MONEY Shopping

Why You Shouldn’t Shop at Walmart or Amazon on Saturday

141128_EM_SmallBusiness
Matt Gray—Getty Images

Local mom-and-pop stores are trying to make a strong sales pitch to holiday shoppers, while getting squeezed by big box Goliaths on one side and cut-throat online discounters on the other.

Virtually all of the hoopla about Black Friday weekend is focused on which retail giant has the best door buster deals and discounts. Amid the flurry of eye-popping markdowns, crazy marketing schemes, and general cut-throat competitiveness, it’s easy to overlook the little guys struggling to compete with Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Amazon, and all the other big retail players making noise in the marketplace. Indeed, as the results of a recent Bank of America survey show, the vast majority of small business owners feel left out of Black Friday: 74% said the day “has little to no impact on their bottom line, compared to 69% last year.”

To help small businesses avoid being thought of as mere afterthoughts during the epic shopping weekend, American Express created the day-after-Black-Friday tradition known as Small Business Saturday a few years back. It’s a fairly self-explanatory idea, in which consumers are encouraged—through deals, promotions, and special events—to shop at downtown mom-and-pop stores rather than hit the same old national retailers clogging malls and highway stops around the country.

Yet as Businessweek noted recently, compared with the frenzy of attention showered on huge national retailers on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, the trickle of special offers from small, independent shops is sorta “like bringing a (handmade) knife to a gunfight.”

Local shop owners say they having a particularly hard time competing with their oversized retail counterparts during the holiday season because online discounters push prices lower and lower, and national chains keep expanding store hours further and further into Thanksgiving. That doesn’t mean that small businesses and downtown shopping districts in general are willing to simply concede holiday sales to the mall. Rather than taking one careful, strategic strike against a larger opponent like David does in his Biblical fight against Goliath, small businesses are banding together in communities around the U.S., with the hope that there is strength in numbers.

Here are a few of the ways that these Davids are collectively battling for attention and shopper dollars during the holidays:

Local Shopping Guides
Local-focused magazines in cities like Memphis and Chicago make a tradition out of publishing shopping guides highlighting gifts that are made and sold in their respective metro areas. Some local business associations also publish a special version of The Scout Guide, a concept born in Charlottesville, Va., in 2010 focused on the best independent and locally owned small businesses, which has expanded to dozens of U.S. cities. “Small businesses need to speak louder to be heard over the Internet and the recession,” one business owner in the Minneapolis area said to the StarTribune recently, explaining why she supported a Scout Guide for the region. “With limited promotional budgets, we have to do more to announce ourselves than take out an ad spot in the back of a magazine.”

Still other cities, notably Detroit, are issuing “passports,” which shoppers can get stamped at participating local stores in order to receive discounts and the occasional freebie.

Free Parking
To woo shoppers downtown—where so many local-owned restaurants and small businesses still set up shop—Philadelphia waives the usual requirement to feed parking meters on Saturdays, now and throughout the month of December.

Plaid Friday
Buy-local groups created Plaid Friday in 2010 in Oakland, Calif., as a relaxed, small-and-independent shopping alternative to Black Friday, dominated as it is by national retailers and their mass-produced doorbuster deals. Why plaid? The concept, which has since spread to Las Vegas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Portland, Maine, and beyond, is all about “weaving the individual threads of small businesses together to create a strong fabric that celebrates the diversity and creativity of independent businesses.”

Small Business Saturday Deals
American Express launched Small Business Saturday—the day after Black (and now, Plaid) Friday—in an attempt to remind shoppers of the importance of supporting local businesses, while also reminding them that independent shops sell all manner of quirky, unique, and memorable gift items that never wind up on the shelves of the big box chains. In addition to the sales and deals available at mom-and-pop shops, AmEx gives registered cardholders up to three $10 statement credits each time they spend $10 or more at participating small businesses on Saturday. Sacramento and other cities participating in shopper passport programs around the country typically have special promotions centered on Small Business Saturday. Billings, Mont., meanwhile, has a printable game board featuring dozens of local shops: Get 10 of them checked off by visiting now through Sunday and you can enter to win gift cards valid at participating local businesses.

Parades & Special Events
Beyond the sales on Small Business Saturday, cities such as Wilmington, Del., are hosting parades to draw shoppers to downtown business districts, while the Stay Local group in New Orleans is coordinating all sorts of events to take place on Saturday, including celebrated authors serving as special volunteer booksellers.

