As the holiday season quickly approaches, so too does the biggest shopping day of the year: Black Friday! One of my side businesses involves online reselling, so capitalizing on every deal possible is paramount to its success. In fact, shopping on Black Friday is more than an annual ritual for me – it’s a professional necessity.
Over the years, I’ve come to consider myself a Black Friday expert. But you don’t need years of experience to get the very best deals. Use these tips to tackle your holiday shopping like a pro to get the best deals with the least amount of stress.
Brave the Crowds: Tips to Shop at Retail Locations
Though these bits of advice are aimed at those who wish to battle the masses for the best deals on Black Friday, many tips also apply to those who wish to shop online.
1. Prepare and Plan
To have a successful Black Friday experience, start your planning and preparation several days in advance. First, prepare a gift list before you set foot in a store. Black Friday is no day for window shopping!
Next, since most major retailers post their Black Friday ads online in advance, browse them to find exactly what you are looking for. Also, before you set out, pack snacks and water. This will help streamline your shopping experience and save you from spending money at an overpriced and overly busy food court.
2. Set a Budget
Have a budget in mind before you begin your day. It doesn’t need to be a strict budget, but it should at least give you a rough idea as to how much you will need to spend. After all, there is nothing worse than suffering that post-holiday panic when the credit card bills come in and you realize you can’t afford to pay them in full.
3. Start Your Shopping Early
If you feel the need to get off the couch on Thanksgiving evening, go shopping! In years past, I just relaxed at home after enjoying a day of eating. But now, with many retailers opening on Thanksgiving night, I can capitalize on great deals and avoid the long lines. Plus, many Black Friday discounts will be in effect on Thanksgiving night.
4. Stay Focused
Know what you want to buy from each store before you go, and buy that and nothing else. If the item you are searching for is out of stock, move on to the next item on your list. Retailers are famous for advertising teaser deals to get you in the door and then making a bundle off other items in their inventory.
Last year, Best Buy offered a Blu-ray DVD player for only $59, far below the regular retail price that exceeded $100. Not surprisingly, the player sold out almost immediately.
These instances are by design. Retailers intentionally carry a very limited supply of these “hot” items, also known as Black Friday doorbusters. Once they are gone, buyers will often linger and purchase other items which may or may not be on their shopping list. Stay focused and only purchase items you need.
5. Look for Coupons and Discounts
In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, keep an eye out for coupons in newspapers, retailer emails, and store coupon magazines. Also, when shopping online, always look for coupons and promotional codes before making any purchase. Many codes exist for free shipping and discounts that can make a significant dent in your purchase price!
6. Beware of the Extended Warranty
To compensate for their reduced profit margins, retailers will be determined to get you to buy the extended warranty for any product that you purchase on Black Friday. Keep in mind, however, that many credit cards extend the manufacturer’s warranty for one year for free, and the extended warranties offered by retailers are usually rife with exclusions and restrictions.
If you consider buying an extended warranty, make sure you know exactly what you are getting first. You do not want to duplicate coverage you already have via a credit card.
7. Pay with Plastic
This tip only applies to those who can pay off the credit card balance in full and on time when the bill arrives. From a safety standpoint, carrying a large amount of cash with you on Black Friday is not a good idea. Furthermore, if you use a credit card for all purchases, you can rack up additional benefits, such as accumulating rewards points and receiving purchase protections and extended warranties.
8. Always Get a Gift Receipt
As much as you might think you have chosen the perfect gift for everyone on your list, sometimes it just doesn’t turn out that way. Always ask for a gift receipt and include it with the gift. This will give the recipient the option to easily return anything he or she may not want.
9. Bring a Friend
If you decide to venture out to the retailers in your city, consider taking someone with you. This person will not only help you remain disciplined, but will also give you another pair of eyes to find the best deals. Moreover, it just makes shopping more fun. You can pass the time with your friend while waiting in line and have help for the more difficult buying decisions.
Stay at Home: Tips to Shop Online
Oftentimes, you can find even better prices online than you can by visiting retail locations, and it eliminates all the hassle. As I’ve become a savvier Black Friday shopper, I use the Internet more and visit stores less. If you don’t like crowds, do your Black Friday shopping online from the comfort of your own home.
