We have tips for getting around higher prices this holiday shopping season.
If it feels as if the holiday shopping season started earlier this year, that’s because it did. In the past, it traditionally started today — on Black Friday. But this fall, retailers began trying to lure shoppers earlier: Amazon, Best Buy and Target, for example, started offering deals tailored to the holidays or Black Friday in October.
One culprit behind the shift is inflation. With prices for food, energy and other goods up nearly 8 percent from last year, consumers are worried about paying too much. But retailers want customers and have tried to convince the public that their products are affordable. An earlier shopping season, with special promotions, can help get more shoppers in the door.
“If people are cautious about spending, they’re more likely to spend when they see a sale,” said my colleague Nathan Burrow, who covers deals for Wirecutter, the Times-owned product recommendation site. “And retailers are obliging.”
The timing of sales is just one example of how inflation is warping the shopping season. Today’s newsletter will be a guide to what consumers can expect and how they can deal with higher prices, with help from Wirecutter.
You will probably see a lot of signs boasting of price markdowns if you go shopping today. But that does not really mean you are getting a good deal.
“Not every sale is going to be worth your time,” Nathan said. “Yes, there are sales that can actually save people money. But sometimes there are sales that are not all they’re hyped up to be.”
In some cases, items are perpetually or frequently on sale — to the point that the lower price might as well be the regular one. Prices for video games, for example, are so routinely cut that some thrifty gamers exclusively wait for sales. A Lifehacker article captured the sentiment, telling people to “stop paying full price for video games.”
Inflation has also complicated matters. Consider a mundane item: a two-pack of tape measures at Home Depot, now on sale for $25. This two-pack, whose price Wirecutter has tracked since 2018, was on sale for $20 in previous years. So is the $25 price tag truly a deal? It is, compared with the $45 it was selling for a few weeks ago, but it is still higher than it was a year or so ago, thanks to inflation.
Inflation means consumers can expect similar scenarios with a range of products this year.
Still, deals do exist. Nathan has tips on finding good ones in the coming weeks. First, comparison shop: Now that retailers post their prices online, it is easy to browse different outlets to find the best deals. You can also use trackers, like CamelCamelCamel and Honey, to find recent price cuts.
Nathan also recommended setting a personal budget for a set number of items — a wish list — and a separate slush fund for impulse purchases. This not only limits how much you spend but can also push you toward finding good deals, since you know that your total is limited.
“This is very basic,” Nathan said, “but it can save you money.”
More on holiday shopping
This year the poor are buckling under inflation, as the rich continue to spend.
No one knows what to make of this year’s holiday shopping season. But billions of dollars are riding on it.
If it had been up to retailers, we’d be calling it “Big Friday.” Here’s how Black Friday got its name.
THE LATEST NEWS
“We were a family”: Victims of the shooting at a Walmart in Virginia this week were part of a tight-knit overnight team.
From 2017: Why does the U.S. have so many mass shootings? Guns.
Unrest is rising over Covid lockdowns and quarantines in China. The defiance is a test of Xi Jinping’s authoritarian leadership.
The parent company of Yandex, Russia’s version of Google, wants to cut ties with the Kremlin.
French lawmakers backed a proposal to enshrine abortion rights in their Constitution, a response to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Other Big Stories
From SpongeBob SquarePants to Bluey the dog: Have a look at these photos from yesterday’s 96th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
A new era of direct confrontation between the U.S. and Iran has burst into the open, The Times’s David Sanger writes.
A man was charged with assault after he held a razor near the throat of another passenger on a flight from New York to Salt Lake City, prosecutors said.
By expressing solidarity with protesters at great personal risk, Iran’s soccer team has already won the World Cup, Golnar Nikpour says.
In a country at war, the beauty of a wedding is a lifeline to normality and a rebellion against violence, Alyona Synenko writes.
Whether it’s immaturity or escapism, David Brooks has the musical taste of a 15-year-old.
Older influencers: China’s grandparents are ready to go viral.
Solidarity: The salute emoji has become popular during layoffs.
Modern Love: We fear imperfection in our love lives. What if we embrace it instead?
Quiz time: See how well you followed this week’s headlines.
A Times classic: How to relieve pregnancy pains.
Lives Lived: Harriet Bograd helped Jews in Africa and elsewhere feel connected to their origins by helping them start businesses and open synagogues and schools. She died at 79.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
N.F.L. tripleheader: The favorites Minnesota, Dallas and Buffalo survived a potential Thanksgiving upset feast. All maintained solid footing in the playoff race, though the Cowboys and the Bills have to deal with the toughest divisions in football down the stretch.
Results: Portugal held off Ghana in yesterday’s highest profile match, 3-2. Brazil beat Serbia, 2-0, Switzerland bested Cameroon, 1-0, and Uruguay and Korea drew, 0-0. Here’s a recap.
Talent: He scored both goals to bring Brazil to victory yesterday. Meet Richarlison, Brazil’s new star.
The new recruits: More than 130 players at the tournament represent a country other than that of their birth. A few of them committed only months before the World Cup.
Matchups: The face-off between the U.S. and England may just be the biggest American soccer game in a decade. The English haven’t lost to the U.S. since 1993. They play each other at 2 p.m. Eastern. Here are today’s other games and results.
ARTS AND IDEAS
There are adults in New York City Ballet’s annual production of “The Nutcracker,” but make no mistake: The children are the stars. The show is a training ground for young dancers, who generally start as Angels, learning the basics of crossing the stage and counting to music, and progress to more advanced parts over the years.
Eleanor Murphy, a 9-year-old playing the Bunny, first saw the City Ballet production when she was 3. “After the show, I was screaming because I didn’t want to go home,” she said. “I always wanted to be in ‘The Nutcracker,’ and now I’m in ‘The Nutcracker.’”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Turn leftover turkey into a potpie.
What to Watch
Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel “White Noise” is a campus comedy, a domestic drama and an allegory of contemporary American life.
What to Read
In Stephen Spotswood’s new novel, “Secrets Typed in Blood” — set in 1940s New York City — a pulp magazine writer claims that a killer is copying crimes from her stories.
Now Time to Play
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — German
P.S. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November a national “day of thanksgiving” 159 years ago tomorrow. (It officially became the fourth Thursday in 1941.)
Here’s today’s front page.
There’s no new episode of “The Daily.”
Matthew Cullen, Lauren Hard, Lauren Jackson, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].