by Stacy Herrick, Communications Specialist
As Black Friday approaches, it is important to be prepared for the biggest shopping day of the holiday season. If this is your first year venturing out, or an annual event, use the tips below to maximize your shopping experience.
Do your homework
Thoroughly look through Black Friday ads and compare prices. Make sure to read the fine print in case there are restrictions on the sale item you plan to purchase. For bigger ticket items, some stores will only stock a small limited number of these. Occasionally, this number can be found in the small print in the ads.
Pro tip: Not all advertised items will be located in their regular spots in the store (ie. TVs placed in the Men’s Clothing section). Ask a sales clerk a couple of days ahead of time if they know where the items will be located to give yourself a leg up on the competition other shoppers.
Make a plan
Many stores offer Night Owl, Early Bird and Door Buster deals. Make sure you know what time the items you are looking for are going on sale and make a list. Not only will the list help you to stay on track and avoid purchasing unnecessary items, it will also ensure that you don’t miss a deal that you didn’t want to pass up.
Pro tip: Having a “game plan” will take the stress out of deciding which store to visit next. Before you leave the house, plot out the times of the sales and the locations of the stores, helping to determine the order of the stores you want to visit.
Bring the ads with you
In case an item isn’t ringing up as it is advertised, it is best to be prepared and be able to show the cashier where the discrepancy is.
Pro tip: Some sites such as BlackFriday.com and BFads.net will post leaked ads ahead of time so you can start planning early. You can also download Black Friday apps from iTunes and Google Play.
Know the store policies
Some stores will have special return policies for the holiday season, so be sure to know their rules before making your purchase. These policies can be found online, in their ads and usually at their customer service desk.
Divide and conquer
Shopping in groups can be a lot of fun, and Black Friday should be no different. If you are with a group of people in a store, you can split up and cover more ground. Make sure to share your lists with each other and stay in contact using your cell phones, so while one person is looking for items in the toy section, someone else can be looking for the hot item in electronics.
Pro tip: This is also helpful when you have already gotten in line and realized you forgot to grab an item. Someone can hold you place while you make a quick dash down the aisle to get that last-minute item.
Don’t forget to reap the rewards
Some stores offer special sales or prizes to the first so-many people through their doors. Some will give “rewards cash” (sometimes double!) or gift cards for purchasing a certain amount that can be redeemed at a later date. Others may offer rewards points to frequent shoppers or other incentives for signing up for a store credit card. Look for signs around the store or listen to in-store announcements being made over the intercom to help find these additional incentives.
Cyber Monday Bonus Tips
Sign up for emails from your favorite stores before the holiday season to have coupons and sale notifications delivered directly to your inbox. If you don’t already have a promotional code, Google search the name of the site/brand you’re buying from and the words “promotion code.”
Pro tip: Follow brands and stores on social media for additional “exclusive” deals.
Be on the lookout for free shipping offers. Most shopping sites already have a minimum purchase amount to get free shipping. However, one option that is often overlooked is the free “ship to store” option. (Also, see Coupon codes.)
Unfortunately, this time of year is also a good time for online scammers and identity thieves. Be sure that the site you are buying from is legit if it isn’t an already well-known site.
Some retail sites will post their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales before the actual dates to get a jump on the competition. A Google search of “Black Friday Sales 2015” will return news articles with the latest stores that have posted their sales and ads.
Pro tip: Sites like Amazon and WalMart have already started promoting their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales!
Hopefully this list has helped you to prepare for your shopping experience. Now, go out there and get the best deals you can find! Good luck!