The Case for Shopping on Black Friday in 2020

Like most things in 2020, Black Friday won’t be the same this year.

But at least in the case of holiday shopping, change might not necessarily be a bad thing.

If you’re thinking about shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, here’s why you should — and at least one reason you shouldn’t.

The day still holds meaning

Retailers kicked off Black Friday sales back in mid-October to coincide with Amazon’s Prime Day. There’s been an onslaught of discounts ever since.

But no matter how many sales retailers label throughout the year as “Black Friday” discounts, there’s still something special about the day itself. This year, it falls on Nov. 27.

The day after Thanksgiving is a “designated consumer shopping day,” says Tom Arnold, professor of finance at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

That’s why retailers continue to market it and offer savings. Based on prior years, there will still be something special left, even after all of the early deals.

Retailers typically hold on to some fresh deals to release over Thanksgiving weekend, according to Katherine Cullen, senior director for industry and consumer insights at the National Retail Federation. She recommends acting on early deals this holiday season if you see a price you like though.

Official Black Friday deals often start on Thanksgiving Day and last into the weekend. They’ll be followed by Cyber Monday sales on Nov. 30.

You can save money

These sales make Black Friday shopping a fun family tradition. But it’s also a great way to save cold, hard cash.

In fact, that could make the discount bonanza even more attractive this year, according to Christopher Newman, associate professor of marketing at the University of Mississippi.

“It may be especially popular this year since many consumers are feeling financial strain due to economic and employment problems caused by COVID-19,” Newman said in an email. “Many consumers will likely not be in the financial position to pass up the price savings afforded by Black Friday.”

Cullen says wellness, personal care and comfort items as well as those for the home have been “popping” during the pandemic as consumer demand has increased. Hobbies like baking and holiday traditions like wearing matching pajamas are also popular.

You can likely expect retailers to discount products that appeal to pandemic conditions. Best Buy’s early Black Friday deals included markdowns on laptops and wireless headphones. Target slashed prices on things like video games and toys.

In-store shopping is so 2019

In an effort to promote safety in the pandemic, most stores are closing on Thanksgiving this year. They’re also bringing sales online — a move that’s both convenient and cost-effective for Black Friday shoppers.

“We’ve heard retailers saying, ‘We’re probably going to offer the same deals both online and in store on Black Friday so that people can shop in the way that’s most comfortable and safest for them,’” Cullen says.

That means many retailers won’t be enticing customers to brave the crowds for in-store-only doorbusters, she adds. That’s welcome news for consumers.

“Many shoppers will still feel uncomfortable going to brick-and-mortar retail stores, and many state and local governments are still imposing reduced capacity limits inside stores,” Newman said.

Aside from the safety and convenience of not having to leave home, Arnold suspects this head-to-head online competition will also be a monetary win for shoppers.

“I think the consumer is going to benefit because now it’s going to be a lot easier to compare prices with the competition online,” Arnold says.

In the past, he says, retailers could lure shoppers into stores, and consumers would often buy the products, even if they were listed online for a slightly better price. That’s because at a physical store, you have the item with you and don’t have to worry about shipping delays — even if you pay a little more for it.

But exercise restraint

As in the past, for every impressive Black Friday deal you see, there’s likely another deal that’s less worthwhile. Set a budget ahead of time so you know exactly what you’re looking to purchase and how much you’re comfortable spending.

Be cautious about your health, too. Look into a store’s safety protocols to see if you’ll feel safe being in a physical store. If you won’t, many retailers allow you to buy online and pick up curbside, Cullen points out.

And if you’ve already shopped more than enough this holiday season during the impressive early sales, it’s fair to say you can sit out Black Friday to avoid overspending.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @CourtneyNerd.

The article The Case for Shopping on Black Friday in 2020 originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Upgrade Your Old Car With New-Car Tech

Time has marched on since you last bought a car.

You may love the reliable, low-mileage car parked in the garage but still long to make a hands-free phone call or summon up a song off Pandora. But you don’t need to spend $35,000 on a new car just to get a rear backup camera or any of the other high-tech features you’re lusting after.

For the price of a typical new-car payment, $550, you can add any of the seven upgrades below.

Backup camera. Of all the safety features on the market today, Consumer Reports found that drivers ranked the backup camera as the most useful. In tall vehicles, such as pickups and SUVs, the backup camera shows the blind spot under the rear tailgate. Even in small cars, the camera will help you safely park, then pull out in crowded parking lots. They became mandatory in 2018.

Prices and features vary wildly. A basic backup camera with a monitor costs less than $50. Other models that connect wirelessly and display an image on a rearview mirror are about $100. Before you choose a backup camera, review the directions to see if drilling and advanced wiring is required. If so, have the installation done by a pro.

