Black Friday: Shopping Myths Busted & Techniques Revealed (2019 Handbook)

Holiday Prep

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You don’t want to go into the holiday season feeling like Scrooge, but the stress of Black Friday can make anyone start to feel like a Grinch.

Plan the best approach this year with these helpful tips, and you’ll discover there are ways to pay less, shop smart, and spend more time with loved ones and less time in the checkout line. Check out the following guidelines and busted myths; a win-win for making memories and saving money, all at the same time.

Jump ahead if you’d like:
– 1. Do Your Research First
– 2. Shop Online
– 3. Use Your Money Wisely
– 4. Use Apps to Your Advantage
– 5. Black Friday Myths Busted
– 6. What to Buy (and What to Skip)
– 7. Small Business Saturday
– 8. Stay Safe
– 9. Hacks at a Glance

Make sure that what you’re standing in line to buy really is a good deal, by shopping around before the sales start in earnest. You can look up Black Friday Ad Scans to see what’s currently being advertised at your favorite stores. For those that haven’t released these details yet, past year deals are the best way to predict upcoming Black Friday discounts. The specifics will change from year to year, but reviewing the best deals of past Black Fridays or Prime Day can provide a lot of insight on what’s really a good bargain. You can even begin an early budget and shopping guide by checking out last year’s deals on electronics, toys, clothing, and more.

Find the Loss Leaders, items sold deeply discounted or even at a loss, that stores mark down in an attempt to draw in more shoppers.

You can research Black Friday predictions for a head start; while every forecast may not be exact, there are some well-informed experts out there that parse tons of information and break down the most likely scenarios.

Also, follow your favorite retailers on social media. You’d be surprised how much insight they’ll share, particularly about deals on special editions and new releases.

Some stores offer price adjustments if an item goes on a better sale in the next 30 days, so before committing to your shopping destinations, find out whether they have the most accommodating policies.

COME PREPARED

Keeping organized during the holidays is difficult, but follow Santa’s lead and keep a list; duplicating a purchase is never a good deal.  Write down names of who you’re buying for, what they want, and based on your a budget, how much you have to spend. Have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice options written down here as well. When you head to the store, bring your sale flyers.

NAVIGATING DOORBUSTERS

Have realistic expectations if you are buying something you know everyone else is interested in; electronics and kids items go especially quickly, both online and in person. Remember that Doorbusters are few and far between, so skip them altogether unless it’s your most important item. You don’t want to miss out on the incredible deals lining the aisles while standing in line to get a Doorbuster, especially if you aren’t positive there are enough for everyone in line ahead of you.

If there’s a Doorbuster you are determined to get, try the buddy system and work in pairs. Have an agreement with a friend that’s shopping at another store location, so you know there’s a greater chance of one of you getting the item. Or you can have a partner that’s home shopping online. It’s pretty hard to track the lightning-fast deals that can pop up online while you’re slogging through a mass of people in stores, so having someone with an eye on the web helps prevent missing out on those sales.

CONSIDER THE LOGISTICS

It’s easy to get swept away in the rush of holiday chaos, so here’s a list of some common logistical problems to keep in mind:

Have a plan for transporting large items through massive crowds, and bring extra help, or a larger vehicle, if you need it.

Don’t buy specialty coffee mugs, delicate electronics, or hard to return glassware for a recipient on the other side of the country.

Skip sending makeup or skincare, which can leak or break over all the other contents of your gift box.

If you’re getting custom items from a site like Etsy, count on them taking longer than usual to be made and delivered. Shop owners are flooded with customers around the holidays.

International shipping is unpredictable, and you run a significant risk that your item won’t arrive in time. Make sure to check with every shop directly to find out estimated shipping dates.

Food-based gifts like flavored popcorn, preserves, and champagne are classics for a reason, but they don’t all store well. Make sure they’ll be shipped, opened, and enjoyed before they go bad.

Save your receipts and gift receipts in a safe place; you may be able to get a rebate, price adjustment, or need to return something if issues arise.

BLACK FRIDAY SHOP IN YOUR PAJAMAS

If you don’t feel like braving the crowds, there’s hardly any reason to anymore. Online shopping lets you have tabs open on multiple store websites simultaneously, with many featuring to-the-second countdowns, so you know exactly when to set your alarm to score the deals you want.

You can also take advantage of Black Friday sales on some surprising things, like a kitchen remodel. Appliances go for as much as 50% off during the holidays, when new models are coming out and vendors have to clear out floor space.

Online shopping also makes it possible to price compare items in real time, even when the store brands are different, so you can be sure whether that big purchase is the best deal you can get. It’s important to know how much things really sell for online, and if you’re not keeping track of recent sales on those big budget items like TV’s, or popular sale items like Kitchen-aid mixers or Instant Pots, you could get fooled into paying more than you should.

