Maybe you think that a working credit card and a mean shoulder block are all you need to ace Black Friday shopping. But you would be wrong.
This year, Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) falls exactly one month before Christmas, Nov. 25, and that’s more than a month away. But that doesn’t mean you should wait until you’re defrosting the turkey to start making your shopping list. The time to start preparing for the biggest shopping day of the year is now.
Set your budget
The National Retail Federation expects retail sales to reach $655.8 billion this holiday season, a 3.6% increase over 2015’s $632.8 billion.
To keep from overshooting your means, it’s important to temper your generosity with practicality. Start crunching the numbers to see how much you can afford to spend without going into debt.
Now is also the time to calculate your rewards points and see which ones you can use for buying gifts. Or you may want to take advantage of a points-heavy credit card offer — as long as you’ll be able to pay the balance off in the new year. Then determine your budget.
Make a list
Create a list of people you’d like to shop for and review your budget. Then consider cutting the number of gifts you plan to give. Talk with your family about whittling down the gift exchange, such as limiting presents to the kids or starting a “secret Santa” tradition, where you have to purchase a gift only for the person you’ve been assigned. Or at least set spending limits.
Not all Black Friday bargains are created equal. For example, clothing usually isn’t discounted as much as household goods or consumer electronics. So instead of wasting time searching for that sweater vest for Uncle Bob, focus on snatching up an Xbox for the kids. Other high-ticket items worth fighting the crowds for are televisions and home goods such as vacuum cleaners, blenders and other kitchen tools.
Don’t go into Black Friday uninformed. If you’re buying clothes, check sizes and desired colors. If your beloved wants a computer, find out exactly what brand and model suits his or her needs best, along with the list price. Stores and websites sometimes push their less-than-desirable merchandise on Black Friday, so being armed with information like model numbers can sharpen focus. And while Santa never used Excel to make his list, you might want to consider organizing your potential purchases on a spreadsheet.
Bookmark and add apps
Your computer, tablet and smartphone are going to be invaluable weapons in your fight against a budget-busting holiday season. You should have already signed up for your favorite retailers’ loyalty programs by now. Join money-saving sites such as Honey, which automatically scans each online purchase for the best possible promo codes, or camelcamelcamel, an Amazon price tracker. Coupon sites are a good tack, but also go social: Following your favorite brands and retailers over social media can alert you to sales and promotions that may not be published elsewhere. Individual store apps as well as bargain-hunting apps like Shop Savvy or Shopular can help ensure that you always get the best prices.
Look for leaks
Retailers will start leaking their Black Friday ads soon, so keep yourself informed on sale items and prices and compare deals to save time and money.
Scout the scene
Online shopping makes sense for many purchases — especially when you get free shipping — but doorbusters usually (though not always) require you get to the store at a certain time. Getting the lay of the land before the big day can mean the difference between bringing home what you want and leaving empty-handed, so consider a reconnaissance mission to determine the closest entrance (and parking lot) to your desired retailer.
Set up calendar alerts
Some retailers jump the gun on Black Friday by starting sales a week or more before Thanksgiving. To make sure you don’t miss out, figure out which sales are most important to hit, check out those stores’ ads, and set up alerts on your online calendar to get a reminder as each retailer begins rolling out the bargains.
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