How to decide if a holiday deal is worthwhile

Last Updated November 2019

Ever buy something thinking that you got a great deal ... only to learn you could have gotten it for far less, either by waiting a little longer or going to a different store? Never play the shopping fool again with these tips for spotting truly good deals among the masses of those you should pass on. 

You want your loved ones to only unwrap the best. Here's how to avoid a bad buy.

Read product benefit-statements smarter

The selling point of the product should address a specific need, like “straightens hair in less than 10 minutes” or “automatically records video when motion sensors are activated.” 

If it promises to “change your life” or “fix everything,” that’s a telltale sign that it’s not a great product and is likely too good to be true. A few exceptions could be a really great service or miracle product (they do exist, if rarely), but if something seems overly hyped — and you’ve never heard of it and can’t find corroboration — it likely is. 

This goes double for products like dietary supplements and subjective items like fashion where one size does not fit all.

Beware certain sales clerks

If they’re overly pushy, impatient, or keep adding on numerous items you didn’t even ask about, they’re working on commission and just want the biggest sale possible. 

If they listen to you and respect the pace you are shopping at and give frank advice, you can trust that they have your best interests at heart. Never let someone talk you into buying something you aren’t sure about.

Read reviews smarter

If you shop online, skim through the reviews. Helpful, genuine reviews will give a solid assessment of the pros and cons based on someone’s real-life experience using the product. 

Reviews that explicitly state whether something is good or bad without detailed explanations of benefits, problems, and other pros and cons are not to be believed. Usually, extremely short reviews aren’t trustworthy, either; nor are those that seem hostile or too good to be true.

When you sift through reviews, it is pretty clear which ones will be helpful and which should be ignored. For example, if someone is furious about the packaging or how it was delivered — that was likely a one-off experience and the consumer is simply seeking a space where they can vent their frustrations.

Also, there are online tools you can utilize that will tell you whether the reviews are authentic. You can use BestReviews, which vets products to ensure consumers aren’t duped by bought reviews. Or you can use a site like FakeSpot, which analyzes reviews to ensure a puffed-up star rating isn’t believed.

Zero in on product details

Be wary of a product description that lacks enough details or is poorly written. You should be able to quickly read over the package, product specifications, and manual to garner a clear understanding of who it’s for, what it does, how to use it, etc. 

If information seems to be missing or there are grammatical errors, that’s a sign the product isn’t of high quality and may not be as useful as it promises to be. Reputable companies make sure there are no errors or confusing/missing information on the products they sell.

Vet the return policy

Unless it’s a product offering an amazingly big discount (like many of the earliest Black Friday flash sales), you should make sure you have at least 30 days to return an item should you decide not to keep it.