Holiday Retail Sweepstakes

And they’re off…with Halloween and the first snow on the East Coast behind us, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, the holiday retail sweepstakes! With U.S. economic growth on the upswing and unemployment at a 49 year low, consumers may be in a jolly mood this season.

Retail sales are expected to grow between 5 and 5.6 percent from a year ago to $1.1 trillion, according to Deloitte's annual forecast for the holiday season. Although brick and mortar will still account for the lion’s share (nearly 88 percent) of overall receipts, e-commerce sales are expected to rise as much as 22 percent to $134 billion, compared with about $110 billion last year. Adobe Digital has a more conservative estimate of nearly 15 percent growth. But you get the gist, online sales are rising a lot faster than brick and mortar.

Perhaps more importantly, consumers are using a blended approach to the shopping season and plan to conduct both online and in-store research before making a purchase. That pattern means that shopping is no longer an “either online or in-store” proposition, according to Deloitte, especially as consumers continue to crave experiential shopping endeavors that are more fun than sitting in your pajamas and clicking “Add to Cart.”

To start your holiday season off on the right foot, here’s your boring piece of financial advice from “Buzz Kill Jill”: DON’T SPEND TOO MUCH MONEY! Yes, the economy is doing well and yes, many of you are enjoying higher take home pay, but get your head on straight and don’t crazy.

With that out of the way, get organized and download apps that can help you save money. ShopSavvy allows you to scan the barcode of any product and compare all the best prices on the Internet and at nearby, local stores. Shopular provides news of deals, coupons and location-based notifications; and members of the community can communicate with one another and swap savings tips. Flipp creates digital versions of circulars from retailers and combines coupons with these local flyers for savings. You should also check out Honey, a free browser extension that automatically finds and applies coupon codes at checkout for over 30,000 shopping sites, including Amazon.

So what should you be looking for this week, specifically? Video game consoles, televisions and smart phone accessories top the list. If you are in the market for toys, those prices usually don’t drop until mid-December. Keep an eye out, though…with Toys R Us out of business, the usual suspects (Amazon, Best Buy, Target and Walmart), not to mention your local shop, will be vying for your attention, and dollars.