saving money

Cyber Monday

By Stacy Herrick, Communications Specialist

In our third, and last, installment of “Thrifty Thursdays,” we are going to talk about Cyber Monday shopping tips. The term “Cyber Monday” was coined in 2005 as a reference to the Monday after Thanksgiving, where marketing companies were trying to sway people to shop online. This year, the online shopping event will take place on Monday, November 28. Below are some tips to help you get the most out of your shopping.

Do Your Homework
Most sites will release their ads a few days in advance, so take a look to see who is offering what and make a game plan. Also, let the deal bloggers do the work for you. Find a site or two to browse and you can save yourself tons of time. They will have the latest on promo codes, pricing and even some unadvertised offers.

Plan Ahead
If you know where you are planning to shop ahead of time (which you should, because you already scouted the ads, right?), take a few minutes ahead of time to create a customer account if you don’t already have one. This will save you time during checkout and will help you move on to the next site, and sale, quicker.

Stretch Your Dollar
Everyone loves to get more bang for their buck. One way to do this is to purchase discounted gift cards ahead of time for stores that you plan on shopping at. Another way to do this is to order through a rewards site to earn points or cash back. Or, if you are feeling generous and are shopping on Amazon, use Amazon Smile to have a portion of your purchase donated to a charity of your choice.

Be Quick on the Draw
Some sales only have a limited quantity of items or are only on sale for a certain amount of time. Be aware of this and plan to hit these sales early in day (or whatever time the sale starts) so you don’t miss out. Amazon offers early access to most of its Lightning Deals to Prime Members.

Beware of Shipping
There’s nothing like thinking you’re getting a great deal on your items only to find out when you go to checkout that the shipping is almost as much as your items. Make sure you are aware of the site’s shipping costs before you spend time shopping. There are some sites out there that will gather information for you on who has free shipping (thank you deal bloggers!). Another option to consider is to ship the items directly to the recipient. This will save you from having to travel with additional items. This is an especially good idea if you are flying for the holidays!

Be Safe
As always, when shopping online, make sure your computer is up to date with the latest anti-virus software and is protected from anti-spyware. Shopping on trustworthy sites is always the best way to ensure your personal information will be handled safely. To ensure your online purchase is secure, before paying, look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the lock symbol. Paying with credit cards or PayPal are often easiest when shopping online because, if something does happen, it is always possible to dispute unauthorized charges.

Hopefully these tips have helped you prepare for your holiday shopping. Good luck out there!

Black Friday 2016

By Stacy Herrick, Communications Specialist

Black Friday has become, in a sense, a holiday of its own. Love it or hate it, one thing is for sure: it is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. With sales everywhere you turn, why not take an opportunity to save yourself some cash while buying gifts for your loved ones?

Show Your Loyalty
Joining a store’s loyalty program can get you special deals, sneak peeks, extra coupons or earn you store cash. Make sure you sign up for these loyalty programs before you head out for your Black Friday shopping.

Sign Up Early for Store Emails
Once you know where you plan on shopping, sign up for store emails a couple of weeks in advance (like, now!) to start receiving their special discounts. Often, stores will send a special coupon to customers for signing up to receive their emails. (Don’t forget, you can always unsubscribe from these later if you don’t want to continue getting them.)

Become a Follower
Just like signing up for store emails, another great way to stay up to date with the latest news, products and sales is to follow the company on social media. It is not uncommon for stores to offer exclusive sales to their social media followers, so keep your eyes peeled!

Consider Shopping with Gift Cards
If you know which stores you will be shopping at this holiday season, why not buy gift cards ahead of time to make your purchases with? Depending on where you buy your gift cards, you can rack up fuel rewards or even get them at a discounted price from sites like Raise.com. When combined with Black Friday prices, the savings really add up! (Plus, this will also help you stay within your budget because you’ll be more aware of how much you are spending.)

If you do purchase gift cards to shop with, consider using an app like Gyft so you can leave the bulky cards at home. Gyft not only stores your gift cards on your phone for you, but it also keeps an updated account of what is left on the card as you make your purchases.

Door Busters
Some stores offer guarantees for Door Buster sales during a certain period of time on Black Friday. This means that even though they may have sold out of the actual item, you can purchase a voucher at the advertised price during the block of time and will be able to pick up that item before Christmas once it is in stock again.

Also, it is worth noting that just about all of the sales offered in-store are also offered online, with the exception of Door Busters.

These are just a few shopping tips that I’ve found that help me. Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? If so, comment below! May your cart always be full and your checkout lines be short. Good luck!

Not interested in fighting the crowds on Black Friday? Maybe online shopping in your pajamas is more your speed? Check back next week for Cyber Monday shopping tips.

Holiday Savings

By Stacy Herrick, Communications Specialist

‘Tis the season to start shopping for the holidays. Even though it is well before Thanksgiving, it’s never too early to start getting organized and getting ahead of the game. (I started back in October; don’t judge me.) Below are some time- and money-saving tips to help you get started.

Make a List
There are plenty of apps out there that can help you keep track of your Christmas lists, but I find Google Docs to be the easiest, because I already use it a lot as is. Plus, I am able to access it on my computer or phone and share my list with my husband so we can make sure we don’t miss buying for anyone.

Getting the “Must Have” Item on Your List
When purchasing gifts in advance, sometimes you may come across a better deal closer to the holiday. As long as you’re still within the timeframe of returns, that’s not a problem. Not to mention, it can also give you the flexibility to shop around but still make sure you were able to snag that “got to have” item on your list.

An example of this would be wanting to buy one of the “must have” toys of the season, but you’re not sure if you’ll be able to find it on Black Friday or Cyber Monday when everyone else is looking for the same item. Don’t fret! All you have to do is buy the item ahead of time (noting the timeframe you have to return it) and then when Black Friday and Cyber Monday come rolling around, do your best to try to get the item at the deeper discounted price. If you can, great! Go ahead and return the first item you bought at the higher price. If you didn’t get it, that’s o.k. because you were still able to get the item you wanted, just not at the discounted price.

Free is Always Good
Shipping for many online retailers is free during the holiday season. Some sites have a minimum that you have to purchase to get free shipping; however, many of these sites waive that during the holiday season. Either way, when shopping online, be sure to note how long it will take to deliver the items to ensure you receive them in time for the holidays.

When it comes to online shopping, be aware that not all returns are free. Sometimes you will have to pay the shipping to return an item. However, PayPal is offering free return shipping this holiday season on items that you purchase through your PayPal account.

There’s an App for That
Mobile apps are becoming more and more prominent when it comes to shopping. It is not uncommon for these apps to offer additional discounts or special promotions. Two examples of these are the JC Penney app and the Target Cartwheel app. The Cartwheel app offers weekly discounts in addition to what is offered in their circular. These discounts can also be stacked on additional coupons and sales, giving you even bigger savings. And this year, the JC Penney app is offering an early sneak peek to their Black Friday ad before it is publicly released.

Do Your Homework
From scouring weekly ad circulars to checking your favorite websites for the latest updates on sales, this information is everywhere and easily accessible. Follow your favorite stores on Facebook to keep up with the latest updates. It’s not uncommon for companies to offer additional savings to their social media followers. Other sites that you can use to get coupon codes, sales and deals are FatWallet.com and RetailMeNot.com. Another site that is set up as message boards to discuss current deal and coupon codes is SlickDeals.net. Sometimes sites like these can tip you off to other, lesser-known sales that are happening.

Hopefully this list will help you get you holiday shopping started on the right foot. Good luck and happy shopping!

Shopping Tips for Black Friday

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

Coupon codes
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.

Free shipping
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.)

Shop smart
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.

Shop early
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!