Black Friday shopping rituals can lead to a dangerous herd mentality. Be careful out there! Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
The deals and promotions this Black Friday can be overwhelming, and it's a well-known fact that consumers don't even necessarily get the best deals on the biggest shopping day of the year. It's easy to get trapped into buying unnecessary items in excess (waffle maker riots, anyone?) or get blinded by stores that post more advertisements but have fewer promotions.
Stephanie Nelson, better known as Coupon Mom, shares five essential tips on snagging the best deals on Black Friday:
1. Plan your budget. This seems like a no-brainer, but jumping into Black Friday without a plan can mean overspending on things you don't need. Instead, draft a list of gift recipients and what you want to buy for them. "Figure out how much you want to spend and stick with that, then divide your budget among your gift recipients," said Nelson. "And plan your store strategy — you can't get to every store when the doors open." Nelson also suggests googling "Black Friday ads" to see which stores have good deals that match your gift list.
2. Skip the mall. Really? Skip the mall on Black Friday? Believe it or not, Nelson says you can find even better deals outside the big shopping centers. "Prices for the things you need are probably going to be as good or perhaps lower at other retailers," said Nelson, not to mention fewer crowds. Nelson loves to hit national drug store chains on Black Friday, like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. "These stores have items that are free — I counted up 83 free deals between the three stores." These deals include items like name-brand cosmetics, nail polish, snacks and disposable cameras, which make great stocking stuffers. Nelson suggests getting creative and putting together themed gift baskets, like a basket of cosmetics and nail polishes for a teenage niece.
Nelson also pointed out that these stores sometimes offer automatic rebates. For example, CVS will offer instant rebates through their Extra Bucks Rewards program. "If I buy a $5 item with an Extra Bucks Reward, then I'll get $5 to use on anything next time," she said. If you can find a coupon for these items, then you could even make money. "If you buy a $5 shampoo with an Extra Bucks Reward and you have a $2 coupon, you'll pay $3, but the promotion will still give you $5 Extra Bucks, so it's kind of like you got the free item and if you use that item, you make a profit," explained Nelson. That's not just a deal — that's a steal. Super savvy shoppers can even strategically divide up their items into two transactions at the register by using their rewards to buy the second half of their items.
3. Compare your prices. Use search engines to compare prices when shopping online. In stores, Nelson likes to use price comparison apps on her smartphone. "You can scan the barcode in the store and it will tell you competitors' prices for the same item," she said. RedLaser is one popular app, but Nelson recommends comparing different apps to find the best fit for you.
4. Shop online to save time and money. "Online retailers are not going to sit by and let brick-and-mortar stores get all the money," explained Nelson. "They're also offering generous coupon codes and promotions." Nelson suggests doing an online search for the name of the retailer with "coupon code" or "promo code" to see what is available before you place your order.
5. Stack coupons on top of the sale price. If you know where you're shopping, Nelson said it's key to Google the name of the retailer with the phrase "printable coupon" to see if there are any more coupons available online. In addition, make sure you check out the retailer's Facebook and Twitter pages. "That's where they can put up real-time offers — make sure you follow their pages to get the latest and the greatest," said Nelson. "There are online coupon code sites and on Thursday, and even Wednesday, the newspapers are going to be filled with circulars and coupons for lots of retailers. That's not junk! Go through that stuff."