Fast facts and free tips in advance of the holiday shopping rush


holliday-spending-survey-v10By Scott Robertson

First, and most important, buy local. Don’t think it matters whether you buy in person or online? Head down to the Kmart parking lot and ask the pigeons about it.

Last year saw the first huge swing away from retail locations in favor of online shopping during the Black Friday weekend after years of slowly trickling in that direction. This year, experts are already saying Black Friday weekend in-person shopping will be down both in terms of numbers of shoppers and dollars spent, while online shopping figures to rise again.

When you hear that 154 million shoppers (just under half the nation’s population) took to the streets last year, it doesn’t sound so bad for brick and mortar retailers, especially when you see they spent almost $300 a person. But then you realize that many shoppers simply used the stores as showrooms for amazon, picking their favorites in person, then ordering them online, and you see the problem for retailers who hire local employees.  Black Friday weekend saw shoppers spend more than $5 billion online in 2016.

Second, be wary of a financing trick that some stores use to prey on folks who aren’t detail-oriented when it comes to their money. It’s called deferred interest payments, and whoever thought of it deserves coal in his stocking. Here’s the description penned by Alina Comoreanu, senior researcher for 

“Deferred-interest financing is like a wolf in a sheep’s clothing, pairing an enticing offer – something like ‘no interest if paid in full’ or ‘special financing’ – with a clause that allows the deal to turn ugly if you make the slightest mistake. Paying your bill a day late or owing even $1 when the promotional period ends would enable the issuer to retroactively apply finance charges to your entire original purchase amount, as if the intro rate never existed.”

To be clear, these plans appear on store credit cards, and on store website offers (yes, amazon offers them), and when most shoppers are made aware of them, their reactions are almost uniformly negative. After all, zero percent financing is the single biggest draw a store credit card has. More than two thirds of people said in a recent survey they would not sign up for a card with such a plan if they knew about it beforehand, and half believe the practice should be illegal. But it’s not, so read the fine print if you plan on getting a store card to take advantage of the “free money.” A list of stores that don’t offer deferred interest cards can be found at   

Among the top items purchased during Black Friday weekend: 50 percent of shoppers bought clothes last year, while only a third bought toys. Kids still need to be outfitted, but they are turning away from toys in favor of digital entertainment in droves.

Some cash had already left shoppers’ hands before the Black Friday offers took effect Thursday night, and 46 million turkeys paid the ultimate price to see it happen. More than $780 million was spent last year on the purchase of turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner at an average price of $17 per bird.

Most Americans, 70 percent of those surveyed, said Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without a turkey, although 25 percent said they were planning on skipping the bird this year. Even with the turkey on the table, relatively low food costs make the meal one of the most economical parties one can throw. In fact, according to wallethub, the price of the food for a full Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people can be had for under $50 if one shops carefully. Remind us never to have Thanksgiving dinner at the wallethub people’s house.

One more point about shopping local: last year more than half of all Christmas gifts (54 percent) were returned, exchanged or altered. That’s so much easier to do in person than online. Among the least returned gifts for men: ties, wallets and anti-aging skin products. Among the least returned items for women: watches, fine jewelry and anti-aging skin products.

This leads us to our final point: even though it is unlikely to be returned, never, ever, ever, ever, ever, eeeeeeeever buy anyone an anti-aging skin product as a gift, even locally. Come to think of it, especially locally. Happy Thanksgiving!


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