If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today, you might be considering venturing out to the Black Friday sales tomorrow morning. After all, there will be at least a few great deals — and you can do all your holiday gift shopping in one crazy sprint. In order to make it out with your sanity — and your wallet — intact, there are a few Black Friday tips I’d like to share.
1. Make Your Shopping List First
When I was little, I could sit for hours with the Black Friday ads (especially Toys R Us), telling whoever was listening that I wanted pretty much everything on each page. I may have grown out of Toys R Us, but I still see plenty I want flipping through the sales papers. Sometimes, I can even convince myself that I really need some great gadget that I hadn’t actually intended to buy. So, before I even start browsing through the sales papers, I make a list of items that I’m particularly looking for. While I might adapt my list to what’s on sale — maybe swap out a movie title or choose a different video game based on what is available — I make an effort to stick to my list when I start going through the sale papers.
2. Check The Online Deals
Many retailers offer online deals for Black Friday. When you add in gas money and the time you might spend standing in line on Friday morning, online sales are even better. Before you brave the crowds, take a look at your favorite websites — and the stores you’re planning to visit. Many sales will kick in at midnight, so you’ll be able to check no matter how early you’re planning on getting in line at the local big box retailer. For some stores, you can order items online and pay the Black Friday price, then pick them up at your local store.
3. Pick A Shopping Buddy Who Will Match Your Pace
My mother will be getting up at 4 AM Friday morning. While I admire her dedication, her Black Friday will be much longer than mine. I prefer to shop at a more comfortable pace, though, so I’ll be going with a different shopping buddy. My mom and my sister — both power shoppers — are much happier pairing up and letting the slow poke (that’s me) go on my own. I do think that having a buddy does make the whole process much easier, though: one person can stand in line while the other person grabs whatever is on the list. Even better, a buddy can help you stick to your list and your budget, avoiding unnecessary spending.
4. Bring Your Ads With You
There’s a chance that your discounted item may not ring up as on sale when you actually get up to the cash register. Instead of trying to recall exactly what the sale paper said, pull that ad out and ask the clerk to double check it. You can avoid confusion by carrying your ads with you — and, if you go to a store with a price-matching policy, you may be able to get the same prices that another store is offering. If you’re relying on ads you found online, you might have a harder time getting a deal, though. Some stores won’t even honor the prices listed on their own websites. Printing off the ad can help you convince a clerk, but it’s not guaranteed.
5. Be Prepared For Returns
Returns policies seem to get tighter every year, and they can be worse for Black Friday. For some items, stores may have only a short return policy — and they may charge you a restocking fee. If you aren’t sure if you’ve bought the right size (or are otherwise considering a return), plan on making your return as soon as possible. Keep your receipt handy and pick up gift receipts where necessary.
6. Use Your Credit Card
Normally, I’m against using a credit card for most purchases. It’s too easy to run up a big bill, but there are some definite benefits to using plastic on Black Friday. Many credit card companies have much better return protection than stores: a purchase made on your credit card may have guaranteed refund up to 90 days. Credit cards often offer warranty coverage for free on purchases — a much better deal than most of the service contracts offered by stores. Lastly, some cards offer sale price protection. If the price of your purchase is marked down further than the price you paid within a certain time frame, you can get a refund of the difference.
7. Forget The Big Electronics
If you’re planning to find a great deal on an HDTV on Black Friday, I’m afraid that you’re out of luck. Even on Black Friday, it’s rare to see much in the way of sales on big ticket electronics. The small sales are generally just not worth the hassle of trying to get a sales person to help you with anything time intensive when they’re getting slammed with hundreds of shoppers. Trust me, a better deal will come around on that TV.
8. Skip It Entirely
There’s nothing wrong with skipping the Black Friday sales. If there’s nothing on sale that you’re interested in, why bother? The entire day is set up to let retailers sell as much stuff as they can — to take as much of your money as they can. But there’s no better place for your money than in your wallet or bank account. So, stay home, relax and take advantage of your leftovers. You’ll be saving money even if you wind up making a few full price purchases down the road.