So before you camp out in front of the store at 3 a.m., I thought I'd extol my tips to Black Friday shoppers (and my mom), in hopes of providing both solace to your wallet and some shut eye.
BASIC INTERNET TIPS
- Big-box stores do not always control, or share ownership under the same entity, as the official Web site. (I think this is silly, confusing, and counter productive.) This is worth knowing as prices in store, and online, may not match. Check the Web site to verify that the store will match online prices in-person before confronting a lowly employee to demand reparations.
- If you choose to buy online, you may have early deadlines. Plan accordingly. Most merchants have posted their deadline by now, so be sure to check that before you order.
- Worried about your private information? A store's Web store is generally safe. Buying from an unknown merchant? Look for the VeriSign logo or pay using PayPal. Verisign is generally a sign that the Web site has been verified as "safe." PayPal will transfer funds from your credit cards or accounts to the merchant without providing the merchant your private information. Amazon.com is also considered safe and does not provide your information to merchants.
- Most stores provide their ads online. You can compare all ads, including the ones you accidentally recycled, side-by-side in your Internet browser to compare the best prices. Because, before you join the mobs, that's what you need to do: Compare prices from one store to another, and compare the discount from the original price. Is 15% worth the missed sleep?
- You should also compare online. I like to use Amazon.com as a barometer as it will offer a bevvy of merchants, from the manufacturer to big-box stores and individual sellers. I feel like I get a good idea of the range or prices.
- Is there a store you know you'll frequent? Sign up for the mailing list. Mailing lists often include weekly coupons, and are more likely to include special savings and coupons during the holiday season. Borders and Barnes and Noble e-mail weekly coupons customers can print at home and bring to the store. American Eagle and its related companies are having a special one-day sale online. Mailing lists also include the much beloved coupon codes, a series of letters and numbers you enter near the end of your online transaction for additional discounts. Mailing lists are free, and if you decide you receive too much e-mail, you can always unsubscribe.
- Many Web sites are devoted to providing you with the best deals. Some will re-direct you to the direct site, some will provide coupon codes or printable coupons, and some will host the deals on their own. Here are some resources to get you started:
Cheap College Gamers
Retail Me Not
Tech Deal Digger
woot! (an article about this site is forthcoming)
I also like to check Consumerist's Morning Deals and Lifehacker's Deals of the Day.
- You can also search the Web for coupon codes for discounts and free shipping. Add "coupon codes" to the name of the retailer or merchant in an Internet search. You may find a code for free shipping or a discount. Retailers are smart to this now, and some may be blocked. I feel like this is sneaky, but I also can't afford anything full price. (So yes, I do it, all the time.)
- Many retailers and merchants offer free shipping.
- Coupons coupons coupons.
- There's usually a larger selection of sizes, styles, colors, and number of items in stock
- There are often lower prices online, and the prices are offered post-Black Friday
- Free shipping, free returns, in-store returns, and special online prices are often available
- ...And if free shipping isn't an option, it probably is if your order meets a minimum price requirement. If the order is from a larger retailer, such as Target or Amazon.com, see if you can combine the items on your shopping list to reach the higher price point. (Don't get just one thing if you might end up ordering again, or getting the item elsewhere.)
- Less stress, more sleep.
- I take a special joy in shopping online in my pajamas while watching crap TV.
- You can have time to hem and haw over items. (And no one is trampling you for the same item.)
- And, you have a bigger selection. You can buy anything you want.
- Shipping can add up when it's not free.
- You can't try anything on. Or pick up the item to feel it or examine it. (Sizing charts are usually available for clothes, and many items are reviewed online.)
- Shipping can take longer than a "few days," and waiting for an item to arrive is sometimes stressful.
- Some retailers will accept your order and then e-mail you hours later to let you know that the item is out of stock. (Looking at you, J Crew!)
- ...That's all I've got, people. I love online shopping. I bought kitchen gadgets, a giant tub of Utz chips (shipped to Oregon!), fashion tape, clothing (in fact, I bought a hoodie last Thanksgiving from the confines of a hospital bed!), and handmade goods from Etsy last year. Nearly everything was online. And it was awesome.
Lifehacker's Guide to Making the Most of Black Friday, Lifehacker
Busting Myths About Black Friday And Cyber Monday, Consumerist