Black Friday is upon us. Halloween has passed, and while its spirit lives on for the rest of the year in our leftover candy and TPd house, attention is turning towards Black Friday. Walmart is already discounting their stuff to get ahead of the craziness that’s to come, but not everyone is eyeing Walmart discounts this year. For the savvy shopper, Black Friday can be a good opportunity to stock up on everything. And I do mean everything. Here’s a quick guide about how to prepare for Black Friday and make the most of the money that you’ve designated to shopping funds this year. Note that everyone approaches Black Friday differently and this is just an example of how I have been doing it for the past few years. I wanted to share my methods because I found that they work rather well and have brought in good deals for me.
Before we get to the tips, you should be aware of the fact that the massive discounts on Black Friday aren’t entirely real. Don’t go out and shop everything that has a larger than 50% discount on it. Most of the items that are discounted for the shopping season are refurbished items. Whether sellers let you know that or not is another discussion – most of them don’t and I have proof, if you’re curious. A lot of the bigger tech items like TVs are refurbished for the Black Friday sale and are actually units that have been used in showrooms. Not to say they’re not going to be good devices in good conditions, but don’t be surprised if you see scratches on the back or missing parts. It’s just how things go. Refurbished smartphones, tablets, wearables and many many other types of devices are the ones you’ll find cheapest on Black Friday, so if you’re out to save, be aware that you’re not always going to get the best of it. Now, let’s start on the tips that I have.
- Online shopping first
Black Friday in the U.S. is an event that spans from the physical world to the online one. Although I’m all in for the craziness that goes on on the date, it’s truly better to avoid going to the store, for safety reasons. Once you stand in line for an entire night waiting for the store to open, there’s no denying that by morning, you’re going to be groggy, impatient, angry and most likely sick of that sh*t. It’s not worth it, getting trampled, pushed around and losing your temper multiple times, not to mention losing your shopping buddies in the meantime.
The best way to approach online shopping on Black Friday, in my experience, is picking the shops that you are interested in and creating a wishlist on each. Last year on Black Friday, I started planning for the event a couple of days ahead, because that was enough for the things that I wanted to invest in. I sifted through my newsletter to see which shops were going to have Black Friday offers and which carry the brands and products that I am interested in. If possible, I added all the items I was interested in to my cart before Black Friday and just placed the order as soon as the discounts kicked off. This saved me a lot of time – and money.
By creating your online shopping wishlist a few days ahead of Black Friday, you can stay on top of your shopping list and buy only the things that you need. Splurging on discounted stuff is common on this “holiday”, seeing as everything seems so cheap. Before stocking up however, always think about product shelf life. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale because you might end up regretting the purchase. Wishlists will keep your goals in front of you and will prevent you from browsing through tens of pages of discounted items, picking at random.
Having your shopping list ready for Black Friday when it comes to online shopping not only benefits your own state of mind, but also helps with shipping times. Last year, this worked very well for me. I placed the orders that I had waiting early on Friday morning and by Saturday 80% of the items I had wanted to buy were at my doorstep. Shipping times also depend on warehouse locations and store locations, as well as shipping address, so your next delivery might not be as speedy. Make sure to check delivery and shipping estimates on the websites you’re ordering from, so you can pick the ones that will get the products to you in the window of your choice.
At the same time, doing your Black Friday shopping online will be a breezier experience because you can ponder, think and compare the products as long as you want. Not having the pressure of getting all the stocks and discounts as fast as possible, like in stores, will make your shopping experience much nicer. Not risking getting trampled in Walmart is also a big benefit of online shopping, if we are to be blunt. People have actually died during Black Friday shopping, so it’s not a joke. I would always recommend online shopping on days with such massive discounts as Black Friday, because people forget their values when it comes to saving money.
Moreover, some online shops start their Black Friday sweeps ahead of the actual date, so you can do both: physical and online shopping. Always do your online shopping first, because this way you weed out items and you might not even have to participate in the sales going on in stores. While I always do my Black Friday shopping online, there are things out there that you won’t find online – those are the ones you should focus on when going to the store.
2. Plan your shopping list
This is a bit of an obvious suggestions, but it’s a very important one. If you want to make the most of Black Friday discounts without too much effort, make a comprehensive shopping list. If you’re going out to malls and shops in the city you live in, make sure to be clear on which stores are participating to Black Friday sweeps and what kind of items will be part of their sale. You can find this information out from clerks or information centers within stores, but your best bet would be taking to employees who work in the aisles of the stores or at serving counters. That’s because, if they’re nice, they’re going to be truthful about Black Friday sales in the store. Management will usually lead people on with ambiguous information to draw them to the store on discount days – and keep them there. Clerks are your best bet, especially if they’re unhappy with their job. It’s a bit of an exploit, this one, but it really works if you are lucky and find friendly clerks.
