For the conscious consumer, Black Friday and Cyber Monday (the busiest shopping days of the year) can seem like a disaster waiting to happen. From throngs of people rushing the front doors of a department store to the frantic push and pull for popular items on the shelves, images of Black Friday chaos fill the heads of shoppers looking for the best deals and bargains. The good news is that the reality isn’t quite so unsettling. In fact, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can actually allow you to get some excellent shopping done without completely busting your wallet. Here are some tips that I’ve found will help anyone survive Black Friday and Cyber Monday unscathed.
Black Friday (in-store shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving)
1) Get started early.
Begin browsing store circulars and advertisements for Black Friday as soon as possible. The newspaper that you get just before Thanksgiving week will be your best resource for what stores are offering the biggest bargains. Start collecting coupons, fliers, and whatever else you can find that shows the deals that your local stores are offering. Also, do a little bit of homework ahead of time. Compare prices on items at plenty of different stores, so that you can be absolutely certain that you are going to pay just the right amount. I’ll never forget the time that I bought a popular toy at one store, only to find the same toy for a much cheaper cost at another store that same day, all because I didn’t do my research beforehand.
2) Make a strategic plan.
Many stores have time-sensitive sales on Black Friday, so you need to carefully plan the order in which you should visit each store. For example, one store may have doorbuster deals from 5:00 AM until 11:00 AM, while another store may only offer advertised bargains from 10:30 AM to noon. Devise a plan that will allow you to hit the right stores at the right times. It might sound like a lot of work, but I can tell you, from personal experience, that it will definitely pay off to make a shopping strategy.
3) Don’t forget to bring the ads.
The best way to prevent pricing disputes for particular items is to carry the actual advertisement with you. That way, stores can’t argue with you about a big screen TV that rings up as twice what the ad shows. You’ll also be able to get help faster from store employees if you are on a time crunch by being able to point directly to the exact item you need.
4) Bring along a friend.
A shopping buddy can be your best ally on Black Friday. Bringing along a friend gives you an extra pair of eyes in the store when looking for hot ticket items, and it’s nice to have some company in the line that you’ve been waiting in since the wee hours of the morning. One strong word of advice: do not bring your children with you. It can sometimes get hectic in stores, and you don’t want to lose sight of your child in a large crowd. You’ll also be less likely to splurge on something that your child begs for that you don’t really want or need to buy.
Cyber Monday (online shopping on the Monday after Thanksgiving)
1) Use safe internet shopping practices.
Ensure that your computer is protected by trustworthy anti-spyware and anti-virus software. While this should always be the case at all times anyway, it’s even more imperative that your personal information is safe when you will be doing a barrage of online shopping. Only shop at websites that you know are legitimate, paying close attention to the “trustmarks” and seals to validate the retailer. Also, shopping with a credit card is actually the safest way to go, because it’s easier to dispute fraudulent charges made with a credit card than with a debit card.
2) Take advantage of the social network.
A great way to become aware of awesome deals and coupons is to join the email lists of your favorite stores on social websites like Facebook and Twitter. Companies may reward you if you “Like” them on Facebook, and many times they will send their followers coupons or give a heads-up about hush hush sales that aren’t made public until the last minute. By getting friendly with retailers early on, you’ll be ahead of the game when Cyber Monday rolls around.
3) Log on at midnight.
Many stores begin their online sales at midnight instead of waiting until later in the morning. The earlier you can get on to the website to snatch up that item you want, the better off you’ll be. Remember that it is actually possible for online retailers to sell out just as fast as the stores that you visit in person. The saying about the early bird getting the worm has never been more appropriate than on Cyber Monday.
4) Check for extra incentives.
Some websites will offer special discounts if you buy more than one similar item. See if you can get bundle packages for a lower price. For example, Fingerhut will often give you the option of purchasing one thing and combining it with an accessory or related product at a lower price. Also, look for deals on free shipping. Sometimes if you spend over a certain amount, a retailer will reduce the shipping costs or eliminate them altogether.
The bottom line: doing some research and planning ahead can make all the difference on Black Friday and Cyber Monday!