Black Friday may still be more than a week away, but stores have been preparing for the year’s biggest retail holiday for months. As ShopSmart magazine explained, “Thanks to ‘holiday creep’ – the same phenomenon that puts Christmas decorations in stores before you’ve finished eating your Halloween candy – you can probably grab some Black Friday-style deals now.” And they said that last month.
So if you haven’t already started your Black Friday prep, now’s the perfect time to scope out the deals and ensure you’ll get the best price on Nov. 25. You don’t even have to leave home – all the tools you need are online…
Step 1: Find deals
Online ads: If you don’t subscribe to a tangible newspaper, I recommend ShopLocal.com, run by newspaper owner Gannett Company. The site’s Weekly Ads feature allows you to browse the same circulars that run in your local Sunday papers. On the downside, ShopLocal doesn’t offer the coupons you’d find in a newspaper, but there are plenty of coupon websites, including our Deals page.
You can also check the websites of the stores you might shop at on Nov. 25. Most post their ads online. If not, try a site that specializes in Black Friday deals. ShopSmart recently recommended BFAds and BlackFriday.info.
Social media: Walmart announced earlier this month that, for the first time, it would offer their Facebook fans an “early, exclusive preview of its most highly sought-after Black Friday specials” – which they published on Nov. 10. This type of marketing strategy has become increasingly popular as more stores realize that one of the best ways to encourage consumers to join their social networks is to entice them with social media-exclusive offers.
So “like” the Facebook pages and follow the tweets of the stores you may shop at on Black Friday. If the extra messages clutter your Facebook and Twitter feeds too much, unsubscribe after the holiday.
Step 2: Get the best price
Price-comparison sites: These self-explanatory websites allow you to plug in a product and find out which store sells it for the least. If you’ve never used one before, try Bizrate, Nextag, or Pricegrabber.
Step 3: Don’t get burned
Return policies: Unless you want to eat the cost of a regrettable purchase or stick a loved one with an unwanted gift, check return policies before you shop. Nearly every reputable store posts its policy online, so there’s no excuse.
Return time windows range from 48 hours to forever, and some stores charge a restocking fee for returns. Here’s How to Spot the Best Return Policies for Your Holiday Shopping.
Karla Bowsher runs the Deals page, writes “Today’s Deals” posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and covers consumer and retail issues. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, leave a comment or contact her at [email protected].