Once upon a time, the Christmas shopping season kicked off with Black Friday. Black Friday started in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving, and for most people, it wrapped up that afternoon. But now, things are a little more complicated. Cyber Monday started in the first years of this century, as people sought out online deals on Christmas gifts the day they returned to work. There’s also Small Business Saturday, when local brick-and-mortar businesses offer deals to entice shoppers in the door. And Black Friday now sometimes starts on Thanksgiving, while Cyber Monday deals start popping up while the turkey is still in the oven. Shoppers have more opportunities to find a great deal than ever before. What’s a deal-hunter to do? Follow these tips to maximize your shopping dollars and get the most out of the available sales.
Research the Sales
What’s going to be on sale this year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Electronics, clothing, and makeup are the usual deals offered. If you want to be prepared, you can put in a little prep work. One way to start prepping for sales is to take a look at what happened last year. Search for “Cyber Monday 2019” or “Black Friday 2019” followed by the name of a store you are interested in. This search should bring up last year’s fliers, which will let you know what deals and sales your favorite retailers typically offer to kick off the holiday shopping season. Even better, some sites post leaked copies and sneak peeks of this year’s fliers, so you can see exactly what’s going to be on sale for how much: A quick online search could help you plan out exactly what you’ll want to buy!
Follow Your Favorite Stores Online
Want to stay up to date on promotions your favorite retailers are offering? Follow a three-pronged approach. First, sign up for any loyalty programs offered by the stores you are interested in. Customers in the loyalty program often get exclusive offers and discounts. Next, sign up for the store’s newsletter. The newsletter will provide information about Black Friday hours, what will be on sale, and sometimes even special coupons. Some stores offer different deals throughout Cyber Monday, and the newsletter should provide a breakdown of what items will be on sale during what time frame.
Most important, though, is following the stores’ social media pages. Various social media channels are better suited for specific purposes. Twitter, for instance, is the best place to find out about limited-time deals and offers. Make a special list of the retailers you are following so you can quickly check their tweets throughout the shopping period. Instagram is great for visuals of the products on sale, and sometimes stores will send out a unique promo code to their Instagram followers. Facebook is your best bet for targeted offers for Cyber Monday. Follow retailers you’re interested in, and then visit their websites. Soon, you should start seeing targeted ads offering special deals on the products you viewed.
Use Your Smartphone to Your Advantage
Multiple apps can help you save money and maximize your holiday dollars. First, download the apps for the stores you plan to shop at, and allow these apps to send you notifications. These apps will give you access to exclusive coupons and should alert you when time-limited sales pop up. Next, download an app like Price Grabber, which will inform you about price drops in items you are interested in. Santa’s Bag lets you make a list and set a budget for everyone you are shopping for, which can help you stay on track and not get distracted by Black Friday side items. And Flipp is an app that enables you to see sale fliers without having to get a newspaper.
Make Your List and Check it Twice
Start making your gift list as soon as possible. Think about what you would like to buy each person on your list, and then think about how that fits into the possible Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals you’ve identified. Make sure to come up with a few backup ideas for popular items. Remember the Tickle Me Elmo craze? Sometimes things are so popular that they will prove impossible to get. The same goes for doorbuster deals. You aren’t necessarily going to get everything you want, so having backup ideas is crucial.
Buy Discounted Gift Cards Now
One often-overlooked way to save money during holiday shopping is to buy discounted gift cards ahead of time. How does this work? People sell unwanted gift cards, and you can buy them at a significant discount through online gift card sites. Gift Card Granny is the best-known gift card reselling site, and the website offers protections so you know you’ll be getting a gift card with the advertised amount on it. You can buy both online and physical gift cards through reselling sites for stores you know you’ll want to shop at.
Make a Budget
Have you ever wondered how stores make money on Black Friday or Cyber Monday while offering such great deals? They make money by convincing you to spend more than you intended. They get you into the store by advertising doorbuster specials, which are only available in small qualities. Once you’re in the store, inviting displays convince you to buy other merchandise that wasn’t on your list. How can you avoid these impulse purchases? By making a budget and sticking to it. Some people even leave their credit cards at home and only bring a predetermined amount of cash. If you don’t want to risk shopping with cash, pre-purchased gift cards a great way to make sure you stay within your budget.
Create a Spreadsheet
The truly organized and dedicated holiday shoppers create a spreadsheet, and so should you! Make a list of everything you want to buy, who it’s for, links to possible places you could buy it, the price each retailer is offering, and any promo codes you want to use. Is a website offering timed sales? Mark what time the deal you want will start. While shopping online, this will allow you to work through your shopping list quickly, and you won’t forget any fantastic deals you identified during your prep work.
The shopper who gets the most out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales is successful because of one thing: They always remember their budget. Shopping requires discipline because you are going to be overwhelmed by offers to upgrade your purchase to a premium version, buy add-on products (like HDMI cables for your new television), or get extended warranties. You can avoid some of these impulse purchases by planning ahead. Will you need a new cable or other accessories for your investment? Identify places to pick them up inexpensively and have a plan so you aren’t tempted to buy them on the spot. Don’t be afraid to say no to the extended warranty, either. Check with your credit card company: Some offer extended warranty protection for electronics purchased with their card. And don’t be afraid to say no when a salesperson starts trying to sell you someone you don’t need.
When planning and spending during the holiday season, it is important to spend within your means. Any unexpected expenditures during the holiday months can increase financial stress, and during leaner years, it can completely upend the holiday plans. When unexpected financial emergencies arise, be it on December 24th or in the middle of June, it’s important to remember that there are a variety of financial options available to help you make ends meet. If you have a vehicle, you have an asset that can be used to secure a title loan. If you are without a vehicle, a personal loan may be an option worth considering, if traditional lending options are off the table.