Blind spot warning and cross-traffic alert. By adding radar sensors to your car, you can enjoy two popular safety features. The two that are most commonly bundled together in aftermarket kits are blind spot warning and cross-traffic alert.

If you want to change lanes, the device warns you if a car or truck is in your blind spot. In busy parking lots, even a rear backup camera might not show you a car that’s coming. But cross-traffic systems alert you to when a car’s approaching, even if it’s out of sight. This is another upgrade that might need to be done by an electronics expert.

Bluetooth connectivity. Hands-free use of your mobile phone is an important safety feature and can prevent you from getting a traffic ticket. Some basic units, selling for as little as $25, are basically plug-and-play. Simply connect the device to the auxiliary power outlet (formerly known as a cigarette lighter) or the audio input jack, and you can make and receive phone calls safely through your existing sound system.

Head-up display. Surprisingly inexpensive, and costing less than $100 for some models, a head-up display projects your car’s vital information on a small screen right in front of your eyes. So, instead of glancing down at the gauges, your speed and other information are in your line of sight. Installation is easy — most units plug into the car’s computer connection, under the steering wheel, and a single wire leads to the display unit on the dash.

Dash cam. The aftermarket is flooded with many types of dash cams that provide an array of features. In a basic unit, selling for under $100, a small camera records a looped video on a digital storage card. If you’re in an accident, the event is locked in the memory so you can download it and use it for evidence. More expensive dash cams offer other information such as vehicle surveillance, sending you a notification if someone bumps your car or breaks into it. You can install most units yourself in a few minutes.

Tunes, directions and apps. The head unit in your car is often a touch screen used to access the car’s features and connect with your mobile phone. Swapping out the head unit is best done by a professional, but it can add to your in-car entertainment by allowing access to your favorite apps. Prices range wildly from $50 to $500.

Massaging and heated seats. On long drives, it’s nice to get a massage to stay alert and feel refreshed. And, on cold mornings, heated seats warm you up before your car’s system blows hot. There are many models available for less than $100. All you have to do is put it in place and plug it into your car’s power source.

Shopping tips

  • Review the product description carefully to make sure it is compatible with your year, make and model of car. This is easier on and other sites that allow you to enter your car’s information first, then display compatible products.
  • Be realistic about your installation abilities. If drilling and wiring is required, have the upgrade installed by an electronics expert, a mechanic or the dealer.
  • Search for information about the best products on car forums dedicated to your vehicle. This way, you can contact other owners of your type of car for advice.
  • YouTube is a fount of information about selecting and installing vehicle upgrades.

The article Upgrade Your Old Car With New-Car Tech originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Holiday Money-Saving Strategies That Can Backfire

Holiday marketers have your number, and they know how to entice you to spend.

You try to rein it in. But two favorite strategies can lead to spending more, according to a 2018 survey by the Center for the New Middle Class, a research organization funded by Elevate, which lends to credit-challenged borrowers. Consumers who shopped at sales were 50% more likely to say they spent more than they expected. Among shoppers who used coupons, 38.5% said they overspent.

Many shoppers try to be careful instead of making a spending plan. Using a budget can feel like it’s wringing the joy out of a happy season. Why? Giving feels good, says Jeff Kreisler, co-author of “Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter.”

But simply being careful doesn’t work, “because a lot of the reasons we make poor financial decisions are unconscious,” says Kreisler, who’s editor in chief of, which applies behavioral science to the marketplace.

However, you can position yourself to recognize — and overcome — overspending triggers.

Use the best defense: a holiday budget

Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, a financial coach and founder of the Fiscal Femme website, advises setting aside time — not over an hour — to list holiday expenses. Build in a buffer, because you’ll forget some things. But you’ll be better off if you have a number in mind, she says.

Be realistic, not rigid, about your budget. Otherwise, controlling expenses can seem so futile you don’t bother trying, she says. “It’s like being on a strict diet and figuring if you cheated and had a cookie, you may as well eat the whole bag.”

If you worry about overspending, consider getting a prepaid gift card in that amount, Kreisler says. It can help you stay aware of what you are spending and what’s left.

Having a successful holiday spending plan may also inspire you to create a budget to help you achieve financial goals throughout the year.

Understand how sales can cost you

Shopping sales can be smart — but only if you’re strategic and aware of the psychology at play. Kreisler says if you see a $100 cashmere sweater marked down to $40, your brain registers “saving $60.” Train yourself to translate that to “spending $40” and compare how it fits into your spending plan.

Then, figure out how much the sweater is worth to you. Would you still want it if $40 was the regular price? It’s the same sweater and the same money but minus the rush of feeling that you got a deal.

