It seems like saving money on Black Friday or Cyber Monday should be easy. With thousands of items with steep markdowns at hundreds of stores, finding a good deal doesn't sound so hard. But sadly, most people who go shopping on Black Friday don't have a clue about how to make the most of their money and time.
They flip through the newspaper ads on Thanksgiving and find some great doorbusters. Then they head out to the stores on a quest to score the best deals, only to come home exhausted and empty handed or worse yet, having overspend on things they didn't really plan to buy.
It doesn't have to be this way. There are a few simple strategies you can use to saving money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You don't have to be an expert deal hunter to successfully apply the habits savvy shoppers have developed. You just need a plan, a roadmap, or step by step checklist of what to do.
7 Habits of a Highly Effective Shopper:
- Plan Ahead for a Good Day
Black Friday: Make sure you start your Black Friday adventure with a full tank of gas and a charged smart phone! Pack a lunch sack with some snacks and a water bottle. Dress in layers and bring a comfortable change of shoes. Line up a babysitter for the kids.
Cyber Monday: Just because you can shop from home or work doesn't mean you can ignore the prep work. Make sure you'll be somewhere with a steady internet connection. Dropping your signal in the middle of your check-out would be a major bummer. Shopping at work? Pack a lunch so you can shop on your lunch hour and on your breaks. Shopping at home? Plan something to keep the kids busy so you can shop. Clear your cookies and remember to start your shopping "trips" online by clicking through FatWallet first so you can get your cash back. Here's a link to the Cash Back FAQ which I suggest you read through to refresh your memory before Cyber Monday.
- Research Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals Early
Black Friday: Well before the Thanksgiving turkey's stuffed, do your Black Friday homework. Research the Black Friday Ad Scans and sort through the Black Friday Deals to see which stores are offering the items on your list. Research what the "regular" prices are and what the best (or close to the best) prices will be on Black Friday.
Cyber Monday: Researching deals ahead of time for Cyber Monday can be a bit more tricky since stores don't promote it as early as they do for Black Friday, but sites like ours will make your life much easier. Watch for deals with free shipping, and check out the Hot Deals forum, Best Deals page, and Cash Back Sales.
- Think Beyond Black Friday & Cyber Monday
Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to check off the items on your holiday gift list, but effective shoppers think beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday. What anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and other events will be coming up this next year! Also consider purchases you want or need for yourself and/or business such as computers, tv's, appliances, furniture, etc.
- Great Apps for Finding Great Deals
Recommended: FatWallet Black Friday Deal Finder app for iPhone as well as apps released by the stores you plan to shop at. Many contain store floor plan maps as well as hours, doorbuster deals, and special coupons. Here are a few popular ones:
- Understand the Rules of the Shopping Game
An educated shopper will be able to take advantage of bigger savings. Browse the stores' web sites to make sure you understand their policies on returns, exchanges, price adjustments, price matching guarantees, and coupons.
- Leverage Shopping Resources: Money & Friends
Do you have a spouse or friend who you can share your list with to divide and conquer, hitting two stores at once?
Check to see if your credit card offers extra points, miles, or cash back when you shop online or at particular retailers over the holiday season. Are the items you're shopping for on your list available online with cash back and or free shipping?
- Follow through and follow up
Keep your receipts organized and continue to watch the sales. Many stores will offer price adjustments if the price of the item you purchased drops in the coming weeks. Exchanges and returns will be easier with receipts as well. I've been using the OneReceipt app which keeps track of your receipts, itemizes and categorizes them for you, and sends reminders when deadlines for returning the items you purchased approaches.
When you boil down the essentials from all the habits of highly effective Black Friday and Cyber Monday Shoppers listed above, you'll find that planning ahead and staying organized are the most important skills to help you save money.
By planning ahead you'll be relaxed, have more fun and get better deals. Enjoy the process and don't dwell on a missed deal, just move calmly on to the next item on your list. This is just the beginning of the shopping season and there will be more great offers available online and in stores in the coming weeks!