Shop Smart

Make the Most of your Black Friday



The mother of all bargain days is, of course, Black Friday — the frenzied day-after-Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza.

For many years, I would not jump into the fray, fearing speeding shopping carts navigated by crazed shoppers armed with fanny packs and walkie-talkies. Trust me, I’ve seen these types in action!

But several years ago we were in search of a 32-inch flat screen TV and the Black Friday sale papers were filled with incredible sales on electronics. Two stores — a big box retailer and Office Depot — advertised one set for under $400. Great price, but which to choose? The big box was likely to have a larger supply, but with a 4 a.m. open time, shoppers would likely be lined up before midnight. Office Depot might carry fewer sets, but I figured most people would be angling for their laptops and computer equipment.

I picked Office Depot and had a great experience. I got in line a little before 5:30 a.m. (they opened at 6) and quickly purchased my new TV. I was in and out of the store in under an hour. The staff was very organized and pleasant. Five years later, my TV is still going strong. My advice — if you’re not up for the after-Thanksgiving frenzy — is to look for bargains at smaller stores.
 

Consider these tips before hitting the stores:

Make a list of what you plan to buy and stick to it. Do your homework before you go. Scour the newspaper for sale flyers. Shop online, too. If  you find your product at a good price, buy it. If not, wait until it goes on sale.
Research advertised sale items before buying. I thought I was getting a great deal when I paid $50 for a Kodak camera once. However, it turned out to be a low-quality camera sold only in Eastern Europe, so I pretty much wasted $50.
Shop around. Make sure you’re really getting a bargain. Just because a store says an item is on sale doesn’t mean it’s the best price.
Don’t try to do all your shopping in one day. If you are in a rush, you will eat up any savings you received by tumbling for “doorbuster” items.
Weigh the risk versus reward ratio of pre-dawn sales. You will have to wait and there’s no guarantee the item you want will be there once you get in the store. Retailers often sell a few popular toys or electronic items at or below cost to lure shoppers. These “loss leaders” are typically offered in very limited quantities.
Keep safety in mind. Criminals are on the lookout for vulnerable shoppers. Keep your car locked. Store goods in the car trunk. Have your keys in hand before you get to your vehicle. Don’t be distracted by talking on your cell phone. Be aware of your surroundings.

WAYS TO SPICE UP YOUR SAVINGS

Ever cringe when you look at the price of spices? I know I do. But November is a wonderful time to stock up on spices because most grocery stores have huge sales to draw baking-happy Thanksgiving shoppers into their stores.

Look for deals on canned pumpkin, pie crusts, spices, and other heavily used food items during the holiday season.

The first week of November is a choice time to shop for Halloween bargains — decorations, costumes, candy (great for stuffing stockings in December), and paper products. Some harvest-themed items can be used through Thanksgiving.

Finally, remember the reason behind the season. Our holidays have religious and cultural significance. They bring family and friends together. This time of the year should not be about materialism. If it is, you are doing it wrong.

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