The gist: Make your Black Friday trip count with these six helpful tips.
Black Friday is not for wussies! In order to make this post-Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza really worth your while, you’ll need to plan a few things in advance. Do your homework before you show up at the stores to maximize your savings and minimize your stress. Here are six essential strategies to get you started. Happy shopping!
1. Look up Black Friday hours
Before you head out the door, know exactly where you’re going and when. Stores are opening for Black Friday at different times, and now on different days too. A few stores like Target, Sears and Toys R Us will be open late on Thanksgiving Day, or at midnight on Friday morning, so you can sleep in after snagging some awesome deals. Regardless of where and when you go, keep in mind you’ll probably have to get there early. People start lining up for Black Friday events hours in advance.
2. Know what you want – and how much it costs
Don’t know what you want yet? Many retailers already have their deals posted on their Web sites, or Facebook and Twitter pages. Already know what you want? Make sure you’re getting the best deal. Compare deals on individual items using sites like Nextag, or if it’s a store you’re looking for, check out our discounts tool. Don’t forget to check for sale restrictions too. That special door-buster price may only apply to a limited number of items. For example, Best Buy is handing out tickets for each door-buster item, so the deal’s no good if you don’t have one.
3. Plan your transportation wisely
You already know you’ll be dealing with massive crowds and traffic jams, so plan an alternate route and parking arrangements for your Black Friday outing. Consider carpooling, or having a friend or family member drop you off. Better yet: reserve your items in advance, then pick them later in the day. A number of stores are letting people reserve Black Friday items online and pick them up in store. Check your store’s website for details.
4. Make sure you really want it – and save your receipts anyway
Don’t buy something just because it’s a good deal. Make sure you’ll actually use it. If you’re buying something for someone else, ask for a gift receipt. “But why wouldn’t Uncle Ralph want an iPad?” Well, you never know! Unlike a regular receipt, a gift receipt conceals the price you paid for the item, but still allows the recipient to return the gift if they don’t like it.
5. Don’t bring your kids!
If you have very small children, don’t drag them with you on Black Friday. Hire a sitter, ask a family member to watch them, or take them to an activity center. Check out your local YMCA or activity center to see if they’re hosting a special event. Pump It Up, a nationwide kid’s recreation center, is hosting its 4th annual Drop & Shop event this Friday. Drop off your kids at a participating center for 3- 4 hours, and let them run and play while you get your shopping done. It costs approximately $15- $25 for a session, which is much cheaper than hiring a babysitter, and typically includes pizza and arts and crafts.
6. Rack up those points
Rewards credit cards are great for Black Friday purchases because they allow you to save even more. They also give you a grace period to pay for your purchases. As long as you can pay off your bill within a few months, credit cards are a better deal than layaway. Be careful with this one. If you can’t afford your credit card bill, the interest you rack up and the damage to your credit score will far outweigh any benefits or savings.