8 Black Friday Shopping Strategies

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Whether you’re a diehard tent-popper or stage a silent boycott every year, there’s no ignoring Black Friday. But are these deals as life-changing as we’re led to believe? Sometimes, yes, but in most cases, not really. After all, doorbuster discounts aren’t exclusive after Thanksgiving. In the past several years, retailers have held “Black Friday in July” sales, pre-holiday sales in October, and early bird sales the week before Black Friday.

Still, Black Friday is coming whether you like it or not. While some of you die-hards may have your strategy in place, newbies may need a tip or two if they plan to go shopping. Here are eight things to keep in mind as you prepare for Black Friday.

1. Make a List

Black Friday shopping can be overwhelming, so if you want to avoid going off the rails and buying a bunch of gifts you don’t need — or winding up in debt, which could drag down your credit — don’t keep your list in your head. Instead, use a gift-list app like Gifted (available on the Apple Store and Google Play) to keep track of recipients’ likes and dislikes, sizes, ideas and budgets.

2. Focus

Historically, the deepest Black Friday discounts are on electronics, apparel and beauty products, so instead of trying to conquer your holiday list in one day, focus on those three areas and tackle the other categories later. Also, since you still have plenty of time in the holiday shopping season to look for deals, go for only the deepest discounts (40% and up).

3. Sign Up for Store Emails

Now is a great time to sign up for emails from the stores you want to hit on Black Friday. You might be privy to advance details on sales or private discounts. Set up a separate free email account to capture that mail — there’s going to be a lot of it. Following stores on Twitter or Facebook can also keep you in the know.

4. Discounted Gift Cards

If you have a general idea of where you plan to shop, search online for “discounted gift cards (name of store),” and see what comes up. Many gift card merchants sell digital or printable gift cards that are discounted between 2% to 30%. Use that gift card to make a purchase, and you’ll save a bundle!

5. The Early Bird Bonus

If you’re game for getting up at the crack of dawn, you could be well-rewarded. In previous years, stores like H&M, Best Buy, JCPenney, Kohl’s & Kmart have handed out goodies like gift cards and even movie tickets to folks at the front of the line.

6. Consider Opening a Store Charge Account

Once you’ve made it to the store, you may consider asking about opening a store charge account to get an extra discount. While most stores offer 10% or 15% off your first purchase with a new account, some may have restrictions on sale days like Black Friday. If they don’t, you’ve scored an extra discount off of your Black Friday merch! Keep in mind, store cards usually have a high annual percentage rate (APR) so it’s a good idea to pay them in full. If you can’t, the rewards won’t be worth it. (Not sure if your finances can handle another credit card? You can view two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

7. Divide & Conquer

If there’s a store where you need to get several items, see if you can find a friend to join you. Compare lists and help each other out. You can dash off to the electronics section to grab discounted Apple Watches, and they can check out those doorbuster beauty deals you read about.

8. Don’t Ignore the Internet

If you just can’t bear the thought of pounding the pavement and fighting the crowds for deals, stay in, grab a cup of coffee, and check out the online deals. E-commerce retailers like Amazon (see my shopping hacks here), Target, Wal-Mart, Newegg and Best Buy are your best bet, as year after year they have offered Black Friday deals. Those with physical stores (like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy) may have exclusive online deals.

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Mall of America to Close on Thanksgiving This Year

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Big stores make headlines for keeping their doors open during the holidays, but not every major retailer will be open this Thanksgiving.

In fact, Mall of America, the nation’s largest shopping space, told employees and tenants Wednesday morning that it has, for the first time ever, no plans to open on Thanksgiving Day. Though its 520-plus stores have the option to remain open on the holiday, mall executives told the StarTribune they expect they’ll stay closed.

As the paper notes, most of the 1,200 mall workers will get the holiday off, and if stores follow its lead, their employees will also not work that day. A small number of security and maintenance personnel will be on hand at the Minnesota shopping center, however, in case some stores are open.

In recent years, the Black Friday craze has crept into Thanksgiving Day, but some major chains are bucking the trend. Among the many stores that refused to open on Thanksgiving Day last year were DSW, Nordstrom and Costco.

According to TheBlackFriday, a site that tracks Black Friday deals among big-box retailers like Best Buy and Wal-Mart, several stores will remain open on turkey day this year, including Walgreens, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and Target.

How to Shop Smart This Holiday 

The Mall of America may be closed on Thanksgiving, but that won’t stop some shoppers from going shopping and racking up debt. With all the door-buster deals and temptations out there, it’s understandable. But having a field day with your credit card can be a recipe for trouble if you can’t manage your debt or make payments on time. If you find yourself in trouble after a holiday spent racking up charges, be sure to check in on your credit to see where you stand and what you need to improve. You can view a free snapshot of your credit report on Credit.com.

Image: Kikovic

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What the Heck Is ‘Spring Black Friday’?

How to Avoid Panic Buying on Black Friday

If you’re among those people who get up before the sun rises just to save a few bucks on a TV the morning after binging on mashed potatoes and gravy, listen up: Lowe’s and Home Depot are having a special spring Black Friday sale, giving you the chance to get all the mulch and wheelbarrows your heart desires.

These sales last longer than a day (Lowe’s goes through April 11; Home Depot’s ends April 18), so you won’t need a tent to camp out this time, although you may pick one up while shopping.

Why Is This a Thing?

Retailers really like the idea of having promotions tied to Black Friday deals. The term causes consumers’ internal “big savings alert!” alarm to go off, so it’s an easy campaign for brands to run. If winter weather took its toll on decks, yards, or fences, these companies will likely see an additional boost in sales for things needed for repairs. Plus, many shoppers are looking for big-ticket summer items, such as grills and patio furniture.

How to Make the Most of It Without Breaking the Bank

If you’re escaping cabin fever brought on by the latest Nor’easter (or your city’s equivalent), these deals may sound appealing. Just make sure they’re in your budget, discounted or not. Making large purchases, especially on your credit card, can cause you to rack up unwanted debt if you’re not careful. (And maxing out your credit cards for the perfect outdoor furniture set can also ding your credit score. You can see how your credit card balances are impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

If there is something you want to purchase at a sale, it’s still a good idea to shop around, even online. Just because big letters in bright colors are saying there’s a sale doesn’t mean you should hand over your money right away. Read the fine print — are there restrictions or limitations on returns? — and make sure what you’re buying really is a good deal (and something you actually need).

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