by Louis Ramirez, Deals Editor + Elizabeth Peterson, Social Media & Marketing Manager at Purch

If there’s one lesson that sticks with you this holiday shopping season, we hope it’s this one: Deal lover ≠ Scrooge. It’s possible to save a bunch of money on gifts for everyone on your list without being a total miser.

Don’t believe us? You don’t have to. Here to prove that penny-pinching is the thing to do, even during the season of giving, is Louis Ramirez, deals editor at Tom’s Guide and Laptop Mag.

We recently asked Louis for some money-saving tips heading into the shopping season, and he did not disappoint. He also dropped a few hints about spotting too-good-to-be-true deals and even convinced us to try our hand at haggling.

(Just here for the shopping tips? Scroll down for the best free advice you’re ever likely to receive.)

So Louis, you’re a deals editor. What’s that like?

So I vet and curate deals; I don’t post just any deal that I come across. I first verify that it’s indeed the lowest price out there, and I research the vendor to make sure it’s reputable and the store isn’t shady.

How do you gauge shadiness, exactly?

There are multiple ways to do this. I use Better Business Bureau, a site called Reseller Ratings and another site for Amazon products called Fakespot. Fakespot helps if, for example, you see a product on Amazon that has 3,000 perfect reviews, and you’re skeptical of that. You drop the Amazon link into the site and it will tell you if the reviews for it are real or fake.

Any other steps we should know about in the deal-finding process?

So first I look at the store, but then I look at the product itself. I always ask myself: Is this a product we’d recommend to our readers? Is it something those readers would want to buy? Have we reviewed it? And if we have reviewed it, how did we grade it? Were we excited about it? Did it receive an editor’s choice award? And then I ask: Would I personally buy this product?

Have you always been good at finding deals? What’s your earliest memory of bargain hunting?

It’s funny, but I actually hate shopping. However, I do like saving money. So before I buy anything I tend to rethink it five or ten (or twenty) times. Then, when I find a deal I like, I sit on it and wait…and wait some more, and then finally, I buy it. I hate buyer’s remorse.

Sorry — need a second to process the idea of hating to shop. Ok. Go on.

It’s really not that I don’t like buying new things; It’s just the process of buying that I don’t like, which is why I shop for everything online — it’s quicker and more convenient, and you don’t have to deal with long lines.

But I think my deal-hunting days really started sometime after college, with Comcast. At the time I was paying a ridiculous price, something like $150, for cable and Internet, so I decided to call Comcast up and cancel. When I threatened to cancel, I was shocked that the company came back at me with a better offer. To make a long story short, I got my bill down to $85 a month. That’s the moment I realized: This whole haggling thing works. It’s a great feeling to save money, and this was when I realized that I should never be paying retail for anything. That’s my motto now.

But aren’t there some things that you just have to pay the retail price for?

You should never pay retail, no matter what the product is! A good example is Apple. Most people think that with Apple, you have to pay retail, but that’s so not true. There are multiple stores that offer great Apple deals — it’s just almost never the Apple store. You have to look for those deals at Best Buy, Amazon or Walmart.

I almost can’t believe we’re talking about holiday shopping before Halloween, but alas, it’s already on peoples’ radar. When should people start deal hunting in earnest and what kinds of products are they most likely to find deals on this time of year?

So let’s start with Black Friday. You should think of Black Friday as a fire sale on everything. Tech and electronics are at the forefront of these sales, but really anything you want to buy, you should be buying between November and December. That’s when you’ll find the lowest prices on everything.

Some people like to buy things ahead of time. They’ll say, “It’s October 15, and I’m already done with my Christmas shopping!” While it’s great that they’re so organized, they’ll probably end up spending a bit more in October than they would in November and December.

Another important point to make is that Black Friday isn’t a day anymore; it’s a season. Now some holiday shopping sales begin before Halloween. That said: the best deals are reserved for the week of Black Friday.

You can also find good sales on Columbus Day on apparel, tech and electronics. You’ll also see really good travel deals that day. But again, unless you absolutely need whatever you’re buying right now, it’s better to wait until November to shop.

What about procrastinators (we all know a few of those) — can folks expect to get good online deals a week or two before Christmas? Or is it a lost cause at that point?

You can still find deals in December. You just don’t want to wait too long because you’ll be overcharged for shipping. But yes, you can find good deals the week before Christmas.

The best deals in December are usually on toys. And the amount of deals you’ll see really depends on how many people come out on Black Friday. If people don’t buy that much on Black Friday, and stores still have a lot of inventory on December 15, the stores will give products another round of discounts to try to move them out. Expect to see sales from Toys R Us, Best Buy and Amazon right before the holidays.

Ok, this has been fun, but it’s time to give the people what they want. What are your top tips for finding great deals this holiday shopping season?

