Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, Black Friday is, obviously, always on a Friday. But what’s so special about Black Friday, you may ask?
Black Friday is so named because it is traditionally the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Since Christmas gift-buying provides a huge bump in sales volume for many retailers, many need such buying to avoid going into the red financially. Thus, Black Friday marks the first day of the year that some retailers go into the black, or begin to turn a profit, financially.
As shoppers, Black Friday is a great time to snap up some incredible bargains since virtually all stores — online and offline — offer big sales, coupons and other incentives to encourage consumers to buy from them. So, with this great savings opportunity in mind, I offer the following ten tips for getting the best bargains on Black Friday.
1. Create a gift list or “to buy” list.
Complicated tasks can be completed with less stress when following a plan. With millions of product options available these days it is easier to know beforehand what one wants to buy. When gifting, it is very helpful to plan out “the what” and “for whom” side of the equation well in advance so everything can be completed in a timely manner. In some cases the desired product is available only from one retailer or store so note that detail so you can watch for their next storewide sale.
2. Compare prices.
Before diving into the Black Friday sales frenzy, it is wise to know the product’s normal selling price so you can recognize a really good sale or discount and not just take the retailer’s word that the price is great. Product price comparison tools can help make this task easier by providing a price baseline to go by. Once you see a product below the price baseline you can jump on it before it sells out.
3. Know store shipping and return policies.
For gifts and items that may need to be returned it is especially helpful to know the shipping and return policies for the retailers selling the products on your list. Some retailers offer free shipping and don’t charge a restocking fee while others make returns more difficult. Knowing this difference can save a lot of headache and sometimes money later. Also, for heavy, bulky and difficult to ship items, be sure to find out if there will be a shipping surcharge associated with them. These facts can help one decide whether it makes more sense to buy the products online or offline.
4. Factor in all your costs.
Online shopping is convenient but sometimes costs more when shipping charges are factored into the equation. Traditional store shopping, though, also has “hidden” costs associated with it that online shoppers can avoid. For example, one has to get to the store and that costs money (think round trip gas or transportation costs here). If one has small children and would have to get a sitter to go shopping then those costs should be factored into the overall price for buying something at the store or mall. Once all these costs are determined it is easier to accurately compare individual product prices and then decide whether it makes more sense to buy online or offline.
5. Create a shopping strategy and budget.
Since Black Friday sales are short and sometimes cover only a few hours or just one day, it is wise to prioritize the order of stores to shop and even a timeline strategy for shopping them. This is true whether shopping online or offline. Traditional stores sometimes have extensive wait times just to get into the store. Likewise, online stores sometimes have so much web traffic that the site runs very slowly and takes longer. In some extreme cases websites can crash from trying to serve too many online shoppers at once.
Similarly, it is easy to get into a buying frenzy due to all the huge discounts available and seeing other shoppers loading their carts with lots of exciting products. To avoid overspending, it is wise to follow one’s list closely and stick with the budget outlined in advance.
6. Watch for “early bird” discounts.
Many Black Friday sales actually start early, especially online. While traditional stores are usually closed during Thanksgiving day, online retailers are open for business all the time — that means they often have some great early bird sales on Thanksgiving day. In fact, many online retailers have special Thanksgiving Sales that only run on Thanksgiving. Likewise, many stores, both online and offline, have special early bird Black Friday sales starting at midnight or very early Friday morning. Be sure to take advantage of them when possible since these items usually sell out quickly.
7. Skip the crowds by shopping online.
Black Friday can be a stressful mess for traditional shoppers. Lots of traffic, trouble finding parking places, long lines and rude consumers competing for a limited number products are common complaints. One can skip all these hassles by shopping online from home.
Another benefit of online shopping is that many online retailers with offline storefronts offer convenient and free “ship to store” options that you can take advantage of online. Many also coordinate their online and offline sales and promotions which means you can get up early and reserve those Black Friday product specials online and pick them up later at your convenience. In those cases it’s almost like having your cake and eating it too since you get the great Black Friday prices on the products you want without all the Black Friday negatives.
Be sure to check out our special Black Friday Deals section. It links to dozens of amazing limited-time specials.
8. Strategically shop offline.
Some great Black Friday deals are only available offline in your local store. In those cases, follow your plan and bring the store advertisement page so you can document exactly what the price should be if there are any questions. Remember that you may have to go early to reserve a place in line for the limited inventory.
9. Use a major credit card instead of a debit card.
When shopping online, I recommend using a major credit card instead of a debit card since the law tends to slightly favor consumers in the event of a dispute. Also, credit card companies are familiar with resolving disputes in a timely manner. Plus, if you have a points, miles or cash back credit card then you can take advantage of those bonuses. One word of caution about interest: I don’t recommend overspending and paying interest on products bought on credit. Credit cards only benefit the consumer when paid off in full every cycle.
10. Print and/or keep your receipts.
It is a good idea when shopping online to carefully verify your order before submitting. Make sure all charges are clearly identified and all products and options are correct. Don’t forget to verify that the shipping option and fees, if any, are right before approving the order. After you submit your order be sure to either print a copy of the online receipt or save a copy of your email confirmation. Having this information in hand is essential should an error or dispute arise with your order. If possible when buying gifts get a special gift receipt so the recipient can make an exchange later if needed. This same tip applies to offline shopping as well.
So there you have my ten tips for getting the best Black Friday bargains! Now get to work scouting out the best Black Friday specials online and offline. Develop your plan, get your shopping done early, save lots of money and enjoy the rest of the holidays!