- With higher prices causing financial strain, Americans are cutting back.
- Now, more consumers are embracing the "little treat" lifestyle with less expensive indulgences.
- Amazon Prime Day, Target Circle Week and Walmart+ Week could be good opportunities to get some retail therapy without breaking the bank, experts say.
By some measures, Amazon Prime Day could be good for your mental health.
For those on TikTok, the little treat lifestyle is considered a form of self-care. Shoppers say small, inexpensive purchases give them a temporary boost during stressful economic times.
With some of the biggest shopping events of the year set to kick off next week, this could be a good opportunity for some "retail therapy" without breaking the bank, experts say.
Amazon's highly anticipated Prime Day starts at 3 a.m. ET on July 11 and run through July 12.
Competitors such Walmart, Target and Best Buy are also holding overlapping deal events — Best Buy's "Black Friday in July" event will run July 10 to 12, while Walmart+ Week starts July 10 and goes to July 13. Target Circle Week offers an even longer stretch of deal days July 9 to 15.
Meanwhile, other retailers like Macy's, Nordstrom, Sur La Table and Wayfair are cutting prices by 50% or more throughout the month.
"Inflation is pressing consumers to start early and find the deals from retailers willing to offer the door buster promotions that will drive traffic and excitement in a challenging environment," said Matt Kramer, KPMG's consumer and retail sector leader.
Over the last six months, higher prices have led nearly 80% of consumers to cut back on nonessential goods, like entertainment, home décor and clothing, according to a recent CNBC and Morning Consult survey.
Still, nearly 80% of adults said they intend to shop on Amazon Prime Day, a survey by The Vacationer found. And, 70% of consumers said indulging in retail therapy can have a positive impact on your mental state, according to a separate report by shopping rewards site Smarty.
The theory goes that even in tough times, consumers might rein in their spending, but will still buy small luxuries.
The so-called lipstick index was initially coined by former Estee Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder after the bursting of the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s sent the economy reeling. Lauder noticed that women substituted costlier luxury items for smaller indulgences like lipstick.
"Many consumers shop on Prime Day to get their mid-year 'retail therapy,' but it's important to spend smart so that the stress relief of going shopping doesn't turn into an impulse purchase bill to pay off," said Vipin Porwal, Smarty's CEO.
To that end, here's how to navigate the summer sales without breaking the bank.
The best deals will be on Amazon's own devices, such as 75% off the Amazon Fire TV 43-inch Omni Series. But it's also a good time to find discounts on other popular personal tech from brands like Apple, Fitbit, Samsung, Google and Sony, according to BlackFriday.com.
Look for a wide selection of back-to-school essentials on sale, including children's clothing, backpacks and tablets, according to RetailMeNot's shopping experts.
For those interested in saving money on everyday goods, some of the best-selling items on Prime Day in previous years have included apparel, beauty products, kitchen essentials, toys and outdoor gear.
This time, "expect home and garden deals to dominate," said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at DealNews.com.
To take advantage of Prime Day deals, you must be an Amazon Prime member.
You can sign up for an annual or month-to-month membership or, if not yet sure, a free trial. For the first time, Amazon will also offer invite-only deals where members of its Prime subscription club can request an invitation to access discounts on items that typically sell out fast. (CNBC's Select has more on how to avoid the membership fee in time to score Prime Day deals.)
Then, scroll through upcoming deals and set up deal alert notifications on Amazon or through your Alexa device so you'll know when the price drops.
When a deal is live, add the item to your cart immediately. Some intermittent "Lightning Deals" sell out quickly, Ramhold said. Once a sale item is in your cart, you'll have 15 minutes to decide whether to complete the purchase.
If there is a specific product you are set on and you don't see it in upcoming sales, you can create a wish list and Amazon will alert you if it does become part of a Prime Day deal.
Other retailers may have better deals without a membership required, according to consumer finance expert Andrea Woroch. Plus, most offer free shipping or curbside pick up.
A price-tracking browser extension such as CamelCamelCamel or Keepa can help you keep an eye on price changes and alert you when a price drops.
Some of Woroch's top picks include $181 off the Beats Studio3 wireless noise cancelling headphones or $242 off the iRobot Roomba wi-fi connected robot vacuum at Walmart and $350 off the Lenovo 15.6-inch Touchscreen IdeaPad 3i laptop or $130 off a Dyson V8 Origin Cordless Stick Vacuum at Target.
Woroch recommends stacking discounts, for example, combining credit card rewards with store coupons and then using a cash-back site such as CouponCabin.com to earn money back on those purchases.
For more on the Amazon Prime Day deals, check out NBC Select's recent roundup of the best early Prime Day deals.