The Do's and Don'ts of Memorial Day Shopping

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John Raoux/APDon't fall for the sale signs on grills, patio furniture and summer clothing -- you'll find lower prices after Memorial Day.
By Courtney Jespersen

You might read a lot in the coming days about what you should and shouldn't buy this Memorial Day weekend, but here's a tip: Getting the best deal during the holiday weekend is about more than just which department to shop in. To save big, check out our top do's and don'ts of Memorial Day shopping.

Do: Research

It pays to be prepared. Don't walk into a store (or visit a store's website) blindly this Memorial Day weekend. Do your sale-searching homework before you fire up the grill or attend your local parade.

Before you settle on where to shop, cross-compare retailers to see which is offering the best deal (lowest price, least expensive shipping, best freebies, etc.). Consider registering for the email mailing lists of your favorite stores well before Memorial Day so you'll know about the deals as soon as they're announced.

Don't: Forget the Basics

Just because many major retailers will be hosting big sales doesn't mean you should ease up on your regular savvy shopping habits. Here are a few that can prove especially helpful:
  • When shopping online, look for (and don't neglect to enter) any qualifying discount promo codes at checkout.
  • When shopping in-store, bring a physical copy of coupons and ads with you, so you can guarantee yourself the advertised deal.
  • No matter where you shop, always read the fine print of offers for full details about possible exclusions, limited product quantities and ending dates of sales.
Do: Buy Appliances

One category of products to keep an especially close eye on is appliances.

In past years, Memorial Day has been a prime opportunity to grab a great discount on major appliances like refrigerators. Expect similar sales from big-name retailers again this year. And while you're shopping for your home, check out the mattress section. Memorial Day sales are an ideal time to get an appealing deal there, too.

Don't: Buy Summer Essentials

Memorial Day may be synonymous with summer, but that doesn't mean Memorial Day sales should be synonymous with summer products.

If you're looking to buy at the best price possible, don't purchase summer essentials now. You won't find the lowest prices on a number of warm-weather products, including outdoor furniture, grills and swimwear.

The reason for this is something you can keep in mind well beyond Memorial Day: As a general rule, the best time to buy any particular product is directly after its peak season (or sometime during its offseason). That's when retailers are trying to clear out inventory and are more likely to slash prices. It works for holiday decorations after Christmas, and it works for patio gear once summer ends.

Do: Find Free Shipping

Now that you know what you should and shouldn't be buying, what about how you'll be buying? If you plan on shopping online from the comfort of home (or backyard) this year, make sure to look for free shipping offers.

Search for stores that offer free standard shipping on all online orders. Or, if a retailer is offering free shipping on orders above a certain amount, try to reach this minimum. Don't forget to input any coupon codes at checkout that may be required to take advantage of such promotions, so you won't end up paying for shipping when you don't have to.

Don't: Get Scammed

Finally, in the midst of shopping madness, don't allow yourself to get scammed by too-good-to-be-true sales and deals. It's especially important to follow safe shopping practices during popular sales periods such as Memorial Day.

In past years, the Better Business Bureau has warned consumers to watch out for Memorial Day-related tricks. Previously discovered scams have included phony deals promised to military personnel and veterans and enticingly low prices on deceptively subpar cars. The BBB also warns against wire-transferring money to strangers or clicking on suspicious links in emails.

No matter what you're shopping for this Memorial Day, be sure to make purchases only from retailers you trust.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, which saves consumers cash and compares everything from shopping deals to credit cards.
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