Once Turkey Day is over and the leftovers are safely stored in the refrigerator, the holiday shopping season begins. Whether you plan to wake up early and hit the stores or do all your Black Friday shopping online, a solid strategy can make or break your day. Even if this isn’t your first rodeo, it helps to have a refresher on how to survive two of the busiest shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday . Before you begin shopping, review this handy checklist of do’s and don’ts so that the first weekend of the holiday season will be a success.
DO have a list.
With all the deals in front of you, it can be easy to totally blank on the gifts you need to buy. Start your shopping with a list of all of the people you need to buy for this year. Bonus points if you can jot down a few gift ideas. You don’t need to rely on pen and paper for this, though. There are plenty of free Christmas list apps that can help.
DON’T fall for false benchmarking.
Is that big-screen TV really 40 percent off? There’s no way to know for sure unless you’ve watched its price from the time it hit stores. Avoid falling for false benchmarking, which happens when businesses say something is a markdown, but it never sold for full retail price. Check prices and comparison shop before heading to checkout with your “marked-down” item. A simple Google search for the product can achieve this.
DO check out the deals early.
You can usually find ads early online, or if you get retailer emails. If you still subscribe to the local newspaper, there will also be ads in the Thanksgiving morning edition. Go through the deals and comparison shop, pinpointing exactly which retailer has the best prices. Some stores will match the lowest price you find, so bring that ad with you if you can’t go to that store. If you’re leaving the house on Black Friday, draw a map of each stop and list which items you’ll be buying at each place. If you’re shopping online, have a similar list and bookmark all the sites where you’ll be shopping.
DON’T assume you must leave the house.
If you’ve gotten up before dawn each year on Black Friday and waited in line, that may not be necessary. Retailers now offer identical, if not better, deals on their websites. Unless you love the thrill of battling the crowds, you may save just as much, without the stress, shopping from your warm and cozy home.
DO follow your favorite retailers on social media.
Some may offer special deals available only to their social media followers. Alternatively, they may announce a special online offer or “flash sale” (temporary, usually only an hour or two), leaving those waiting around for an email hanging.
DON’T overpay for shipping.
You may be dazzled by a hot deal, only to be stuck with shipping costs at checkout. That’s one of the reasons we love Amazon and Walmart – fast, free shipping on just about everything, and a low minimum purchase to get that. You may be able to find a coupon on a site like RetailMeNot or Coupons.com. Better yet, if it’s a retailer with a local store, determine if in-store pickup of online orders is an option. Just buy online, choose the pick up in store option, select your store, and then you should get notified when it’s ready to pick up. Usually there’s no shipping charge and it just takes a few minutes to stop in and pick up your items at the customer service desk.
DO research past sales.
If you can’t peek at a particular retailer’s deals in advance, research what they offered last year. Some retailers tend to target the same products with their discounts. For instance, Amazon regularly discounts its own products on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, including Kindle, Echo, and the Fire TV Stick. You’ll also find Best Buy and Walmart tend to offer deals on big-screen TVs and smartphones.
DON’T single-channel shop.
The advice to shop online on Black Friday also applies to checking out brick-and-mortar deals on Cyber Monday. Just as online retailers offer special prices on Black Friday, retailers are now offering in-store specials to capture some of that Cyber Monday spending money.
DO check the return policy.
Whether you’re shopping in-store or online, the flurry of activity makes it easy to forget to ask for a receipt or check the return policy. Items bought on Thanksgiving weekend usually won’t be gifted for at least three weeks, rendering a 30-day return policy useless. Also check that return shipping won’t eat into the cost of returning an online gift if it doesn’t work out.
DON’T impulse buy.
As you’re shopping, it can be tempting to grab items that are on sale just for the deal. This is where having a list and sticking to it can be invaluable. While there’s no harm in buying an item or two for yourself, keep an eye on your budget to be sure you’ll be able to stretch it to afford all of the gifts you still need to buy.
DO have fun.
It’s still early in the season, so you have plenty of time to check off all the items on your list. If you’re shopping in stores, take time to enjoy the decorations, be patient and kind to others (especially the store clerks) and hum along to the holiday music. If you’re shopping online, sip some cocoa and have fun with your shopping expedition. The holidays will be over before you know it, and the busy four-day shopping weekend is the perfect time to put yourself in the spirit.
Stephanie Faris is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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