Watch out for impulse purchases, too. Gerstley says she’s encountered products she never knew existed while shopping (think cell phone sanitizer or weighted blanket) and suddenly wanted them. Badly.  She’s a fan of “the 48-hour rule”: Put the item back on the shelf or abandon your virtual cart, and if you still want it 48 hours later, go ahead and buy it. Often you won’t, she says.

Understand that marketers use one-day sales or even shorter buying windows to create urgency. Fear of missing out can lead to poor decisions; buy only the items you intended to anyway.

Know the trouble with coupons

Coupons can save you money — or tempt you to upgrade because of your “savings.”

Kreisler says a coupon is great if you’ve been waiting for a discount to buy something specific on your list. If you’ve done your research and buy the item you intended to, using a coupon to drop the price, then you really are saving.

As with sales, it’s important to focus on your spending, not your “savings.” If you have a coupon for $10 off a $50 purchase or $30 off a $100 purchase, would you spend more to “save” more? Stick with what you intended to spend.

Keep three tips in mind as you shop

Kreisler offers these additional tips for spending less:

  • Imagine how the holidays would be different if you spent a little less on a particular gift. Would it really detract from the joy?
  • If you cannot afford to reciprocate with a gift of equal monetary value, consider giving something else of value, such as offering an evening of child care or creating a painting. Write a note about why you chose the gift especially for the recipient.
  • If you want to trim your gift list, discuss it with friends and family shortly after the holidays, when warm feelings abound. Announcing it late in the year isn’t a great idea.

The article Holiday Money-Saving Strategies That Can Backfire originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Hunger on Campus: How College Students Can Get Help

When college students paying their own way have a financial hiccup, they have to make hard choices about how to spend their limited funds — and some turn to their food budget to close a gap.

Gina Higgins, a mechanical engineering student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, has paid for school with a mix of scholarships, loans and part-time jobs. She planned every penny of her budget, cutting corners by shopping at discount grocery stores and commuting to campus.

Then, her car broke down and her family couldn’t help. Higgins needed her car to get to classes, but couldn’t afford to pay for repairs on top of rent, utilities and food. She knew that she could only cut back on her food budget, so she turned to her school for help.

“It’s a stereotype for a reason that college students survive on ramen and free snacks from club meetings — we don’t tend to eat well because we can’t afford to eat well,” Higgins says.

Almost half of 86,000 students at two- and four-year institutions nationwide surveyed in fall 2018 by Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice said they were food insecure — without reliable access to healthy food — at some point in the previous year. More than a third of those students said they cut the size of meals or skipped meals because they didn’t have enough money for food.

Getting help for food insecurity

Nearly 40% of college students are considered low-income, the biggest risk factor for food insecurity in college, according to a 2019 report by the Government Accountability Office.

Food insecurity isn’t only about lack of food; it’s also about quality, says Alicia Powers, community health coordinator at Auburn University and managing director of the school’s Hunger Solutions Institute.

“If you’re choosing it because it is the only thing you can afford, then we need to address that,” Powers says about instant ramen meals.

Resources at Higgins’ university got her through the crisis. She had help signing up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program government benefits. She also received an emergency grant to cover the cost of car repairs and some meals at the dining hall.

Here are food resources that may be available for students in need.

Unused meal share programs

College meal share programs allow students to donate their unused meal credits, or swipes, to other students, who claim them for campus dining.

Meal share programs are often student-led efforts, aided in part by nonprofit organizations like Swipe Out Hunger and Share Meals.

In the 2018-19 school year, over 70% of students at the 80 colleges that Swipe Out Hunger serves reported less stress and anxiety about where they would get their next meal after receiving meal swipes. More than half who received swipes also reported higher class performance.

Campus food pantries

On-campus food pantries provide nonperishable items and some may offer fresh options like fruit, vegetables and dairy products as well as frozen food.

“Just because you’re low-income or struggling doesn’t mean you should only be able to eat food in packaged form or cans,” says Marissa Meyers, a senior department research associate for the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.

The campus food pantry at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, partners with the Thurston County Food Bank to receive weekly deliveries of fresh produce and refrigerated items.

Use the College and University Food Bank Alliance’s search tool to find campus food pantries.

SNAP benefit enrollment

Students with part-time jobs may be eligible for SNAP benefits, which they can use to buy food at grocery stores, convenience stores and some farmers markets. But it can be difficult for students to qualify, since most will have to work about 20 hours a week to use the program.

Some colleges, like Portland State University in Oregon, bring farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits to campus.

Financial aid appeal

Students who don’t receive enough financial aid or who have a serious change to their financial situation midyear can appeal their aid offer. Students should be ready to provide their financial aid office with the amount they’ll need, details of their circumstances and relevant documentation.

