Holiday Shopping - Things to Remember on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Great information from Consumer Reports regarding the upcoming Holiday shopping season!
According to ConsumerReports.org, some of us wait all year for the Black Friday shopping season, our heads filled with the promise of scoring the very best price on a new TV, smart speakers or other high-tech gadget. But 2021 presents some unique challenges, with significant shortages in some product categories—yes, laptop computers and gaming consoles, we’re talking about you—combined with higher shipping costs and longer delivery times for items ordered online.
It’s also tricky to know when to shop. Some of the biggest retailers kicked off their holiday sales weeks earlier than usual this year, and consumers will have to decide whether to buy early to make sure they get the items they want, or hold off until closer to Black Friday in hope of getting the best deals. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many people may choose to minimize their in-store visits and instead shop online. But industry experts expect stores to be more crowded than they were in 2020.
One thing isn’t changing, though: Many of those deals masquerading as fantastic bargains are not as good as they look, and it’s easy to be fooled. No worries—Consumer Reports has been tracking Black Friday deals for years, and we know all the tricks. Our top Black Friday shopping tips will help you find the best offers and keep the frustration—and overspending—to a minimum.
1. Start early. Analysts we spoke with agree that starting to shop early this year will be a good strategy, not only because deals are kicking off earlier but also because hot products may sell out quickly, or fail to arrive at your doorstep on time. Toys should be bought early too.
2. Skip the in-store sales and shop online. While there will probably be a few more in-store promotions than there were last year, analysts expect a smaller number than in pre-pandemic days. But retailers will offer more of the same promotions online that they do in stores. And online shoppers may see more free delivery offers and ship-to-store programs with curbside pickup.
3. Use websites and apps. To judge how good the deals really are in crunch time, you need to track prices leading up to Black Friday. The same goes for Cyber Monday, which now stretches into a week of online specials. But you don’t have to go retailer by retailer to compare prices. The Consumer Reports website lists the current prices at various outlets for the products in our ratings.
4. Use loyalty programs. Store loyalty programs often grant members early access to coupons, sales, and promotions, then let them earn rewards on what they buy. So sign up for Black Friday shopping alerts. In some cases, you can even find out whether the products you want are in stock or eligible to buy online and pick up at a store, which can save you money on shipping.
5. Get social. The Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds of your favorite retailers are a great way to find out about exclusive deals and promotions. Retailers will often reward customers who like or follow them with special alerts to Black Friday discounts and incentives. And of course texts, tweets, and social media posts are an easy way to share Black Friday shopping intel with your friends, too.
6. Create a budget—and stick to it. Yes, this sounds simple. But Black Friday sales, especially the doorbuster specials available in limited quantities, are designed in part to get you into a store or shopping online so that the retailer can sell you stuff you weren’t intending to buy. It’s really easy to get caught up in the excitement and overspend. Decide ahead of time how much you want to your Black Friday shopping spree to cost, and do your best to resist impulse buying, especially if you’re not sure how good a deal is. With the shift to online buying, more of us will be using credit cards to pay for purchases. One benefit is that many cards will double the manufacturer’s warranty. But be wary of the interest-free promotions offered by store credit cards. They’re fine if you’re disciplined enough to pay off the balance before the promotional period ends, but if you don’t do that, you’ll get stuck paying interest on the full amount of the purchase, even if you’ve paid down a lot of the balance.
7. Check all store policies in advance. It’s always good to know a store’s price-match and return policies. Analysts expect more retailers to price-match specific deals this year. Almost all the major retailers have some form of price-match policy, and they’ve been expanding them almost every year.
Some stores suspend their price-match guarantees on certain items during the Black Friday weekend, however, so read the fine print. Check the return and exchange policies for Black Friday sales to make sure that the store won’t charge a restocking fee for any item you take back.
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