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Despite being at the end of November, many people begin preparations for Black Friday as early as mid-October. The consumer holiday is so chaotic that any tips that help you get in and out of a store quickly can be worth more than gold.
But why endure the chaos of Black Friday at all? We prefer shopping online from the comfort of our homes. And if you adhere to a few useful tips, you can get all of your Black Friday shopping done in under an hour while nabbing better deals.
More time with family and more money in your pocket? It’s a win-win. Here’s how you can make the most of this year’s Black Friday online.
1. Update All Online Shopping Accounts
This is an easy step that’ll save you a lot of grief down the road. Black Friday is all about timing and efficiency, so spending a few minutes to take care of this ahead of time could be the difference between nabbing or losing a great deal.
In essence, all you have to do is visit all of your common online retailer accounts — that means Amazon, Rakuten, Newegg, TigerDirect, DealExtreme, etc. — and make sure that your shipping address and billing information are up-to-date.
If the retailer supports it, go ahead and set up one-click checkout as well. Again, every single second counts when it’s Black Friday shopping.
2. Use a Black Friday Deal Tracker
What’s annoying about Black Friday is that there’s no standard for deal announcements and when they go live. Keeping track of them all can be a pain, so your best bet is to let other people handle it for you.
For example, GottaDeal has an online Black Friday tracker that tracks sale details for all kinds of online retailers, ranging from Amazon to Walmart, from Home Depot to Sears. You can also sign up for their Black Friday alerts to get email notifications.
Two other sites that we consistently recommend are FatWallet and SlickDeals. If you haven’t gotten acquainted with them yet, you really should. They’ll provide you with hundreds of deals, and we’ve shown you how to sift through those deals, so you have no excuse not to use them.
3. Prepare Shopping Carts Ahead of Time
Are you shopping to find Black Friday deals that you might want? Or are you waiting for Black Friday deals on things you already want to buy? Depending on which you fall under, your approach should differ.
If you already know what you want, then go ahead and fill up your online shopping carts with those items. That way, when Black Friday deals start going live, you won’t have to scramble. You can simply check out.
At the same time, fill your carts with alternative items that you wouldn’t mind purchasing if your primary wishlist items don’t go on sale. Having backups is always a good idea.
If you’re waiting for deals before shopping, then you should take this time to sign up for sale alerts and loyalty programs across all of your favorite brands. It’s way easier than browsing once a day, looking for which items recently went on sale.
And if a certain deal is announced ahead of time, use that head start to fill your shopping cart so you can check out as soon as it goes live.
4. Use Only One Credit Card
Data breaches are even more common around the holidays, which means you need to be extra careful on Black Friday (as well as on other U.S. consumer holidays like Christmas and Memorial Day), so we recommend using a single credit card for all of your purchases.
Ideally, it should be a credit card that has fraud protection, which shouldn’t be an issue since more credit cards have that these days. If your debit card is stolen, your bank account actually loses money, but if a credit card is stolen, you don’t lose any of your own money.
Why use a single card? Because dealing with one stolen card is headache enough. Imagine having to deal with two, three, or four stolen cards! Might as well minimize that risk whenever you can.
Pro Tip: Learn the warning signs of digital identity theft. In case you fall victim, it’s better to know the signs ahead of time so you can take action as soon as possible.
5. Disable Browser Location Tracking
Private browsing modes, like Incognito in Chrome, are useful for more than just porn. For example, you might’ve heard that you can get cheaper airline tickets by shopping in private browsing mode. That particular trick doesn’t work for most online marketplaces, but there is a different trick you can use.
Some retailers use browser data to determine your geographic location, and using this geographic information, will display different prices to people in different areas. For no other reason, you might actually be paying more for the same things just by living in a certain place.
You can get around this by disabling location tracking in your browser:
- In Chrome, go to Settings > Privacy > Content Settings > Location > Do not allow any site to track my physical location.
- In Firefox, type about:config into the URL bar, search for the geo.enabled option, and set its value to False.
- In Opera, go to Settings > Websites > Location > Do not allow any site to track my physical location.
6. Be Ready to Walk Away Empty
Brick-and-mortar stores are known for their Black Friday crowds and stampedes, but online retailers also experience the digital equivalent — overloaded servers, inaccurate in-stock numbers, erroneous deals, etc. It can get hectic.
Always expect to walk away empty-handed. This will nip all potential disappointments in the bud, and any deals that you do find will be all the better for it. You never know what could go wrong with an online retailer, so always expect the worst.
This also helps curb the temptation to impulse shop. It’s okay to walk away with nothing, so if you don’t find any deals, tell yourself that it’s okay if you don’t buy anything.
Pro Tip: This kind of mindset is especially important when you’re trying to eliminate consumer debt. Sales only save you money when you already intended to buy the product. Impulse purchases, even when on sale, are a drain on your money.
7. Don’t Forget About Cyber Monday
Black Friday is the more popular sibling, but Cyber Monday — which happens just three days later — is more relevant for technology-minded folks who prefer shopping online.
Black Friday is better for finding deals on big ticket items and high-profile products while Cyber Monday is more about brand-wide online store promotions. Cyber Monday deals tend to be better in general, but the selection is often worse because products sell out after Black Friday.
But if you’re really searching for some great deals, you should shop both. Get what you can on Black Friday, then follow up on Cyber Monday for anything you missed on your wishlist.
How do you feel about Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Do you prepare ahead of time or do you shop in real-time? Let us know in the comments below!