photo credit: Nate Grigg
I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
There’s nothing special about Black Friday.
Oh, the media, and all of the stores would like you to believe that it is the best day of the year to get a bargain. They want you to believe that the hot deal on Black Friday won’t come around again. They want to see you lined up outside the stores shivering in your parka at midnight to grab that limited time offer.
The truth is that Black Friday is just another day to shop. In fact, many merchants don’t even wait until the Friday after Thanksgiving anymore.
There will be some great deals this season. And there will be some so-so deals. And if you want to save money, you’ll need to learn to be a smart Black Friday shopper.
Plan a strategy
Make a detailed shopping list. List the items you want to buy for family and friends, and make a note for clothing sizes. Look at all the Black Friday store ads and determine where you’ll need to go. Black Friday sales often include deals on household items and things like sheets and towels, so if you are in need of those items, add them to your list, too. Take a close look at your holiday budget and determine exactly how much you can spend.
Read the fine print of the ads
Pay attention to the details in the ad circulars. There may be a limit of one item per customer, or only a certain number of items (like televisions, for example) available at each store. Watch for minimum purchase requirements and clip any coupons you may need.
Research what you are buying
Study up on the features of the products you are buying. Some major discount stores get stripped-down versions of electronics, so be sure you’re buying the product you think you are. A really great price on a blender or a digital photo frame, might not be all that great if the product is of poor quality. Try to find some online reviews of the product to make sure that the deal is worth the money.
Get there early and move fast
There are usually long lines outside stores that have particularly popular items on sale, so get there early, and when the doors open, be prepared to move fast. Wear layers and make sure to have comfortable shoes.
Divide and conquer
Bring a friend or family member to help you get the deals. Split up and you’ll be able to cover more ground. Friends and family are also good at talking you down from impulse purchases and can help you keep your sense of humor when the crowds get to be too much.
Know the store polices
Many stores will price match, which can save you a lot of time running from store to store. You should also pay attention to the return policies. Many stores have strict return policies when it comes to electronic items.
Yes. I really did just tell you to use a credit card. But with a BIG catch. Use a rewards credit card only if you will be able to pay the credit card bill in full when it comes. You’ll earn some cash back (or rewards points) to help you save even more, plus some credit cards offer price protection programs during the holiday season. If you can’t pay the bill in full at the end of the month, then leave the cards at home and just bring cash.
Shop online instead
Many of the offers available in stores are also available online. And online retailers sometimes offer more deals at better prices. Be sure to use Northern Cheapskate to find free shipping codes and use Ebates to earn cash back on your purchases. The sales typically start at midnight on the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather stay up late and grab a few bargains online than wait outside in the cold for the stores to open up at 4 a.m.
Patience can pay off
If you miss a deal on Black Friday, don’t sweat it. There will be loads of sales and bargains to be found all the way through December. As retailers get more desperate to make their year-end sales goals, you’ll see major markdowns. Use that time to find gifts for birthdays and to find household items on your wish list.
A final thought
A bargain isn’t a bargain if it is of poor quality. A bargain isn’t a bargain if you can’t afford to pay cash for it. Be a smart Black Friday shopper, and you’ll be on your way to being a smart shopper every day of the year.
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