If you’ve been a diehard Black Friday shopper for years, you probably recognize that the landscape is quickly changing.
Retailers are no longer waiting until Black Friday to roll out their deals. They’re also opening earlier, staying open later, and extending their sales for days (or weeks) afterward.
Not only this, but modern technology has also changed how we shop on Black Friday. We can use different websites to learn about a retailer’s upcoming bargains, price comparison apps to make sure we’re getting the best deals, social media sites to get up-to-the-minute information, and even apps to help us find parking.
The good news is that you don’t have to get overwhelmed if you’re planning to shop this year’s Black Friday.
Read through these actionable Black Friday shopping tips that will help you reduce the stress and score the best deals.
How Technology Can Make Black Friday More Enjoyable
Stay in the know by viewing Black Friday ads as soon as they become available, which can be up to 2 weeks in advance. Popular sites for this include Dealnews.com, BlackFriday.info, Bfads.net, GottaDeal.com, and TheBlackFriday.com.
These ads will also help you compare prices across retailers, or you can use dedicated sites like FatWallet.com, PriceGrabber.com, RedLaser, PriceWatch.com, ShopAdvisor.com, and ShopSavvy.
Bring ads with you. Or, be sure to bookmark them on your mobile device so you can quickly bring them up if a discrepancy occurs at the register.
Most of these sites will also feature coupons that can be used to score even better deals. Just remember that coupons aren’t applicable to products already steeply reduced prices, such as doorbusters.
Don’t forget to utilize the power of social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) to learn about deals, coupons, and other promotions.
If you’re keen on a specific retailer, be sure to sign up for their email list, which might provide you with advance notification of any deals, as well as money saving coupons.
While you’re investigating your favorite retailers, also be sure to find out if they’re offering any bonus items or discounts (such as free gift cards to the first 50 people through the door).
Don’t forget newspapers. Yeah, remember those? While they might not be your first choice of reading material, many retailers still offer some of their best coupons only through newspaper inserts, so be sure to check there as well.
Before Black Friday arrives, be sure to download different apps that can make the process easier. These include a barcode scanner to help you compare prices and a QR-code reader for coupon codes. Some popular apps include ShopSavvy, Black Friday app, and Nifti.
There are even parking apps that can help you map out the best spots before you get to the store.
Tips for Getting the Best Deals on Black Friday
There’s no denying that doorbuster deals are the hallmark of Black Friday shopping. But remember that these products might be non-name brand models or different versions of existing models created specifically for Black Friday (and with fewer features than standard versions).
Because of this, make sure that if you’re thinking about purchasing a big-ticket item, thoroughly research it beforehand using sites like Consumer Reports.
Speaking of big-ticket items: Avoid pricey accessories, especially for electronics (such as cables, extended warranties, etc.).
Also, remember that Black Friday is just the kickoff in a month-long frenzy of deals (Small Business Saturday, Super Sunday, Cyber Monday, and more), so you might save even more money by waiting until after the crowds have ebbed, sleeping in, and spending time with your family.
Regardless of doorbusters and other deals, Black Friday could be the worst time of year to shop, depending on what you’re looking for. So if you’re in the market for toys, unbundled game consoles, brand name HDTVs, the newest digital camera models, office supplies, jewelry (including watches), or winter apparel, don’t buy during Black Friday.
Budget, budget, budget! The easiest way to dig yourself deeper into debt (and put you into a Holiday funk) is by overspending when shopping for gifts. Make a budget in advance, stick to it, and have a happier Holiday season.
We mentioned it above, but it’s relevant here, too: Great deals aren’t limited to just Black Friday anymore. Many retailers are opening their doors on Thanksgiving evening, and some even allow you to start saving on their website at midnight.
Do you enjoy shopping at a particular retailer? Check to see if they have any additional Black Friday deals or rewards for frequent shoppers. Also, some retailers offer additional discounts (or other perks, like warranties) if you make a purchase on your store card.
Regarding your other (non-store) credit cards, check to see if they offer special discounts or extra savings on Black Friday, an extra cash back, or companion discounts.
Even if you’ve shopped at a particular retailer hundreds of times before, be sure to verify if their return policy will change on Black Friday, or if there are any stipulations for certain product categories (especially electronics). These include higher-than-normal restocking fees, shorter refund windows, and more.
Think Black Friday deals can’t get any better? Think again! As we mentioned above, be sure to price check items while you’re in the store, and then inquire at checkout about price matching.
No matter how good a deal seems, remember that retailers (even your favorite ones) are notorious for recycling deals from the previous year. In other words, they’ll offer the same product at the same price as last year’s Black Friday, even though the product is now a year older (this is especially prevalent among electronics).
Does your Black Friday deal involve a mail-in rebate? Be careful, because you’ll probably pay a lot more than you were expecting at checkout, and rebate redemption rates are generally below 50%. And even among those who do request a rebate, they might find that the manufacturer makes the process too complicated to be worthwhile.
Finally, if you’re really intent on a specific item but missed your chance, swing back by the retailer later in the day. Someone might have already returned theirs, so the first place you should check is in the returns section, usually located near customer service.
Tips for Increasing Comfort on Black Friday
Remember: If you’re not having fun, then why put yourself through it? Attitude is everything on Black Friday and if you’re not positive, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot.
Sure, you can have a lot of fun on Black Friday, but make a “plan of attack” in advance and keep your game face on. Black Friday isn’t they day for wandering around and window shopping.
We talked about parking apps above, but you can also find mall maps online to help you figure out which stores to hit first.
Also to increase your effectiveness (and your fun), why not go shopping with a couple friends? Each of you can fan out to different areas in order to snag the best deals, and enjoy some chatting while you’re waiting in line.
Bring something to keep you entertained while you wait in the long lines (after all, this is mostly what you’ll be doing).
Also, bring your own bags. They will be sturdier than what you’ll get at a store and can save you time during checkout (which, if you’ll be shopping all day, can really add up).
You’re going to get hungry and thirsty at some point, and any food establishments are going to be swamped. Instead, bring your own food and water, which you can eat while you’re waiting in line (just be sure to bring some hand sanitizer!).
Dress appropriately. Especially once they’re crowded with hundreds (or thousands) of people, a store’s inside temperature can be much hotter than outside. Layer your clothes so you can add and remove as needed to remain comfortable.
When you’re at the register, just don’t forget to get a gift receipt. This will make returning your gift easier, without letting someone special know how much you spent.
Black Friday Safety & Security Tips
If you’ll be carrying a purse with you this Black Friday, make sure it closes securely (zippers are generally best).
Here are some pros and cons of different payment methods:
Cash is generally the best option for sticking to your budget, although it’s also the most easily stolen. And once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Debit cards offer more theft security than cash, but they also don’t offer many of the same fraud protection benefits as credit cards.
Of all these options, credit cards are the most secure, but they’re also the easiest way to go over budget.
Want to avoid crowds and the threat of theft altogether? Remember, you’ll likely be able to score many of the same (if not better) deals after Black Friday, including Cyber Monday.
Watch out for common scams (not just on Black Friday, but all throughout the Holiday season as well), such as fake coupon and undeliverable package emails, false refunds, fake products, and text phishing schemes.
Finally, why not help make someone else’s Black Friday easier by sharing this article with your friends and family. And if you have any additional tips to share, be sure to leave them in a comment below.
Arm yourself with the best holiday tips by reading (and bookmarking) our Holiday Shopping, Hosting & Traveling Guides.