MONEY identity theft

Here’s How to Make Sure You Don’t Get Cyber-Scammed on Cyber Monday

141128_EM_CyberTheft
Patrick Strattner—fStop Images/Getty Images

'Tis the season for identity theft. Online shoppers, protect yourselves.

As consumers start their holiday shopping, virtually everyone has the same Christmas wish: Please, don’t let anyone steal my identity.

A recent survey from TransUnion found that 96% of Americans say they’re worried about identity theft this holiday season, and almost two-thirds are more worried this year than they were last year.

And they’re not wrong—identity thieves like to strike during periods of high activity, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. “Criminals fish where the fish are,” says Ken Chaplin, senior vice president for TransUnion. “This time of year, a lot of people are fairly busy and flustered and just trying to get things done, and they might not be as careful or diligent.”

When you shop at a brick-and-mortar store this season, it’s mostly up to retailers to keep your information secure. But when you shop online, you can fall into traps. Here are the do’s and don’ts for staying safe:

DON’T click on links in retailer emails.

Hackers like to prey on deal-hunters by sending “phishing” emails that look like they’re from brands you know and trust, says Joe Siegrist, CEO of LastPass, a password management and information security company. Then when you click on the email link, the hackers redirect you to a fraudulent site and steal your information.

If you see a great deal, double-check. “Go directly to those sites instead of clicking on links in the email,” Siegrist says. And legitimate businesses should never contact you to ask for your account information or password—if you get an email that does, go directly to the business’ website and enter your information there, or call the business to make sure the request isn’t fraudulent, Chaplin adds.

DO check to make sure you’re shopping at a secure website.

The tell: the URL. The address line should begin with https. That “s” is key—it means the information is being sent over a “secure” line, Chaplin says.

“You might do a web search for an item, and then you’ll click on some sort of a link, and that link might take you somewhere that’s not where you want to go,” Chaplin says. “Be sure that you do business only with websites that have the proper security measures in place.”

DON’T shop on public WiFi networks.

Thinking of sneaking out to a coffee shop to do a little online shopping on your lunch break? Be careful, Chaplin says. Only enter sensitive financial information like credit card and bank account numbers on secured WiFi networks with passwords. On networks without passwords, “whatever you’re typing and viewing online could be seen by someone else,” Chaplin says. “An open WiFi network is not secure.”

Phishers love open WiFi networks, too. “It’s a lot easier to fool you into thinking you’re on a legitimate site when you’re not,” Siegrist says. “They can replace the contents of the page with something they want to be shown.”

DO keep your software up-to-date.

To protect yourself from identity theft, keep your computer safe from malicious adware, Siegrist says. There are a number of adware removal tools out there, but here’s the free and easy way to protect your device: Say yes to software updates. That means installing Windows and Mac updates as they become available instead of always clicking “later.”

And pay extra attention to your internet browser of choice. “Your browser is a very important one—make sure you keep that up-to-date,” Siegrist says. “You have to actually restart your browser to get [the updates]. Don’t run your browser for days on end without a restart, especially if it’s indicating to you that it needs to.”

DON’T use a debit card for online shopping.

Credit cards have better liability protection than debit cards. And when you use a debit card, funds come straight out of your account, so it can take longer to recover your money if someone racks up fraudulent charges.

DO use a different credit card for online purchases.

If you can, use one credit card offline and a different credit card online, Siegrist says. That way, it will be easier to detect fraud. Need a new credit card? Check out MONEY’s Best Credit Cards for holiday shopping and for all year round.

DON’T save your credit card information on websites.

When you shop online, retailers will often prompt you to save your credit card information so that you can buy more items quickly and easily at a later date. Don’t do this.

“You definitely increase your risk when you store your credit cards at these sites,” Siegrist says. “The site itself is then keeping that credit card stored—that makes it a target for hackers.”

DO change your account passwords.

If you do have accounts at different online retailers, change your passwords at least once after Cyber Monday. That way, if any of the sites are hacked during the holiday season, your accounts will be more secure. “It’s good internet hygiene,” Chaplin says.

When you change your passwords, don’t reuse passwords across multiple sites—or else you’ll be giving hackers the master key to multiple accounts. Use this trick to create really secure passwords that you’ll actually remember.

