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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 Amazon’s October Prime Day event before it ends tonight.
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.NBC / Vivian Le

Amazon’s Prime Early Access Sale ends tonight, giving Prime members a few more hours to shop the best deals on everything from tech and kitchen appliances to beauty products and holiday gifts — many products are currently listed at their lowest price ever, and some are available for under $25 or under $100. Experts told us that October’s event — the first time Amazon has hosted a second Prime Day-esque event — is positioned to kickstart the holiday shopping season — in recent years, retailers have started offering deals earlier in the fall to give people more time to buy gifts. And this year especially, shoppers are changing their holiday shopping habits due to inflation and relying on sales to buy presents for loved ones: According to a survey conducted by RetailMeNot, 52% of shoppers say they’ll shop pre-Black Friday sales in October with finding the best deals in mind as inflation impacts their holiday shopping budgets.

SKIP AHEAD What to buy during Prime Day | What not to buy during Prime Day | Best Prime Day deals, according to experts

To help you take advantage of Prime Day savings before they're over, Select talked to experts about what’s worth buying and what to skip. We also rounded up a handful of tips for shopping the Prime Day-esque sale, many of which can be applied to competitor sales happening around the same time — like Walmart's, for example. And if you're looking for some popular Prime Day deals to take advantage in the next few hours, we rounded up bestselling items according to Select readers.

What to shop for on October Prime Day

Similar to Amazon Prime Day, experts said there should be a mix of items across all categories on sale during the Prime Early Access Sale. But because Amazon’s October mega sale essentially kicks off the holiday shopping season, expect to see a significant portion of deals centered around gifts, said Vipin Porwal, founder and consumer savings expert at browser cashback extension Smarty. Typical holiday gifts include the newest toys, speakers, headphones and TVs, said Kristin McGrath, shopping expert at RetailMeNot. And while deals on these types of products could be deeper during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, “if there is a must-have item on your list, buy it during this sale and don't risk it running out of stock,” McGrath advised. She said this is especially important when it comes to apparel and accessories — sizes and colors will sell out earlier in the season, and they may not be restocked. Experts said we may see holiday decor like artificial Christmas trees and stocking stuffers on sale, too.

Some of the deepest discounts during Prime Day are on Amazon brands and products like Fire TVs, Kindles and Echo Dots. McGrath suggested keeping your eye on gift card promotions as well — "even if a gift card you buy during this pre-Black Friday sale ends up being discounted even deeper during Black Friday (which isn't likely), you still got free money from your purchase of the $30 gift card for $20, for example,” she explained.

And while shopping this time of year is very gift-giving focused, you may want to keep an eye out for things you need around the house: Brands typically discount household essentials during Prime Day, like cleaning products, laundry detergent, paper towels and toilet paper, in addition to non-perishable food like granola bars, bottled water and more. In fact, “one of the bigger stories coming out of the last Prime Day in July was shoppers buying a lot of necessities over wishlist items,” said Jessica Young, director of research at Digital Commerce 360. “I’d anticipate this trend to continue mid-inflation.” If you’re looking to stock up on pantry staples while browsing for holiday gifts, the Prime Early Access Sale affords you the opportunity to do both.

Lightning Deals

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

The best October Prime Day deals, according to experts

Below, we rounded up a few live Prime Early Access Sale deals that meet expert guidance when it comes to what types of products to look for while shopping.

Amazon eGift Card

  • 4.8-star average rating from 856,055 reviews on Amazon

Experts told us buying gift cards during shopping events like Prime Day is often beneficial if retailers are offering discounts or promotions on them. During the Prime Early Access Sale, Prime members can add a minimum of $50 to gift cards from stores like Amazon, Panera and Gap, enter the promotional code listed on the product page and get a $10 credit to use towards their next purchase.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

  • Lowest price ever
  • 4.7-star average rating from 17,169 reviews on Amazon

You'll likely see some of the deepest discounts during Prime Day on Amazon-owned products like this Kindle Paperwhite. The water-resistant e-reader has a 6.8-inch display and an adjustable warm light, according to the brand. It offers up to 10 weeks of battery life on a single charge, Amazon says, and is designed with a USB-C charging port. You can also pair the Kindle with Bluetooth headphones to listen to audiobooks.

