Get ready for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Beyond: Top 10 Holiday Shopping Tips
1. Browse. This is the fun part. Start browsing catalogs, websites, and stores now for what’s new this season. And don’t forget about places off the beaten path: there are many museums, shops, theaters, and enriching classes in the area that offer unique gift and gift card possibilities.
2. Research. Research specialty items like electronics before purchasing. Amazon’s online reviews and Consumer Reports are great resources for evaluating the pros and cons of all kinds of products from cameras to exercise equipment.
3. Clip Coupons and Use Your Smart Phone. In addition to finding printable coupons online, the local paper (especially the Thanksgiving Day issue) will be full of ads and coupons for holiday deals. Once you’ve gone to the trouble to clip the coupons, keep an envelope in your purse to stash them. Nothing bugs me more than finding a great deal, reaching for my wallet, and realizing I’ve left my coupons at home. If you have a Smart Phone, be sure to store coupon tags and have them handy when you shop. Also, look for a new iPhone app from Fatwallet.com, an online Black Friday Deal Finder that will allow you to review and sort ads by deal category or store.
4. Compare Prices. Create a wish list of things you want to purchase and use one of the many online coupon sites, daily deal, and price comparison sites to compare sale prices and find the best deals. Don’t forget to consider tax and shipping charges when comparing prices. [By the way, if you are an i-product junkie, www.cyberblackfriday.com is reporting that Black Friday is the one day of the year that the Apple Store discounts its popular Mac, iPod, and iPad products.]
5. Look for Night Owl discounts. On Thanksgiving night retailers begin to post their Black Friday specials. Many items can be purchased online as a Night Owl discount and picked up at the store the next day.
6. Check Store Opening Times. Many stores open early and offer Door Buster Deals for the early birds (as early as 3 a.m.), so check their websites for the latest info before heading out.
7. Understand Return Policies and Get Gift Receipts. Since prices will be slashed after the holidays, you will need a receipt in hand to get the full value of what you paid for an item. Don’t count on an even exchange or refund unless you have a receipt.
8. Consider Method of Payment. Some of us do better with a strict budget and an envelope of cash. When the cash runs out, so does the shopping. However, if you can trust yourself, there are many advantages to using plastic. Depending on your card, your purchase may be eligible for cash back, airline miles, additional warranties, sale price protection, and return protection. To take advantage of these benefits, be sure to research and choose your card wisely.
9. Find childcare! It can be a lot of fun to bring your little ones to the mall to see Santa, but if you have serious shopping to do, you will save everyone a lot of frustration if you go it alone. If its not possible to arrange a playdate with a friend or relative, some stores like IKEA have their own sign-in play areas or you can drop Dad and kids off at the movies.
10. Sit Back. If navigating through the madness in the malls isn’t your cup of tea, ride out the frenzy at home and get your shopping done online. Although there will be great deals throughout the holiday season, Cyber Monday is by far the biggest online shopping day of the year. Make sure you are ready by signing up now for the daily deals and email lists at your favorite stores so that you get notice of special offers and discount codes throughout the holiday season. You may also want to consider signing up for Amazon Prime in order to get free 2-day shipping on most items. Amazon has also started a Black Friday Deals store with discounts on hundreds of popular items.
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