If you are reading this – you made it through…
- Black Friday
We have a lot more to go before we make it to New Years Eve, but I am going to try and make this as painless and debt-free as possible. I have been using the Internet for not only shopping since 1998, but also as an e-commerce business owner, manager, and marketing executive. I have seen how it works on both sides of the fence (I prefer the consumers side!) and hope these tips can help you survive this holiday season without putting yourselves in debt.
We’ve all done it (at least I have, and hope you all have as well – not that this is a good thing…) – Holiday shopping puts us into a really tight spot and we suddenly realize we have nothing left to use for our NYE party. We can’t understand what happened! Everyone got the gifts they wanted; the bills were paid on time; you picked out a few gifts for yourself – same as always? Well, I have been in this position time and time again. It’s painful and you are so happy that your loved ones are happy, but can’t understand why you won’t have enough cash to pay your rent or mortgage in 2012!
First & Foremost… (This is a tip that MamaNYC and her girlfriends "coined" after one of our first "real" Christmas’ in adulthood.)
Buying for yourself is fun! We all have that ONE item we love to treat ourselves with for the holiday. After all, you’ve worked endless amounts of hours to make sure your family has a wonderful Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day (plus a lot of fun in between!). You deserve it!
One tip that I can give is to WAIT. It will hurt, but just remember that everything (literally) will be on sale after New Years Day. You can take advantage of the BIGGEST & BADDEST sale price(s) in just a few weeks. It seems like forever, but it will be here before you know it. Unless your family decided to move Christmas until January, you can’t take advantage of these deals for anyone else in your family ("Look! Santa put a note: ‘Dear Sally, I will be back with your Baby Alive doll in January 2012. She goes on sale for New Years bargains and I prefer the future cost instead of full retail. Love, Santa’!)
You can wait to buy a gift/reward for yourself until after the New Year and take advantage of huge savings! Keep the money in your wallet this season. You can also check with your local department store and see what kind of layaway plan they have. Some stores will allow you to pay a small deposit and take advantage of sale prices in 30+ days. Make sure you get this in writing! Although this is not common, many stores will honor sale prices when you decide to pickup your layaway item. Be sure to ask how many days you have until the full payment and product pickup is expected. This varies from store to store. I have seen 7, 14, 30, 60, and 90 days (and everything in between).
Know Your Ads!
It won’t take up too much of your time, but the savings will be HUGE! Take a few minutes today and tomorrow (Cyber Monday) to browse the hottest deals. You can Google away and search for terms like "Cyber Monday Best Savings", "Best Sales for Cyber Monday", or "Cyber Monday Sales". There are a lot of websites out there with lists and information on sales that are expected for Cyber Monday. Check out Black Friday Ads, BlackFriday.info, CyberMonday.com, and Cyber Monday Central.
I love checking out websites like these since they are generally unbiased towards retailers (for the most part!). They will list all retailers and their coupon codes so that I can browse around and see what deals I want to take advantage of. Sure, you should definitely head on over to Target.com, Walmart.com, or Macys.com. However, you will be able to see all of the savings in ONE place if you use a Cyber Monday tailored website.
Resist Impulse Buys
Retailers are going to do everything they can to lure you in over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale bonanza. Trust me, I’ve been there and done everything I could to entice buyers to purchase from my company over Thanksgiving weekend. You won’t realize it at first, but that great "deal" that catches the corner of your eye is anything but.
Make a list and check it three times. Just because you see a % sign doesn’t mean you need to buy it. Many products are actually marked higher to reflect savings around the holiday season. No, really! I have been watching one particular item at a major (major) retailer for 6-months for a study I am doing in Graduate school. The price was $29.99 in June 2011 and increased to $59.99 over Halloween weekend. This dramatic price increase helped the store add a 50% OFF sign in their Black Friday circular that I received earlier this week. Watch out for these tricks!
Another sneaky deal that retailers use to lure impulse buyers is stacking goods to look like they are the HOT item of the season and using FLASHY, glowing, or glittery signs! My husband saw a HUGE stack of games (thousands!) modeled into a pyramid-style pile. There was a HUGE sign "ONLY $24.99!" Once he checked the very small price tag, he learned that was the retail price. Where’s the savings? There isn’t any! Retailers will display a product to appear as if it is on sale, but it isn’t! Check the signs for % and the price tag for a before and after savings amount!
