Doorbusters, price-matching, online coupons, instant rebates, mail-in rebates -- you could almost go broke saving money with all the deals to be had this year. "With the economy still slow and many Americans on a strict budget, retailers are going to be offering a lot of great deals this holiday season," says Luke Knowles, co-founder of Coupon Sherpa, a comprehensive resource where consumers can find online coupons, printable coupons and grocery coupons."Black Friday is an ideal time to take advantage of deep discounts."
To make the most of this year's bargains, plan carefully, says Knowles. Buy the paper on Thanksgiving Day and go through the circulars carefully and figure out what you want. "If you have your eye on a particular item, surf the price-comparison Web sites and record the prices for reference while shopping," he says. Don't trust your memory -- you'll see a lot of numbers when you're out shopping, and if you don't have an organized list, you'll confuse yourself.
While you're checking out the ads, be sure to note if certain prices are only good during specific hours. It won't do you any good to get up at the crack of dawn and be the first in line outside the store if the item you want is going to be $50 cheaper at noon.
Don't show up at the stores hoping to snag a great deal on whatever's on sale. Have a list that matches items to specific recipients. Ideally, start by creating a budget, and write down everything. You might think you'll remember how much you want to spend on your nieces, but seeing it in black and white when you're caught up in the thrill of the hunt will help keep you on track.
Write down exactly what you plan to buy on Black Friday, where you plan to get it, and how much it should cost. Clip out any relevant ads or coupons, and organize everything together. If you have all your documentation in one place, you have a much better chance of getting the deal you want.
And while you're jotting things down, be sure to note exactly what your money gets you, says Knowles. "Is the sale item stripped down or sold with all necessary parts? For example, some stores will low-ball the price on a computer printer but not include a printer cartridge, which can run to a pretty hefty figure."
Before you leave home on Black Friday, make sure you're ready to go. Eat something -- or pack a meal to have on the go. Take some bottled water along as well, and dress comfortably. Try to arrange for a friend or family member to drop you off, suggests Knowles. "Parking on Black Friday is a nightmare and can waste precious time. This is one instance, however, when biking or taking the bus doesn't make sense as your arms will be weighed down with packages at the end of the day," he says.
Along with the car, leave the kids at home, says Knowles. "Children will only slow you down and insist on buying extra items," he says. Find a sitter or a relative who can watch them for a few hours -- you'll save yourself plenty of aggravation, and probably some cash, as well.
Can't leave the kids at home? Find out here how to stop temper tantrums in public.
When the shopping is done, you still have some work. While you're still thinking of it, take 20 minutes to fill out all your mail-in rebate forms and put them in the mailbox. Keep copies of everything you send, just in case.
A little careful planning is all it takes to ensure a successful haul on Black Friday. Check back with us next week for our recommendations for what to buy for everyone on your list!
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