Once you know the stores that you’re going to be visiting, you can create your shopping list. Most stores have catalogs online, so you can use those to make a list. You can use screenshots of products that you want to buy and save them on your phone, so that you can easily spot them when in a rush. Dividing your list into multiple categories is another good idea that has worked for me in the past. The items that you “need” should be first on the list. These items should also have a backup list featuring similar items from other brands or from other stores, in case you can’t get the specific item you’re looking for.
If there are items on your Black Friday shopping list that you know everyone is going to be after, like consoles, tablets and TVs, make sure to jot down at least three alternatives to the item on your list – from different brands, different shops or from online shops. This way, you can easily see what you have to buy and what you can buy if you don’t find your original picks. This will save you time on Black Friday because you won’t be taking your phone out to search for similar items. It will also save you time and money because you will have a sense of purpose and you will know exactly what you’re looking for. This way, it will be harder to distract you with other offers and products that you pass by.
It’s a good idea to put estimated prices on your shopping list, too, to prevent you from spending too much. For example, if you have a hand mixer in your “need” category and you’ve picked one that costs $200 before Black Friday, expecting the price to drop to $100, make sure to note down the maximum amount you would be willing to pay for that item. In our scenario, let’s say our max price for this particular hand mixer is $120. If the price on the gadget is higher than the one you’re willing to pay, go to your alternative on the shopping list. The alternative should be a hand mixer that’s cheaper, but you can find in the same place. This way, you won’t grab the hand mixer that is not as cheap as you expected it to be and thus end up saving a couple of bucks on Black Friday shopping.
For shared shopping lists and even for your own list, it’s best to use paper in store. While I do advise you to keep your list on a smartphone because it’s easier to edit and stay on top of, when it comes to following a list in store, that’s about the worst idea. Use a paper shopping list because in the madness that is Black Friday, your phone is bound to get knocked out of your hands in the store. Although smartphones are a good investment during Black Friday, you don’t have to create need to buy them. Shared shopping lists are also better off on paper, even though apps do help groups keep on top of their shopping lists. It’s just not worth the risk of losing or damaging your phone in the crowd, in my opinion.
3. Plan your route
Many shoppers in the U.S. go through malls or a couple of big markets on Black Friday and many times they get sidetracked or lost and end up forgetting to buy the items that they actually came shopping for. To avoid confusion and to save gas, it’s good to plan your route ahead of time. If you’re going to the mall and you’re familiar with its crowd, you’re going to have an easier time doing this. First, identify the stores that you want to visit and write them all down or mark them on a small map of your city. Then, map your route out based on how many items you need to pick up from each store. The stores from which you want the most items should be the first ones you visit, but take into account the crowd of the store, if you’re familiar with it. If your local Mall has a lot of gamers who crowd tech stores quickly, keep in mind that the game shop will be packed and you would be better off ordering online. If you prefer to go to the store, your best strategy is to pick out the items you need before going into the shop and targeting them only.
If you are planning to visit multiple stores in a mall, start at the top floor. You might miss out on products that are discounted on the bottom floor, but you’ll be first on the top floor of the building, avoiding the crowds. Map your mall out and mark each shop that you want to visit before starting your expedition so you don’t get lost. Teamwork is very important when shopping on Black Friday, so if at all possible, don’t go alone. Split the shopping lists you have created with members of your shopping party to save time and money. You could also use the assault tactic, if you’re on a team: half your team starts on the first floor of the mall while the other half starts at the top. This way, you can cover more ground in less time and take advantage of all the Black Friday discounts.
If your Black Friday shopping plan includes multiple stores in different locations, make sure to have a detailed map of your route on hand at all times. Part near the exits of mall and store parking lots, so that you can easily navigate your way out of the madness. Those fortunate enough to have multiple cars in their family or in the shopping group can split up stores and share shopping lists to make the most of Black Friday. Plan your route based on importance of stores to your shopping list. If your “need” list is filled with cookware, the first store you should visit is going to be a cookware store. Items on your shopping list that are in the “want” category (like upgrades to existing gadgets in your home, games, gifts, etc) should come after you’ve completed your “need’ category.
