If you head into Black Friday sales without a strategy, two things are almost certain: You will overspend, and you won't get the deals that brought you into the stores in the first place.
We put together some of the best Black Friday Shopping tips to help you prepare.
1. Check out the ads in the newspaper and online.
Your local Thanksgiving Day newspaper will be stuffed with ads, coupons and circulars. Many of these ads will be available online prior to Thanksgiving. Either way, these will be your main source to local Black Friday savings.
2. Make a list and a game plan.
Start by making a list of people to buy for, including the maximum amount you plan to spend on each gift. Next, plan which stores you plan to visit and in which order.
Expert tip: Bring a friend or spouse. Two shoppers are better than one and can increase the odds that you'll get everything on your list.
3. Use the Internet!
No crowds, no lines and stay in your pajamas! Many retailers are offering the same deals online as in-store. You can check out the sales ahead of time and log on from home to grab the good deals.
Expert tip: Order the item online and select in-store pickup. This will save you shopping time, shipping money and let you zip in and out of the store quickly.
4. Use your smartphone!
Shopping technology get better each year- and now, hundreds of applications are available to help you find the best deals and make your shopping experience more plesant. Check out some of the Top Apps to download before you shop.
5. Look for Early Bird Discounts.
The Early Bird Shopper will be the real winner on Black Friday. Stores offer early-day shopper specials usually from 5 a.m. until 11 a.m. with a no "rain check" policy. That means once they run out of the products, you're out of luck.
6. Bring the Ads with you.
If you saw an advertised special that really impressed you, bring the ad along to avoid any disputes over how much an item is supposed to cost on Friday. Having the ad also could come in handy at stores promising “lowest-price” guarantees – especially if you find lower prices elsewhere.
7. Ask for gift receipts.
Gift receipts generally include a description of the item purchased but do not disclose the price paid. Including gift receipts inside the gift box will make returns or exchanges easier for the gift recipient. Without proof-of-purchase, the recipient may be turned down for returning or exchanging the item or risk receiving an exchange for the current selling price of the item.
8. Stay safe at the stores.
Stay alert to your surroundings and the people around you. If you see people "hanging around" parking garages, parking lots, or the outside of stores, avoid the area. Notify the police or security department.
If possible, shop before dark. Coordinate shopping trips with a friend if you plan to be out late. Always park your car in a well lit area.
Lock your car doors and windows even if you are only gone for a few minutes. Keep packages and other valuables out of public view, preferably locked in the trunk.
Park near street lights if possible and have your keys in hand when you return to your car. Always check the interior of your car before you unlock the door to get in.
To discourage purse snatchers, don't overburden yourself with packages. Have your purchases delivered whenever practical. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay for purchases with a check or credit card whenever possible.
9. Keep your identity safe.
Identity theft and fraud run rampant during the holiday shopping season. The number of reports about lost and stolen wallets peak in November and December, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Here are some tips from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:
- Clean your wallet before shopping. Only carry those credit cards you're sure you'll be using. Take just a few checks instead of the whole checkbook. And leave at home any documents that include your Social Security number.
- In stores, be vigilant against so-called shoulder-surfing -- someone near you who has a good view of your personal information to write down, memorize or capture with a cellphone camera. Put away credit cards promptly. Should an employee request personal information, like your driver's license or phone number, ask if you can opt out of sharing it. If not, relay the information quietly.
- When shopping online, good technology is key. Enabling a firewall and updating antivirus and antispyware software can keep data on your computer secure. You might also check the site from which you're shopping for security precautions.