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What's worth buying on Prime Day (and what to skip), according to experts

We rounded up ways to successfully shop during Prime Day, like making shopping lists, signing up for deal notifications and more.
Amazon Prime Day 2022 is happening on July 12 and 13 -- here's what experts say you should consider buying during the shopping event.
Experts said making a shopping list, comparing prices across retailers and setting up notifications on deals can be helpful during Prime Day.Vivan Le / Select for NBC

Amazon Prime Day — the annual super sale that the retailer created in 2015 — is here and Prime members can shop discounts on everything from tech and kitchen appliances to pet supplies and more through July 13. But the number of deals can be overwhelming for shoppers to sort through during the short 48-hour timeframe, and while Amazon Prime Day and related sales from other big retailers like Target are great for some buys, not every deal is the best one.

With many people changing their spending habits amid inflation and a looming recession, there are some items experts recommend waiting to purchase until later this year when shoppers could see deeper discounts.

SKIP AHEAD What to buy during Prime Day | What not to buy during Prime Day

“Consumers will want to pay close attention to prices and take action on any timely sales, or really good deals, on the items they normally purchase,” said Vipin Porwal, founder and consumer savings expert at browser cashback extension Smarty.

With that in mind, Select talked to experts about what’s worth buying on Amazon Prime Day and what to skip. We also rounded up a handful of tips for Prime Day and other retailers' competing sales, including Target’s Deal Days and Bed Bath and Beyond’s Beyond Big Savings Event.

What to shop for during Amazon Prime Day

In addition to Amazon, you may find discounts at big retailers like Target, TJ Maxx, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s and more, some of whom have also been slashing prices to clear out excess inventory. Discounted products include everything from clothing and footwear to kitchen appliances, sports equipment and home decor.

But whether you’re shopping with Amazon or another retailer, experts told us it’s beneficial to be flexible when it comes to the brands you buy during Prime Day. The deepest discounts are often on products from retailers’ in-house brands rather than private-label or third-party brands.

For example, Amazon is offering big discounts on items like its Echo smart home devices and Ring video doorbells, said Kristin McGrath, shopping editor at RetailMeNot. "[They] reliably drop to their Black Friday prices for Prime Day, so expect around 50% off,” she said. Keep an eye on in-house brands from Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and more, too.

Prime Day and sales other retailers host in conjunction with the event usually receive attention for tech deals in general, McGrath said. So it's also a good time to buy things like headphones and speakers.

According to McGrath, Prime Day “can [also] be a good chance to take a home and pantry inventory and stock up," especially with people focusing more of their spending on essentials and with food prices recently increasing to 40-year highs. Experts specifically recommended shoppers look for sales on grocery items across retailers during Prime Day, as well as household items like cleaning and pet supplies.

And while a lot of physical products are on sale during Prime Day, don't forget about digital subscriptions like Kindle Unlimited, Prime Video, Amazon Music and Audible, McGrath said. For example, with the purchase of select Echo smart home devices, Amazon is currently offering shoppers six months of Amazon Music Unlimited or Alexa Together for free.

Lightning Deals

When shopping Amazon Prime Day, some of the best deals are Lightning Deals, which are limited-time offers that give shoppers a short window to purchase and check out before missing out on the savings. While you can’t really prepare for Lightning Deals, be aware that you’ll see them popping up during the event and may want to browse through them in case there’s an item you’re interested in.

Other retailers also offer their own version of Lightning Deals. “We are seeing a lot of retailers offer deals of the day or a certain item promoted at a certain time, so it doesn't hurt to check back in throughout the sale,” said Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insights for the National Retail Federation.

Deals to shop during Prime Day 2022

To give you examples of some of the best deals to shop during Prime Day, we rounded up a handful of products below that meet expert guidance. To ensure the quality of each deal, we’re running deals through price trackers like CamelCamelCamel and Honey — each product is at its lowest price in at least three months.

Apple AirPods Pro

  • 4.7-star average rating from 84,343 reviews on Amazon

Experts said sales like Amazon Prime Day are known for tech deals. There are numerous headphones currently on sale across retailers, including the Apple AirPods Pro, which made our list of the best wireless earbuds. They offer active noise cancellation and transparency modes, and they are sweat- and water-resistant, according to Apple. Silicone tips in three sizes are included with the earbuds to customize their fit and the headphones also come with a charging case.

Amazon Echo Show 5

  • Lowest price ever
  • 4.6-star average rating from 75,025 reviews on Amazon

During Prime Day, Amazon usually heavily discounts its in-house tech products — this Echo Show 5, for example, is currently 59% off. The Wi-Fi-enabled device is equipped with a 5.5-inch screen and a camera so you can make video calls or monitor your home while you're away. It responds to Alexa voice commands and can act as a digital photo frame or a smart home hub.

