7 Essential Tips for Surviving Black Friday and Cyber Monday
We're fast approaching one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Of course, we're talking about Black Friday, a time when retailers heavily discount all of their products in the hopes of getting consumers to spend.
This year, retailers have been extra aggressive launching their Black Friday sales at the start of the month. Unfortunately, that means more work for consumers because not every sale you come across is worth your time. In fact, some Black Friday sales are just re-branded sales from the last major holiday.
That's not to say all Black Friday sales are bad, but you should definitely tread with caution. To help you sort through the noise, we've created a Black Friday cheat sheet with seven tips that will have you shopping like a true pro.
1. Make a list and stick to it
Just as some people make shopping lists before going to the grocery store, consumers should also get into the habit of making a shopping list for the holidays. Such a list can help you stay within budget and prevent you from buying items that sound tempting, but you don't really need. For instance, just because you see a $150 Celeron-based laptop that doesn't mean you have to buy it.
To help you keep your holiday lists organized, retailers like Amazon let you create customized lists of gifts you intend to purchase. You can make lists for just about anyone, and you can even use Alexa to create them.
Alternatively, you can use sites like Pinterest to create secret boards and fill them with visual gift ideas. (To create a secret board, just flip the "Secret" toggle while creating a normal Pinterest board.) You can even invite others to pin items to your secret board.
2. Compare prices at every opportunity
It's ok to listen to your inner Scrooge over the holidays. In fact, we encourage it. That means that before you buy anything, you should cross check it against other retailers to make sure you've truly found the lowest price.
The easiest way to do this is by using a price-comparison engine such as Google Shopping, ShopSavvy, or PriceGrabber. These sites let you enter product names or model numbers and then display retailers that carry said product. In most cases, you can then sort by price, shipping fee, or proximity if you're shopping in-store. (Full disclosure: ShopSavvy is owned by Purch, our parent company.)
3. Don't wait till Black Friday to make your purchases
Black Friday used to be a one-day event. These days, however, it's a season that starts as early as Halloween. To date, we've seen Black Friday previews from Dell, Best Buy, and HP. Although many of the preview sales are temporary, they'll resurface again on Black Friday week and again on Cyber Monday. Either way, the sooner you make your purchase, the more likely the item you want will be in stock.
This year, many "Black Friday" deals will begin on Monday, November 20. Likewise, we expect many Cyber Monday deals to kick off as early as Saturday, November 25.
4. Be wary of doorbuster sales
What's Black Friday without a good doorbuster sale? While these head-turning deals were designed to get your attention, many of them require that you read the fine print. Oftentimes they're only available for select hours or they're available in very limited quantities.
In some cases, the deals may sound tempting — such as spotting a $30 tablet — until you realize that said tablet is bogged down with outdated tech. Bottom line: Don't spend too much time or effort trying to snag a store's doorbuster deal, because, unless you're first in line or up at 5am, you're not going to get that deal.
5. Cyber stalk the big retailers
The best way to get a heads up on holiday sales is to cyber stalk your favorite retailers. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram if they have an account there. In previous years, retailers have used these platforms to release special coupon codes or previews of their holiday sales before.
- Amazon: Twitter | Facebook
- Best Buy: Twitter | Facebook
- Dell: Twitter | Facebook
- Jet.com: Twitter | Facebook
- Newegg: Twitter | Facebook
- Target: Twitter | Facebook
- Walmart: Twitter | Facebook
6. Limit yourself to one credit card
Data breaches are common these days and the holidays are no exception. So the best way to safeguard yourself against any potential identity theft is to limit the number of credit cards you use during the holiday season. While using cash is the ultimate protection against cyber threats, there are many benefits to using a credit card, whether you're earning cash back rewards or using your credit card for the extra protections it offers.
7. Know your return policies
Retailers are renowned for tweaking their return policies over the holidays. Some extend their policies, making it easier for customers to make returns long after the holidays are over. Others, however, restrict their policies or increase their restocking fees to discourage customers from making returns. To avoid any grievances, always ask for a store receipt or a gift receipt and if you're shopping online, check that store's return policy so you know what items can be returned and which can't.
Image credit: Shutterstock
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