3 tips for navigating Memorial Day sales

Last Memorial Day, Americans were stunned by the pandemic, recession and widespread closures.

Many had bought hand sanitizer and brain tissue.

But in May, life seems to blossom again before the unofficial start of summer.

And more typically Memorial Day, the weekend leading up to May 31 will be filled with sales of appliances, clothing and travel, as well as a few new categories. Here’s where to find deals and how to save.


Retailers have a few must-have product categories for Memorial Day. The day is traditionally marked with substantial discounts on household items such as laundry appliances, kitchen appliances and mattresses.

This will be true again this year, and some promotions have already started. But in 2021 in particular, some of the sales will also be targeted at activities that are of interest to Americans during the ongoing pandemic and the gradual reopening. Think backyard barbecues, socially remote camping trips, and home improvement projects.

“We’re going to be shopping for clothes because we’ll see more people this summer than last summer,” says Barbara Stewart, professor and coordinator of retail and consumer science at the University of Houston.

“I think consumers are also willing to travel because we’ve been home for over a year,” she says.

Add road travel supplies, car maintenance, camping gear, hotel rooms, and airline tickets to the Memorial Day markdown list.

After all, businesses can access word searches to see what consumers are looking for online. Retailers often align their sales with trending categories and in turn encourage spending, says Priya Raghubir, Dean Abraham L. Gitlow, professor of commerce at the New York University Stern School of Business.

“What really gets people past that last category interest threshold to, ‘Here’s my credit card. Load it up, “is a financial incentive like a prize promotion,” she said.

These types of Memorial Day sales will take place both online and in stores, but don’t expect malls to be as crowded as they once were.

“I still think the online trend is going to continue,” says Raghubir. “There are still hesitations about being inside.”


Whether you are heading to a physical or virtual store, there are at least three guaranteed ways to save money Memorial Day.

First, before you start to sift through sales, make a list of the things you know you want to buy. This way, the scope of your search is not influenced by the products you see.

“Make a list now when you’re in a cool frame of mind about things that might interest you if they go on sale, rather than building that list based on what’s on sale,” Raghubir says.

If the products you want to buy are not listed for sale, avoid buying products that were not on your list just to fill the buying void.


Then, when you start browsing sales ads and websites, keep your options – and your browser tabs – open.

Memorial Day sales are the bread and butter of big box stores, department stores, mattress stores, home improvement stores, and travel agencies. But you’ll also find savings at less obvious outlets, such as dollar stores, according to Stewart.

Low-budget retailers may be especially suitable for products that you’ll only use for a limited time, such as pool toys that you’ll throw away at the end of the season anyway.


As with any shopping excursion, set a limit on how much you’re willing to (and able to) comfortably spend over the holiday weekend. A budget can contain any potential impulse expense.

“Know what you can spend and don’t go overboard,” says Stewart. “There is no good deal worth getting into financial trouble. The product must have real value for you. “

If you’re having trouble sticking to a certain amount, try changing your payment strategy.

For example, Raghubir says she puts money aside in her PayPal or Venmo account as a forced budgeting technique before shopping. Of course, she could spend more than what’s in those accounts, but having a limit gives her a reason to stop spending. It also works as a mechanism to track how much she has spent so far.

Memorial Day offers a chance to honor the fallen service members of the United States. But with a little restraint and discretion, vacations can also offer much-needed savings opportunities.


About Larry Noble

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