While experts say the best deals may happen long before Black Friday, advance preparation is key to making sure you bring home the best deals for the holiday. According to the National Retail Federation, the average holiday shopper spent $423 over Thanksgiving weekend in 2012. They project holiday retail sales will grow 3.9 percent overall in 2013. Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland offers ten tips to help you shop with confidence.
1. Get Ready. Set your budget. Make your list. Begin research and get to know competitive prices for targeted gifts. Collect ads and coupons. If you plan to do in-store shopping, stash them in your purse or car and take them with you for reference.
2. Avoid the hype. If you’ve started at the top of our list, you’re focused on the bottom-line. Don’t be seduced by dramatic savings, “doorbusters” or other discount claims. Zero-in on the price, not the percentage off. And, remember, some of the steepest discounts are limited quantity offers. The stores are betting you’ll buy at the higher price or impulse buy even if you miss the real deal.
3. Protect your computer. Before you go clicking on unfamiliar or look-alike websites, make sure your computer has updated virus and spyware protection. Avoid using public wi-fi to make purchases look for encryption at the time of check out (https) and watch out for phishing emails disguised as shipping confirmations.
4. Shop with Trust. It’s true, your best offense is a good defense and BBB can help. Check bbb.org for objective information on millions of businesses including online and brick and mortar retailers. When shopping, be sure to click on the BBB Accredited Business seal to verify authenticity.
5. Plan for rewards. Some retailers offer added discounts to “rewards shoppers.” Check ads and offers and be prepared to show your card upon purchase.
6. Set up alerts. Take advantage of technology with sale email alerts from trusted retailers on items of interest. According to experts, you may find as good as, or better deals on Black Friday while shopping from the comfort of home compared to Cyber Monday.
7. Apps to keep you on track. Holiday shopping, yep, there’s an app for that! Consider outfitting your mobile device with a budgeting app, a shopping, tracking and shipping organizer, or another for customized Black Friday alerts.
8. Shop small. Founded in 2010, Shop Small Saturday, which falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is a promotion to keep a portion of holiday spending in your local community. Save time and gas and help your local economy on Saturday, November 30.
9. Pay with cash. If you didn’t already plan ahead, this may be a moot point. But in order to avoid the post-holiday debt hangover, paying for gifts with cash is the best way to save and control spending. If you must resort to paying with credit, use the card with the best terms.
10. Read return and exchange policies. While many retailers offer extended holiday return periods, the return deadlines, like January 15 for Best Buy, can sneak up quickly. The rule of thumb: there must be a posted policy and that goes for online and in-store sales. So, before you click purchase or open your wallet, read the policy. Some stores may only allow for store credit, others may require the original receipt and photo ID for money back. Some online purchases can be exchanged in store, others may not. Check the policy to be sure.