10. Take Advantage of Free Shipping
Over the past two Black Fridays, I visited a total of one brick and mortar store. This was, in part, because most websites offer free shipping if your order reaches a certain amount. Furthermore, you can frequently find free shipping codes by searching online. Since the free shipping threshold can be as low as $50 for some sites, try to bundle purchases at one store to maximize free shipping.
11. Get Companion Discounts
Check your credit card for companion discounts. If your credit card company has an online shopping portal, you may be able to utilize it to buy from your favorite retailers and receive additional discounts.
For example, the Discover More Card has a popular Shop Discover promotion that has saved me a great deal of money in the past. During the holiday season of last year, I received almost $400 in promotional discounts just for using my Discover Card.
12. Check Bargain Hunting Websites
Consider shopping through one of the many bargain hunting websites where members are truly experts at finding the best online deals. FatWallet, for instance, is a website that publishes the very best deals, discounts, and rebates for both online stores and physical retail locations.
Additionally, you can receive a percentage of your purchase back when you buy from retailers the site is partnered with. On and around Black Friday, cash back can be as much as 8%, and the money is paid to you in the form of a check after a short waiting period.
13. Remember Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday is a term created by retailers for the Monday following Black Friday, and it was invented to persuade the buying public to shop online. In fact, over $1 billion was spent by consumers on this day last year. So don’t fret if you can’t complete your entire shopping list on Black Friday. You will be able to find lots of great deals the following Monday online.
Plotting Your Black Friday Shopping Strategy
Having an effective Black Friday shopping strategy will cut down on the time you spend at retailers, and ensure that you get the biggest bang for your buck. Plan ahead to make the most of the retail holiday.
14. Get Enough Rest
This can be tricky if you will plan to shop both Thanksgiving night and early the following day. I usually take it easy Thanksgiving Day to make my shopping that night as quick and painless as possible. Then, I sleep as much as I can from midnight until around 3:30 AM, when I wake up for Black Friday. After my first round of shopping is done, I take another nap before I venture back out to polish off my list.
15. Prepare a Schedule
With my shopping list in hand, I review retailer advertisements and hours of operation in order to determine the most expedient shopping route. Then, on Thanksgiving night, I visit the stores that open at 10 PM. Next, I determine an order to visit stores in the next morning. If the items I need are not “hot” items, I postpone any trips until later that afternoon, when the crowds have dispersed.
16. Pack for the Day
On Thanksgiving Day, I prepare all the necessary supplies for the shopping day that lies ahead: snacks, water, a fully charged GPS and cellphone, my shopping list, schedule, and any ads and coupons I might need.
17. Bring All Appropriate Ads
Many retailers offer price matching, but taking advantage of these guarantees involves a lot more than mentioning a better deal from a competitor. Usually, the retailer requires an actual print ad from the competitor to honor the price match. If you plan to utilize price matching during your Black Friday shopping, bring all the print ads with you as proof.
18. Prepare Your Credit Cards
By the time Black Friday rolls around, I know which of my credit cards will offer extra discounts on purchases in certain categories. For example, the Chase Freedom credit card currently offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases at all department and clothing stores. Depending on how much you spend, taking advantage of credit card discounts and rewards can really add up.
19. Consider Purchasing Gift Cards
There is nothing wrong with buying a gift card for someone who is hard to shop for. That way, they can get what they really want. Just make sure to purchase a card that has no expiration date, no inactivity fees, and no usage fees.
Sometimes stores will offer gift cards at a discount, such as a $100 gift card for $80. Take advantage of these rare deals whenever you can. Also check out discount gift card exchange sites like Plastic Jungle.
20. Have Fun
If you go into this day with the wrong mindset, you are setting yourself up for a long, unhappy day. Enjoy yourself as much as possible and make the best of long lines and other potentially frustrating situations. If you have an encounter with a stressed out salesperson or a rude customer, just laugh it off!
Black Friday is right around the corner, so now is the time to start preparing. With proper planning and sufficient research, you can snatch up great deals and have a lot of fun doing it. Plan a schedule and a strategy, and stick to it. After all, what’s better than saving hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars on purchases you need to make anyway?
What other ideas do you have for saving on Black Friday? Do you prefer to shop online, or do you hit the stores?
Also, if you’re looking for some more awesome tips, our very own, Andrew Schrage, recently gave some of his best Black Friday shopping tips on NBC News.
(photo credit: Bigstock)