And whenever possible, set up two-factor verification. That way, no one can get into your accounts without both 1) your password and 2) another separate piece of information sent to just you—like a text message or a code retrieved from an iPhone app. Here’s how to enable two-factor verification.

DON’T stress about credit card fraud.

Look, it’s no fun when a hacker steals your credit card number. But credit card number theft won’t wreck havoc on your financial life like other kinds of identity theft. Your liability for fraudulent charges is extremely limited, especially when a hacker just steals your card number and not your physical card. In that case, you owe nothing. And after a big data breach, your financial institution might mail you a new card no matter what, just to be safe.

(If someone steals your actual card and uses it, you could be out up to $50 on credit cards or $500 on debit cards—but that’s not relevant in cyberworld.)

Be worried if a hacker gets your social security number. In that case, a fraudster could open new accounts in your name and ruin your credit. If that’s what you’re afraid of, here’s what to do. But you shouldn’t be sharing your social security number when you shop online, anyway.

DO check your statements.

That said, you should still keep a close eye on your credit card and bank statements for suspicious activity, especially at this time of year. That aforementioned liability protection is only helpful if someone detects the fraud. With credit cards, you’ll want to identify fraudulent charges before you pay your bill. With debit cards, you need to report any fraudulent charges within 60 days of receiving your statement to get your money back.

And read the statements closely. “Criminals are a lot smarter than they used to be,” Chaplin says. “It used to be a huge charge would show up on your card and your bank would call you. Oftentimes now a charge will be $20, $30 a month, and you might not be aware of it.”

But never fear—though identity thieves may have gotten smarter, you can still outsmart them.

Related

MONEY deals

6 Black Friday Deals So Crazy You Won’t Believe They’re Real

dogs with "adopt me" signs
Jim McKinley—Alamy

Black Friday deals on TVs, tablets, toys, clothing, and jewelry come as no surprise. But how about Black Friday promotions featuring guns, giveaways of cats and dogs, and the requirement to strip down to your underwear?

Here are a half-dozen downright bizarre Black Friday deals:

Free Cats & Dogs
At least one Humane Society (in Oregon) is waiving the usual $50 adoption fee on cats now through December 1. In addition to free cat adoptions, the shelter is knocking $50 off normal dog adoption fees, which generally run $100 to $350. Other humane societies around the country are hosting Black Friday pet deals such as free dogs if they’re black and at least six months old (Kansas) and a promotion of $5 to adopt a cat 5+ years old and 50% off the adoption of rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small animals (in Massachusetts).

Buy a Car, Get It Free If It Snows on Christmas
A car dealership in Chicago has a sales pitch that’s tempting for those who like to gamble—and that could wind up being extremely costly for its promoters. The deal is that all customers who buy a new Buick or GMC automobile at the dealership on Friday or Saturday will get full refunds on their purchases if it snows six or more inches on Christmas. The dealership is calling the promo its “White Friday” sale.

Guns & Ammo
It may not be what your family expects to find under the tree or stuffed in stockings on Christmas morning, but guns have come to be hot sellers on Black Friday and throughout the holiday shopping season. Last year, the number of FBI background checks conducted for each firearm purchase on Black Friday was nearly triple that of a typical sales day. Why are guns hot sellers during this period? Largely for the same reasons that so many other items are hot sellers right about now—because stores have big promotions to attract customers. Walmart is discounting all firearms by 20% for its Black Friday sale, while gun enthusiast websites are filled with firearm and accessory deals—weapons, targets, ammunition, and more—from a wide range of retailers around the country.

Wait Outside in Your Underwear, Get Free Clothes
Among the many early Black Friday sales that have popped up this week, probably the strangest took place on Tuesday at Desigual in San Francisco: As the Consumerist pointed out, the first 100 shoppers waiting outside the store wearing nothing but their underwear received free tops and bottoms from the Barcelona-based fashion retailer.

Buy a Car, Get a TV
The first ten customers to buy new cars at a Toyota dealership in Missouri received free flat-screen TVs thrown into the deal on Black Friday. What’s more, the first ten people in the door at the dealership on Friday were handed $25 gift cards for ham—no car purchase required.

Loans and Online Bank Accounts
Everyone else feels comfortable glomming onto Black Friday for sales and marketing purposes, so why not financial institutions as well? The Utah Community Credit Union, for instance, is advertising “BLACK FRIDAY DOORBUSTERS!” in the form of auto, home equity, and personal loans with supposedly great terms. Capital One 360, meanwhile, is hosting a Black Friday Sale, with bonuses like $100 for new savings and checking accounts and, depending on how much you invest, $150 to $1,250 bonuses for those opening a new online trading account or IRA.