Samsung 65-Inch Class Neo QLED 4K QN90B Series TV

  • Lowest price ever
  • 4.4-star average rating from 173 reviews on Amazon

Because the Prime Early Access Sale is in October, experts said many shoppers will be looking for holiday gifts. Tech gifts like smart TVs are often on peoples' wish lists. This Samsung TV has a 4K resolution to enhance visuals on screen, according to the brand, and it's designed to reduce glare from all viewing angles. The TV is built with Dolby Atmos speakers and is equipped with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Bixby.

Tide Hygienic Clean Laundry Detergent Pods

  • Lowest price ever
  • 4.9-star average rating from 6,090 reviews on Amazon

In addition to gifts for yourself and your loved ones, experts said Prime Day is a great time to stock up on discounted household essentials like laundry detergent and pantry staples like olive oil. Tide's Hygienic Clean Laundry Detergent Pods come in a pack of 48 and are compatible with HE machines. They can be used in both hot and cold water, the brand says.

What not to buy during October 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 tech deals during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and leading up to the big game in February. She noted that gaming is not the best Prime Day category — it may be wise to buy console bundles and video games, as well as laptops and computers, on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, since so many people are looking to gift tech products during the holidays, there’s a very high demand for these items and newer models tend to go out of stock quickly. If you’re looking for a specific tech product and it’s on sale during Prime Day, it may be in your best interest to purchase it — the product could sell out while you’re waiting for a better deal, preventing you from getting your hands on it before the holidays or at all.

How to save during Amazon’s Prime Early Access Sale

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.

Be aware of exclusive promotions before and during the sale

During the Prime Early Access Sale, Amazon is offering members a handful of exclusive promotions:

  1. Prime members who haven't yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited can get four months free (non-Prime members are eligible for three months free). Prime members can also get an Echo Dot (3rd Gen) for 99 cents with a one-month subscription of Amazon Music Unlimited. Both offers are available through Oct. 12.
  2. Shoppers can get the first four months of an Audible Premium Plus membership for $6 a month. With the trial, Prime members get two free audiobooks and non-Prime members get one free audiobook of their choice. The offer is available through Dec. 31.
  3. During the Prime Early Access Sale, Prime members can get 20% off (up to $10) on Grubhub orders using the code PRIME20. The deal is available for orders over $15 and can only be used once. Prime members must be signed up for the existing free, one-year Grubhub+ membership trial to gain access the deal.

Be on the lookout for other promotions throughout the sale. For example, Amazon may release more coupons you can use to save on purchases.

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. You can also opt to get deal notifications based on your Amazon searches and recently viewed items. To create deal alerts, visit the Amazon Early Access Sale page online or in the Amazon app.

Amazon Alexa can also 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. 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 wishlists for different people you need to purchase gifts for or wishlists by product category like tech or home. 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 Prime Day-esque sales, 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 — they offer 5% cash back at Amazon, reports Select personal finance reporter Brett Holzhauer.

Compare prices across retailers’ sites

Other retailers are following Amazon’s lead and offering their own savings events around the time of the Prime Day Early Access Sale. Because of this, 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. Here are a few Prime Day competitor sales you may want to browse:

  • Macy's is hosting its Holiday Early Access Sale through Oct. 12.
  • Walmart is releasing "new rollbacks and more" through Oct. 13.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond's Beyond Big Sale is happening Oct. 11-16. Shoppers can get 25% off the total price of their items Oct. 11-12 and 25% off single items Oct. 13-16.
  • Groupon Day is happening on Oct. 14.
  • Target is rolling out Black Friday deals each week starting now.

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