23 Tips to Get Ahead on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Beyond

Cashing in on super holiday savings

By Kimberly Blaker

Cyber MondayThere may be no other aspect of the holiday season regarded with such strong and varied opinions than Black Friday.

Lovers thrill over the freebies and super savings that lure them in.

Haters berate it for getting in the way of the Thanksgiving holiday tradition, being a big gimmick, leading people to behave badly, and insist it’s a symbol of excessive American consumerism.

Whether you’re a hater or an enthusiast, there are plenty of ways to cash in on holiday savings on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and throughout the holiday season. So follow these tips for deep holiday savings.

1. Subscribe to store email lists. Decide at least a couple weeks in advance which stores you want to shop at. Then visit each store’s website, and subscribe to their email list. Signing up early will ensure you receive all special emails for the season’s big Black Friday and Cyber Monday events as well as ongoing savings right on through Christmas eve.

2. Buy discounted gift cards. Visit Raise.com, and order discounted gift cards for the stores you’ll shop at. Then use these cards to purchase sale and special buy items to increase your total savings. The caveat, be certain the gift cards are for stores you’ll definitely shop at. Otherwise, you’ll defeat your savings by being forced to use the cards on unnecessary purchases to recoup your investment. On the other hand, gift cards can also make great gifts.

3. Start collecting Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that show up in your newspaper, mailbox and email. Also visit your favorite stores online a few days in advance to find out what kind of deals they’ll be offering. Print out any coupons you find online or in your email. Then store them together in a safe place.

4. Organize for the big day. Once you’ve collected all the deals, sort through, and match them up to your holiday shopping list. Compare deals, and determine when the sales or doorbusters begin and whether there’ll be limited quantities. Then strategize. If you can’t stand in line for hours for a limited quantity doorbuster, skip it altogether, and focus on the other deals that’ll be easier to fetch.

5. Prepare a ‹second best’ list. You can’t be everywhere at once, so you’re sure to miss a deal or two. If you’ve prepared in advance for that possibility, you’ll know where to go and what to look for as an alternative.

6. Watch for early bird freebies. Many stores offer free gifts to the first 25 or 100 people in their store. It’s true, there are some pretty nice prizes to fetch. But they’ll likely require hours of waiting in line starting well before the crack of dawn. Before succumbing to these lures, consider whether the savings you might lose out on elsewhere is worth it.

7. Black Friday isn’t always the best or only day for hot bargains. So do your research. Stores tout their Black Friday deals to get consumers into a buying frenzy early in the season. Some even offer their super deals starting Thanksgiving evening and even reduce their prices on Wednesday. Realize also those Black Friday deals can often be found online on Cyber Monday. In fact, many of the hot deals, and even better deals stretch well into December.

8. Shop late in the day. If you’re like many people, shopping on Black Friday isn’t even a consideration for no other reason than the chaos. But realize, on Black Friday the vast majority of shoppers start out at the crack of dawn or earlier. So by 5 p.m., malls and stores are dead. Early birds have already shopped ‘til they dropped. So Black Friday evening is a great time to get in your early shopping with plenty of great deals still going on.

9. Shop online. This is another option if you don’t want to participate in the madhouse. Many stores offer the same deals online as they do in their stores. Not to mention, many online stores don’t even have store fronts. But keep in mind, supplies are often limited even online. By the time you reach checkout, an item in your basket may be sold out. If you’re shopping for multiple items from a single store, do multiple checkouts to ensure the items in your basket don’t disappear while you’re busy shopping.

10. Arrange your finances in advance. If you plan on paying by credit card, plan well in advance so the credit will be available to you. Make credit card payments at least 2 weeks in advance to allow time for processing. Use your credit cards that offer cash back or reward points to increase your savings. If paying with a debit card, double check your balance before heading out to avoid unwelcome surprises. Carrying cash isn’t advisable as chaotic crowds increase the potential for pick pockets and purse snatchers.

11. Leave the kids at home. The chaos of the holiday shopping season, especially Black Friday, poses risks to your children. There’s the slim but potential risk of trampling by crazed crowds on Black Friday and increased risk of losing your child among the mob. Add to this, shopping for long hours is stressful and exhausting for children. Not to mention, it will increase your own stress level and deplete your energy.

12. Avoid carts. On Black Friday, carry shopping bags or totes unless you’re buying heavy items. Carts will slow you down through crowds unwilling to budge for you.

13. Hold off on toy purchases. Black Friday doesn’t offer the best deals on toys. The first week of December usually offers much bigger savings on these items.

14. Use social media for extra savings. Many retailers offer special coupons and discounts to people who like them on Facebook or other social media. Look for the social media accounts of the stores you plan to shop at.

15. Check on return policies. Most major retailers have liberal return policies. But not all do. So do your homework before making purchases. Also, be sure to ask for gift receipts to make exchanges and returns easy for gift recipients.

16. Avoid impulse buying. For many shoppers, their savings go down the drain as they grab unnecessary ‹great buys’ at the spur of the moment. So prepare yourself mentally before you head out.

17. Get extra savings with instant store credit. This is a double- edged sword. You can save 10 to 25 precent  by opening a store credit card at checkout. If you pay your charges off immediately and don’t use it for unnecessary purchases, it’s well worth the savings. Otherwise, the long-term cost of interest will exceed the savings you initially gained.

18. Make sure a sale is really a sale. Some stores mark up merchandise before reducing it only to make it look like a great bargain. Furniture chains are especially known for this tactic. Many other stores do it as well on select merchandise. So do your homework.

19. Don’t waste time trying to price match. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, stores typically don’t honor price matching. Outside of these two days, it’s well worth your time to do so.

20. Be prepared for long lines. Bring entertainment on your phone for waiting in long lines. Before heading out, add your email account, music, audio books, or video games to your phone. Better yet, spend your time waiting in line visiting online stores and watch for rotating deals. Also, download a Black Friday deals app such as Dealnews, Slickdeals, Shopkick, Flipp, or The Coupons App.

22. Organize yourself for rebates. Print out rebate forms in advance so you don’t lose track of them. Also request duplicate receipts for rebate purchases, and store them in a safe place in your wallet or purse. If shopping online, download the Ebates app for automatic rebates when shopping on participating websites.

23. Forego the extended warranties. With a few exceptions, extended warranties are a waste of money. Most electronics already come with a limited manufacturer’s warranty. Defects usually show up within the scope of the manufacturer’s warranty. The accidental damage that might be covered under a store’s extended warranty tends to occur rarely. Cell phones or small personal electronics people carry with them that are likely to get dropped, lost, or run through the washing machine tend to be the exception.