Free S&H – or else
Free shipping is used very commonly by online retailers, especially during the Thanksgiving weekend bargains (usually through the entire holiday season). If the merchant you are visiting is charging shipping and handling, shop around! There is no reason to pay for S&H during the holiday season. You have a LOT of options out there and will likely find an alternative promoting free shipping.
Update Your Security Settings
Take a few minutes to make sure your computer settings, browser, and firewall are ready to go on Cyber Monday. Make sure you are shopping securely and download the latest updates. Check your anti-spyware and virus-protection programs to make sure you are guarded against any viruses or other unwanted harm against your computer.
This is true any day of the year, not just Cyber Monday! Only shop on sites that you know and trust. Use a credit card that offers chargeback protection instead of using your debit card. Before entering your credit or banking information, make sure the site is secure by looking for "https" in the address bar of your browser. The "S" in "https" means the site is safeguarding any intruders from receiving your digits.
How do I know if my merchant is reliable and safe? Besides the obvious merchants that you KNOW to be reliable (Target, Walmart, Macys, Sears, etc.), you may question the authenticity and reliability of a merchant that you may never have shopped with. Just because the retailer is new – this does NOT mean they are a scam artist! I have built e-commerce websites from the ground up and it is very difficult to gain the trust of consumers. Don’t leave a page just because you haven’t heard of them before!
I like to Google for reviews before I decide to leave a page OR make a purchase. If a merchant is unfamiliar to you and concerns exist over providing your banking information, turn to Google for reviews! Simply type in "Amy’s T-Shirt Shop Reviews" into Google and look for real and authentic customer feedback. Watch out for fakes! Many companies put out their own reviews to make it look like consumers have shopped with them before. Another search that I do is "Amy’s T-Shirt Shop Scam" (or: bad, horrible, negative). If nothing comes up using these terms (click the link and read it first; it could be the same word in the page – ex: "Amy’s T-Shirt Shop is the best! But, I wouldn’t shop at Bobs T-Shirt Shop! That site is a SCAM!"
Cyber Monday Retailer Sales!
Here are a few sites that I would recommend for Cyber Monday. These are a great start to kick-off your deals and sales research, price comparing, and mapping out your day!
ShopRunner.com: This shopping solution offers members fast, free shipping and special discounts through its network of partners that includes FAO Schwarz, Lord & Taylor, Toys"R"Us, Sports Authority, American Eagle, PetSmart and Newegg.com.
Retailmenot.com: I love this site for coupons, deal hunting and price rates. Every coupon on this site is sorted by usefulness. Each store featured on Retail Me Not is categorized and ordered by popularity within its category.
BFads.net: This is a Black Friday deal site, but you will also find a great selection of Cyber Monday promotions.
CyberMonday.com: This is THE top source for your Cyber Monday needs. Features deals from 700+ retailers and links to major retailer Cyber Monday pages (Apple, Home Depot, Nordstrom, etc.)
Pricegrabber.com: Price comparison tool that will help you to find the lowest price on the Internet! Use this tool before and during your shopping on Cyber Monday. I like to use Price Grabber when I am just about to click "Process Order". I’ll type in what I am buying and make sure that is the lowest price available.
Shopstyle.com: Similar to PriceGrabber.com, this site is another search engine that can be used to find the best prices available online.
Facebook: Check out your retailers Facebook page for Cyber Monday coupon codes. This is a very popular marketing tool used by retailers. They will post Facebook fan exclusive offers that only a select group (or, whoever likes them!) can take advantage of!
cybermonday2011.biz: Another great site for Cyber Monday deals!
Retailer Cyber Monday Sales
Claires.com (All Cold Weather Accessories Buy 1 Get 1 50% off)
- All Christmas Jewelry and Accessories Buy 1 Get 1 50% Off @ claires.com
- Save an EXTRA 75% on Already Reduced Redline Items @ claires.com
Cyber Monday – Save 40% off site-wide PLUS free shipping at Rockport.com! Excludes sale items. Valid on 11.28.11.