Lately, the ubiquitous Black Friday shopping event has had to start competing with holiday sales that seem to start earlier with every passing year, such as Black November, pre-Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Cyber Week.
As more consumers turn to their mobile devices to make purchases, Black Friday continues to evolve. Last year, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday all set records for online sales, with this trend expected to continue this year.
Online or in-store, Black Friday is still the time of year to get the best deals on T.V.s, tablets, gaming systems, and other electronics. As a shopper, you don’t want to miss out on these steals, but you also should be wary of sub-par discount prices that appear as huge bargains.
Here at STARKART, we have some tips to make your Black Friday and shopping season a money-saving success:
No. 1: Start early. These days, Black Friday is more than just checking the ads in the Sunday newspaper. Due to the rise of digital media, more and more retailers update their Black Friday promotions and discounts online in the weeks leading up to the shopping event. Be on the lookout for deals and steals well before you shop. The same rule applies to Cyber Monday, which has extended into a week of online sales and specials.
No. 2: Conduct some online research. To ensure you’re not a rookie this Black Friday, make sure you study the digital and print advertisements leading up to the post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy. To get inside information on some unreleased sales, visit websites such as theblackfriday.com, bfads.net, gottadeal.com, and bestblackfriday.com. Some of these sites will even allow you to browse the leaked sales by product category.
No. 3: Compare values and prices. Once you come across a particular sale item, compare prices with other retailers and websites to see if you can get an even better deal. Keep in mind that direct comparisons (especially with the large retailers) might not be exact since these super stores will apply their biggest discounts to unique models. However, there are still a plethora of resources to derive comparisons, such as Google Shopping, NextTag.com, PriceWatch.com, FatWallet, Shopping.com, ShopZilla, and PriceGrabber.com. Pinterest will even alert you to price-drops in items that you pin on particular websites.
No. 4: Be a loyal customer. Now is the time to reap the benefits of loyalty and rewards programs with your favorite retailers and shopping websites. You can also sign up for email newsletters that will alert you about Black Friday discounts, promotions, and even coupons. If you plan to do most of your Black Friday shopping online this year, find out if the items you want to purchase are available for pick-up at a local store location in order to save on shipping charges.
No. 5: Scope social media. Nowadays, many businesses share special offers and limited time discounts on their social media profiles, so be sure to include these platforms in your research as well. Social media also allows you and your friends to easily share information about Black Friday sales.
No. 6: Use your smartphone to your advantage. In addition to the websites mentioned before, you can also download comparison smartphone apps to aid you in your Black Friday shopping endeavors. ShopKick, SlickDeals, Shopula, and RetailMeNot all provide price information, can be used to place orders, and have the ability to monitor items on a personal watch or wish list.
Some of these apps also include bar-code scanners that help you compare prices as well as a QR-code reader for coupons and special promotions. Keep in mind that many big retailers such as WalMart, Amazon, and eBay also have their own shopping apps. WalMart’s app uses geolocation while Amazon’s allows users to scan items with their smartphone cameras and price shop online.
No. 7: Stick to a budget. Before joining the shopping craze, decide on how much you want to spend in order to avoid impulse buying. If you’re wary of racking up too many purchases this year, consider buying with cash only. There are credit cards you can purchase that will double a manufacturer’s warranty, but be sure to pay off the balance before any interest accrues.
No. 8: Be aware of store policies. Beforehand, get acquainted with retailers’ price-match and return policies. Nearly all major stores have a price-match policy that expands every year, but sometimes these guarantees are suspended on specific Black Friday items. Also, you will want to know about exchange and return policies, as some stores will charge a restocking fee at this time of year.
No. 9: Steer clear of expensive accessories. Websites like bluejeanscable.com and monoprice.com are online retailers that sell electronic accessories at prices that are cheaper than the major retail stores. During Black Friday, retailers make their money on high mark-ups on accessories such as cables, along with extended warranties. Save yourself the cost by purchasing your electronic accessories before the shopping event from cheaper alternatives.
No. 10: Keep in mind the cheapest offer isn’t always the best deal. For popular items such as T.V.s, stores like to draw-in customers with huge discounts. However, keep in mind that the T.V. with the lowest sale price might not be the product that serves you and your family’s needs. If there’s an alternative T.V. that you believe you’d be happier with, don’t be afraid to spend the extra $100 or ask for a better price.
With the all the preceding tips in your toolbox, your Black Friday shopping experience should be smooth sailing. It’s also a great reminder to shop smarter rather than harder any time of the year. For shoppers who want to exercise the spirit of giving, consider allocating some of your Black Friday budget to the global movement that is Giving Tuesday. Taking place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (November 28th, 2017), Giving Tuesday encourages individuals, families, and organizations to focus on holiday and end-of-year giving whether it be through donations, community service, or holiday gifts.
Blog by Melissa McElhose, STARKART staff writer