Early Shopper’s Guide to Holiday Shopping: 10 Tips to Help You Save Big

You-know-what is two months away, and Black Friday is a month from tomorrow. Some of you have already started your shopping, and I’ll bet there are a few of you who have already wrapped it up. Here are a few of my best tips for saving on gifts for kids.

1. Kids don’t need very many toys. As parents, we want to shower them with goodies, but it’s sooo not necessary. If you feel like you might be overdoing it, you probably are. Also, kids could care less if an item’s gently used, so check kiddie consignment stores, Craigslist and Freecycle for big savings. Inspect used toys carefully and check for recalls.

2. Familiarize yourself with Baby Cheapskate’s List of Toys that Get Played With before you shop. These lists are compiled from hundreds of parents’ tips about what toys captured and kept their kids’ interest long after the decorations came down. I’ll be publishing updated lists during the first week of November. You can access earlier lists here.

3. Try to buy at 40% or more off list price. Sound like a lot? Many of last season’s most popular toys went to 50% off during the second week of December (still in plenty of time to arrive by December 25). Prices will drop, you can be sure, but how long you hold out before buying will depend on your tolerance for risk.

4. Black Friday will rock, especially for those of you who enjoy the sport of it. Toy deals usually peak toward the end of the first week of December. Sales seem to be happening earlier this year, though, so don’t be surprised if we start seeing hot deals shortly after Halloween.

5. Sometimes it pays to wait. You never really know when the best deal on the particular wish list item you’re looking for will surface, so don’t stress about it too much. Count on getting great deals through about a week before Christmas. Just be sure order by December 17 or so to be sure that gifts arrive by Christmas. Expect many stores, including Target and Toys R Us, to offer free or cheap expediting shipping for last minute shoppers.

6. Clearance sales on winter clothing traditionally start late in the third week of December through right after Christmas day. Inventory will be best at this time, though the sales will continue long into January and perhaps through February, with the very deepest discounts at the end of the sales. Look for sales at The Children’s Place, Old Navy, Crazy 8, Gymboree, and more.

7. Daily Deal Sites (Zulily, The Mini Social, Gilt.com, HauteLook.com and others) are new on the holiday shopping scene, and the competition among them will be fierce. I predict that we’ll see lots of coupons, free shipping offers and sign up bonuses, along with sales on brands we haven’t seen yet on these sites before. Don’t get caught up in the frenzy, though. Do a price comp to make sure you’re getting the deal you think you are, and include shipping costs in the price as you do so.

Look for even more local and internet deals at daily deal sites like Daily deals on the city’s best stuff only from Groupon. Restaurants, spas, events & more, 50%-90% off!, PlumDistrict.com, LivingSocial.com, etc.

8. Use Facebook and Twitter to catch time-sensitive deals. Something else that’s really exploded in 2010 is the publication of coupon codes on retailer’s Facebook pages. “Like” the pages of your favorite retailers and watch your Facebook stream for announcements of coupon codes and special sales. The same deals should also show up on Twitter.

9. Watch for Amazon Lightning Deals. Some of last year’s hottest toy deals showed up as limited-time steals at Amazon. You can access them at Amazon’s Today’s Deals page or on the Baby or Toys Department pages.

8. Other retailers–Hanes, Kohls, Overstock, Kmart, Target, and others–will also offer Holiday Deals of the Day.

10. I’ll be posting the hottest toy, baby gear and clothing deals here daily–heck, several times daily– here on Baby Cheapskate. Make sure you’ve Liked BC on Facebook to be notified of posts as soon as they go up and to catch lots of deals that you won’t even find on the blog.

Readers: What are your best toy shopping tips?

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  1. Ghanimatrix says:

    One thing I’ve learned is that before you buy online, always, ALWAYS search for the item itself by exact description or PLU #. I recently bought a new rug for my kitchen and by doing a google image search using the exact name, was able to get it at about 40% of the price I originally found it listed at! Also, search for coupon codes before you check out, you never know when you’ll stumble on free shipping or another 5 to 25% off.

  2. I love that by following deal sites like this one, by the time the holidays roll around I’ve sort of “accidentally” already accumulated almost all of the gifts I’ll need for the year!

    (I’m still pulling from my July ’09 Target Toy Clearance haul!)

  3. Stephanie says:

    Thanks Angie. Great post as always!

  4. Sam says:

    Your ‘toys that get played with ‘ link doesn’t work. It leads back to blackfriday.

  5. Jeanna says:

    I’m expecting my first baby in February and I’m curious if you have seen any good deals on baby furniture, carseats or strollers on Black Friday in the past? We are trying to decide if we should hold off on those purchases a little longer or not.

    Thanks for your work on this website! I’ve been stocking up on diapers already based on your recommendations!

  6. Great tips, Angie! I completely, wholeheartedly agree with No. 1. (My wallet agrees, too!) One of my friends has young children and I hear this year, they’re getting hand-me-down toys from their aunt and older cousins. I love the idea of friends and family forming memories around a shared toy!