Emergency grants

A one-time emergency aid grant from a college can also help students bear the burden of their expenses — and that doesn’t just mean food. Insecurity with food often goes hand in hand with housing insecurity, says Mary Haskett, a psychology professor who led a food and housing security study at North Carolina State.

Students should visit their school’s financial aid or student affairs office.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

The article Hunger on Campus: How College Students Can Get Help originally appeared on NerdWallet. —

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Drink Up Savings at Starbucks

One Starbucks grande Cold Brew with Salted Cream Cold Foam, please.

Even if your order sounds fancy, enjoying your coffee shouldn’t have to put you over budget.

Whatever your drink of choice, following these tips could help keep you from overspending at your favorite coffee spot — without giving up your habit.

Write a money recipe

First and foremost, recognize your Starbucks purchases as a part of your actual budget.

“I prefer that people be realistic with themselves and say, ‘Listen, this is a habit that I’m not going to give up. It makes my day. It makes me happy,’” says Marianela Collado, CEO and senior financial adviser at Tobias Financial Advisors in Florida.

“Then it should totally be a line item. If you take $5 a day for 365 days, that’s almost $2,000.”

Those who utilize a budgeting system like Mint or Quicken should create a “coffee fix” category in their budget, Collado says. This would fall under the “wants” section of your budget, much like an entertainment or beauty category. And be sure to set a monthly spending limit.

Keep your dark roast out of the red

Then, make some trade-offs. For example, Collado says she’s noticed that some members of her team regularly splurge on their afternoon lattes, but bring their lunches to work instead of going out to eat. They value getting coffee out more than they value eating out.

If you’re not sure if you can hold yourself accountable on your own, don’t discount the ability of a gift card to keep your spending on track. Using a gift card as your payment method is actually a forced budgeting technique, according to Tracie Fobes, founder of Penny Pinchin’ Mom.

She recommends loading a Starbucks gift card onto the Starbucks app with your coffee money allotment for the month. Then don’t reload the card again for the next 30 days.

“You put $40 on that card, and when that $40 is done, guess what? Your Starbucks run ends for the month.”

Swap stars for savings

You can maximize your monthly coffee allotment by joining Starbucks Rewards and downloading the coffee joint’s app.

The Starbucks loyalty program offers customers the ability to earn stars — two stars for every $1 spent — that can later be redeemed for free drinks and other rewards. There are also other benefits, such as a free treat on your birthday, according to a Starbucks spokesperson.

If you’re going to be making purchases at Starbucks anyway, it makes sense to earn rewards for your loyalty — it’ll stretch your coffee dollars a little bit further.

Brew up a bargain

Loyalty programs are a popular savings technique (Starbucks told us its rewards program has more than 16.8 million active members). But beyond simply joining, there are less conventional ways to get the most out of your cup of joe, too.

One option? Time your coffee run strategically. The coffee chain sometimes hosts discount promotions, such as happy hours. These are deals offered directly through the Starbucks app and could include offers such as 50% off drinks or buy one, get one free. These are available to all Starbucks customers and typically start at 3 p.m.

At any time of day, try asking the barista for less ice, recommends Kara Stevens, founder of The Frugal Feminista. The beverage may be slightly less cold, but the container will be filled with more drink for your money.

Pass on the pastries

Sure, you can keep the iced latte, but pass on the pricey pastries, scones, cakes and other snacks, Fobes recommends.

But if you really, really like the flavor of that iced lemon loaf cake, go to Pinterest and check for a similar recipe you can make at home.

“Somebody out there has a copycat where you can make it at home and get the Starbucks experience without paying the Starbucks price,” Fobes says.

Stevens puts her Starbucks food advice this way: Don’t linger too long. The more time you spend there, the more likely you are to be tempted by the food items.

With a little extra work, you can drink up your favorite coffee with a helping of whipped cream — and without dragging down your budget.


The article Drink Up Savings at Starbucks originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Why Streaming Services Are the New Credit Card Rewards Binge

When it comes to credit card rewards, it’s not all about gas, groceries and restaurants anymore. Issuers are moving beyond suburban staples to include millennial-friendly categories such as transit and streaming subscriptions.


The trend toward streaming rewards, in particular, is hard to miss, with cards from American Express, Chase and Wells Fargo now featuring streaming as a bonus category. But what’s behind this explosion?

For starters, streaming is wildly popular. As of 2017, more than half of U.S. households subscribed to paid video-streaming services, according to Deloitte’s digital media trends survey. But experts say it’s also about issuers forging early connections with younger consumers and ensuring that they remain customers.

“The strategy is simple: If a consumer opens a credit card when young, the [issuer] can build a long-term relationship with the consumer,” says Logan Allec, a CPA and founder of the financial blog Money Done Right.

