10 Tips for Winning at Black Friday

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As you’re sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner today surrounded by your family, just make sure you don’t forget the most important thing of all: your detailed, 19-point plan to leave as soon as possible so you can be ready for Black Friday.

But the planning shouldn’t stop there. In order to maximize your savings tomorrow, you’re going to need a strategy. With that in mind, here are 10 tips and tactics you can use to make sure you come out of Black Friday a winner.

  • Shop Around

Just because your local Best Buy is advertising a deep discount on Samsung TVs doesn’t mean that it’s the best deal available; the Target down the street could be offering an even steeper discount. But if you don’t shop around, you’d never know it. Make sure you compare prices from different stores and online outlets. A great tip here is to always compare them to the prices being offered from Amazon and Walmart&mdashthose two stores generally offer the lowest prices period. You can also utilize websites like PriceGrabber.com, Google Shopping, and BlackFriday.com, which even has its own mobile app!

  • Work Together

If you are really serious about your Black Friday shopping, you know that you can’t do it alone. So don’t! Get a group of friends together and start plotting. By figuring out what you all want beforehand and dividing up the different stores, you can take advantage of even more deals. One person hits up Kohl’s, one person hits up Dick’s Sporting Goods, etc. Just make sure that you all figure out how the finances are going to work, so that no one has to spend their holiday season tracking their friends down to the pay them back. That’s no one’s idea of a merry time.

  • Set a Budget

Here’s a super-secret pro tip: there is nothing in life that can’t be made better by adding a budget. With that in mind, look at your finances and figure out what you can reasonably afford to spend this Black Friday. Don’t just put everything on credit and make solemn promises that you’ll pay it off “later.” Guess what? By the time all that credit card interest accrues, you probably won’t have saved any money at all. Set a budget beforehand and then stick to it. It might be a good idea to include a “random splurge” line on that budget as well. That way, when you’re tempted by that random $5 DVD bin, you won’t feel too much guilt.

  • Ask About Return Policies

At some stores, the return policies for items bought on Black Friday are … less than generous. For instance, a lot of them add on an extra “restocking fee” for returned items, which means you lose money when you bring the item back. Make sure you do the proper research to find out what these policies are before you buy anything at the store. And if you’re not sure if an item is right—especially when it comes to clothes and electronics—maybe hold off on buying it. You don’t want to get stuck with something you can’t use, even if you did buy it for a discount.

  • Plan Ahead for Price-Matching

This is another area where you will want to check out the store policies before you decide to shop there. While most stores now have price-matching guarantees, some of them will suspend those guarantees during Black Friday, especially for certain popular items. And even if there are price-match guarantees, make sure you know what kind of evidence of a competitor’s lower prices you’ll have to provide in order for them to match. If you have to go so far as printing out an ad and bringing it with you to the store, so be it!

  • Bring your Phone

Okay, let’s be honest. You were probably going to do this anyway. Still, your phone is your best friend in situations like this. You can use it look up price-shopping websites and apps, as well as store-specific apps that often hold the key to even greater savings. Many of those apps will let you scan QR codes to help discover or unlock additional discounts. Don’t just head out the door with your phone at 45 percent battery and assume you’ll be fine. This is Black Friday. It’s a jungle out there. Come prepared, or be prepared to leave disappointed.

  • Beware of Doorbuster Deals

Basically, these are the completely ridiculous discounts that they put right at the front of the store in order to get people in and get them shopping. Doorbusters often feature heavily in the store’s Black Friday advertising, and it can be all too easy to talk yourself into one even if you don’t really need it. And here’s another thing about doorbusters: sometimes there’s a reason that those items are super discounted. You wanna know that that reason is? (Whispers) it’s because they’re kind of lame. Again, to research these items heavily before you leave the house tomorrow. Sure, you might need a new laptop, but you might end up really regretting buying that particular off-brand, refurbished laptop. Savings are important, but they’re not everything. Owning good, quality items is important too.

  • Shop Online

If you’re not the adventurous type, this is the perfect strategy for you. A lot of the Black Friday deals being offered in-store are also being offered online, so … why bother with the hassle? Now, there are some folks out there who relish the experience of jostling through crowds and fighting for items with complete strangers and standing in hour-long lines and dealing with insanely packed parking lots and … wait, why aren’t we all just doing our Black Friday shopping online? The same price-matching strategies apply, and, sure, you might miss out on a few “only in-store” deals, but you’ll still probably come out on top. Oh, and if this is your preferred strategy, make sure you don’t forget about Cyber Monday.

  • Shop on Thanksgiving

This might sound sacrilegious but here us out: if you want the very best deals, you might want to cut Thanksgiving dinner a little short. Tons of retailers now are opening their doors on Thanksgiving and offering Early Bird or Night Owl discounts for shoppers who just can’t wait. And who says you actually have to ditch your family in order to go? Heck, bring them along! You can cover more ground that way anyhow, all the while fighting off that post-meal, tryptophan-haze and leaving less room for angry political discussions to break out. It’s a win-win!

  • Don’t Shop at All!

In all seriousness, Black Friday is kind of like an optical illusion. People are so concerned about “saving” money, that it’s all too easy to forget that they’re still spending money—sometimes a lot of it. Just because it’s Black Friday doesn’t mean you actually have to go shopping. The holiday season doesn’t have to be about flatscreen TVs, designer handbags, or state-of-the-art camping equipment. Plus, the worst way to kick off the holidays is to spend money that you don’t have, racking up credit card bills that you’ll be stressing about for months (maybe even years) to come. Perhaps the best way to enjoy Black Friday would be spending at home, relaxing with your family and enjoying their company. Total cost: $0.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And have a safe, responsible, and enjoyable Black Friday!

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