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As you’re lining up like cattle and preparing to elbow your way to a bargain this Friday, keep this in mind: No matter how good the deal, you could have done better.
While Black Friday will almost certainly offer some great “doorbusters,” there are simple ways to beat sale prices all year round…
1. Buy used
Buying things that are pre-owned is a simple way to save up to 90 percent any time. While there are obviously gifts that don’t lend themselves to this idea, there are plenty that do. Places like garage sales and thrift shops and sites like Craigslist and eBay offer just about anything you can think of at prices a fraction of new.
Fight the crowds on Black Friday and you might buy a $500 TV for $250. Sleep in, scope out Craigslist, and you might find a $1,000 TV for $150. Better yet, check out Freecycle and you might find one for nothing.
2. Give what you already have
When I was about 14, my mother suggested I fix up an old bicycle that was sitting around collecting dust and give it to someone less fortunate. (It was a very cool bike: a Mattel Stallion)
With a little funding from my mom, I put on new tires, new hand grips, did a lot of polishing and basically made it look new. I’ll never forget the look on the face of the recipient, a kid from the projects I’d never met.
What do you have lying around that could be restored and given as a gift? Giving something you already have will reduce your clutter and provide a gift for a price no Black Friday sale can touch.
There’s nothing wrong with giving someone a gift you’ve received – even the Emily Post Institute says so. Just be sure you don’t space out and give it to the same person who gave it to you.
Give something you didn’t pay for and you’ve beaten the pants off Black Friday prices because you got a 100 percent discount.
4. Make it yourself
If you’re handy and have the time, there are tons of gifts you can make yourself for a fraction of the cost of store-bought.
Handmade gifts are not only less expensive, they’re unique and more memorable. Two of the best gifts I’ve gotten in recent memory were a sculpture and a framed custom print, both from artist friends. The labor of love far outweighs even the priciest stuff snagged cheap on Black Friday.
Even if you’re all thumbs, there are things you can make. This post from About.com lists 100. Do a search and you’ll find plenty more.
5. Give yourself
Even if you don’t have the time or ability to make gifts, you’re already in possession of something everyone can use: you. Whether it’s babysitting, cooking a meal, cleaning the house, or preparing a picnic, giving yourself costs nothing but time, and will likely be greatly appreciated.
Memories are much more valuable than the stuff you’ll find on Black Friday. Figure out how to create some, make a personal gift certificate, and you can cross one present off your list without spending a dime.
6. Get $25 free on Small Business Saturday
If you have an American Express credit card and register to take advantage of their Small Business Saturday promotion, you’ll get a $25 statement credit for a single in-store purchase of $25 or more at a participating small business. Buy something that costs $25, and it’s essentially 100 percent off – free. See any big box stores offering that kind of deal on Black Friday? And it’s a whole lot less hassle.
Enrollment began yesterday, and it’s limited. So if you’ve got an American Express card, do it now.
Bottom line? While this post was partially tongue-in-cheek – obviously there are bargains to be found on Black Friday – that single day isn’t shopping nirvana. Substitute a little imagination for your money, and you can beat the best Black Friday deals anytime.