Meeting people where they’re spending

The Deloitte study notes the percentage of U.S. households subscribing to a paid streaming video service grew from 10% in 2009 to 55% in 2017 — a 450% increase. Consumers subscribe to an average of three such services.

Issuers have taken notice. Wells Fargo made a splash last summer, revamping the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card, which now earns triple points back per dollar spent on eligible streaming services. Terms apply. In May 2019, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express underwent a makeover, adding select U.S. streaming services as a 6% cash-back category. Terms apply.The following month, the Chase Freedom® entered the streaming fray. The card earns 5% cash back in bonus categories that rotate each quarter, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter. (You must opt in to the bonus categories each quarter; all other purchases earn 1% back.) From July 1 to Sept. 30, 2019, one of those bonus categories is select streaming services.

Kunal Madhok, vice president of U.S. consumer lending and acquisition at American Express, noted via email that AmEx research found that a segment of millennials were spending more on “day-to-day” costs like commuting and streaming compared with five years ago. So the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express was reworked to reward cardholders more heavily for these types of costs.

“The card is designed to give people the most cash back on the things they value and spend frequently on, now including quality time at home streaming their favorite show,” Madhok said.

Of course, your monthly Netflix bill likely represents only a fraction of your household budget, so don’t expect a boatload of rewards from this category alone. Say your family spends $15.99 per month on Netflix Premium, $14.99 per month on a Spotify Family plan and $5.99 per month on Hulu, for a total of $443.64 per year. If you earn 6% cash back on these services by paying for them with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, that’s just $26.62 in rewards per year. Terms apply.

And that doesn’t take into account the card’s $95 annual fee. When choosing any rewards card, look for categories that match your spending enough to offset that cost.

Building relationships with younger spenders

Per the Deloitte survey, 70% of Gen Z households (ages 14 to 20) had a streaming subscription in 2017, as did 68% of millennial households (ages 21 to 34).

Experts say credit card issuers see an opportunity here to lure customers while they’re young, rewarding them for the spending they’re doing anyway while also converting them into long-term cardholders.

“As the consumer gets older, and presumably begins to spend more, the credit card company has already secured their business,” Allec says.

Subscription services can give these relationships staying power, too, because they’re typically “set it and forget it” transactions. If an issuer can get you to use its card as your automated payment method each month, you’re more likely to keep it — even if you never take the card out of your wallet.

“Credit card companies want consumers to choose their cards for subscriptions as it’s a regular — often monthly — recurring transaction that they can rely on as a base of card spend,” says Derek Szeto, co-founder of Butter, a tool that helps consumers track and manage subscriptions.

“Active cards are sticky cards.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

The article Why Streaming Services Are the New Credit Card Rewards Binge originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Back-to-School Shopping: Kids Influenced by Social Media Push Parents to Overspend

Kids pushing their parents for the coolest in back-to-school gear is a late-summer tradition, and today, youngsters have some backup: social media influencers.

Peer and social media influences on children are not news unto themselves, but it turns out these factors are affecting how parents spend their back-to-school dollars, according to a new NerdWallet survey conducted online by The Harris Poll.

The online survey included 2,010 U.S. adults, among whom 595 are parents of kids in kindergarten through college. Of those parents, at least 6 in 10 say their children are influenced by peers or social media when making their back-to-school wish list. And about half of these parents (51%) say they typically end up buying back-to-school products their kids want because of these influences.

“The whole notion of ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ is amplified on social media, with an entire army of influencers telling your child what they ‘need’ to have this year. That can make back-to-school shopping a real headache,” says NerdWallet personal finance expert, Kelsey Sheehy. “Ease the pressure by having a plan in place before you get started. You can even turn it into a learning opportunity and involve your child in the process so they can learn to prioritize and work within a budget.”

Here’s how parents are thinking about their back-to-school shopping lists, along with some tips on how to manage the costs and potential frustrations.

Key findings

  • Nearly all (97%) of parents with children in kindergarten through college plan on back-to-school shopping this year.
  • Half (50%) of parents planning to do back-to-school shopping this year say they’ll likely splurge, compared with 93% of those who shopped last year who say they splurged.
  • Six in 10 parents (60%) with kids in school say their children are influenced by social media and 67% say their children are influenced by friends on what they want to buy for back-to-school.
  • More than half (52%) of these parents say they feel pressured by their children to buy back-to-school items they want, even if they cost more than they’d normally want to spend.

Note: Throughout this report, unless otherwise noted, “parents” refers to parents with children in kindergarten through college.

Preparing for peer, social media pressure

At least 6 in 10 parents say their children are influenced by social media (60%) and friends (67%) on what to buy for back-to-school. In turn, the kids pass the pressure on to parents. Just over half (52%) of parents with children in school say they feel pressured by their kids to purchase supplies and/or apparel, even if they cost more than they’d normally want to spend, and 51% say they usually end up buying the products their kids want because of influence from others.

