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How to get the most out of Amazon Prime Day without overspending

Navigate the chaos, land the hottest deals and maximize your savings with these expert tips.
Image: Amazon
In the past, Amazon Prime Day has featured a wide array of savings on items in electronics, entertainment and tech, but this year expect to see food and fashion as well. Mike Segar / Reuters file

It’s Christmas in July, or so it feels like with Amazon Prime Day arriving Monday the 16th at 3 p.m EST (though we’re seeing Countdown Deals trickle in). The sales bonanza, set to span 36 hours this year (longer than ever before), is open only to Prime members (including those doing a free trial). Historically, the self-made holiday has featured a wide array of savings on items in electronics, entertainment and tech with the savings spotlight shining especially bright on Amazon-branded products like Echo andAlexa. This year should bring the same — and more.

Part of the magic of the day is the secrecy leading up to it. Amazon keeps a tight lid on the details, leaving predictions to the retail experts while it drums up the hype (like by delivering huge ‘smile’ boxes in select big cities) and promises “more than a million deals worldwide.” It’s a lot of fun if you like surprises, but it’s also somewhat stressful if you’re trying to stick to a budget or if you’re planning the purchase of a big-ticket item that may or may not make Prime Day’s cut.

Here’s a look at how to navigate the chaos to land the hottest deals and maximize your savings.

Make a wish list before you start browsing

It’s tempting to buy something you don’t necessarily want when you know you’re getting substantial savings — and Amazon knows it.

“Amazon has been designed to pull you into hours of clicking around and anticipating what you want based on your search history,” says Kevin Kelly, president of Bigbuzz Marketing Group. “For big and small items alike, it’s best to prepare a list to avoid getting derailed by impulse purchases.”

You can add these items to your own Amazon Wish List. “Amazon will notify you if any of the items you're coveting become Prime Day deals,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot.

The usual electronics will be there but so will fashion and food

Though won’t know all the deals available until Prime Day, we can make some safe bets on what’s to come.

"Similar to previous years, noteworthy discounts are available on Amazon products such as Kindles and Echo devices,” says Chelsea Hudson, online shopping and deal expert at (right now, the site offers a $15 Amazon gift card for new members). “Shoppers can also find discounts on modern electronics such as smart home devices, TVs, video games, consoles and more.”

Cooper Smith, head of Amazon Research at Gartner L2 predicts that consumers will see “a much broader range of discounting across categories including fashion and groceries.” He explains: “Fashion because the majority of Amazon’s new private label brands since last year’s Prime Day are apparel brands. Groceries because Amazon wants to accelerate Whole Foods’ customer acquisition and start conditioning Prime members to do their grocery shopping with them.”

Whole Foods has already unveiled a Prime special: a $10 Amazon credit to use during the 36-hour sale when they spend $10 or more at Whole Foods between July 11 through 17.

The Lightning Deals should strike hourly

“Don't overlook Amazon's Lightning Deals,” says Hudson. “In the past, select items receive a dramatic price drop for a very short period of time, so keep your eyes peeled for those. Every hour you'll notice another gadget is on sale, from a Bluetooth speaker to a Brita pitcher or pressure cooker."

Remember that you have a short window of time to act on these.

“Once you put a lightning deal in your cart, you only have about 15 minutes to transact," says Skirboll.

Don't get your hopes up on these non-Amazon-branded tech and kitchen items

So, what can you skip? Krista Fabregas, retail and shopping analyst at Fit Small Business, notes that shoppers shouldn't get their savings hopes up on these items on Prime Day:

  • Apple devices. “Find better deals designed to lure Amazon shoppers away on competing sites and stores like Best Buy and Walmart.”
  • Google devices. “Amazon is not interested in pushing competing Google Home devices. Head to rival Walmart for savings on these items.”
  • Cameras. “Better deals can be found elsewhere, like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, eBay, NewEgg, and even specialty stores like B&H.”
  • Kitchen appliances. “Don’t be tempted by sales on kitchen appliances since Amazon will release similar or better deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” adds TopCashback’s Hudson.

