Even More Black Friday Savings Tips From Shopping Experts
Black Friday is widely regarded as the unofficial start to the holiday buying period, and for good reason — most retailers offer deep discounts the day after Thanksgiving to jump-start sales in anticipation of Christmas and Hanukkah. You can browse the Internet endlessly trying to find the best tips and tricks to help you make the most of Black Friday (and Cyber Monday), but that would seriously cut into your turkey and family time. To save you a headache, I’ve reached out to financial and frugal-living experts to compile this comprehensive list of their best advice. When the pie is polished off and the dishes are put away, I hope you’ll remember these savvy shopping tidbits to help you walk away a winner as you usher in the holidays. Happy shopping and happy holidays! (See also: Black Friday Tips From Money-Saving Experts)
Andrew Schrage, founder of Money Crashers, advises to keep an eye on price-matching offers while making sure you’ve read the find print:
Price matching can be tricky. Retailers love to advertise price matching, but when you get down to the fine print, you may find a number of caveats. For example, many stores require you to provide a physical ad displaying the better price in order for the retailer to honor your request.
However, Walmart has led the way with consumer-friendly price matching. Last year, Walmart instituted a policy stating that if you purchased something from one of its locations during December and then found it elsewhere at a reduced price, you would be refunded (with some exclusions) as long as the better deal was offered before Christmas Day. It remains to be seen if it will offer a similar program this year.
Boost Your Buying Power
Swagbucks, a top online rewards destination, has launched a new program called Shop & Earn, which helps budget buyers stretch their money by offering exclusive discounts to more than 300 big-box retailers like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Apple, Kohl's, and Macy's, among others.
As an incentive for participating in the program, users earn Swag Bucks ("currency" redeemable for gift cards and products from these stores), which help boost consumers' holiday buying power. In addition, for peak shopping periods around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Swagbucks will double and triple its Shop & Earn rewards on Friday, Nov. 23, and Monday, Nov. 26.
Shop In-Store, Buy Online
Leslie Linevsky, co-founder of Catalogs.com, thinks taking part in the Black Friday is a good idea, but you can save time by avoiding the long lines and making the actual purchases online:
Avoid back-breaking heavy bags, skip the check out lines, and pay for everything all at once. How? Enjoy your shopping experience: go to the store, try on, touch and make your selections — putting everything in your online shopping cart at the store's website. Check out while you relax at the food court and have all your purchases delivered right to your door.
Use Black Friday Sites to Streamline the Process
Black Friday veteran Jon Vincent is the co-creator of BlackFriday.info and Black-Friday.net, both of which recently merged with BlackFriday.com. Vincent says that Black Friday-dedicated sites make it easier for shopper to plan their attack by providing email alerts, all the ads in one place, and the ease of comparing prices between stores. Another weapon in Black Friday sites’ arsenal is social media. “Social media is another way to keep on top of breaking ads,” Vincent says. “Follow or ‘like’ Black Friday sites or the stores you want to shop to get updates on ad breaks.”
Just Say No to Credit Card Offers on Black Friday
Jeanette Pavini is the resident household-savings expert at Coupons.com, and she warns that while it may be tempting to sign up for a store credit card on Black Friday to score even more savings, it’s a trap you should steer clear of unless you plan to pay off the balance immediately.
“Every time you have your credit checked you may be lowering your credit score which can have long-term ramifications, like paying a higher interest rate on a car
purchase or a home refinance,” Pavini says. “Only open a card in store if you can pay the entire balance off when you get the bill — paying interest is not saving
Stock Up on Discounted Gift Cards to Pay for Purchases
This tip from Andrea Woroch, who provides consumer advice to top news outlets like “Good Morning America,” CNN, and the New York Times, is often overlooked; but it can help you keep more money in your pocket when you’re at the cash wrap.
“The best way to enhance your savings is by using discounted gift cards to purchase items on Black Friday” says Woroch. “Sites like GiftCardGranny.com offer gift cards at less than face value to popular retailers like Kohl’s, Target, Macy's, Best Buy, and more with an average savings of 12% off.”
Black Friday Can Help You Save on Things For You, Too
While you’re out buying for people on your list, also keep an eye on items you may need for yourself and your home, says Cherie W. Lowe, aka The Queen of Free: “Not all Black Friday sales are about gifts. Kitchen appliances, bath towels, coats, and countless other items drop to their lowest prices of the year the day after Thanksgiving. Keep in mind that you might not see these items so cheap until next year.”
Beware of Doorbusters
Brad Wilson of BlackFriday2012.com maintains that while doorbusters can be a boon to savvy shoppers, they can also be a source of a major headache during the morning rush.