Back-to-school shopping tip 1: Share the list and a budget with your child. You have a list of things your child needs and likely can’t indulge every whim on brand names and costly designs. Helping your child understand this upfront can save you from an argument in the store and can impart a useful lesson in personal finance. By setting a dollar limit before the shopping begins, you can avoid the exasperation of being pressured into a pair of sneakers that eats into the money for notebooks and pencils.

Handling splurges

Parents can’t blame all of their overspending on pressure from their children, however. Nearly all of those who shopped likely overspent last year, and they may be setting themselves up for failure again this year.

Over 9 in 10 parents (93%) who did back-to-school shopping last year splurged, but only 50% who plan to shop this year say they’ll likely splurge, suggesting either many have cleaned up their act or they’re not being realistic about how much they’ll be tempted to overspend.

Back-to-school shopping tip 2: Make a realistic budget and plan. If you know you “always” splurge this time of year (42% of parents say they do), or believe it’s likely, set a budget that accounts for this. Give yourself wiggle room to buy a few splurge items, but rein in spending on things you can get at a bargain price. If you’re completely honest with yourself, and you know you’ll spend more than you have, begin saving for back-to-school shopping like you do for holiday shopping or any big purchase.

“It’s better to set a slightly higher budget than it is to feel guilty about overspending, or worse, to have to rearrange your finances to account for unplanned splurges,” says Sheehy.

Comparing and matching prices

Price-matching, or asking retailers to beat competitor prices, is an underused practice that can pay off big. Within the past year, 28% of Americans say they haven’t price-matched at all. Parents with children under age 18 are more likely to have price-matched (83%) vs. those without (66%).

“Price-matching takes comparison shopping to the next level,” Sheehy says. “It does involve a little more work, but the potential reward is savings above and beyond what you’ll find in sales flyers or emails.”

Back-to-school shopping tip 3: Make comparing and matching prices a habit. Apps such as ShopSavvy or ScanLife make it easy to compare prices while you’re in the store. Compare prices on exact products across retailers; then ask a clerk or check store websites for price-matching policies. These policies vary widely from retailer to retailer. For example, Target and Staples have generous price-matching policies, but Amazon doesn’t price-match at all.

Paying for purchases

Of those parents planning to do back-to-school shopping this year, about half (52%) will put their purchases on a debit card and 38% will use cash. These methods are far preferable to racking up debt you can’t immediately pay off, but if shoppers can pay cash, they could likely earn rewards on their purchases just as easily.

Just under half (45%) of parents planning to shop will use a credit card.

Back-to-school shopping tip 4: Get paid for your spending. Use a credit card that earns rewards, such as points or cash back, to make your back-to-school spending work for you. But don’t let interest eat into your benefits.

“You can use a rewards credit card to maximize your back-to-school shopping and earn points or cash back to put toward next year’s summer vacation,” says Sheehy. “Just make sure you can pay the balance off each month. If you don’t, interest charges will quickly eat away at any benefits the card offers.”

Timing your shopping

Summer ultimately leads into the school year, but that doesn’t make it the best time to do all of your back-to-school shopping.

Two in five parents (40%) who do back-to-school shopping say they wait until July to start, and 36% wait until August. Just 8% say they purchase school items for the upcoming school year throughout the year.

You may capture some sales by waiting for summer to buy items for the school year — especially if you wait until just before school begins — but you could also overspend by purchasing everything in the same month.

Back-to-school shopping tip 5: Time purchases throughout the year. Many states have sales tax holidays that coincide with back-to-school — check your state’s dates on the website of the Federation of Tax Administrators. Take advantage of the savings on these days, but don’t feel like you have to buy everything for the entire year in one go. Fall and winter clothes, for example, will likely be cheaper a few months after school begins.

»MORE: What to buy every month of the year


This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from May 30-June 3, 2019, among 2,010 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 595 are parents with kids in kindergarten through 12th grade or college. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Jessica Ayala at

The article Back-to-School Shopping: Kids Influenced by Social Media Push Parents to Overspend originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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These Types of Apps Could Prompt Impromptu Spending

While some apps help you save money, others have a way of encouraging you to spend more.

Changing how you connect with these types of apps by deleting them, not downloading them in the first place or limiting your interaction with them can help you rein in your spending.

Subscription-based apps

Many subscription services and boxes have corresponding apps. And you may feel inclined to sign up for a subscription if you can easily manage your membership from an app.

But automatic subscriptions are dangerous because consumers tend to continue using (and paying for) them, as opposed to canceling when they’re done, says Susan Weinschenk, a behavioral scientist and CEO of The Team W, a consulting company.