 

THINK BEYOND CHRISTMAS

There’s no reason to limit the Black Friday shopoing to Holiday gifts only, if you’re coming in under budget especially. If you’ve already RSVP’d to a spring wedding and know you’ll be buying a gift, pick it up early and on sale to save time and money. The same goes for upcoming birthdays and anniversaries.

CREDIT CARDS

Use credit cards smarter, not harder. Don’t open unnecessary new cards you’ll struggle to pay off after the new year. Instead use cards you already have to their fullest ability, whether you’re cashing in points for gift cards or statement credits, or taking advantage of cash-back offers like Chase Freedom’s 5% back at department stores from October-December.

Remember to purchase gift cards and other items in a way that gives you the most in points or cash-back. For instance, some credit cards give higher rewards for grocery purchases, in which case you should buy your Holiday gift cards at your local grocery store.

If credit cards aren’t your thing, Target offers the same RedCard benefits to holders with a Target Debit card as it does for their Credit RedCard, including early access to deals.

Call your credit card’s customer service line or check their website, as some offer price matching, purchase protection, or limited warranties.

USE THE ENVELOPE METHOD, WITH A TWIST

Cut the ads for items you’re shopping for out of sale flyers and divide them into envelopes, one per store you’ll be shopping. Tuck the cash you’re shopping with into each envelope (don’t forget to account for tax!) and you’ll have a shopping list and a way to stay on budget. This also makes it easy to compare discounts, and arrange your stops in order. If store A offers you a total of $200 in savings and store B offers a meager $100, you’ll know where to head first.

It’s rare that the best deal strategy is to do all your shopping in one place, so know exactly what you’re going for, find those loss leaders, and get out fast, without wasting money or time on non-essentials. Make sure to choose your purse or wallet smartly for the day though; jostling and distracted crowds can make it easy for thieves to take advantage of shoppers.

Check out rebate apps or reward-based apps, like Ibotta, which gives you cash back for certain purchases. Drop rewards you for your everyday spending without having to scan receipts or type in codes. It’s a points-based system where you can use points to receive gift cards.

Download the store app for each location you plan to head to, and you’ll be able to unlock exclusive coupons, verify sale prices with barcode scanners, and even check whether an item is marked as in-stock.

ShopSavvy provides up-to-date info about the best deals at a range of stores, but the coolest feature is you can scan a bar code at one store to compare its price at another.

If you’re an Amazon shopper, add an item to your Amazon Wishlist, turn on app notifications, and you’ll be notified if it’s a lightning deal or deal of the day. Having two lists can also make it easier to keep organized; you can create a list labelled “Christmas ideas” and make notes about specifics, like intended recipients, best noted recent sale prices, and where to purchase the item in-person if it sells out online. You can also use the web-based or browser add-on CamelCamelCamel, which is the oldest Amazon price tracker, and it will keep you in the know about the best deals. If you’re ordering several items from Amazon this year, you can pick up a few dollars in credit by selecting No-Rush shipping during checkout.

In Gmail there’s an easy way to keep all of your store emails in one place:

1. If your email address is “[email protected]” simply add a period somewhere in there and use that to subscribe to store newsletters. For example “[email protected]”. It’s magic, you will still receive them!

2. Next, go into your gmail settings (right here) and create a new filter that takes those emails and puts them into a custom label, name it “Store Emails” or something you’ll remember. You can filter emails that contain the words “Shipping” or “Tracking” so you’ll always know when a package is on the way. Alternatively, you can setup a separate email account to catch all your sale emails in one place, without flooding your personal email all season long. This will ensure you never see the sale notifications unless you open that email account specifically, so you’ll avoid splurging.

All the best deals are well-advertised. Loss leaders are designed to get people in the store on Black Friday (or Thanksgiving night) and some of the biggest markdowns won’t get as much hype.

Everything is on sale on Black Friday. Things may be marked down on Black Friday, but if they normally sell for less than “full price” it’s hard to tell whether it’s actually cheaper than it was yesterday. Making a price book beforehand and checking what it’s going for at other stores is a good way to compare advertised deals to the real price

Limited edition items. Books and CD’s are frequently heavily advertised, with special promos like signed posters or extra material, but unless the add-on is really valuable to you (or the recipient) it’s no reason to pay full price for something that’s steeply discounted everywhere else.

Black Friday is the last day for good deals.  While prices will rise again immediately after Black Friday, many items will be deeply discounted at least one more time before Christmas. The busiest shopping day of the year is the Saturday before Christmas, and while we can’t advocate waiting that long to shop — it just sounds so stressful– it’s usually a good bet that you’ll have one more chance to snag a good deal.

You can’t price match on Black Friday. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Shopping in-person gives you better odds than does online shopping, so pounding the pavement for deals will pay off. You’re not likely to get any traction asking a competitor to match a limited time or small quantity special, but for longer-running sales you can often find a store with a matching policy that works for you.

