Black Friday is a shopper’s high holiday. But are you really saving as much as you can on this day of all bargain-hunting days?
We surveyed a number of people, from everyday savvy shoppers to professional shopping gurus, to learn their best Black Friday tips and tricks. Here are 10 you can take all the way to the checkout this year.
1. Do Recon Ahead of Time
When it comes to snagging the best Black Friday deals, it’s best to think like a Boy Scout (i.e. be prepared).
This means not just going through circulars the night before, but coming up with a specific game plan and even doing a little advanced research.
“Use leaked circulars to ‘showroom’ products before you buy them,” says Benjamin K. Glaser of DealNews. “Once you know what’s going to be on sale, you can visit stores earlier in October and November to physically see and handle the products, and decide what you want.”
2. Start on Thursday (or Earlier)
As anyone who’s had their Thanksgiving dinner curtailed can tell you, Black “Friday” has crept earlier and earlier into the week each year. Discount devotees recognize this and spring into action before the masses.
“The ‘big-box’ stores will have most of their Black Friday sales online on Thursday,” says Michelle Madhok, shopping expert and founder of SheFinds.com.
“In fact, in years past, we’ve seen some deals sell out before Black Friday. Make sure you’re signed up for your favorite retailer’s email newsletters so you know when the sales start.”
It’s also worth looking outside the holiday season altogether to pinpoint yearly trends.
“I did a couple stories when I was in TV comparing ads from mid-October to Black Friday ads, and the mid-October ones were cheaper every time,” says Christina Nicholson, owner of Media Maven.
3. Use Discount Cards
Store sales are only one part of the equation; if you combine those sales with discounted gift cards, you advance to the next level of savings.
“For example, with Macy’s gift cards up to 12% off, you can buy a $100 gift card for $88, pocketing $12 to use on other Black Friday deals,” says Meghan Fox, Marketing Manager for gift card exchange site Raise.
“Now imagine using these gift cards with in-store savings and coupons; it’s a win-win!”
4. Take Advantage of Technology
Your smartphone is good for more than just venting about long lines on Facebook. Turn it into a shopping tool to boost your savings even higher.
“Target’s latest app points you to specific aisles where you can find the items on your list, while Coupon Sherpa provides extra savings from hundreds of retailers,” says Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert who’s been featured in segments on “Good Morning America,” MSNBC, CNN and Fox News.
“To avoid overpaying, track price drops using TrackIf.com, and then request a price adjustment if you find your purchase was sold for less later in the day,” Woroch advises.
5. Research While You Shop
Do a quick scan of online prices while waiting in those crazy long lines.
Glaser says, “You might find that an online retailer like Amazon has price-matched what you want, so you can just go home!”
6. Work as a Team
If your friends and family are also into Black Friday, consider a divide-and-conquer strategy.
“Coordinate with friends,” suggests Megan Hewitt, parenting blogger and owner of Shrimp and Grits Kids boutique in Charleston, South Carolina.
“If you need to go to Target, offer to pick up products your friends want, in exchange for them picking up products you want at other stores. That way, you can each take advantage of multiple store deals without having to rush from place to place.”
Aimee Brittain of Pretty Frugal Diva recommends an alternate approach: “Go with a team and attack separate sections of the same store. Coordinate the night before and have your crew on speed dial.”
And don’t forget the time it takes to navigate those crowded parking lots.
“Have a designated driver,” suggests Erin Taylor, photographer at Sweet Inspirations Children’s Boutique & Photography. “Someone driving saves time trying to find parking, which can add up quickly! They can have snacks and something to entertain them in the car while they wait so patiently.”
7. Keep Yourself Fueled
Shopping can take a lot out of you physically, and marathon shopping of the Black Friday caliber can easily make you tired and testy, especially if you started in the wee morning hours.
Make sure you don’t overdo it at Thanksgiving the night before, and bring supplies to keep you fueled throughout the day.
“Don’t shop inebriated or on an empty stomach,” advises April Masini of AskApril.com.
“You’ll be focused on your buzz or your cranky hunger — not the great deals in front of you. Bring something to nibble on and go for the cappuccino or the espresso when Black Friday shopping, not the dirty martini!”
8. Make It Fun
Dealing with long lines, harried crowds and stressed-out cashiers can be a nightmare if you don’t go into with the right mindset. So, do what you can to make the day enjoyable.
Shop with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile, and use the long waits as a chance to catch up. Treat yourself to your favorite whipped-cream-topped coffee creation to keep your spirits up.
Or, if you really want to try something different, consider this outside-the-box suggestion by Masini:
“Make it a date. Shopping is a great way to get to know someone, and you learn a lot about a person’s impulsivity, generosity and thought processes when shopping with them. A lot of these shopping qualities transfer into romantic relationships, so have dinner and a shopping date!”
9. Avoid the Stores and Shop Online
Why wait for Cyber Monday when more and more Black Friday deals are going online?
“Over the last few years,” Glaser says, “we’ve seen an increasing majority of in-store Black Friday deals showing up from the same retailers online as well. Even doorbusters — one of the big incentives to brave the in-store crowds — are now migrating to the web.”
Teri Gault, CEO of TheGroceryGame.com, agrees. “Years ago, I resorted to doing all my Black Friday shopping online,” she says. “The number of offers online has increased every year… As more retailers expand to reach that market, we expect even more online deals for 2015.”
10. Skip It Altogether
J. Money of Budgets Are Sexy has a super simple approach when it comes to Black Friday: “Stay at home and put $200 in your savings account instead.”
While Black Friday is one of the most hyped shopping days of the year, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to participate to get the biggest bang for your buck. In fact, we found 12 other ways to make good use of your time rather than hitting the stores.
Your Turn: What are your best Black Friday tips? Share them with your fellow shoppers in the comments!
Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!
Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer, and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.