Bear in the mind that even if these offers are truly good deals, taking out a loan or opening a new bank account is certainly not something you decide impulsively because of some flashy promotion. For that matter, no one should go adopting a pet or buying a gun on an impulse either.

MONEY Thanksgiving

9 Food Blogger-Approved Thanksgiving Leftover Hacks

When you're tired of turkey sandwiches -- and you know you will be -- we've got you covered with tasty alternative ways to use your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Still got pounds of turkey leftover from your Thanksgiving feast? Or a whole bowl of cranberry sauce? Don’t let your extras go to waste. This year, instead of trying to eat ten turkey sandwiches the weekend after, give one of these nine dishes, all crafted and tested by top food bloggers to use up their own Turkey Day food, a try.

 

  • Thanksgiving Croquettes

    Thanksgiving Croquettes
    Thanksgiving Croquettes TheRusticPlate

    Recycle several of your Turkey Day dishes with this croquette recipe by Serena Cosmo of the cooking blog, Rustic Plate. These small pan-toasted rolls are made from your leftover mashed potatoes and roasted turkey, and feature — surprise! — an oozy center of cranberry sauce and cream cheese.

  • Turkey Gumbo

    Work your baggies of take-home turkey into this light and mild version of gumbo created by the Steamy Kitchen food blog. The tomatoes, okra, and Polish sausage in this dish will serve as a nice reprieve from the typical Thanksgiving flavors.

  • Spicy Turkey Cranberry Pretzel-Wiches

    Spicy Turkey Cranberry Pretzel-Wiches
    Spicy Turkey Cranberry Pretzel-Wiches

    We all make sandwiches from our leftover turkey, but why not try a more adventurous take on the Black Friday classic? This recipe by $5 Dinners uses up leftover cranberry sauce as well as turkey, and requires only two other ingredients.

  • Halal Cart Style Turkey and Rice

    If you’ve visited Manhattan, you’ve seen the food carts on the street selling Halal-style chicken and rice prepared right there on the cart. But you don’t need to be in New York to get the same taste. The Steamy Kitchen food blog has created a clever hack recipe you can do at home using your leftover turkey.

  • Trashed Up Barbecue Turkey Pizza

    Trashed Up Barbecue Turkey Pizza
    Trashed Up Barbecue Turkey Pizza foodiewithfamily

    By the second or third day of leftovers, you’ll probably be dreaming of ordering pizza just for the sake of change. But you can get all that melted cheesy goodness and still make use of those pounds of turkey. This free-style recipe from the blog Foodie with Family calls for all the pizza classics like crispy crust and multiple cheese varieties but “trashes” it up with BBQ sauce, olives, onions, cilantro, and cubes of avocado.

     

  • Sweet Potato Pancakes With Cranberry Maple Syrup

    Still got mounds of mashed sweet potatoes? Too many spoonfuls of cranberry sauce? Try this recipe by Erin Chase of the cooking blog $5 Dinners for a sweet and easy breakfast-take on Thanksgiving flavors.

     

  • Turkey Pho

    141126_FF_BloggerLeftover_FoodieFamily
    Turkey Pho foodiewithfamily

    Leave behind the classic flavors of Thanksgiving and work your leftover turkey into a warm, spicy Vietnamese noodle soup with this recipe by food blog Foodie with Family. Add a couple of jalapeno slices, sriracha, and hoisin sauce to the bowl and you’ll barely realize you’re still eating turkey all these days later.

  • Golden Raisin-Apple Stuffing Cups

    Reinvent your leftover stuffing by turning it into bite-size morsels with any extra pie crust you may have from baking pumpkin or apple pies for the holiday. For advice on how to form your flaky pie cups — or ideas for jazzing up your stand-by stuffing recipe with a few extra ingredients — see $5 Dinner‘s recipe.

     

  • Pumpkin, Sage, & Crème Fraîche Pappardelle

    Noodle dish

    Here’s one that was definitely not served at the first Thanksgiving feast: Try turning your leftover pumpkin puree or even sweet potato casserole into a creamy pasta sauce with this recipe from the food blog Two Red Bowls. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, the recipe includes guidance on making your own noodles.