KIND Bar Minis, Variety Pack

  • 4.7-star average rating from 6,698 reviews on Amazon

If you’re looking to stock up on pantry essentials during Prime Day, KIND Bars are a snack you can pack in your or your kids’ lunch box. This variety pack contains 30 mini granola bars in flavors like Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt, Caramel Almond & Sea Salt and more. KIND says the bars are gluten-free.

Presto! Flex-a-Size Paper Towels

  • 4.7-star average rating from 79,612 reviews on Amazon

Experts recommended buying from retailers’ in-house brands if you’re looking for lower prices and steeper discounts. These two-ply paper towels are from Presto!, an Amazon-owned brand that sells cleaning products. They come in a pack of 12 “huge” rolls, which the brand says is equivalent to 38 regular rolls.

What not to buy during Prime Day

If you don’t need a product immediately, there are some things that experts recommend waiting to purchase until later in the year or early next year.

McGrath said shoppers can expect a wider range of TV deals during Black Friday and leading up to the big game in February. She noted that gaming is not the best Prime Day category, either — it may be wise to buy console bundles and video games on Black Friday or during the Steam Summer Sale hosted by the gaming software service. For big-ticket home items like furniture, three-day weekend sales like Memorial Day and Labor Day offer steeper deals and more options compared to Prime Day, McGrath said.

Porwal also mentioned that you may find better discounts and a larger selection of deals on laptops, tablets and desktop computers as we get closer to back-to-school sales, which usually start between late July and August (although some retailers began slashing prices on school supplies in early July this year, according to experts). Porwal said 2022 Tax Holidays can also help you save on school supplies and clothing in the coming weeks, as well as limited-time student discounts. And it’s worth waiting to purchase summer apparel until back-to-school sales start, according to McGrath — summer styles usually hit the clearance rack come August.

How to save during Prime Day 2022

The key to saving during Prime Day is planning, which can help keep you focused on what you’re looking for and ensure you’re taking advantage of the best deals possible. Below are a few ways you can ensure you’re successful during the sale event.

Sign up to receive notifications about sales and deals

If you don’t have time to scroll through Amazon’s website or app to browse deals, you can sign up to get notifications about deals on products you’re specifically interested in throughout the sale. It can help you save on a product you’ve had your eye on, especially if the deal is only offered for a limited time.

Amazon also recently launched a new feature for Alexa: The virtual assistant can now notify you up to 24 hours in advance of a deal becoming available for an item on your wishlist, in your shopping cart or "saved for later." You can also ask Alexa to remind you when the deal goes live and give Alexa permission to order the item on your behalf using your account’s default payment and delivery address. According to Amazon, this feature is particularly useful during Prime Day when there are constantly new deals.

Additionally, if you download the Amazon app and add items you’re interested in to your wishlist, you can turn on notifications for your “watched and waitlisted deals.” This alerts you when lightning deals happen for products on your wishlist during Prime Day and otherwise.

Make a shopping list

Beyond keeping you organized, a shopping list helps you focus on products you need to buy or have budgeted for and reduces the temptation to spend on non-essential purchases, Cullen said. This may be something people are thinking more about as they’re looking to cut back on spending. After the first day of the sale, you can look at your original shopping list, cross off what you bought and make a new list of what you’re still looking for on day two.

You can bookmark links to products or write a shopping list, though it may be easier to add items to different wishlists through your Amazon account. For example, you can make one wishlist dedicated to tech, another for home and kitchen supplies and another for groceries or everyday essentials like paper towels and toothpaste. While you’re shopping, you can go through your wishlists, see what’s on sale and decide if you want to make a purchase.

Consider shopping with a credit card

If you’re interested in using a credit card to shop during Prime Day, you may be able to earn points or take advantage of exclusive rewards. Certain cards allow you to earn cash back on Amazon purchases during Prime Day, and some also offer welcome bonuses or points. The best credit cards for Amazon Prime Day shopping include the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card and Amazon Prime Store Card since they offer 5% cash back at Amazon, reports Select personal finance reporter Brett Holzhauer. The Amazon Prime Rewards Card is also currently offering a $200 welcome bonus gift card during a Prime Day promotion that lasts through July 29.

Compare prices across retailers’ sites

Because so many retailers host sales in conjunction with Prime Day, it’s worth comparing prices across sites to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. Tools like Amazon Assistant, Keepa, CamelCamelCamel and Honey monitor and let you compare prices. Some retailers also price-match, meaning a retailer will drop its price to that of a competitor’s.

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