Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means consumers and retailers are gearing up for the busiest shopping time of the year.
Cue the Jaws soundtrack.
I’ve been an early morning-after-eating-too-much-turkey shopper a number of times, but I’m sitting this year out to save extra money and spend time with family. For me, the insanely cheap kitchen appliances and sweaters can wait.
However, if you’re one of the brave souls venturing out on Black Friday — or even Thanksgiving night — to snag some discounted booty, best of luck. I recommend using these thrifty tips alongside the usual “plan ahead” and “make a budget” to get even more for your money:
1. Skip Starbucks. And McDonald’s. And the food court.
An extra-large, double-espresso holiday beverage from Starbucks sounds pretty good at 4 a.m., but if you’re shopping on a budget, food and drink purchases can really add up.
And if you plan on shopping from early morning till mid-afternoon, that first Starbucks purchase won’t be the last.
Save an extra $5-$30 throughout the day by filling up a coffee thermos, grabbing a few water bottles and packing a bag of snacks (or even Thanksgiving leftovers) before leaving the house to munch on throughout the day when you need to fight fatigue. You’ll save money and time by not having to wait in line with the multitudes of hungry, deal-crazed shoppers.
2. Keep most of your wallet’s contents at home.
Setting a shopping budget ahead of time can help you save, but if you don’t follow it once you’re out there, what’s the point?
To help you stick to your budget, bring just a couple of cards instead of arming yourself with a wallet full of tempting, unspent credit limits. After all, you can’t spend what you don’t have. Or go to the ATM the day before and withdraw exactly how much you want to spend and leave the credit cards home.
When selecting which credit cards to use on Black Friday, consider bringing those with the best cash back reward programs to get the most out of your purchases. Also, leave your debit card at home. While putting purchases on your credit card may temporarily put you in debt, your credit cards likely offer you more fraud protection in the event of a data breach. You can pay off the credit cards online the following day if you don’t want to carry a balance.
3. Ditch paper sale fliers.
The Black Friday sale fliers that have started showing up in your mailbox aren’t the best deal comparison tools anymore. To find and keep track of the best shopping bargains before and during your shopping trip, download mobile shopping and deal-finder apps on your smartphone to help you get the latest savings.
Apps such as The Black Friday and the TGI Black Friday can help you check sale ads, store your shopping list and find the lowest prices for the items on your list. Other comparison shopper apps, such as The RedLaser and ShopSavvy, let you to scan product barcodes to find the cheapest price for each scanned item in your area.
Finally, download your preferred retailer’s specific mobile apps to stay on top of any mobile deals they may offer. It also wouldn’t hurt to check each retailer’s social media pages before walking into the brick-and-mortar store to see if there are any discount incentives for “liking” a Facebook page or following a store on Twitter, ConsumerReports.org recommends.
4. Divert your eyes from checkout lane extras.
Waiting in checkout lines is something you’ll likely spend a lot of time doing on Black Friday, but while you’re standing there, don’t get suckered by the temptations around you.
No, you don’t need more holiday cookies or an armful those $5 DVDs or those multi-packs of fuzzy slipper socks. They may not be that expensive on their own, but if you are on a budget, adding even just an extra $10 of checkout lane impulse buys to each purchase made throughout the day will add up fast.
Stick to your pre-determined shopping list and distract yourself with music, your smartphone or the company of others while waiting to reach the register.
5. Don’t leave your house.
You don’t have to brave the sleep-deprived crowds and fight over door buster items to snag the best Black Friday deals anymore. And you don’t have to wait for Cyber Monday, either.
Black Friday is the fastest growing online sales holiday of the year, even more so than Cyber Monday, according Adobe Digital Index’s 2014 Holiday Shopping Prediction report. Online Black Friday sales are expected to rise 28 percent year-over-year to $2.48 billion, while Cyber Monday sales are expected to rise by just 15 percent to $2.6 billion.
And retailers are responding with more online sales. “The biggest stores carry [online] door buster deals on Black Friday, trying to get users to their site,” Jeff Lee, a spokesman for deal aggregator site TechBargains.com, told MarketWatch. “You don’t have to deal with the hassle of crowds or waiting in line and the deals are just simply better online than on Cyber Monday.”
So relax. Eat an extra piece of pie, put on your slippers and boot up your laptop. You’ll be saving gas, stress and money.