MONEY Shopping

The 5 Hottest Toys This Holiday Season

The upcoming holiday shopping season is crucial for the U.S. toy industry, and early data supplied to Fortune suggests Disney’s “Frozen,” as well as electronics such as Xbox One and the Skylanders game, will be among the top sellers this year.

Data provider Experian Marketing Services gave Fortune a look at the hottest toy searches for the week ended Nov. 22, and “Frozen” tops the list. With the Christmas holiday just a little over four weeks away, consumers who wait too long could find it challenging to scoop up some of the top sellers.

Roughly half of all Americans plan to buy toys as gifts this year, according to a recent Nielsen Harris Poll survey of more than 2,200 adults.

MONEY The Economy

Thanksgiving Shopping: By the Numbers

More than 140 million Americans are expected to shop on Black Friday, while some plan to get great deals online on Cyber Monday.

MONEY online shopping

Best Black Friday Deals You Can (Still) Get Without Leaving Home

Since Black Friday sales now start on Thanksgiving, or even the week before, it sorta makes sense that e-retailers have launched huge Cyber Monday-like sales already.

Websites used to wait for the Monday after Thanksgiving (a.k.a. Cyber Monday) to launch their biggest, across-the-board online sales on all merchandise—deals like 40% off, even 50% off sitewide, with some discounts going even higher.

But in a market in which retailers are aggressively trying to grab shopper dollars earlier and early each year, and when “Black Friday” promotions start at least a week before actual Black Friday—perhaps even occupying all of November—why wait?

Amazon.com, the world’s largest e-retailer, sure isn’t waiting. The site has been rolling out a new Black Friday deal as often as every ten minutes this week. Virtually every other retailer has deals online that were live as of Wednesday, and are especially impressive because they’re so expansive: Instead of offering a select few discounts and “doorbuster” deals, they represent markdowns on virtually everything the retailers are selling.

We’ll update as the epic Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend progresses, and remember: All of these offers are available online, meaning none requires a trip to the mall.

40% Off
Abercrombie & Fitch: Use the code 15555 for 40% off all merchandise, online and in stores, through November 26.

American Eagle: 40% off sitewide (use code GOBBLEUP) now through November 30, with free standard shipping on all orders—plus a free blanket thrown in with all orders over $60

Ann Taylor: 40% off regular-priced items and 50% off “Sale Styles” with the code SHOPANN at checkout, valid through November 26

Banana Republic: 50% off one full-price item and 40% off the rest of your order with use of the code BRFORTY, on November 27 only

Lucky Brand: A “Pre-Black Friday” sale knocks 40% off sitewide

Tommy Hilfiger: Use the code BF40 for 40% off sitewide, valid through November 30

50% Off
Children’s Place: 50% off everything plus free shipping on all orders, through November 28

Gap: 50% off all merchandise (use code BLKFRIDAY) through November 28

Hollister: 50% off everything starting at 6 p.m. on November 27 (Thanksgiving), through November 28

Fila: Get 50% off nearly everything (there are a scant few exceptions) on the footwear and apparel specialist’s site, now through Black Friday

Lane Bryant: 50% off everything in store and online (use checkout code HOLIDAYLB), through November 30

The Limited: Enter the code THANKS for 50% off and free shipping

J. Crew Factory: 50% in store and online for the Factory line, as well as 30% to 40% off standard J. Crew merchandise

60% Off
Aeropostale: 60% off everything online and in stores through November 30, with a bonus $25 gift card for purchases of $100 or more

MONEY Shopping

Lazy Bargain Hunters Are Hiring People to Wait in Black Friday Lines

Customers wait in line outside a Target Corp. store ahead of Black Friday in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013.
Customers wait in line outside a Target store ahead of Black Friday in Chicago, Illinois. Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images

For $20 an hour, you can hire someone to save your spot in line

There’s nothing sweeter than a Black Friday deal… except maybe a few extra hours of sleep. And thanks to the internet, some lazy shoppers have figured out a way to have their sleep and 70%-off TVs, too.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports consumers have been using TaskRabbit, a platform that lets users pay to “outsource” any job, no matter how minor, to hire people to wait in line for Black Friday doorbusters.

“Every year hundreds of taskers are hired to wait in line for Black Friday deals,” said Aaron Gannon, a spokesman for San Francisco-based TaskRabbit, told the Chronicle in an interview. And how much does line-waiting pay, you ask? In high-demand areas like San Francisco and New York City, the average wage is $22 an hour.

