It’s a crisp fall morning. I slip out of my warm bed, quietly give my husband a peck on the cheek, and silently slip on my clothing. As I pull out of the garage and navigate my car into the dark & frosty morning, I wistfully envision my five young children, slumbering sweetly in their beds.
I’d rather be tucked snug under my own covers instead of joining the over-caffeinated masses of people making their way to the nearest megastore that is belching out promises of sparkling deals and sales galore.
It’s Black Friday. The day has just begun and I’m already exhausted.
How can I get the best in-store deals during Black Friday shopping? What’s a deal-seeking mom to do? I love the thought of Black Friday. Great deals, awesome steals, and stores practically giving away their most popular items is too enticing. I want to do good by my family and stretch every dollar.
Shopping during Black Friday is the best way to take advantage of deals, isn’t it?
There’s no doubt that the holiday season brings some of the best sales of the year. The good news amidst the crazy? It really is possible to be a savvy shopper and make the most of this season (and your family’s money) by following some of my favorite sanity-saving Black Friday shopping tips.
Is Black Friday really the best shopping day of the year?
Not anymore. According to a recent USA Today article, Thanksgiving day itself tends to have better online deals. Retailers are spreading out sales days across the entire month. Good deals can be found throughout the two weeks before the holiday, until Cyber Monday (which is still the best time to snag tech deals).
REI recently announced that they’ll be closed during Black Friday. Instead, they’re encouraging employees & customers to #optoutside and enjoy their families (while taking plenty of opportunities to publicly pat their corporate back over the decision). I don’t know about you, but that makes me love REI even more, even if the closure is simply a smart business move. Companies like Staples, Costco, and Game Stop will also be closed during part of the holiday.
In a nutshell, NO, Black Friday isn’t the best shopping day of the year, but it is smack-dab in the eye of the holiday shopping storm. If you want to get a great deal, you need to decide how you’re going to shrewdly attack the holiday sales season and come out victorious.
***Psssst! Don’t miss the Black Friday preparedness checklist and in-store shopping list that I’m including for you at the bottom of the page!
How do I find the best online deals?
Have I mentioned that I live in Alaska? Up here we are experts at online shopping. Our only state exports are oil and oil money (usually in the form of Alaskan families spending tourism dollars in Hawaii, or on Amazon shipments).
We spend a staggering percentage of our budget on items purchased online. From groceries, to my new clothes obsession, to furniture, we’re adept at finding online deals and convincing unsuspecting customer service representatives that we are indeed a part of the continental U.S.
Here are my expert Alaskan tips for snagging the best deals from the comfort of your own home:
#1. Make a list
Then check it twice. No wait, that’s not it 😉
Make a general list of items that you’re looking for. My husband and I keep Amazon/gift lists on our phones (using the reminders app) that we add to throughout the year. When the holiday shopping season rolls around we usually have a decent list of items that we’d like to purchase but haven’t yet done so.
Don’t forget to list gifts for upcoming birthdays and next year’s holiday shopping if you want to be particularly organized. Bonus points for people that plan a year ahead.
This is a great time to get deals on all sorts of items for your family, so think outside the box. Some ideas for items that might be purchased for less this time of year:
- home decor
- kid’s clothing
- adult clothing
- outdoor gear (skiing, camping, etc.)
- home furnishings
- books and music
- even groceries!
Consider putting your list into a spreadsheet program for easy access.
#2. Add these items into sophisticated search engines (this is the part that is going to save you a HUGE headache)
These software options allow you to track price drops without having to constantly be checking your list. This is the step that makes you a super smart shopper 🙂
- Price Pinx. If you know that you want to order a specific item from a particular site (i.e. Kid’s Timberland boots from Sears), this tool will allow you to tag that item. When the price drops, you’ll receive an email notifying you of the sale. If you’ve got a giant list of watched items, consider setting up an email filter to send price alerts to a new folder.
- Invisible Hand. You’re going to want to install this for the holiday shopping season. Why? When you’re on a product page the invisible hand feature will inform you if there is a lower price elsewhere in their database.
- Shop it to Me. Take a quick survey about desired clothing purchases, and the website will inform you when selected clothing items go on sale. I use this site to send me alerts about Patagonia sales in my size. A girl can dream, can’t she? Shop it to Me is also an excellent way to track deals for kid’s clothing. Just input the sizes and you’re set to be alerted about great sales.
- Deal News. Not sure of the specifics for your gift? Do a search in Deal News (i.e. “electric razor”, “baby doll”, or “legos”), then click on “Create an Alert” to be notified when your item goes on sale. This resource is a huge help for those items that you know you want but don’t have specific information for. In the past, I’ve created alerts for things like “kid’s snow boots” (got an awesome deal for the boys!) and “solar panels”. DealNews is a robust site that has helped me get great deals on many products throughout the years.
