8 Tips for Taking Advantage of Amazon Prime Day

Amazon Prime Membership
Paul Sakuma/APShopping on Amazon's Prime Day could end up costing you.
By Kimberly Palmer

For one-day only -- Wednesday -- Amazon is hosting Amazon Prime Day, which it says will feature more deals than Black Friday. Many of the best deals were kept under wraps until the last minute, adding to the buzz and inspiring other stores, including Walmart, to offer competing sales of their own.

If you're wondering whether to take advantage of all the deals and make some purchases Wednesday, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Focus on the big-ticket items. As with Black Friday, consumers have the chance to save the most on big-ticket items that are marked down by a significant percentage. Some of the biggest deals on Amazon that have been revealed so far feature electronics, including cameras, e-readers and stereo systems. Most of the deals come with limited time windows to make purchases as well as limited quantities, which brings us to our next tip.

2. Avoid shopping when you feel rushed. Just as with one-day sales that center around holidays, this one-day sale can lead to shoppers feeling rushed and pressured, which can cause bad buying decisions. As consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow told U.S. News during the last holiday season, shoppers should try to avoid buying anything when they feel competitive pressure, because it often leads to overshopping. Instead, she suggests pausing before hitting the buy button, and spending some time away from your screen.

3. Stick to your list. Buying items that catch your eye on Prime Day might mean spending money on products that you really don't need and end up sitting unused in a storage closet. Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor for RetailMeNot.com and U.S. News contributor to the Frugal Shopper blog, encourages shoppers to consult their shopping lists of items they know they need, so they can avoid making unnecessary purchases.

4. Remember that time is money. As with Cyber Monday after Thanksgiving, Amazon Prime Day presents a potential distraction to our work day: It falls on a Wednesday when many Americans are supposed to be working. If you're at work, spending time scrolling through coupons might end up costing you in terms of your lost output.

5. Weigh the benefits of Amazon Prime membership. The cost of membership is $99 a year. If you aren't already a member, then you'll want to consider whether than investment makes sense for you and your budget. Benefits include free two-day shipping, access to free movies and music streaming, and free books through the Kindle Lending Library.

Lisa Koivu, U.S. News contributor to the Frugal Shopper blog and founder of ShopGirlDaily.com, urges consumers to think about their shopping habits before signing up: Are you likely to borrow free Kindle books or watch shows through Amazon Instant Video? Do you like to order household items through the mail? If so, your budget could benefit from a Prime membership.

6. Look beyond Amazon. If you're browsing the Amazon Prime Day sales, then don't forget to hop over to other sites, like Walmart.com, to check out all the copycat sales going on Wednesday. Walmart has announced that it is discounting over 2,000 items online Wednesday across many departments, including electronics and household items. Shoppers don't need to buy a membership first in order to take advantage of those discounts, and free shipping starts at orders of $35.

7. If you make a purchase, prevent the snowball effect. Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business have identified something called "shopping momentum," which means one purchase can lead to more purchases. In other words, shoppers have a hard time stopping once they start buying. So if you are tempted into "clicking" your way to a purchase Wednesday, consider stepping away from your computer or smartphone to take a breather and break that cycle of spending.

8. Keep your biggest goals in mind. It's easy to get distracted by the shiny, new items flashing on your screen, but your biggest goals might have nothing to do with a new DVD or headphones. You might be aiming to pay off debt, save money for a much-needed vacation or fund your emergency savings account. Despite all the distraction of Wednesday's sales, it can make more sense for your wallet to step back and focus on those bigger goals instead -- so you're living by your own agenda, and not Amazon's.

Kimberly Palmer is a senior editor for U.S. News Money. She is the author of the new book, "The Economy of You." You can follow her on Twitter @alphaconsumer, circle her on Google Plus or email her at kpalmer@usnews.com.
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