That’s hefty chunk of change—enough to make this journalist wonder why he didn’t double major in standing-outside-a-Target—and shoppers must be careful to weigh their line-waiting payroll against any potential savings.

But I suppose if the deals are good enough, and you’re sufficiently immune to feelings of shame, hiring a “tasker” (the technical term for a TaskRabbit employee) could make a lot of financial sense. For example, Walmart is offering a 65-inch Vizio television for $648 this Friday. On Amazon, that same set will cost you nearly $1,300. After, say, two hours of personnel (line-waiting tasker) costs are deducted, that could still yield savings of roughly $600.

Perhaps that’s why line-waiting has turned into a big business, even outside of Black Friday. The Atlantic noted the emergence of line-waiting businesses, like SOLD Inc. (an acronym for “Same Ole Line Dudes”), as well as entrepreneurs who use Craig’s List and similar sites to sell their services. Robert Samuel, SOLD’s founder, has made as much as $1,000 a week just taking up space.

And make no mistake, high-level line-waiters don’t mess around when it comes to their trade. “I’m a professional line waiter, here’s a business card,” said Samuel in an interview with Racked, describing a potential encounter with a curious pedestrian. “I can wait for you for your next sample sale or your next sneaker release.”

Line-waiting is apparently such a money-maker for TaskRabbit that the company has an entire page advertising its cast of warm, upright bodies. Paying a tasker to wait in line is “the easiest way to get the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus” announces the firm’s website. TaskRabbit even created a marketing campaign around the event: #SkipTheLine.

So is this new societal trend good or bad? On one hand, there’s something a little unfair about giving people with money to burn an advantage on holiday deals. There’s something meritocratic, even American, about giving extra savings only to those motivated enough to wake up before sunrise to wait outside a Best Buy. With paid staffers snapping up all the doorbusters, the rich would seem to be using Black Friday to get richer.

But at the same time, using your hard-earned cash to free yourself from unpleasant labors is also very American. Besides, it turns out that professional line-waiters may make life easier for actual retail employees. As one former Ralph Lauren cashier told MONEY, “The people who go out [on Black Friday], they’re just not afraid to really get angry… I’ve had a lot of merchandise thrown at me.”

Maybe leaving waiting to the pros will at least result in more relaxed shoppers, and a little less stress for the poor souls forced to work on Thanksgiving weekend.

Read More: Meet The People Who Work On Thanksgiving (So You Don’t Have To)

MONEY Food & Beverage

The Staggering Cost of a Hipster Thanksgiving — and Other Pricey Alternatives to the Classic Feast

Overhead view of Thanksgiving feast
Marcus Nilsson—Gallery Stock

The average Thanksgiving dinner for a party of 10 costs about $50. But who wants a holiday meal that's merely average?

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner feast can be very affordable. On a per-person basis, the average meal easily costs less than bringing the crew to a fast food joint for supper.

But the total price of your Thanksgiving spread can vary by hundreds depending on where you shop, what you’re buying, and the overall quality and prestige of the meat, sides, and dessert, as well as how much time and effort you’re willing to devote to preparing your feast.

To give you an idea of what some different Thanksgiving dining styles will cost you, we’ve rounded up some sample pricing for groups with varying tastes and budgets–including some options for those who don’t want to cook at all.

The Average American
For a classic Thanksgiving dinner, plus leftovers, the American Farm Bureau Federation estimates you’ll spend $49.41 this year to feed a party of 10, including a 16-pound turkey plus bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, peas, rolls with butter, carrots and celery, pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream, and coffee and milk. Even though the wholesale price of turkey has soared for supermarkets this year, widespread price promotions have kept overall costs down for consumers, and the bureau’s estimated total for Thanksgiving dinner is only 37¢ higher than last year. That averages out to under $5 per person, which is still quite a deal.

What’s more, there are easy ways to cut costs even lower. If you were to take advantage of coupons, sales, and supermarket promotion, you could spend a lot less and still provide a feast. Wal-Mart estimates that you could buy the same menu for just $32.64 by shopping at its stores.

