Thanksgiving is almost here, which means Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner. These major sale days can be a great opportunity to save on gifts for everyone on your list — but before you tap, insert or swipe, NBC senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle wants you to know the rules for getting the best deals and saving your hard-earned cash.
Before you put that turkey in the oven, now is the time to set yourself up to get the steepest discounts without the stress of last-minute shopping, Ruhle explained. Check out the answers to some of the top questions about shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales before you spend.
1. Where do I start?
"First and foremost, you want to make a list and check it twice — a shopping list, that is," said Ruhle. "This is not the year to be walking into a store and not knowing what you are looking for." Know who you're buying for and your budget before you even think about pulling out that credit card.
These days, we get so many advertisements in form of emails, texts and online ads, so it's even more important than ever to really consider each purchase.
"I know it's really hard when you get ads on every social media platform so it is even more important to plan ahead," she said. "Those ads can be helpful for gift ideas of course but you don't want to fall for clever marketing if you can't truly afford it."
The holidays are also a time for a little self-care, so don't forget to put yourself on that shopping list. — just make sure you plan ahead for your personal purchases, too.
"Don't forget to make your own wish list," she said. "We are all guilty of shopping for ourselves to get those deep discounts. But write down what you actually need and stick to it to avoid overspending."
If you've been setting aside money for holiday spending, don't feel guilty about spending it!
Now's the time to use it and pat yourself on the back for planning ahead, says Ruhle.
2. How can I save the most money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
"Once you have your budget set, make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck," says Ruhle. There are a couple of different ways you can do this.
"First check if your credit card is offering additional discounts for stores you frequent," she suggested. "You may be able to get an extra 5% or 10% off on top of your Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals." Check your account online to see if there are any add-on deals.
"Another good option is a cashback app like Rakuten or Ibotta," Ruhle said. "You can upload receipts, link it to your credit card or store loyalty program to earn gift cards or cashback as you shop."
And if you're shopping online, use those browser extensions to find the best deals. Honey and Camelizer are popular options and will check coupon codes before you check out to make sure you're getting the deepest discounts.
3. Where are the best places to look for sales?
"Black Friday and Cyber Monday will always have good deals, but it depends what you are trying to get," Ruhle explained. Retailers are trying to get people back in stores, so you may get a better deal by shopping in-person.
"Sales may also be more specific on Black Friday," explained Ruhle. "For example, cardigans will be on sale Black Friday and then it's all sweaters on Monday." So it really pays to know what you're looking for before you go.
Also, don't forget that retailers are trying to move product, so sales may change last minute in order to get you to buy.
"If you have specifics in mind, most of the major retailers have already put their circulars out and many have already started deals," she said. "Look up what you want to get and game plan where you will buy it and when."
If you see something on your list, remember that many retailers have started their sales so don't be afraid to grab what you need when you see it (especially with plenty of product shortages due to the pandemic). "Some retailers like Target, for example, are doing price match this year — so if you buy it now and the price drops Monday, they'll give you back the difference."
Many great deals can be had from the comfort of your couch. Gone are the days when hordes of people would head to the stores after Thanksgiving dinner — in fact many major retailers are now closed on Thanksgiving.
4. What I'm still struggling with debt from last year's holiday season?
If you overspent last year, but you still want to exchange gifts with friends and family, Ruhle said there are a few things you can do.
"If you haven't already, try to make a plan to pay off your debt," she says. "The cheapest method is to pay off your highest interest debt first, but it may be easier to stay motivated by paying debts off smallest to biggest."
Always trying to make the minimum payment or even a few dollars over it if possible. "That can really help you with how much interest you accrue," she said.
And if you are looking for alternative gift ideas, there are a lot of resources out there such as your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook where members can gift and request items. There's no selling allowed and everything is free.
"Don't forget the gift of quality time," urged Ruhle. "Offering to help a friend or loved one with a task or taking something off their plate during a busy time of year might mean more than a physical gift."
For more great money tips visit On the Money TODAY.