Save More on Black Friday with These Tips

The biggest shopping day of the year is almost upon us.

Will you be one of the thousands (maybe even millions) of shoppers hitting the stores as early as 5am to get your hands on spectacular deals before they’re all gone? Regardless of whether you’re one of the hardy souls who plan to be out there early or one who plans to take it all a bit more slowly, if follow these basic tips, you’ll stretch your dollars further on Black Friday (or if you’re shopping from your computer, on Cyber Monday).

1. Start with a List and a Budget

Know what you can spend before you start shopping. Do not, we repeat, do not walk out the door to go shopping without having taken this step. Allot a specific dollar amount that you can spend on a gift for each person. If you’re budget is tight this year, don’t forget to include dollars you may have sitting on unused or half-used gift cards. Credit card points are another source of hidden ‘dollars.’

2. Brainstorm and Research

Don’t give someone the gift YOU want to receive. Take the time to figure out what THEY want to receive (within your budget constraints, of course). This is the really fun part. Take a few moments to put yourself in the shoes of the other person. If you’re feeling ‘stuck’ log on to a mega retailer’s site like Amazon.com, grab the stack of catalogs that has been accumulating in your mailbox, peruse the circular ads in your most recent newspaper, and search for gift guides online from bloggers you love. Have fun, let your mind go! The beauty of the internet is that it’s so easy to get ideas and make sure those ideas are in the right price range.

3. Research Deals

Once you have your list, then go to a comparison shopping site like Shopping.Yahoo.com – one that lets you see the items in a grid that lets you compare the features/prices for products. Another good one is bizrate.com. See quickly what stores are carrying the items you want for the lowest price. Also, check out www.BlackFriday2009 and www.RetailMeNot.comto see if particular retailers are offering deals or coupons for the things on your lists. Please, please beware of deals that are advertised as “limited quantities.” That could mean that there are as few as 1 or 2 items at that price in each store. For example, CNNMoney.com reported that while Sears has not officially revealed its Black Friday sales, the company confirmed that two of its post-Thanksgiving deals include a Samsung 40-inch 1080p LCD HDTV for $599.99, “Only while quantities last, minimum three per store, no rainchecks.” That means if you’re not first, second or third in line on Friday morning, you probably won’t be getting that deal. Read the fine print and plan accordingly. No gift is worth getting hurt over in a stampede.

If you want to skip the research and wing it. Download a nifty little iPhone App for free called SnapTell. It uses the camera feature of the iPhone to snap pictures of any book, CDs or video game and within seconds gives you a rating, description and links to sites like Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, IMDB, eBay, Barnes & Noble and more. That makes it very easy to comparison shop on the fly, something virtually impossible to do before.

4. Make a Plan for Black Friday

The last thing you want to do is be running around like a chicken without a head and ending up with little to show for your efforts. Take your gift list and group the gifts by store. Identify which retailer you must hit early to take advantage of the big sales, and from there plan the rest of your excursions in a way that will be most efficient from a time and gas standpoint.

Above all – don’t stress about finding the ‘perfect’ deal. First of all, there will always be another deal on something juicy down the line. Secondly, the holidays aren’t about any one thing, but rather the joy of remembering those you love with tokens of your affection. It’s not the token that matters so much, but the affection with which it is given.

Happy bargain hunting!