11/22/2011 6:30 PM ET|
10 rules of Black Friday shopping
Whether you're buying online or trying to beat the rush at a brick-and-mortar store, follow what the pros do to snag the best bargains the day after Thanksgiving.
Sure, anyone can snag a discount on Black Friday. But the real pros walk away with some amazing deals and stay within their budgets.
What are their secrets? Research and planning help them make the right choices, coupons sweeten their deals and technology helps them beat others to the purchases.
Few shoppers will score one those "doorbusters" that are stocked 10 to a store, but those who prepare can land most of the better bargains.
"A good game plan goes a long way," says Michael Brim, who runs BFAds.net, a Black Friday deals site.
This year, the competition for those bargains will be stiff. As many as 152 million people are planning to shop Black Friday weekend, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and BIGresearch, up from 138 million who said so last year. Of those, 74 million say they will definitely hit the stores, jockeying for a shot at a $79.99 HDTV, a $179.99 laptop computer or other deals.
The rest will be scouring the Web trying to nab some of these deals without queuing up in the cold. Here is MSN Money's step-by-step guide to landing some of the best bargains, whether you're shopping from your computer or braving the crowds:
1. Make a list
This sounds obvious, but it's critical. There are a lot of hyped-up deals and promotions working to get you to buy more than you really need. If you don't come up with a gift list and identify what you think your friends and family really want, you'll buy more stuff to hedge your bets. And chances are, these impulse buys aren't what the people in your life really want.
2. Check ads online
In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, leaked store advertisements have started landing on such sites as Slickdeals and Black Friday@ GottaDeal.com. Find the items you're looking for -- or something similar -- in those ads, and compare prices among retailers. Many offer buying guides or price comparison charts for product categories such as TVs, cameras or laptops.
3. Compare upcoming sale prices with current prices online
Don't assume that the best deals are to be had only in the big ads on Black Friday. Compare prices on sites such as Bing, PriceGrabber and Nextag to find the lowest prices for your products leading up to Black Friday, and check deal sites such as Dealnews for retailers offering early Black Friday pricing on select items.
Also, read online reviews of the sale items you're considering. If one-star reviews are what you find for that brand, consider paying a few extra bucks for something that will function better or last longer.
4. Connect deals with coupons
Often you can pair sales with coupons, making the deals even sweeter. Check out coupon sites such as RetailMeNot, and the Bargainist, as well as the slew of Black Friday deal sites, to find online coupon codes and printable coupons. Follow your favorite stores on Twitter or "like" them on Facebook to garner extra discounts. Sign up for mobile text alerts from your favorite stores. Look for Groupon and Living Social deals. Some die-hard shoppers also scour eBay to buy coupons and discounted gift cards to use in their purchases.
5. Update your data with online retailers
Make sure you're ready to snap up the bargains before they sell out by taking some time beforehand to create an account with online retailers that you plan to buy from on Black Friday, says Brad Olson, the owner of Black Friday @ GottaDeal.com. Save your address and credit card information. Once you've logged in, you can even try to save Black Friday items to a cart or wish list and pull them up again when the Black Friday sales start.
6. Understand price-matching and return policies
Knowing which stores will match others' prices during the holiday season and on Black Friday is invaluable. It can dictate where you head first on Black Friday. Be aware that some stores that offer price matching, including Best Buy and Sears, don't allow it for Black Friday purchases.
Dealnews and other coupon sites offer charts with this information and exclusions. Just be prepared to show a rival's ad when you ask for the match. Similarly, when you've picked out the stores you plan to hit, know their return policies, including any restocking fees. That way, if your child says he doesn't like those Bakugan toys anymore, or if you find them at a better price, you can simply return the ones you had bought.
7. Hit the Web early
Even if you're camping out in line to snag one of those doorbuster tickets at Best Buy, you're going to want to check out what's happening at the other stores on your list. Most Black Friday sales start hours -- if not a full day -- earlier online than they do at the stores. Black Friday deal sites and apps often track when these sale prices become effective so you can buy -- at least some of the items -- at bargain prices before the sale officially starts.
8. Prepare for the unexpected
If that bargain Blu-ray player sells out before you get to it, check Amazon.com, BFAds.net's Brim says. Amazon often lowers its prices on Black Friday to match its biggest brick-and-mortar competitors.
9. Earn cash back on your online purchases
With shoppers expected to shell out an average of $704.18 on holiday gifts and other seasonal treats this year, according to the National Retail Federation, it makes sense to try to get some of that back. When you shop online through sites such as FatWallet.com and Ebates, you get a percentage -- from 2% to around 14% -- back via check or your PayPal account.
10. Wait if the deals aren't good enough
Lastly, if you don't score any of those superhot bargains you went out in search of, don't panic. Prices typically dip lower on many items in the first two weeks of December. And, hey, there are always last-minute deals announced on Cyber Monday, the online shopping day -- the Monday after Thanksgiving -- created by marketers years ago.
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