“If it requires action to make it stop, then we’re less likely to actually take that action and make it stop,” Weinschenk says. “We all fall prey to inertia.”

To save, stay away from subscriptions and their corresponding apps in the first place. Or, use apps to fight apps. For example, Weinschenk suggests setting up alerts to remind you when a free trial is expiring — before you’re charged. You can also set up twice yearly alerts as a reminder to review all of your ongoing subscriptions, streaming services and so forth.

Shopping apps

Deals make people feel good.

When consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow interviewed shoppers about how they feel when getting a good bargain, they’ve likened it to coming in first in a race or getting a raise at their job.

“There’s just a winning feeling,” says Yarrow, who is also the author of “Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy.”

Deal-centric apps, such as those for certain stores, bring those feel-good bargains straight to you via your smartphone. But tempting sale notifications can encourage more shopping, which may mean it’s better to delete those retail apps altogether.

Or at least turn off the app’s alerts, advises Weinschenk. That way, you aren’t constantly flooded with push notifications about sales.

Another strategy? Weinschenk said she’s downloaded a store’s app, redeemed a coupon offer and then uninstalled the app just as easily as she installed it.

But if you’re disciplined, you can keep the apps, says Casey Taylor, a partner in Bain & Company’s retail practice. Take advantage of the savings within shopping apps, but also monitor how much you’re spending in them. For example, check your credit card statements regularly to stay within your discretionary spending budget.

Social media apps

The products you see in your social media feed — whether from retailers or friends — could encourage you to purchase things you wouldn’t otherwise buy.

But deleting social media isn’t an option for many. “Most people really want to have social media in their lives, so I can’t see getting rid of those apps,” Yarrow says.

Instead, she says to be aware that Instagram and Facebook will present you with buying opportunities. Be conscious that marketing is constantly targeted at you, and “you’re being hunted, stalked, chased down,” Yarrow says. “When you go shopping online, if you stop and hover too long over a product, that product’s going to show up on your social media feed, and you have to be ready to say no.”

Even when you’re not paying money for these apps, Yarrow says you’re paying with your attention.

Rewards apps

Rewards program apps, whether for a grocery store, airline or coffee shop, typically function in much the same way. The more customers spend, the more rewards they unlock.

Taylor says it can almost feel like a game.

For example, in the Starbucks app, “You earn stars that you can then burn for rewards,” she says. If you’re a very disciplined customer, you could save money by claiming a free coffee or snack using stars you accumulated from items you were already buying, Taylor says.

But, she adds, “what you see is it becomes psychologically tempting to buy things just to earn those stars.

So be careful not to let climbing the tiers of a reward system lead you to spend more in the process.

With any app, Yarrow says one way to curb excess purchases is to simply be aware of the potential dangers. Pause and recognize your tendency to overspend before it happens.

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The article These Types of Apps Could Prompt Impromptu Spending originally appeared on NerdWallet.

5 Good Times to Shop for Almost Anything

There’s a best time to buy just about anything, but knowing which product will go on sale at what time isn’t always easy.

So here’s a list of general shopping rules that can apply to most things you’ll buy. With these tips, you can figure out the best time — or at least a good time — to purchase almost anything.

Below are five great times to shop.

1. Thursdays

Shopping at a brick-and-mortar store on a Thursday afternoon or evening can be cost-effective. This one isn’t a guarantee every time, but it’s a good bet, according to Kristen Regine, a professor of marketing at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island who holds a doctorate in business administration.

“Thursday is an important day for consumers to know because that’s when stores take markdowns,” Regine says. “They’re prepping for the weekend. They know they’re going to get the most foot traffic on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.”

2. Holiday weekends

In some cases, Mondays are better. Expect big deals on weekends leading up to holidays, says Darrin Duber-Smith, a senior lecturer of marketing at Metropolitan State University of Denver. That can apply to a wide array of products, but particularly big-ticket items like cars.

“A three-day weekend is always great for buying,” Duber-Smith says. “That’s just a general rule. When there’s a day off — a Monday off — that is a big deal because it’s three days of buying instead of two.”

Popular sale weekends include Presidents Day in February, Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in September.

3. Clearance events

A key to shopping is buying products when retailers are liquidating them and moving them to the clearance rack. After all, stores have to run out of the old stuff before they can stock the new stuff.

For example, furniture is typically restocked twice a year — February and August — according to Duber-Smith. That means older furniture styles are usually on sale in January in July.

“Inventory is the bain of all retailers,” Duber-Smith says. “You want to get rid of something at cost or even below cost because you think you can make money off of something that’s going to replace it on the shelves.”

Always check the clearance rack. And while you’re at it, pay attention to colors. Regine says some clothing retailers mark down items according to color, rather than by category. For example, you may find a bunch of blue or purple apparel on clearance after the color didn’t resonate with consumers or sell well.

