With so many Americans operating in the red, we naturally want to make the most of the killer sales offered on Black Friday. Thus, we've amassed 18 tips to help you get through the day without tearing your hair out.
1. Buy the newspaper: There's a reason the Thanksgiving Day newspaper is the fattest newspaper of the year. Advertisers annually stuff this paper with coupons and circulars advertising their best sales. You can increase your savings with online coupon codes. Just make sure they can be used in combination with in-store sales or newspaper coupons.
2. Do your research: If you have your eye on a particular item, surf the price-comparison Web sites and record the prices for reference while shopping. Don't forget to add any fees to the price. Some stores allow you to place an order online for in-store pickup the next day. You'll still want to hit that store pretty early, however, and bring your printed-out receipt as sales clerks may not focus on filling online orders when pressed by throngs of shoppers.
3. Bring the ads: Make the retailer stick to their advertised price and any offers to match the "lowest price" advertised. Many stores presently refuse to match Internet prices, but it can't hurt to try.
4. Develop a game-day plan: Draw up your shopping list and establish your priorities before you hit the stores. Decide which stores you want to shop and in what order.
5. Are all parts included? Is the sale item stripped down or sold with all necessary parts? For example, some stores will low-ball the price on a computer printer but not include a printer cartridge, which can run to a pretty hefty figure. As a matter of fact, you should always check the price of printer cartridges before buying a printer. A $50 printer isn't a great deal when the cartridges cost $50 each and run out quickly.
6. Qualify the quality: A bad product is a bad deal, no matter how cheap it is. Don't assume a big-name brand means quality. Sometimes, an off-brand is actually a better value. ConsumerReports.org is one of the best places to research the quality of big-ticket items.
7. Take along a shopping buddy: Two people can shop more efficiently than one during the heavy press of sales, thus increasing the odds you'll find everything on your list. One buddy can wait in check-out lines while the other continues to cruise for deals. Make sure you have your buddy's cell phone number, however, so you can stay in contact.
8. Hitch a ride: Parking on Black Friday is a nightmare and can waste precious time. This is one instance, however, when biking or taking the bus doesn't make sense as your arms will be weighed down with packages at the end of the day. Ask a friend or relative to drop you off and pick you up.
9. Bring your own snacks: Don't waste time and money at the food court or restaurants. Stuff an apple, energy bar and (caffeinated?) water in your purse or backpack.
10. Stick to your list and budget: In the tumult of Black Friday, it's easy to wander off target, so make sure you stick to your list. And NO personal shopping. Wait for post-Christmas sales to treat yourself.
11. Ask for a gift receipt: While a gift receipt won't detail the price you paid, it will indicate the date on which it was purchased. The recipient then will have a better chance of returning the gift for the prices you paid, not the slashed, post-holiday price.
12. Watch your wallet...literally. It's easy to lose your purse or be the target of pickpockets in large crowds. To avoid major problems, empty your purse and wallet of all but the necessities before heading out. Also, watch out for shoulder surfers looking to memorize, write down or capture your PIN number or other financial data with a cellphone camera. Shield the pad when you enter your PIN at check out or write checks. Ask to opt-out when cashiers ask for your phone number or driver's license.
13. Leave the kids at home: Nobody, least of all you, wants to listen to children throwing tantrums in the middle of the mall or worry about losing them in the crowd. Children will only slow you down and insist on buying extra items. Besides, you don't want the tiny tots to see the gifts you're buying them.
14. Ask about store return policies: A 10-day return policy is useless for gifts received a month later at Christmas. Ask whether sale items can be returned and how long returns can be made.
15. Consider charging it: Credit cards with warranty coverage, return protection and sale-price protection make sense for large-ticket items, but charging willy nilly all day can lead to a bulky bill after the holidays.
16. Make friends with people in line. Friendly camaraderie will not only make the long wait more pleasant, it also could prove to be a real help if you have to run to the bathroom and don't want to lose your place in line.
17. Don't forget the rebates: One reason retailers can afford to offer rebates is because few people actually go through the process of cashing them in. Ask for clarification on when the rebate expires and how soon you need to mail it, then write that information on the receipt.
18. Don't get too greedy: You'll spoil the day for everyone if you end up arguing with other shoppers over the best deals. Remember, this is supposed to be the season of good cheer.
Photos by: kalebdf's photostream, kalebdf's photostream, Cracker and Cheese, beatsrhymesnlife, Cayusa, LarimdaME, Kevin Walter
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