When heading out this Black Friday, use these smart shopper tips: be strategic, make a list and don’t overspend.
Megan Broom is ready for Black Friday.
She’s been scouring leaked Black Friday ads for weeks. She even made a chart to plot the best deals on her shopping list.
Broom, an accounts receivable coordinator who lives outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana, calls herself an obsessive “chart-making queen.”
“I make a goal list of items I’m looking for and sit there searching all the ads to see what is shown,” she says. Then she charts the items along with store locations, start times and pricing.
“That way I could identify and compare what would be the cheapest spot and what time that store opened,” she says.
Black Friday means big business. In 2017, 174 million shoppers went Black Friday shopping, spending $7.9 billion, according to industry data. Between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, consumers spent an average of $335.47, according to the National Retail Federation, up 18 percent compared to 2016. (Shoppers between the ages of 25 and 34 spent the most—an average of $419.52.)
While you can save big time on all your holiday shopping, it’s important to have a game plan that includes making a list, sticking to a budget to ensure you’re not overspending, and strategizing.
Here are some Black Friday pointers from the pros:
Not all Black Friday prices are created equal
Broom ranks her stores by priority. One store may have a better price on a TV, for example, but Broom is willing to pay a slightly higher price at a different retailer if that second store also has good deals on other items on her list, like new pots and pans. She also takes advantage of price matching guarantees in those cases.
She jokes that she learned her Black Friday hacks from her mother, who joins her before dawn to strike on the best deals.
“It’s usually the two of us together to conquer the stores,” she says.
Broom uses BFAds.net to strategize for Black Friday. The advertising aggregator not only publishes all the Black Friday ads—leaked and officia—but also cross-references deals by categories and keeps a running tally of new deals listed.
Be early and be prepared with a list of must-haves
Michelle Gonsalves, a doctor who provides care in a hospital in southern Florida, used to get the jump on Black Friday by using her night shifts at the hospital to her advantage. While on her breaks, she scoured the ads and made a list of exactly what she wanted. Then she hit the stores right after her shift ended to be there when they opened.
“I arrived at the stores awake, freshly informed from reviewing ads an hour before, and ready to go, compared to everyone else who was sleepy and sluggish and had read ads the day before,” Gonsalves says. “Plus, I had extra incentive to finish quickly, as I had to work nights again that night. So I needed to go home and go to bed.”
Gonsalves has since transferred to the day shift, so she skips Black Friday in-store sales and the crush of crowds, which, she admits, means she misses the best deals.
“I do a lot of my shopping online now,” she says. “I probably spend more money.”
Create a list to rein in spending
Our hardcore Black Friday shoppers stick to lists to prevent overspending and unnecessary impulse buys, and try to get the lowest prices possible for each item, even if it means hopping from store to store.
“I love Black Friday shopping,” says Rochester, New York writer Marcia Layton Turner, who reviews deals ahead of time at GottaDeal. “Based on my list and the lowest prices announced, I make a plan for which stores to hit first.”
Like many Black Friday shoppers, Turner uses her downtime on Thanksgiving to begin scoping deals, but she also tries to pre-order her items online at Black Friday prices to save herself time in-store the next day. She also uses Black Friday to take advantage of once-a-year sales for items that are otherwise rarely discounted, such as Apple products.
Rebates, gift cards, and returns
“If I can buy it online, I check first for discount codes and to see if Ebates will give me a rebate. I stack coupons whenever possible,” Turner says. “Sometimes I’ll buy things and hold onto them and if the price drops after Black Friday, I’ll return them for the lower-priced item.”
Returning an item and then buying it again after a price drop is a move many retailers will honor, and it ensures you get the lowest price even after Black Friday is over. Some retailers might also refund you the difference in prices. Make sure you keep your tags and receipts.
Turner doesn’t just look for deals on gifts. She also shops for her business, especially technology items. And this year she’s looking to get a great deal on a flat-screen TV for her living room.
Another of Turner’s hacks? Stock up on gift cards with built in rebates and discounts that she can use too.
“Our local grocery store gives you $20 back on a $50 gift card,” she says. “So I’m trying to stock up on those, both to give as gifts and for buying gifts.”
Here are a few additional bonus tips from the pros, to help you stick to your budget and get the most out of Black Friday:
- Make sure to check refund and return policies before you buy. Nothing is more of a bummer than realizing you can’t get a refund for an item you no longer want. Avoid buyer’s remorse and overspending heartburn by making sure those amazing deals don’t come with restrictive return policies.
- Use credit cards wisely. If you think you’re in danger of overspending, use cash. But if you have a rewards credit card that you can pay off as soon as the bill hits, put that Black Friday shopping spree to work for you through cash back or travel points.
- Remember that bigger isn’t always better. It’s easy to get caught up in the shopping craze, but what matters most is not what you buy, but the thought you put into it. A thoughtful $20 gift along with a handwritten note can often mean more to the recipient than the latest must-have gadget for hundreds of dollars.
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