Of course, shopping and being frugal don't always go hand in hand.
That said, I know that Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) is one of (if not THE) biggest shopping days of the year. Every year I get up super early (and generally do minimal grooming - aren't you glad you know that) and head out with the early crowds to get the best deals.
Over the years, I have found certain tips and strategies that I would like to point out when it comes to saving money and getting the biggest bang for your buck!
- Make a List. That means you need to plan ahead. Never, ever, ever venture out there thinking "I wonder what I'll find." That would be the perfect way to fall victim to advertising schemes galore (as well as end up in the longest lines ever). Kind of like Santa, you need to make a list (and check it twice). Write down all of the people you need to shop for AND have an idea of two things: What you want to buy and what you're willing to spend. Even if you only have one or the other, it is a good start.
- Do Your Due Dilligence. After you make a list, then go ahead and start looking online or in stores to see how much something is going to cost. Actually, this is probably better to do a couple of weeks in advance, but as long as you do it before you even look at Black Friday ads you should be good. You need to have a general idea of the regular retail value of the item.
- Research your BF Ads. Even before you get the paper on Turkey Day to check out those lovely little inserts, you can look online for the deals. Sites like BFads.net have scanned versions of the ad available to glance over ahead of time. And of course, on Thanksgiving itself, go out and get your paper! The small change it takes to purchase the paper is worth it. Now, I know that you can get a lot of this stuff online now, but for some reason I still feel those paper inserts are better to work from.
- Know the Deal. Look for deals on the items you have on your wish list. If there is something that you are thinking about getting, circle it or flag it and move on.
- Don't Fall for "Bargains". Sometimes the bargains you find on Black Friday are just too good to pass up, or so they seem. Don't fall into the trap of "well it's only $10 for a toaster - I'm sure that would make a good gift for SOMEONE." That's a sure fire way to spend more than you wanted to and end up without the gifts you want to give. And then you'll spend extra time trying to figure which second aunt thrice removed wants a toaster. Unless someone on your list wants a toaster. Then by all means, get a toaster. Disclaimer: I have no hate for toasters. They just happened to be my widget of choice for this example.
- Make a Game Plan. After you've looked through all of the ads and figured out what you need to get, make your game plan for the am/day. Of course plan to hit any stores that have doorbuster items as soon as possible. Be prepared to wait in line though, and also be prepared to not get something in lieu of something better. For example, if you want to save $10 off of a memory card at Best Buy but also really want to save $50 on a comfortor elsewhere, both of which you must get by 10 am, be prepared to sacrifice perhaps the lower savings for the greater savings. Keep in mind that lines are very long at some places (especially Best Buy, Toys R Us, Target) so you should account for that in your game plan. Try to map out your shopping to maximize your time and increase efficiency.
- Double Team It. If you can go with someone else, you may end up saving more. Being able to "divide and conquer" will definitely save you time. Someone can stand in line while the other grabs what needs to be bought. I know this sounds like a war time strategy, but time is precious and deals are sometimes scarce.
- Don't Buy Into It. Sometimes stores will post very misleading signs to catch the unsavvy shopper. They'll bost "Only $29.99 Now - Regularly $59.99". This is where the prep comes in handy. Sometimes stores will post these signs and prices, even though they pretty much always have the item on sale close to that price.
- Time is Precious. Never discount the fact that your time is a precious commodity. Don't stand in line for two hours to save $5. Yes, your pocket book won't have as big of a dent, but your time is important too! I always try to figure out the break even point if there is a long line...with the breaking point being at least minimum wage. If I have to stand in line for an hour, I better be saving more than one hour's worth of minimum wage work.
- Have Fun. Don't forget to have fun. Make a treat of it! Some places even hand out coffee and snacks to early shoppers, so make sure you treat yourself. Don't forget that it is the holiday season - and at the heart of the season isn't the gifts, it is the fun, family, and friends that you hold dear!