We know, we know: With Thanksgiving dinner still heavy in your tummy, the last thing on your mind is holiday shopping. But with retailers packing some of their biggest deals of the year into the 48 hours after Thanksgiving Day, this could be your chance to score big. So, whether you’re braving in-store crowds on Black Friday or going online for Cyber Monday, get motivated with our tips for making the most of this year’s busiest – and craziest – shopping days.
Know your ads.
Sunday papers are already flush with Black Friday ads, so start clipping deals now. Pay special attention to early-bird “doorbuster” specials and plan to rise and shine accordingly. Paper not in the budget? Bookmark online aggregators such as Black Friday Ads, BlackFriday.info, CyberMonday.com, @Cyber Monday and Cyber Monday Central. Not only do these resources do the filtering for you; they may also have links to special offers you can only find online.
Use your apps.
From Black Friday through Cyber Monday, your iPhone or Android smartphone can be a great tool for combating information overload. Fatwallet’s Black Friday iPhone app feeds you user-generated deals in real time, while Sazze’s Black Friday Survival Guide distills deals for both iPhone and Android users. You can also use apps to compile and share wish lists – ToyHopper ($1.99; iPhone), for instance, filters toy recommendations by age, price and other criteria.
Get the inside scoop.
Sign up for retailer newsletters, and follow your favorite merchants on Facebook and Twitter. Not only will you get the early word on Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials; you may also get exclusive coupons and other rewards. Worried about spam? Consider opening a separate email, Twitter or Facebook account just for deal hunting.
Resist impulse buys.
Despite a veritable army of sites – including LogicBUY, SlickDeals and Pricegrabber – that make comparison shopping easy, some retailers still try to lure impulse buyers with Black Friday and Cyber Monday “deals” that are anything but. Compare online and offline sales to make sure you get the best buy, and browse reviews on Amazon to see what real shoppers are saying about the items on your list.
Have a Black Friday game plan.
Without one, your budget and your goals could go out the window. Organize your list by store and by gift recipient, and cross-reference wish lists against the ads and coupons you’ve collected. Finally, map your shopping route around stores’ opening and closing times, and know stores’ floor plans so you can make a beeline for the doorbusters.
Bring a pal if you’re hitting the stores.
Shopping is always more fun with a friend, but on Black Friday, having a pal at your side is also a competitive advantage. While you race toward electronics, your friend can tick items off your list in the toy aisle.
Don’t leave the store without a gift receipt.
One person’s deal may be another’s “Aww, but I really wanted this…” Since many stores permanently slash prices after the holiday season, including a gift receipt ensures that your recipients can easily exchange unwanted items for the price you paid.
Spend Cyber Monday where shipping is free.
Free shipping itself used to be a Cyber Monday exclusive, but thanks to competition among e-tailers, it’s now practically a given. If the merchant you’re targeting doesn’t offer free shipping, shop around – it’s likely you’ll find an alternative that does.
Update your security settings.
Checked your browser version lately? How about your firewall? On Cyber Monday or otherwise, make sure you’re shopping securely by downloading the latest updates for these, as well as your anti-spyware and virus-protection programs.
No matter when you’re shopping online, buy only from sites you know and trust, and use a credit card that offers “chargeback” protection instead of using your debit card. Before entering your digits, make sure the site is secure by looking for “https” in the address or a padlock icon in the corner of your browser.