If you’ve already begun receiving emails from retailers promoting their Black Friday sales, you’re not the only one. You can’t blame retailers for trying — if you buy something now the seller gets to hold onto your money longer and may even be able to entice you to buy more at even better prices that will arrive the closer the calendar gets to December 25.
According to Andrea Woroch, a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert, the average shopper will spend more than $930 this holiday season. If you’ve got your eye on Black Friday as the day to go hunting for the best bargains, you need to start getting ready now.
Woroch recommends nine things you can do now to get better prepared for Black Friday and all the shopping days that follow. Here are the things she recommends that will help you shop like a pro:
1. Create a new email for newsletters.
One of the best ways to stay on top of retail promotions is to sign up for their newsletter. However, you don’t want to miss out on important notifications from your bank or holiday evites from friends because your inbox is cluttered with promotions. Create a new email account specifically for retail newsletters so you can keep better track of offers.
2. Stock up on discount gift cards.
In addition to sales and coupons, discount gift cards are a great way to save money on holiday purchases. Sites like GiftCardGranny.com feature thousands of gift cards sold at 5% to 25% less than face value, which means you can score a $100 gift card for just $80. Use these cards as currency when you shop on Black Friday to enhance your discounts! You can also redeem credit card reward points for “free” gift cards to use as your payment method.
3. Make extra cash.
Boost your holiday budget by pulling in extra cash now through a part-time job, one-time gigs or by selling your unwanted stuff. You can make money on old gadgets, clothing, home goods and even gift cards! If you have a marketable skill like web design, mobile development or freelance writing, pursue a side hustle through UpWork.com. You can also find one-time gigs through Craigslist or TaskRabbit.com, or get your puppy fix by signing up for Rover.com and dogsit during the busy travel season.
4. Research prices on desired items.
To avoid getting duped during the biggest promotional event of the year, research prices on the items you want to buy so you know if a sale is a deal or a dud. Sites like CamelCamelCamel.com and MyAlerts offer price histories and price-drop notifications so you can receive emails when items you want drop in price. Start searching for “leaked” Black Friday ads at BFAds.net, which offers scans of retail ads so you can compare deals and doorbusters.
5. Identify the best buys.
Retail and shopping experts suggest the best Black Friday buys are tablets, select TVs, select laptops, kitchen appliances, gaming consoles and Apple products. If any of these products are on your list, determine who has the best price so you can map out your Black Friday route. Also find out if these deals will be available online so you can save your in-store energy for items only available at physical locations.
6. Know what to skip.
Despite what retailers want you to believe, not everything is a good buy on Black Friday. If you’ve got your budgetary sights set on home furnishings, gaming laptops, gift cards or latest-tech TV sets, you can skip the madness altogether. For more items to skip during the busy holiday shopping weekend (and better times to buy them), consult Dealnews.com.
7. Download money-saving apps.
Your smartphone is your most treasured shopping buddy this time of year, so it’s important to prep it for the chaos to come. Download money-saving apps to help you dominate Black Friday sales, like ShopSavvy for price-comparison, Coupon Sherpa for extra savings like up to $25 off with a JCPenney coupon, and Santa’s Bag for gift list and budget tracking. Finally, store apps from Target, Walmart and others will help you navigate store aisles so you can find what you need fast.
8. Schedule Thanksgiving dinner strategically.
While some retailers are making headlines by staying closed on Thanksgiving, others are announcing their Turkey Day opening times. Macy’s, for example, is opening their doors at 5pm this year, while Belk is rumored to open at 4pm and stay open through 1am on Black Friday! If you have doorbusters on your list from stores opening on Thanksgiving, make sure to plan your meal accordingly so you’re not skipping out on family time unexpectedly.
9. Read up on retail policies.
Some retail policies benefit consumers on Black Friday, like extended return periods for holiday purchases and free shipping on all holiday orders from Target and Best Buy. Others do not, like price-match policies which exclude products sold between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Some stores will also charge restocking fees for returning certain items such as electronics and home appliances. To avoid an unpleasant surprise at checkout or when trying to make a return, read up on retail policies at the stores you plan to patronize and adjust your plans as necessary.