4. Same time as last year

If you can’t remember when these types of sale events will roll around, the deals retailers have hosted in the past are usually a good indication of deals they’ll host in the future.

Regine points out that Sephora has a big makeup sale each May, Old Navy has a flip-flop sale each June and Amazon hosts its Prime Day sale each July.

Other retailers, such as Bath & Body Works, host semiannual sales. These twice-yearly sales are typically held in January and June, although the exact timing varies.

To learn about these sales, Regine suggests asking a store sales associate about current and upcoming promotions. Online, keep old retail emails in your inbox so you can track sales and anticipate when they’ll happen again.

Holding onto those marketing emails can also help you compare current prices with prices the store has offered in the past so you can better judge the value of a deal. That 20% off sitewide might not be as enticing if you saw the same retailer offer 30% off sitewide last month.

5. When apps tell you

You don’t have to do all the deal legwork on your own. Regine recommends leaning on technology to help you figure out when you should buy something you’ve been eyeing for a while.

To keep track of the various promotions and deals, she likes Shop It To Me and the Krazy Coupon Lady, both of which are shopping apps that will notify you of price drops on certain items you want.

“Let the apps do the work for you because there is no easy, simple guide,” Regine says.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

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The article 5 Good Times to Shop for Almost Anything originally appeared on NerdWallet.

What to Buy (and Skip) in July

If you’re looking for a large helping of summertime savings, July comes just in time.

This month will serve up plenty of promotions, including Fourth of July deals, Black Friday in July sales and ice cream freebies.

To make the most of July’s discounts, here’s a category-by-category guide for what to buy (and a few things to skip).

Buy: Patriotic items

Each year around July 4, stores pledge allegiance to the red, white and blue with sales on just about everything that has stars and stripes on it. Expect clothing discounts at department stores and decoration discounts at party supply shops. Wait until close to the holiday to buy your items at the best price.

Some stores extend their sales to other products. Last year, we located Fourth of July deals on food, appliances, mattresses and more.

Keep your eyes peeled for star-spangled savings again this year. For example, home improvement store Lowe’s is offering up to 40% off select appliances in honor of the holiday. This offer ends July 10.

Skip: Back-to-school supplies

We know: While you’re working on your tan, school is the last thing you want to think about. And you don’t have to. Retailers begin their back-to-school sales as early as July, but you’ll save more if you don’t buy your backpack or laptop just yet. School-oriented deals historically reach their peak in late August and early September, when stores are more motivated to clear shelves.

Additionally, check if your state is hosting a sales tax holiday this year. During these events, shoppers don’t pay sales tax on select supplies. Many sales tax holidays happen during the month of August or at the end of July.

Buy: Summer apparel

By July, tank tops, shorts and flip-flops have been on display for several weeks — and in some cases, several months — so it’s finally time to stock up.

By this point in the season, don’t settle for anything less than a sale price on summer apparel. Look for storewide discount events and coupons specifically for clothing departments. Designer brand Coach, for instance, has already launched its Summer Sale, and apparel and accessory shops like Forever 21 and Old Navy also have seasonal sales. And July 19 marks the beginning of Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale.

Skip: Lawn mowers

July isn’t an ideal time to purchase large outdoor items, such as lawn mowers. You aren’t the only one thinking about tending your yard, and higher demand traditionally means higher prices.

By the time August and September roll around, outdoor items will see steeper discounts, so hold off for another month or two.

Buy: Travel

July can be a great time to book your travel, as long as you’re planning a trip for later in the year. July is the most popular (and expensive) month of the summer for air travel, according to a 2019 report by, an online travel agency.

If you absolutely have to buy airline tickets for July, CheapAir recommends traveling on a Tuesday instead of a Sunday. July 4 flights are expected to be affordable since the holiday falls on a Thursday.

Bonus: Black Friday in July

If last year is any indication, expect Black Friday-esque deals this month in an assortment of categories, such as apparel and electronics. Retailers often offer these discounts in an attempt to boost typically sluggish summer sales, and they can spell real savings for consumers.

This year, Amazon is hosting its annual Prime Day on July 15 and 16, with limited-time deals on products across the site. Walmart, Target and Forever 21 have hosted Black Friday in July blowouts, too.

Keep an eye out for similar midsummer sales again this year. They could be a solid opportunity to buy things you’ve been holding off on.

And ice cream

July 21 is National Ice Cream Day. Use it as an excuse to indulge in your favorite flavor. If you work it right, you can get your cone on the house.

In past years, some ice cream shops offered free or discounted treats. PetSmart PetsHotel locations have even given dog-friendly ice cream to four-legged friends. You’ll usually be able to find promotional announcements and coupons on social media.

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