4. Set a budget
Black Friday shopping can be hectic and overwhelming, and the excitement can easily bring you to spend a lot of money without even realizing it. The problem with Black Friday discounts is that they make products seem like they are super-cheap and make customers forget that even smaller sums add up. This way, a lot of people end up spending thousands and thousands of dollars on Black Friday only to find themselves regretting the most of their purchases. One sneaky way to avoid this is to set a budget well ahead of time for Black Friday shopping.
Setting a budget isn’t the easiest of all on Black Friday since you can’t anticipate the prices you will be paying. Nonetheless, you can set yourself a max amount you’re willing to spend, for example $1000. If you’re doing your shopping in stores, it’s best if you carry cash in the max amount that you’re willing to spend. Credit cards, especially contactless credit cards, are a no-no when Black Friday shopping, especially since contactless cards tend to pay for more than just your shopping – it depends on the card you have, but be wary. Also, credit cards during shopping are an incentive to spend more and more because you don’t have a physical limit like with cash. It’s best if you just take the cash you’re willing to spend, secure it in the inside of your clothes grouped in hundreds, fifties or some such even sums, so it doesn’t get stolen or lost.
When calculating a Black Friday budget, it’s good to have current price estimates inside. For example, if you’re after a PC that would cost you about $1000 now, your target price on Black Friday – and the max price you are willing to pay for it would be at around $700. It’s better to set lower max values, such as $500 in our case, but it’s safer to set higher ones for the items that are in your “need” category of your shopping list. If a PC is incremental to you and the most important on your list, it should have the top priority and the most funds allocated to it, so as to prevent you from spending additional money on things you don’t need. Calculate the max value you are willing to pay for a product and add everything up to find your total budget.
If that goes over what you’re willing to spend, you can start either eliminating products from your list or setting lower max price values for each. This is how that works: you set a $300 max price for all the tech accessories like speakers, mics, camera lenses, smartphone cases, laptop covers and so on. If your total budget for Black Friday is above the one you would like to pay, bring down the sum you’re willing to allocate to accessories to $200 or $150 – half. This way, you can even out your shopping list and invest where you need to, not where you want to. Prioritize the items on your list and estimate less for those that are not as important. This way, if you find an item for the lower price that you set, you can buy it, but if you can find it for a higher price only, you can easily let go of that item because it doesn’t fit in with your plans.
Although it will be hard to concentrate on these financial aspects of Black Friday shopping while in stores, they are a must, unless you want to spend a fortune on discounted stuff you’ll never use. Setting goals, max values, budgets and lists is a good way to prevent you and your family from spending too much and from getting items that your household doesn’t really need. Splitting your list up into categories and setting and adjusting price goals is the easiest way to make the most of Black Friday discounts. Even if it will take up some time to plan ahead, it’s totally worth it.
5. Stay on top of the paperwork
Shopping on Black Friday has a few caveats. Many times, you won’t have the chance to get a warranty or insurance because of the crowded stores and occupied employees. Warranty and insurance is very important if you’re buying larger items that are meant to last for a couple of years. You must not buy anything like this on Black Friday if you can’t get a solid warranty or insurance plan to go with it. As I said before, many items that are cheapest on Black Friday are refurbished items or slightly used items that are in good working condition. These are prone to getting early malfunctions because of the way in which they were handled or put back together. That’s why warranty or insurance is a must on Black Friday, otherwise you might end up with a bunch of useless junk you can’t even resell.
To avoid getting trapped in stores signing warranties and insurance papers, it’s good to have all the documentation necessary on hand. IDs and other documents you might need, depending on your country and store that you’re shopping in, should be somewhere easy to reach. Front pockets with zippers are the best ways to keep your documents safe and on hand, just make sure not to forget the zipper open and lose your documents in the chaos within stores. If you have documents on hand, employees will get through your papers faster and you’re going to be done earlier.
For online Black Friday shopping, make sure to have all your documents on hand when the delivery comes and don’t pay the man or don’t take over the product until you test it and verify that documentation is in order and you received all the care packages and accessories that you bargained for. Online stores usually offer a 15 or 30 day return period so jot down these specifics of stores in your email or in a note, so that you know what to expect when the product comes around.
At the same time, if the things you ordered on Black Friday are late or take some time to get shipped to you, make sure to jot down all the information about products that you ordered, because you might forget. When the product arrives, make sure to know what to expect, so as you don’t take over products you didn’t order, defective products or products that are missing warranty or insurance information. Paperwork can be a hassle, but it’s very important to keep on top of it so as not to regret it later on. It would be a bummer if you bought a PS4 but didn’t pay attention to its warranty and end up with a faulty device after a couple of months which you can’t replace. Happy Black Friday shopping guys! Enjoy your discounted items.