If you’re a true bargain shopper, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were tailor-made for you to score some of the best deals possible. This year is no different and the buzz is that the hot items promise to be toys, electronics (but not necessarily TVs) and clothes—especially boots, shoes and winter wear. But to truly win at this massive bargain hunting game, you have to be smart about your approach. Otherwise, you could miss out on some wonderful treasure.
And let’s just say that Canadian shoppers love their bargains. In fact, a recent poll from Ebates.ca shows that roughly one-third of those taking part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday in Canada hope to get one-third of their holiday shopping finished on these two days. And fully 49% of those polled agree that these specific days offer deals that are better than those generally offered during the holiday season.
Tracie Fobes of pennypinchinmom.com is one of those shoppers. “I buy a lot on Black Friday for my family, friends and three young kids,” says Fobes. “I really like to be done with the holiday shopping after Black Friday so I can put aside shopping and enjoy the holiday season all of December. That’s my plan.”
If you’re like Fobes, and want to complete as much of your holiday shopping as possible this weekend, here are 12 Black Friday shopping tips we’ve put together for you so you can strike off as many items on your gift or deal list as possible. Here’s what you need to know.
- Check the deals all month long. The deals have already started to be rolled out this year—sometimes a full week or two before the actual day. “Right now it’s become a weeklong event—and it’s still growing,” says Bruce Winder, co-founder, and partner at Retail Advisors Network in Toronto. “People even play hooky from work to snap up some of the deals.” Great places to look for deals include Red Flag Deals , as well as individual sites such as BestBuy, Walmart, IKEA, Sephora, Amazon, Hudson’s Bay and others. Or consider shopping on sites like Ebates which will give you additional cash back on the Black Friday deal price if you purchase items from retailers on their site.
- Forget the U.S. Right now, the Canadian dollar is weak against the U.S. currency and when you add in the fact that you have to be in the U.S. for more than 24 hours to claim $200 in tax-exempt goods (and more than 48 hours to bring back $800 worth), it doesn’t make good financial sense—even less so if you add in a night’s hotel stay, gas, and meals.
- Dress for it. If you’re opting to do your shopping in a bricks-and-mortar mall, bring a bottle of water, an apple or banana, and wear a very light coat so you don’t find yourself melting inside the mall. If you have to bring a warm coat because you plan to stand out in line for most of the night before malls open, then check with customer service and see if there’s a locker where you can leave your coat. If you’re driving, try to park underground and leave it in the car.
- Don’t get fooled on price. That’s because a lot of the so-called ‘door-crasher’ sales can be inflated. “Do your comparison shopping ahead of time for the items you’re interested in buying,” says Winder. “That way you’ll recognize where the real deals are on that Friday.”
- Ask for a price match. Some stores may match the Black Friday prices and deals another retailer is offering. Go prepared with an app or paper flyer showing the deal a competitor is offering. You may or may not get it, depending on the retailer and inventory that day, but it’s certainly worth asking for.
- Be loyal. If you’re a member of certain loyalty programs, double check to see if they offer extra deals that day. And consider using their rewards credit cards to pay the tab so you get extra rewards and pay even less in total price.
- Make a list and shop in teams. Whether you’re mall shopping or online shopping, it pays to shop in teams. “You can’t be everywhere at once,” says Winder. “If you’re mall shopping, get a friend to go to three retailers while you go to three other stores. Plus, have one or two people shopping online for your team to get through to the deals—kind of like buying concert tickets. This is the safest, most intelligent way of doing it. Don’t try to be in too many places at once, especially if you’re driving to the retail stores.” Keep all receipts so you can tally the tab and split it appropriately between group members at the end of the day.
- Go early. “The best deals go quick,” says Winder. “The hottest products will be sold out in the first few minutes.” And eat something before you go. It will be a long, eventful day.
- Have your cell phone ready. Make sure it’s fully charged before you leave the house. That way, you can use price comparison apps such as Flipp to find the best up-to-the-minute deals at a moment’s notice.
- Be on top of warranties and return policies. This is especially true if you’re shopping for toys—one of the top sellers. “If you look at the laundry list of wants, toys are at the top,” says Winder. So if you’re planning to shop at Toys ‘R Us, which is liquidating and restructuring this year—pay close attention to the warranties and ensure that they will be honored if that’s important to you.
- Realize that the best deals are saved until Friday. Sure, there’s been a lot of advertising all November long about Black Friday items on sale, but the true mega-deals are usually announced early—at 12:01 am on Black Friday morning. Bricks and mortar stores hide a lot of inventory in the back and boxes are sealed until early Black Friday morning. “Inventory is key on that day,” says Winder. “They don’t want to be caught short on stock and have angry shoppers. You also don’t want the true deals to leak until that day, so you hold it for the big event.” Same goes for online deal announcements.
- Have a Plan B. It’s easy to think that you’re the only one shopping for a specific deal when shopping online. But realize that you’re competing with maybe 100,000 people or more nationwide for a specific deal, and your order may not get filled. Afterall, there’s only so much inventory for sale after all. “This happened to me a couple of years ago,” says Fobes. “I tried to order a gaming system at the same time as thousands of others and it looked like the order had gone through. But I received notification five days later that it hadn’t. The retailer gave me a $75 gift card, which was great because I was able to buy the item somewhere else.” The lesson? Have a backup plan if your deals fall through and are prepared to buy the item elsewhere in upcoming weeks.
And finally, when all is said and done, make sure you don’t overspend or get deeper into debt. Set a budget and keep to it. And when the credit card bills start rolling in, pay your balance off right away. You don’t want to get caught paying more in credit card interest than you got in savings on all those special deals.
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