I won't be leaving the house today. In fact, I probably won't even get dressed, today. While legions of people have been out shopping since the wee hours, mapping out store interiors, and scrambling for coveted doorbusters, I'm right here at my computer. I'm shopping, too, but I I'm doing it online.
Here's the thing: If you know how to deal-hunt online, you can reap all of the rewards of Black Friday with none of the drawbacks. And if you really know what you're doing, you may do some shopping today, but you also know that there's plenty of online deals to be had after today, so you're not stressed out about getting everything done on this one sacred shopping day as if every store in the world is going to charge full price for the rest of the season.
Ready to do some stress-free online shopping to score some deals today? Let's go.
1) Know your budget and your target purchases ahead of time. Having a plan and spending limits in place is a good idea whenever you shop, but on a day when the flash sales and doorbuster specials are flying at you fast and furious, it's even more important. You don't necessarily have to know exactly which toys you plan to pick up for Junior, but knowing what sort of thing you're seeking and how much money is earmarked for that purchase can eliminate the impulse purchase of that "great deal" that's really the wrong item and/or more money than you should spend. Remember: If it costs more than you can afford or if it's something you can't use, it's not a deal, no matter how much you supposedly saved.
2) Have accounts where you plan to shop, and be signed in and ready to purchase. Some of the greatest deals -- Amazon has been doing tons of Lightning Deals this week, for example, and there's a crop of them running today -- will literally be snapped up within minutes of when they appear. Amazon gives you just 15 minutes to sign out with a Lightning Deal item before the price expires, and many retail sites will just remove something from your cart if it sells out while you're scrambling for your credit card number. If there are sites you know you'll be patronizing today, make sure all of you information is already on file and ready to go, so that checkout can be just a few clicks rather than pages of information input.
3) Turn on your deal radar. I, of course, would love it if each and every one of you joined me over at Want Not for today's best deals, but the reality is that there are countless sites on the 'net posting deals and steals. The savviest shoppers will be visiting multiple deal sites to stay on top of their game. There will also be deal announcements from your favorite retailers on Facebook and Twitter, so fan and follow stores you love. This is the cyber equivalent of putting your ear to the ground; it's a great day for deals, and the more places you make sure you can "hear" about them, the more bargains you'll score.
4) Stack the savings. Don't assume that a sale is the only savings to be had, today. Plenty of stores with site-wide markdowns also have a coupon available that can be used in conjunction with the markdowns. Some sites allow multiple coupons on the same order, even. You may have a credit card with a shopping portal where you earn extra rewards for purchasing at various locations. That same credit card may allow you to redeem points or bonus dollars for shopping certificates. Maybe you bought a Groupon or other similar discount certificate earlier this year which can now be used on the sale you're shopping. While speed is sometimes important with certain types of deals, other times it's slow and steady that yields the best savings -- stack up those discounts wherever you can.
5) Remember that today is a great day to shop, but it's definitely not the only day. Black Friday is a great day to score deals both online and off, absolutely. But many of the deals you'll see today will be extended through the weekend. And of course there's Cyber Monday coming up, too. After that? Well, the in-store sales will more or less be "business as usual," but online we'll continue to see plenty of discounts through the end of the year. So while I definitely encourage shopping the sales today, relax! You still have time -- and there will still be deals -- to get whatever else you need before the holidays.
The most important thing about shopping online today, of course, is that when the inevitable news story about stampedes at the mall comes out, you get to feel all smug about your decision to stay home rather than braving the crowds. I'm pretty sure that is the best bargain of all.
BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir Kamin believes that friends don't let friends pay retail. She blogs near-daily about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and is furiously posting all day long about the best Black Friday deals today at Want Not.
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