  1. Don’t wait too long to buy things, especially if you’re buying online. Stuff happens (snowstorms, UPS gets really busy), and you run the risk of your gifts not arriving on time.
  2. If you’re not an Amazon Prime member, this is a good time to become one.
  3. Never pay shipping. This time of year, there will always be a period of time in when stores give away a free shipping code.
  4. If you know there are certain stores you’ll be shopping at during the holiday season, sign up for the newsletters. Don’t use your primary email address because you’ll be bombarded with offers. You should also follow your favorite stores or brands on social media. During the holidays they might offer exclusive coupons via Twitter or Facebook.
  5. Use price tracking sites like Camel Camel Camel, which will tell you if you’re getting a good deal on Amazon, or Honey, which will look for coupon codes for you before you check out online.
  6. Use Shop Savvy or another cash back program whenever you can. It’s free money and it adds up. Cash back credit cards are great to use this time of year, too.
  7. Make a list of what you want to buy, and try to stick to it. It’s the best way to save money.
  8. Another thing you can do is price match. Several stores — including Walmart, Best Buy and Target — price match each other and Amazon during the holiday season. It’s an excellent way to save money. You need to find the rules for each retailer, carry the circular with you or a screenshot of the webpage that shows the lower price, and then show it to the cashier at check out.
  9. Don’t be afraid to buy refurbished items during the holidays. That’s an easy way to save money as long as you know what you’re buying. The number one rule here is to know your seller. Buy it from a reputable retailer and find out the product warranty.
  10. Be nice! People can get mean and aggressive during the holidays, but the nicer you are to sales reps or anyone else you encounter while shopping, the better the chance that they’ll be nice to you in return.

Keep up with Louis’ latest deal discoveries by following Tom’s Guide and Laptop on Twitter & follow Purch on Twitter for more insights from our company leaders.

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GIFT-BUYING season has arrived, and you might as well save some money while you’re at it. Plenty of apps can help make you a smarter shopper.

It may seem obvious, but the Amazon app is an excellent tool to have on your phone as you peruse the offerings at your local mall.

The app’s product pages can provide information about an item that you may not learn from an in-store display, and if you prefer to order the item from Amazon instead of buying in the store, the app has a built-in product-recognition system. Simply hold the item in front of your phone’s camera and the app will show Amazon search results that match the product.

I often use Amazon’s app to compare prices and check customer reviews, which may help me decide what products to buy. But the app’s design is beginning to look a little dated, and the menus and interface can sometimes feel clunky and confusing. The app is free on iOS and Android.

Photo

The Amazon app is a helpful tool while perusing the offerings in stores.

Clothing is a popular shopping category, and a number of apps can help you find just the right outfit for the right price. My favorite clothes shopping app that caters to high-end fashion is Farfetch. It focuses on luxury brands and designer labels, including many discounted items. When you sign up for a free account, you choose to shop for men or women and then are presented with a selected list of deals on many kinds of clothing.

From there, you can choose to filter items by designer or by criteria like “new in today” or “sales,” or you can search for specific items. The app has many images, making it easy to navigate various submenus for accessories or jewelry. You can swipe through the many photos on the screen once you have narrowed your search parameters.

When you find, say, a nice-looking pair of Jimmy Choos, you can tap to see more product details. Then you can check size information and the shipping policy, click the “order by phone” button or go to the website to type in any questions you have about the product before you buy it.

Farfetch is upfront about delivery and return policies, and in general it’s a breeze to use. The app is free on iOS and Android.

Photo

The ASOS app, a photo-heavy online shopping app.

If you want to browse lower-price clothing, the ASOS app has you covered. Also a photo-centric online shopping app, ASOS features deals on clothing items that typically cost tens of dollars instead of hundreds. It, too, is free on iOS and Android.

ShopSavvy is a different kind of shopping app: It searches the internet constantly, looking for deals in different stores for various products, and then presents all the results as a news feed of deals. You can search for sales in different stores, including big retailers like Target, or scan a bar code or search for a particular product and then ask the app to check for an in-store deal on the item nearby.

You can even set up price-tracking alerts, so the app will let you know if the price of a particular item you are eyeing has gone down. This app is fun to use, and it could save you money. ShopSavvy is free on both iOS and Android.

Lastly, Purchx is an app with a mission similar to ShopSavvy’s: finding you good prices for items. But while ShopSavvy focuses on deals, Purchx also incorporates customer reviews, collecting them alongside information on current prices. If you are trying to decide between, say, two similar television sets, the data in Purchx can help inform your choice. Purchx isn’t the prettiest shopping app, but it works well and is free on iOS and Android.

Quick Call

Swaying is an iPhone video-making app with a twist: It uses a faux 3-D effect to let you see around an object in a video. It records a clip when you circle your phone around the object you want to capture, and in playback mode you rotate your phone to see around the item. Unusual and satisfying, Swaying is free on iOS.

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