3 Essential Last-Minute Black Friday Shopping Tips & Info for the 2010 Holiday Season

black friday shopping mallShoppers that want to get the most out of this year’s holiday season need to know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not going to be the only days to find great deals in 2010. Last year, retailers leaked their Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals a few weeks in advance in hopes of generating some buzz. This year, retailers have taken it a step further and begun to offer Black Friday/Cyber Monday-type deals before their traditional calendar dates. In addition, many of these great deals will even last beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, really, the holiday should be known as Black November and Black December!

How do we find the best deals? With countless numbers of retailers competing for your attention, it’s easy to see how holiday shopping is now subject to information overload. Luckily, technology has provided smart shoppers and deal seekers with the tools to cut through the Yule-tide clutter. From Facebook to Twitter to the blogosphere to free Black Friday shopping apps, there are plenty of strategies for shoppers looking to get great deals without too much hassle. In this post, we will examine some helpful social medial tools to lessen your shopping stress and help you locate deals that will keep you within your holiday budget. After all, there’s nothing like stress-free holiday shopping.

1. Connect with Your Favorite Retailers
Although email might sound so late ‘90s, it still provides one of the simplest ways to receive and track deal information. Sign up for your favorite retailers’ email newsletters to get the latest updates directly to your inbox or phone. If you’re worried about inundating your primary email account with a flurry of newsletters, sign up for deals using a secondary account or use filters to direct your retail emails to a designated folder.

Also, every major retailer has accounts on Facebook and Twitter. In many cases, these social media platforms disseminate exclusive deals or sneak peeks. If you’re on Facebook and Twitter, make sure you connect with your favorite retailers. Chances are, they’re planning to share information in as many places as possible and that includes social networks.

In addition to providing information on deals, sales, and exclusive items, many retailers use their social media profiles to host contests and giveaways. While you’re on the lookout for money-saving opportunities, you might get a chance to grab some free products or services with a simple retweet or wall comment. In many cases, you could win just by being a follower. Getting the scoop on a big deal is sweet, but snagging a free prize is the cherry on top!

If you’re hitting the streets and visiting brick and mortar locations, you might want to consider checking into stores with a location-based service like Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places. A lot of retailers are using these platforms to share exclusive coupons and deals with shoppers that check into their stores. And since you might be waiting in line to get into a store during the holidays, social check-ins are a good way to pass the time. Contrary to popular belief, you can keep your location private as well.

2. Keep Track of All The Deals Out There
Consumer-generated media has provided some of the best tools to research Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals. These deal sites are dedicated to helping consumers sort through all of the sales as far in advance as possible. When retailers leak their deals, these sites aggregate the information to help people make purchases that best fit their holiday budgets. Some of the best sites include BlackFriday.info, BFAds.net, and BlackFriday.fm. Another site to research is CyberMonday, which provides direct access to over 550 online retailers and exclusive deals on Cyber Monday, the Web’s answer to Black Friday.

As previously mentioned, social media is a great tool for locating holiday deals and Twitter is particularly useful. The handle @blackfriday is easy to remember and has information on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Also, a simple Twitter search covering the terms “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” is a good way to keep track of the deals in real time. If you want to get more in-depth, try a keyword monitoring service. A free keyword monitoring service, like Monitter, enables shoppers to have a live stream tracking the Twittersphere for keyword updates, and Google Alerts can extend your monitoring to news articles and blog posts. You can select three keywords to track at a time – some suggestions include “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday,” and the name of your favorite retailer.

3. Do Your Pricing Homework and Budgeting
When it comes to finding deals, knowledge is king, so make sure you do some research. After all, the Web was created for learning! By knowing the full prices of the items that you are looking to buy, you can spot the “Real McCoy” of deals over the phony “deals.”

Budgeting is equally important and actually should be the first step you take before attacking your holiday shopping list. There’s nothing worse than having major buyer’s remorse and regretting some of your unnecessary purchases. To avoid this, make sure you create an itemized list of who you need to shop for and how this gift will fit into your budget. In fact, this is one of the most important Black Friday holiday shopping tips. And if you decide to use credit to finance some of your purchases, make sure you can pay off the balance in full before you get charged any interest. The last gift you should give yourself this year is an unmanageable holiday debt!

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to getting the best deals this holiday season. If you have any additional tips you’d like to share, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. Happy gifting and have a great holiday!

Paula Drum is general manager of Gettington.com, an e-commerce retailer that provides three payment options to help customers budget for purchases that fit their individual financial situations.