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Shopping Tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Published by: LifeWorks,

Many of us wait all year for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping season, our heads filled with the promise of scoring the best price on high-tech gadgets. But don’t let all this hype fool you. You might end up overpaying, and you can miss out on great deals if you don’t do your homework. Save money and time with our top tips for smart shopping. Whether you’re heading out on foot to battle the crowds or taking on the excitement online from the comfort of your home, you’ll be prepared!

1. Be a strategic shopper. Don’t spend money needlessly. Before buying something, ask yourself whether you need it. You may find that you don’t, or that you can’t afford it, at least at the moment.

2. Compare, compare, compare. Comparison shopping can save you a lot of money. Search for leaked ads online, download shopping apps, sign up for retailers’ newsletters and follow social handles of your favourite retailers. Make a chart for a side-by-side comparison of price, features, and other details of the products you are considering – especially when it’s a big-ticket purchase.

3. The reviews are in! For expensive items, it pays to find out as much as you can about different brands, what’s right and wrong about them, how reliable they are, and what kind of service record they have. Look for unbiased product ratings and reviews from other consumers on the Consumer Reports magazine and or search for consumer reviews on the Internet simply by typing in the name of the retailer and the term “consumer reviews.”

4. Family knows best. Get recommendations from friends and family for large-ticket items. Ask people you trust to recommend a particular product or store based on their personal buying experience. Run deals through their filter – you can bring them shopping with you or call them on the spot – it always helps to get a second opinion.

5. Shop at stores with good reputations. Ask about the return policy before you make a purchase. Ask if they will match lower prices found elsewhere, or if you get any further discount by buying multiple items, for example, two or more appliances, at the same time.

6. Keep it organized Write shopping lists on a computer or by hand with section headings, such as “Christmas gifts” and “High-tech gadgets”. Write down the items you need to buy to save yourself from running back and forth — and to prevent impulse purchases. Write down the names of the people for whom you want to buy gifts. Keep this in a convenient place, and jot down gift ideas as they occur to you, even if a birthday or holiday is far away. This way you will be prepared when you come across the perfect item in the store.

7. Prepare for long lines You probably won’t wait in line a lot if you shop early in the morning or after the dinner hour. But expect to face long lines and impatient customers the rest of the day. Go prepared in comfortable clothes — particularly comfortable footwear — in case you end up standing for a few hours. Also be prepared with emergency snacks like granola bars, bananas, or a bag of nuts for a protein pick-me-up when you need it.

8. Look for stores that sell a range of goods. Some large grocery and department stores also sell housewares, pharmaceuticals, take-out food and flowers, and offer banking, optical, and travel agent services under one roof. Shopping at these stores will save you from having to make several stops.

9. Make a budget and stick to it. Don’t buy things just because it’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Buying something you don’t need is never a bargain, no matter how low the price is. Decide how much money you want to spend on holiday shopping. Keep a running total of what you’ve spent as you buy each gift.

10. Look for free shipping. You may get a great sale price, but then pay big shipping and handling charges. Add up all these costs before you place your order. Some online and catalogue merchants offer free shipping from time to time. However, they may require you to spend more than a certain amount to qualify for free shipping, or you may have to wait a few extra days to receive your items if “express shipping” is not included.

11. Save time by purchasing gift cards. These make it easy to keep track of your holiday spending. If you’re not sure where the recipient likes to shop, you can purchase a mall gift card, or an American Express, MasterCard or Visa gift card that can be used wherever these credit cards are accepted.

12. Double-check the size of clothing or shoes. To save time on returns, consult the retailer’s sizing guides. Fit varies considerably from retailer to retailer. If you’re unsure of sizing (clothes, shoes, or otherwise), find out if exchanges can be done in lieu of a full product return.

13. Check the return policy before you buy. Make sure that you keep a record of your purchases, especially if your shopping list includes high-ticket items, because you never know when you may need to do a return or exchange. If you need to send the item back, you’ll probably have to repackage it, bring it to the post office or a shipping company, and pay the postage. Some catalogue and online merchants allow you to return items to their actual stores — a convenience if one is located near you.

14. Before ordering from a catalogue or online, be sure you are dealing with a reputable company. You can contact the Better Business Bureau to learn whether complaints have been filed against the company. You can also look up the company on the Better Business Bureau’s website at http://www.bbb.org.

15. Have fun. We know how appealing the idea of shopping serious sales must be to the shopper within you. Don’t get caught up in the chaos of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Keep your cool, and remember: If you don’t get the items at the top of your wish list … there’s always next year.

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