The Hipster
If you were to upgrade that conventional turkey to an organic, free-range one, the price jumps from $21.65 to well over $100 at specialty shops. A 16-pound turkey from Fleisher’s Pasture Raised Meats in New York City rings in at $127.84, or $7.99 a pound vs. the roughly $1.35 per pound for a supermarket bird. Add in organic, locally-sourced vegetables and dairy for your meal, and the costs for sides rise at least $15 over the Farm Bureau’s projection, according to our estimates. Altogether, a healthy, hipster-approved, fully organic Thanksgiving dinner for 10 will cost in the neighborhood of $170.

The Vegan
For a vegan thanksgiving, the “turkey” costs would be similar to that for an organic free-range bird. The soy-based Gardein Stuffed Holiday Roast, picked by Slate as the tastiest of the the faux turkey bunch, costs about $8 a pound. The costs for vegan side dishes and desserts would only be about $5 more than those of the Farm Bureau’s classic menu. Combine the price for 16 pounds of faux turkey and all the trimmings and dessert, and a 10-person vegan Thanksgiving dinner costs about $155.

The 1%
Upgrading to a purebred heritage turkey–which are leaner than standard supermarket birds, take twice as long to reach market weight, and have lineage that can be traced back to the 1800s–will cost upwards of $10 per pound for the meat portion of the meal. Factor that in, along with similarly upgraded sides and desserts, and Thanksgiving dinner for 10 will easily run $250 or more.

The Lazy Non-Cook
Not into cooking at all? Prepared meals save you hassle and time, but you’ll pay for it in more ways than simply losing out on the quality of home cooking. A prepared meal for 12 people from Boston Market, which includes an 11-pound turkey, spinach artichoke dip appetizer, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry relish, vegetable stuffing, dinner rolls and two pies, rings in at $99.99. That’s roughly double the Farm Bureau’s estimate for a home-cooked meal–but perhaps it’s money well spent if you’re hopeless in the kitchen or simply don’t have the time.

Supermarkets will happily do the cooking for you as well, for a price. A meal prepared by Whole Foods Market for 12 people, including a fully cooked 14- to 16-pound standard turkey, stuffing, cranberry orange relish, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy, costs $200. An organic cooked turkey will add an extra $50, more or less, pushing the total up to $250 or more.

MONEY consumer psychology

Stop Making These 5 Shopping Mistakes And You Won’t Overspend!

Jennifer Martinez filled a shopping cart with toys at the Toys R Us store on County Line Road in Arapahoe County Thursday night, November 28, 2013.
Karl Gehring—The Denver Post via Getty Images

Shoppers feel smart when they've snagged a great bargain. But during the frenzy of sales on Black Friday and the holidays, it's common for bargain hunters to make dumb mistakes that wind up costing them big time.

The biggest shopping season of the year is upon us. We shop more, and when we do, we’re overwhelmed with products and price promotions in today’s hyper-competitive retail environment. In effect, everyone is shopping with at least a touch of “bargain brain.” That’s the term I use to describe the confusing, pressure-filled state of mind of the average shopper during the holiday period. And it’s this mentality, combined with some classic sales strategies practiced by retailers, that makes it more likely for shoppers to wind up making some regretful shopping decisions, including but not limited to choosing the wrong gift or buying at the wrong price.

As a consumer psychologist, I interview lots of shoppers, and this year, with few exceptions, they said that if it wasn’t on sale, they weren’t buying it. We’ve come to expect discounting, and won’t buy until they appear. Promotional sales are ubiquitous, and shoppers understand that the “regular” price of many products has been inflated to leave room for markdowns. Therefore, as you’ve likely already seen, it’s a deal-a-minute holiday out there.

We’re flooded with news of “unmissable,” “unbelievable,” and “never before” rapid-fire sales from all directions: advertising, catalogs, emails, texts, through social media feeds and all other sources of digital communication. With each bit of information coming our way, we’re constantly pushed to reevaluate what to buy, and when to buy it. Considering all of the decisions that must be made, it’s no wonder we make some less-than-great ones during the holidays. And so bargain-brained errors are common around this time of year, especially those that fall into these five categories:

Fear of Missing Out
Because sales are short-lived and hot holiday gifts are often available in limited supply, shoppers are well aware that if they don’t bite, the item could soon return to full price or disappear entirely. That’s why sales cause FOMO (fear of missing out) fever, and it’s this mix of fear and excitement that can muddle thinking. Add in the emotional pressure and competitive fuel of crowds and it’s understandable why so many end up making regrettable purchasing decisions at this time of year.

