A few days from now rings in the biggest shopping weekend of the year—are you (and your wallet) ready for it? If you’re among the millions of Americans planning to do some or all of your holiday shopping on Black Friday or over the “Cyber Five” days of online sales, make sure you’re not going into the fray without a plan. Have a hearty helping of pumpkin pie to keep your shopping energy up and then get the most out of your money this year with these shopping strategies.
On Black Friday
1. Have a plan in hand.
The last thing you want to do is show up at the doors of your local mall early Friday morning with money to spend and no plan for spending it. You can get worn out and frustrated pretty quickly if you find yourself circling and backtracking through the masses. Make a list of each item you want to buy on Black Friday (ideally, have this list ready by Wednesday.) Then download a map of your mall and devise a strategy for which stores you’ll visit first, planning your route to avoid backtracking. If certain items are higher priority than others, plan your route around grabbing them first before they sell out.
2. Research prices.
Some “great deals” you find on Black Friday really aren’t so great, but it’s easy to fall prey to promotions when you’re hyped up for the holidays. Take some time to research original prices and jot those down beside each item on your list.
The truth is, some retailers will even inflate prices in the weeks before Black Friday to make an item seem like a better deal, so next year start your research even further ahead of time—or, you could “cheat” this year by using one of the several apps that can track and show pricing history on Amazon items.
3. Don’t fall for this trick:
CNN and Forbes have both reported that some major retailers will sell special models of TVs, computers, or other electronics that were manufactured solely for sale on Black Friday—and are of lower quality. Before you buy a TV at a bargain rate, run the brand name and model number through Google. If the item shows up as newly-posted with no customer reviews, this could be a hint that it’s a Black Friday model only.
On Cyber Monday*
*Cyber Monday is now a bit of a misnomer. Many online retailers now start their sales as early as Thanksgiving Day and run through Cyber Monday, a stretch of time called “The Cyber Five.” So don’t wait until Monday to check for deals or you could miss out.
1. Get ready for the online race.
If you thought Black Friday was cutthroat, consider the fact that on Cyber Monday you’re competing against millions for the items you or your giftees covet. Don’t let some Internet stranger snatch a must-have out of your online shopping cart while you’re digging your credit card from your wallet (yes, it does happen). Avail yourself of the option to create an account and pre-fill your address and payment information at each online retailer you plan to buy from. Add the items you want to your online cart by the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Then you only have to log in to your shopping cart and click “Buy Now.” (You should see updated prices in your cart once the sales go live.)
2. Shop safely.
There’s always a little bit of risk when entering your personal information online, and it’s no different during the Cyber Five. To protect yourself and your money, make sure you’re doing your shopping over a secure connection and on a device that has up-to-date virus protection. Use PayPal if you feel less comfortable entering credit or debit card numbers into online forms, and remember that credit cards are generally preferable to debit cards, because they add an extra layer of protection between thieves and your banking information. And if an item has numerous negative reviews or if a deal seems too good to be true, it’s probably better to just click away from it.
3. Check for travel deals.
When we think of Cyber Monday, we generally think of buying holiday gifts, or perhaps of getting discounted household items for ourselves as well. But don’t forget that the Black Friday weekend is also a great time to check travel sites for deals. After all those holiday trips to visit family, many consumers tend to dial down on travel for the rest of winter—which means potential discounts on hotels and airfare for those of us that do want a winter vacation. In recent years, airfare prediction apps have also pointed out a trend for airfare deals on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, so you might be able to extend the shopping excitement for one more day.