Black Friday and Cyber Monday Truth
The first truth about Black Friday and Cyber Monday is that they are inventions.
Black Friday a lot of strutting and fretting over crass commercialism. In the Frugal Yankee way of thinking, it isn't worth the time, the hype or the money.
Black Friday is touted as the biggest shopping day of the year. Nope. It's big, but the biggest shopping day of the year is one several days on the run up to Christmas. Depending on when Christmas falls, what kind of weather is prevailing and various other factors, the busiest shopping day will fall somewhere between the 19th and the 23rd of December. Black Friday usually runs as the fourth or fifth busiest day. Cyber Monday is busy, but there are plenty of busy days that top Cyber Monday in terms of purchases.
A few years back when getting on line was a novelty, most folks had to use their office computer to do web searches and thus purchase goods. In the early days, Cyber Monday was an important retail day. In 2011 with computer and internet penetration over 90%, internet shopping on one day is simply not the case. These days it is an excuse to have 'sales' and to promote on-line sales.
The second truth is Cyber Monday was an Etail industry invention. These days it is more like Arbor Day, a nice name name with little significance, but don't tell that to the morning TV news shows. They will all have at least one or two articles on Cyber Monday for the same reasons as they will for Black Friday. It is easy, cheap and satisfies the people who pay the bills - the advertisers.
OK, so Black Friday and Cyber Monday are exposed as emperors with new clothes on.
Are there any deals out there to be had?
The third and final truth is, yes, but don't act like a Pavlovian dog. Be a Frugal Yankee. Understand the shopping landscape. Prepare a course of action suited for your family. Be a savvy shopper. So with that in mind, here are a few tips.
Study the ads. Traditionally there are a ton of advertisements in Thanksgiving Day newspapers. See what the big deals are. The outstanding bargains are called "door-busters". They are designed to draw lots of crowds and when opening time comes, the doors get busted open.
For most stores, sales can be previewed a few days earlier online. Two sites, both claiming to be the official Black Friday web site, give sneak peeks into what is on sale. They are....
BFADS.NET - a site geared towards Black Friday & national stores. It is based in California. The site does not say who they really are but does offer a fairly wide spectrum of national chain sales.
BLACK FRIDAY.GOTTADEAL.com - is an offshoot of gottadeal.com, an Limited Liability Corporation which in turn is an off shoot of Olsonnet.com which is owned by Brad Olson of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Like bfads.net, it specializes in national sales and acts as a compilation site.
Both sites are decent starting points.
Door-buster deals are limited. Each store may have as few 3 items they're advertising. They may have many more. Most likely they aren't saying. These are on sale to draw as many people into the store as possible, and once there get them to buy other things as well. Chances of getting one of the door buster deals will be dependent how many are in stock, when the store opens, how long the lines are, etc.
First tactic would be to try the store’s website. The item(s) may be available online at the door buster price or maybe just a little more.
If not, waiting for a store to open is the next option. Here are a few opening times for selected national stores.
Toys-R-Us - midnight
Old Navy - 3am,
Sears and Kohl's - 4am
Wal-mart - This year they will be experimenting with staggered sale times and earlier openings.
Be sure to check your local store or last minute changes.
If there are a variety of sales piquing interest at various locations, send family members or friends to different stores if opening times conflict.
Before going on a Black Friday expedition, be sure you have a list in hand. And before heading out the door, take a few minutes and scour the internet for manufacturer's coupons and even store coupons. There may even be rebates. Know this before you begin. Smartphone apps are useful for this search while you're waiting in line or actually in the store.
Always, confirm the item on sale is the one desired. Some door-busters items are stripped down. Check respected evaluation websites, like Consumer Reports, Steves-Digicams.com (for cameras), Ecoustics.com (TV/hi-fi equipment), PCMagazine.com (computers), best/worst toy lists, etc. to understand each product's strengths and weaknesses.
Customer reviews by real owners of the products can be useful. Check Epinions.com, and read the user comments posted after product descriptions at Amazon.com. However, be warned. Customer reviews are sometimes written by moles for the companies in question and sometimes the people reviewing the product have a hidden agenda.
The price makes the deal. Use pricing tools, such as the Price Checker at ConsumerWorld.org (price comparer), DealAlerter.com (price drop notification) and PriceHistories.com (price history).
Regarding online shopping, don't just look at the sale price, include shipping, handling and taxes. Some sellers jack these prices up to compensate for the sale price. Be sure to ask about their return policy. This could be a real sticking point.
One last word of caution, a seller's reputation is vital for a smooth transaction. Use Shopzilla.com or ResellerRatings.com to verify them as good dealers.
Using credit cards does have benefits with Black Friday & Cyber Monday shopping. Here are a few:
• Service contracts maybe extended.
• Some offer a return protection guarantee
• Some offer sale price guarantee
Check with each card for specifics.
Using credit cards and then not being able to pay them off in a timely manner will erode any many saved. Be sure the deal gotten doesn't end up being paid off at 29% interest,over 9 months.
The Frugal Yankee does not endorse Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It can be an arduous adventure that saves little. However, to get the most of of these events, be prepared, be smart and you'll fare better than most.