- Camel camel camel. If you know that you want to purchase from Amazon, upload your wish lists or product URLs into this site for price alerts and a super helpful pricing history graph. When you upload your data you can select the price point at which you’d like to be notified. If you’re an Amazon aficionado, this site is a must-have. Seriously. If you use Amazon, you’ve got to look at this right away. Here’s an example of the pricing graph that Camel Camel Camel provides (from a rubber raft that I’ve been keeping an eye on):
- The Penny Hoarder: Black Friday Portal. This is a great way to see which deals are available for the season. The Penny Hoarder is a huge site with tons of resources to help you find great deals (updated often). Plus, they’re having an around the clock live blog for 48 hours (starting 3 p.m. on 11/25, ending 3 p.m. 11/27) where readers can ask them anything they want about the holiday shopping. Want to know where to find the best deal on a TV, or what time a store opens? Just ask! But don’t forget, resist the urge to window shop. Stick to the list!
What system do I use to get the best deals?
After deciding on gifts for the season, I input the majority of purchases into an Amazon wishlist. Next, I tell Camel Camel Camel to notify me when items from that list drop significantly. Finally, I set alerts in DealNews for any other gifts that I want to track.
Whew! Ready to move on to the next step? Here we go:
#3. Don’t Spend Impulsively
Stick to the plan, Stan. Impulse purchases are what drive the giant profits from the Black Friday holiday shopping extravaganza. Don’t be a statistic. Use your brain and stick to your list.
#4. Ignore Sales Flyers
Say what?? Yep, seriously. Line the puppy’s cage with those sale flyers because you don’t need ’em. You’ve created a list and prepared your sales alerts. There’s no need to go “window shopping” your way through that marketing drivel.
#5. Use every opportunity to get cash back
More often than not, I’m able to earn cash back from purchases made online. How? By using Ebates to get cash back for purchases. I’ve earned close to $200 from Ebates just by clicking on their site before making planned purchases.
If you’re able to plan well enough ahead, you might even be able to “double dip” by first purchasing a discounted gift card from Raise, clicking through Ebates for your purchase, and then using your discounted gift card for payment.
Also, set up your computer and/or phone to utilize technology provided by Slice. This handy program keeps track of your shipments (through accessing your email) and will notify you of after-purchase price drops that can result in cash back.
Finally, keep in mind that for non-Amazon purchases, RetailMeNot is the web’s most comprehensive source for online discount codes and coupons. RetailMeNot has saved me some serious $$$$ over the years.
How do I find the best in-store deals?
First off, give me a call before you venture out that morning. Could you be a pal and pick me up the mega-pack of AA & AAA batteries that are inevitably going to be crazy on sale at one of the box stores? We go through those puppies like nobody’s business. To make the best of your courageous adventure (certainly not for the faint of heart) you’ll want to take some time to prepare.
#1. First, make a list.
Remember, your list doesn’t have to include only gifts. This is the time of year to snag deals on all sorts of items for your family.
#2. Check the list against sales flyers.
Peruse the Black Friday ads as they come, but do so with a steady hand. Resist the urge to add every pair of fleece-lined slippers, fuzzy holiday throw, and kitchen gizmo. Let me save you some trouble: the slippers and throw will still be there next month, and the kitchen gizmo is just going to gather dust. That reminds me, does anyone want a barely used Fry Daddy or donut maker? 😉
#3. Organize a shopping list or spreadsheet.
Put the name of a store at the top of your spreadsheet (or use mine at the bottom of the page). List all items to be purchased from that store underneath. Make sure that you’re reading the advertisement fine print. Some deals offered in the listings are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Be courageous. Be completely ready to walk out of the store without that bargain-priced flatscreen or must-have kid’s toy.
#4. Prepare to price match! Many stores offer price matching.
I’ve personally price-matched at both Best Buy and Target with absolutely no problems. All it takes is a simple mention at the register, show them your proof (an ad or online price via your phone) and BAM! Instant savings. Cheapism has compiled a handy list that shows each store’s policy and details.
#5. Prepare your heart and tummy.
No one needs a rumbling tummy while facing the crazies on Black Friday. Bring your own coffee and snack. You really don’t want to wait in the never-ending Starbucks line. Trust me. Make sure you’re prepared to chill out, engage in conversation, and be generally friendly. Even if you end up walking out without any purchases, you’ll have made people’s day brighter just by having a great attitude.
Whether you choose to slip out of your warm bed at five in the morning to blend with the crowds, or keep tabs on the sales from the comfort of your couch (courtesy of your laptop), being a smart Black Friday shopper isn’t so tough. All it takes to snag a great deal is a little preparation and a bit of patience. Follow these tips and discover what a savvy shopper you can be.
Want a FREE Black Friday preparedness checklist and in-store shopping list? Click the thumbnail below to download.
*FYI, the links on this page may contain an affiliate kickback (if you buy at these great prices I’ll get a small cut at no cost to you). Thank you for helping support Loving Littles!
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