To keep your cool, it helps to understand that the vast majority of holiday sales are carefully planned long in advance of the season. With few exceptions, retailers have ample supplies of what they expect to be top sellers. Many of the seemingly great doorbuster deals that appear in limited supply on Black Friday are not only cheaply priced but cheap quality as well. So overall, in all likelihood you’ll be able to find the best gifts in stock somewhere during the course of the holidays, and you shouldn’t sweat missing out on a few chintzy Black Friday deals.

Actually, one approach to the pressure of the season is simple resignation: Enter the holiday shopping season full assuming that at least once and perhaps multiple times you’ll miss the lowest price or see something later that would have made a better gift. Frankly, it’s not a bad strategy. It preserves time and saves energy that might be better used for enjoying the holidays. If you’re not scared about the possibility of paying a little more than is necessary, or of purchasing some gifts that are decent but not necessarily great, then you never experience FOMO—nor do you make the bad decisions spurred on by this common emotion.

Valuing Price Over Value
Even in the face of a jaw-dropping bargain, it’s essential to stay focused on how much you really want the item rather than on the discount. During frenzied moments, people can easily lose focus on what they’re buying and end up with gifts in search of a recipient rather than a thoughtfully chosen gift for someone on your list. Jenny, a busy working mother, for example, told me she has a “gift drawer” stuffed with cashmere scarfs. “I got them online during a flash sale a couple of years ago and I’m still working though that stash,” she recalled. “It’s almost embarrassing because I honestly can’t remember who I’ve given one to in previous years.”

Also keep in mind that when we’re emotionally charged while shopping, we’re also more prone to impulse purchases. Whether online or in store, tempting add-on items (especially those stocking stuffers and knickknacks that can hammer your holiday budget) will be especially prevalent this year. The solution is to breathe deeply and take an extra moment to consider what you’re really buying.

Getting Confused by Deals
Another problem with the swift and steady stream of promotions we’ll be wading through this year is managing the complexity of offerings. Neil, an engineer by profession who is used to tackling complexity, says that even he’s often confused by the way sales, coupons, and promotions piled on top of each other. “I have a coupon for $50 off if I spend $200 so that’s a 25% discount, but what if I find something for $150 for my wife?” he said. “Then I’d probably end up spending more to get the discount which blows the discount. Or I can wait for Black Friday but maybe what I want won’t be included in the sale.” Stay calm, use your phone’s calculator, and never ever spend in order to save.

Too Much Bargain Hunting
In my research I’ve found that consumers who are heavily bargain-focused actually spend more total money shopping than others. Why? They spend more time shopping, which means they see and therefore often want and buy more merchandise. Also, because their focus is on how much they’re saving, they more easily lose track of what they’re spending.

Speaking of which, a classic silly bargain-brain move is to mentally consider the money you’ve “saved” off list prices as “earned” money—and this found money often gets spent pretty easily. Consider what Angie said in a recent interview: “I got these pants I needed on sale, so I treated myself to the matching top. It was full price, but that’s okay because I saved all that money getting the pants on sale.” Get the irony? In no universe is spending money actually saving money. But it can feel like that. Beyond that, remember that in our discount-crazed world, original prices are usually wildly inflated, so sales “save” far less money than you think.

Ignoring the Fine Print
Yet another potential pitfall to bargains is that they often come with strings attached. For gifts, the most problematic of these issues is a no-return policy, a short return window, or returns that only qualify for merchandise credit. Take is from Carly, an avid online shopper, that unless you’ve seen and considered the product before, losing the ability to return merchandise can be costly. “I spent half my Christmas budget on clearance blow-out merchandise” last year, she said. “While a few of the items were perfect and I got them for a steal, at least half were ungiftable and totally wrong. I’m stuck with them so it’s not really a bargain in the end.”

If you find yourself succumbing to “bargain brain,” do your best to remain mentally calm. Try to focus on the value and cost of a product rather than simply the reduced price of a tempting sale “opportunity.” Above all, stay loyal to your gift list and budget.

MORE: How Do I Set a Budget I Can Stick To?

Hey Impulse Spenders, Here’s a Solution to Your Bad Habit

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Kit Yarrow, Ph.D., is a consumer psychologist who is obsessed with all things related to how, when and why we shop and buy. She conducts research through her professorship at Golden Gate University and shares her findings in speeches, consulting work, and her books, Decoding the New Consumer Mind and Gen BuY.

Read next: 7 Black Friday Haggling Secrets You Need to Know

 

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