "smishing" attacks,  criminals source victim information from legal data broker sites, which sell personal details on up to 97% of the U.S. population according to DeleteMe estimates. If your info is on these sites, you and your family are at risk. Either remove your data manually or use a service like DeleteMe to opt-out from all major sites automatically and monitor for re-appearances.

Be wary of 'too good to be true' promotions. Incredible deals rarely show up out of nowhere from people you don't know, and you should be especially wary of such offers that arrive via SMS. But scammers are getting smarter too, and are creating increasingly believable "spoof" emails that appear to be from Amazon and PayPal, and other household names in online shopping. Always check the sender's email address to see if it's from the company's true domain, look for unusual spellings and unusual punctuation - all of which are indicators that the email isn't from the claimed source.

Conclusion

Holiday shopping should be exciting and enjoyable. Before jumping on the next best deal or promotion, consider the holiday shopping tips shared by the experts above. In this case, you are far more likely to avoid shopping scams, shop wisely, and save money on gifts.

We thank our experts for tips and wish you to have a great holiday shopping experience. If you have anything to comment on, please leave your thought below. To share your opinion on shopping with a particular retailer, you are welcome to leave a review here.

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Legal disclaimers:

1. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide any legal, medical, accounting, investment or any other professional advice as individual cases may vary and should be discussed with a corresponding expert and/or an attorney.

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