“Be wary of Black Friday doorbusters with quantity limits,” Wilson says. “If a store only has 10 items at that price, go elsewhere. Remember that you only need to hit the stores early if the object of your desire is a doorbuster. If you aren't after a $5 coffee maker or a $200 flat screen, you can probably skip the morning rush and hit the stores in the afternoon once things have calmed down.”
Stack Your Savings
Couponing expert and founder of cash-back rewards site BeFrugal.com Jon Lal reminds us that sometimes, you can use deals on top of deals. “When you shop online on Black Friday, you can often get free shipping offers... [and] use an online coupon code, plus earn free cash back.”
Shop Differently on Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday
“From our 13 years of Black Friday experience, tech gadgets and other ‘hard goods’ will be at their lowest prices on Black Friday. Cyber Monday is the day to get the best deals on 'soft goods’ like clothing, makeup, home décor, and more,” says Julie Vlahon from TechBargains.com.
Make the Most of Mobile Apps
Shopping apps have become a huge part of Black Friday over the past few years. Here are a few to look into before heading out to shop till you drop:
Extra! Extra! is a new app that curates deals from thousands of sites and retailers in one place. It’s perfect for shoppers looking for quick and easy coupons while they’re out holiday shopping. Forgot to clip coupons from the paper? No problem! If you have Extra! Extra! on your phone, you can redeem deals like 20% off at Famous Footwear, $10 off a purchase of $30 or more at Bath and Body Works, or a free chicken sandwich at Sonic. These deals are instantly redeemable via mobile devices and require no extra effort from shoppers. The average user saves about $100 a month. Best of all, it’s absolutely free to download on iOS and Android.
List Bliss is the best way to organize your holiday shopping this season. Let’s say mom and dad are tag-teaming a shopping list for their kids. List Bliss syncs their shopping lists in real-time, so you always know what your significant other has already purchased. Split up at the mall and shop in half the time, while staying up to date on what’s in your partner’s basket. It also helps families stay on budget — you would never shop online without knowing the cost of your "shopping cart," so why do so in real life? List Bliss is free for iOS and Android.
CheckPoints is the premier shopping rewards platform that “gamifies” the shopping experience and awards consumers just for checking out products in over 2 million U.S. stores. No other shopping rewards app is available in as many retail locations. CheckPoints users have earned nearly $2 million in rewards thus far, and there’s plenty more to go around!
While apps are an excellent additional savings resource on Black Friday, PayPal shopping specialist Claudia Lombana advises that you still need to practice common sense:
Stay safe when using a mobile device to shop this season,” she says. “Use a PIN/password that is set to time out so the phone locks automatically. Don’t click on links sent via SMS (text) that ask you to verify personal information; call or log on to those accounts directly instead. If you download apps, do so from reputable sources only. Respond to all upgrade notifications on your mobile device promptly (whether for an operating system or an app). And check your account transactions regularly so you can address problems right away.
Look Into Debit Rewards Programs
Make money while you save money — that's the advice of Jessica Howell, a rep with Ally Bank:
When it comes to saving money during the holidays, an area of savings often overlooked are debit rewards programs. Ally Bank’s program, Perks, automatically gives our (free) Interest Checking Account customers money back when they make qualifying purchases at participating retailers (think: Crate & Barrel, Best Buy, Target and Whole Foods) — nothing to sign up for, and no cost. Our national offers are published weekly on our Straight Talk Blog.
This is just an example of what one bank is doing to help soften the holiday-shopping blow to its customers, but there are plenty more. Check with your banking institution to see if it offers a similar program.
Understand the Return Policy Before You Buy
It’s easy to get blinded by deep discounts, but Steven Zussino at GroceryAlerts.ca warns you to be informed about return policies so you don’t get stuck with something you don’t want.
“Make sure you are not stuck with any purchases that do not meet your expectations by reading the return policies in advance. Some retailers allow you to return online orders to a local store at no extra cost, while others may charge you for return shipping as well as a restocking fee."
Be Mindful of Identity Theft When Shopping Online
“’S’ is for Santa and security. When it comes time to insert your personal identifying information (name, address, phone, credit card number, etc.) when shopping online during the holidays, be sure that the URL on the site begins with https://. The ‘s’ lets you know that your information is encrypted during the transmission.”
Be Vigilant With Daily Deals
Tricia Meyer from Helping Moms Connect offers this helpful tidbit for daily-deal lovers: "Be wary of ‘daily deal’ sites and check that the prices are actually better than usual. For example, one daily deal site today is advertising a ‘special’ on a product for $9, but perhaps you can buy that same product any day for $5. Just because a site says it's a special for that day only, does not mean that it is. You still need to compare.”
These are all excellent tips from Black Friday and shopping experts, but there are plenty more tips and tricks to keep in mind. If you have a good one to share with Wise Bread readers, let me know in the comments below.