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)

Price Matching

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 points called SB ("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

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

One of the best ways for your holiday season to be ruined is to have your identity stolen. That’s why you MUST heed this advice from Jodi Burack of LifeLock Consumer Education:

“’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.

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Guest's picture

REALLY glad I read this article before the holidays roll around! There's a lot of great advice in here; my personal favorite would have to be the concept of online shopping on Black Friday, AFTER visiting the store. I've always felt that the biggest downfall of online shopping is not being able to get a good look at the product, so it's nice to be reminded that you can check them out in the store first.

Guest's picture

Very good advice for saving on the real black friday deals. Dedicated deals sites make it easy for finding the good deals