Is this the brand you want? If not, don’t settle unless it’s urgent

Last year, my fiancé and I went all out on Black Friday and bought a new TV for some 30 percent off the list price. It was not the brand we’d been hoping would see major discounts, and was smaller than we liked. But we caved in our fervor to get in on the savings action. The following March, in time for the Super Bowl, the TV we originally wanted went on sale for less than what we’d paid for the subpar model. Consider this a lesson in waiting/saving for the thing you really want rather than settling on something close enough.

“Sometimes urgency is more important than getting the exact model you had in mind, but if you have your heart set on a certain brand or model, you may not see it on sale,” says Kelly. “Decide if the purchase is urgent: Do you need that bed or washer/dryer immediately? ”

If not, consider skipping it. Labor Day sales are right around the corner, and before you know it Cyber Monday will be here.

Comparison-shopping is a must

Many retailers competing with Amazon will be seizing this opportunity to flash bigger and better sales.

“Last year, 20 percent of products discounted by Amazon during Prime Day were available from other retailers for less,” says Jared Blank, SVP of marketing and data insights at the retail marketing company Bluecore.

Check out retailers like Lowe’s, Macy’s and Sony and any others that have announced their own ‘Black Friday in July’ sales, says Sara Spivey, CMO of digital marketing company Bazaarvoice, noting that the majority of Prime Day shoppers did this in 2017.

Last year we found that 76 percent of Prime Day shoppers visit other major online stores to research products and read ratings and reviews before making their ultimate purchase decisions, and many admitted to frequenting places like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Home Depot to research and compare products,” says Spivey. “By offering up sales and promotions of their own, these rival retailers have an opportunity to drive more revenue too. Our research showed that not only did site traffic increase on Prime Day, but the number of orders also increased by 38 percent.”

Here’s a list of sites offering specials this July, courtesy of RetailMeNot.

Quick tips to maximize your savings

You can save even more on Prime Day by doing the following:

  • Get the Amazon Prime Rewards credit card, which will “get you a $70 gift card and five percent back on all Amazon purchases,” says Skirboll.
  • Sign up with a cashback site. (Hudson says that TopCashback is offering eight percent cashback on Amazon devices). Also check out EBates, Honey, Wikibuy and RetailMeNotGenie, and remember to use these when comparison shopping, too.
  • Use an Amazon price tracker. “Prices can change so quickly you have to use an hourly Amazon price tracker that can pick up on short-lived deals (think lightning deals) and notify you before the price pops back up,” says David Mercer, founder of SME Pals. “A good place to start using price histories is this lowest price deals page that shows only products selling at their historical lowest price (over the last month) right now.” You have a few options for price trackers including CamelCamelCamel, Keepa and The Tracktor.
  • Chat up Alexa. “Ask Alexa what’s on sale,” says Hudson. “Last year Amazon had Alexa-only deals on consumer packaged good such as cleaning products and toilet paper. Prime Day is the perfect time to stock up on household goods for cheap.”

Amazon Deals You Can Snag Right Now

Ready to shop right now? Check out these early deals.

NBC News has affiliate relationships, so we may get a small share of the revenue from your purchases. Items are sold by the retailer, not by NBC News. All prices are subject to change and items could sell out based on the merchant’s inventory.

  • 50 percent off Echo Show, $129 (originally $229)
  • 45 percent off Kasa Smart WiFi Light Switch, $27 (originally $51)
  • 30 percent off 2-pack of Solimo Sport Sunscreen, $9.09 (originally $12.99)
  • 51 percent off Pinzon Shed-Resistant White Duck Down Pillow, $24.27 (originally $49.99)
  • 29 percent off Pinzon 400-Thread-Count Egyptian Cotton Queen Sheet Set, $34.13 (originally $47.99)
  • 26 percent off Amazon Basics Wireless Bluetooth Speaker, $14.59 (originally $19.78)
  • 20 percent off Amazon Basics Paper and Credit Card Shredder, $23.74(originally $29.99)

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