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8 Insider Tips for Black Friday Shopping

Nov. 3, 2016
Black Friday, Shopping
NerdWallet adheres to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from partners. Here’s how we make money.
We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Black Friday is the Super Bowl of shopping, with a lot at stake. Will you be able to find everything on your list? Can you stay within your budget, satisfy even the most finicky recipient and, most importantly, get home in time for leftover turkey sandwiches?

Use these nine insider tips to make your Black Friday shopping a resounding success. The annual shopping event, which happens the day after Thanksgiving, falls on Nov. 25 this year.

1. Get a head start

Some retailers and brands begin promotions weeks ahead of time, choosing seemingly random days for markdowns and leaking their Black Friday ads in advance, so start looking early for these deals. Now is the time to make a gift budget. Also, installing a budgeting app on your smartphone can provide a reality check when deciding whether to buy one more gift that’s not on the list for your adorable niece.

2. Use the web wisely

Set up Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat accounts and follow the social media accounts of your favorite brands and stores. To avoid being inundated with sale pitches, set up a dedicated email address to confine all your loyalty programs, Google alerts and mailing lists to one mailbox.

3. Be calculating

Research your desired purchases on price-comparison sites to see which items retailers will discount the most on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Then you can decide whether to brave the crowds or click from the comfort of your home. Look at the savings differences and set your priorities. Is it worth skipping the pie to save $30 on a new Xbox, or would you rather stay home, buy it online and save just $22?

4. Dig deep

When you’re buying a big-ticket item, review not only its price history but also its price potential. For example, if you’re shopping for a computer, consider if it’s worth buying now if a new model is coming out in January. Also, many stores raise their prices right before Black Friday, so you may not be getting a good deal after all. Look for deals at unexpected places such as your credit card bonus mall, your local drugstore for beauty products and perfume, mom and pop shops, and vendors on Etsy.

5. Read the fine print

Check the return policies for each item and retailer. Otherwise, getting a great deal on a final-sale Roomba — only to find out that your mother-in-law already has one — can turn a steal into a waste. For online purchases, factor in any shipping and restocking costs on returns.

6. Flex your credit cards

Consider using rewards cards for holiday shopping to earn miles or cash back on purchases — as long as you can keep within your budget and pay off the bills soon after that New Year’s Eve ball drops. Some cards offer benefits such as price protections and extended warranties and make it easy to dispute fraudulent charges. Some cards may even increase incentives for shopping at certain retailers during Black Friday.

7. Double-check the doorbusters

Is a $40 television really such a great deal if the picture looks like surveillance video? And while that Apple laptop may be an incredible bargain, do you think you could snag one if the store has only two of them and is opening its doors at 5 a.m.?

8. Make it friendly

If you do decide to brave the mall, consider taking a trusted companion. That way, you can work as a team and split the shopping list. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and carry snacks and water. Don’t get sidetracked by shiny things. For your sanity’s sake, set a time limit and agree to meet for coffee or lunch after you score your bargains.

Even if you don’t get everything on your shopping list on Black Friday, there will 29 days after that until Christmas — including Cyber Monday.

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