Certain items are never discounted  Sure, it’s often true that some sellers prohibit stores from discounting an item beyond a certain agreed-upon price, but merchants frequently do other promotions to encourage you to buy from them instead of a competitor. Target, for example, often offers gift cards with the purchase of certain popular electronics, especially iPads.

WHAT TO SKIP

Never pick up your wrapping paper, tape, batteries, or storage boxes at department stores, no matter how cute or convenient. If you’re in need of these essentials, your best bet is to check a dollar store, where you’ll find great deals on bows and wrapping, greeting cards, and more of your holiday essentials for far less than even the big box stores carry them for.

Also, it may sound counter-intuitive, but toys aren’t the best things to buy on Black Friday either. Typically toys aren’t marked down significantly until closer to Christmas, so it might be best to wait it out if you’re hoping for the best bargain. That said, if you know that there’s one toy your child has to have, it’s better to pick it up early at only a small discount, than to wait for a drastic sale which empties the shelves of your biggest must-have item. Amazon’s Lightning Deals are the exception to the rule that toys aren’t deeply discounted on Black Friday, so make sure check out the upcoming deals list, and set alerts and alarms so you can grab every must-have toy.

Skip out on home goods like sheets and towels, because you can usually find them cheaper when the January white sales roll around.

Limited Edition Items are usually just marketing tactics to get you in the door. You’ll rarely save money, and may even pay more for just a small cosmetic addition,  so skip them and pick up the standard model at a better price.

Don’t buy pets. Signing up a gift recipient for the responsibility of food, water, walks, and vet bills may make for a very grinchy, grouchy holiday, so make sure it’s been thoroughly discussed and agreed on before you gift anyone a pet at Christmas.

Decide before you start shopping whether you’re interested in extended maintenance or warranties, so you know the true cost of an item and don’t have to make a rushed decision.

WHAT TO BUY

Small and Large Appliances

Discounted Gift Cards

Pots and Pans

Electronics

DVDs

Games

Smart Home Devices and Wearables

Hobby Supplies

 

2019 is the 10th year of American Express’s promotion of Small Business Saturday, which encourages local, brick and mortar retailers to get in on the holiday hype. You can find incredible deals from local retailers that don’t have the marketing power to get the news out there. You may be surprised at the diverse range of high quality boutique shops in your area, from unique clothing and jewelry to handmade soaps and even baby toys. Buying directly from local shops, or eating at local restaurants while you’re marathon shopping, not only helps contribute more to small businesses and the local economy, it also makes it easy to get a one-of-a-kind gift for everyone on your shopping list.

The Holidays are meant to be a time of joy, but unfortunately it’s also a time for thieves and hackers to prey. Whenever possible, remember to use credit cards for online shopping; in case of a data breach, it’s far easier to contest charges and get refunds when using a credit card than it is with debit cards. Now is also a great time to either pick up a porch-facing security camera to thwart package thieves, or change your shipping address to a secure post office box. Here are a few tips to stay safe this season:

ONLINE SHOPPING

1. Never put your credit card info on a public computer, and keep your antivirus software up to date on your personal computer.
2. Shop on trusted, secure websites only.
3. Don’t shop on unsecured networks, like airport WiFi.
4. Make sure deliveries won’t be left unsecured.
5. When shopping on Amazon, make sure you’re buying directly from the retailer, not a third party reseller.
6. Never click on links in an E-Mail without verifying the sender’s address, and never respond to E-Mails or phone calls that ask you for personal information.

IN-PERSON SHOPPING

1. Keep your purchases on your person or have help with you that can hold things, don’t set anything down.
2. If you run items to your car, don’t go alone. Cover any items you have stashed in your car.
3. It’s easy to get distracted in all the chaos of Black Friday, don’t set down your phone, wallet, or car keys.
4. Consider the drive home, does your car insurance cover personal contents in an accident?
5. Be on the lookout for credit card skimmers at gas pumps, pick up an RFID blocking wallet, and when possible, opt for mobile payments, as the token based systems they use are actually more secure than credit cards in most instances.

 

Research before you shop, download store apps to price check, and familiarize yourself with what’s on sale before you purchase
Follow your favorite retailers on social media to get info on upcoming specials
Learn store policies for returns, price matching, and price adjustments
Shop with sale flyers in-hand
Stay organized and come with a detailed list
Avoid Doorbusters unless it’s a must-have item
Think logistically, plan for practical hiccups
Shop in pairs, use the buddy system in-store and online
Have a partner shopping at a different store location for any must-have items
Think beyond Christmas–buy gifts for upcoming occasions after the Holidays are over
Use credit cards wisely, purchase items where you earn the most rewards
Setup the Gmail hack for shopping-related emails
Download apps that alert you to deals, price compare, offer rebates, or earn points for shopping
Stay on budget, use the envelope method
Skip the products that aren’t on their best sale of the season, or pick one up to price adjust later


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