With the best bargain hunting days of the year nearly here, shoppers are advised to do their homework in advance to find the best products at the best prices and to check the circulars of their favorite stores to see when their Black Friday sales begin.
"While Black Friday and pre-Black Friday sales are occurring all during November, some stores this year will be starting the official sale online as early as the day before Thanksgiving," explained Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org. "If you don't read their circulars carefully, you could show up on the wrong day or the wrong time," cautioned Dworsky.
Consumer World offers these holiday shopping tips to help bag the best bargains:
1. Read the Ads: Preview the Black Friday sale circulars now at BFAds.net and get a list of sale items at all stores by category, such as all HDTVs or digital cameras, at blackfriday.gottadeal.com. Check local newspapers on Thanksgiving Day. They will be chock-full of circulars and last minute deals. Friday's papers will include additional sales. Get on retailers' email lists, check their websites for additional "hidden" bargains, and look for deals and coupons listed on their social media sites.
2. Evaluate the Deals: Not all Black Friday advertised items are the best deals. Some great sales have already occurred. Others will become available the weekend before Thanksgiving, on Cyber Monday, or in December. To separate the ho-hum deals from the good ones, use several pricing tools, such as the Price Checker at ConsumerWorld.org (to compare prices at many online stores instantly), and camelcamelcamel.com (to compare today's price for an item to what was charged over the past year at Amazon and other sellers). If shopping online, find out the total price including shipping and tax (if any), and what the reputation of the seller is using BizRate.com/ratings_guide or ResellerRatings.com .
3. Research the Right Product: A low price on a lousy product is no bargain. Check websites where professionals evaluate products, such as Consumer Reports, LCDTVBuyingGuide.com (for televisions), PCMag.com (computers), best/worst toy lists, etc. Check the user reviews posted after most product descriptions at Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, Walmart.com, and other retailers.
4. Save with "Triple Plays": To save the most, combine the primary ways to save: buy items at a good sale price, use percent-off/dollars-off/bonus points coupons offered by some stores to lower that price even more, and look for items that also have a cash back rebate.
5. Be an Early Bird: Go when the store first opens because quantities are limited and no rainchecks will be given generally. On Thanksgiving, J.C. Penney opens at 2 pm; Best Buy, Toys 'R' Us, Kohl's and Macy's open at 5 pm; Sears, Target, and Walmart open at 6 pm. Most stores in states with blue laws open Friday 12 - 1 am. Some stores will open (or re-open) between 5 - 9 am on Friday including Costco, BJ's and others.
Look for better "doorbusters" including:
Kohl's: Samsung 55" smart UHD/4K television - $499.99 with $150 Kohl's cash back.
Sears: Kenmore 26 cu. ft. French door refrigerator - $899.99.
J.C. Penney, Kohl's, Macy's, Walmart (no rebate): small appliances: $4.99, $7.99, and/ or $9.99 after rebate.
Target, Best Buy, Walmart: Google Home Mini - $29.99 w/$10 gift card back (@Target & BB), w/$25 WM credit at Google Express.
Target: spend $50 or more on Friday, get 20% off future coupon.
Macy's: 10 items free after rebate in-store, men's sports jackets and suits - 75% off.
Toys-'R'-Us: over 100 toys at least 50% off.
Bed, Bath & Beyond: 20% off everything coupon.
Dell small business: i5 Inspiron desktop computer - $399.99.
Jet.com: Roku Express+ - $22.99.
Old Navy: 50% off everything Nov. 22-24.
6. Beat the Early Birds: Watch for pre-Black Friday sales before Thanksgiving. Some Black Friday prices are available now or early next week. Avoid the crowds by ordering online since some Black Friday deals will be available on Monday (Kohl's non-doorbusters) or Wednesday late that day or right after midnight (e.g. Walmart). Be warned that stores are generally terrible about indicating which items will also be available online. To maximize efficiency on store visits, scope-out key retailers the day before Thanksgiving to learn each store's floor plan in advance. Some stores like Walmart offer diagrams to locate sale items which are not in the usual place.
7. Check the Return Policy: Before buying, find out the store's return policy and if return shipping is free for online orders. Many stores have extended their return deadlines into January.
8. Get a Gift Receipt: Make returns easier for gift recipients by asking the store for a gift receipt and include it in the gift box. Without a receipt, a refund may be denied outright, or may be limited to only an equal exchange, or to a merchandise credit for the lowest price the item has sold for in the recent past.
9. Use the Right Credit Card: Certain credit cards offer valuable free benefits. For example, don't be pressured into buying a service contract when you can get up to an extra year (or two years on some Citi cards) of warranty coverage free just by using most better credit cards. Ask your credit card issuer what length warranties qualify for free additional coverage, if any. Some credit cards also offer a return protection guarantee (they will refund the purchase price within 90 days if the store will not), or offer a sale price guarantee (they will give you back the difference if an item goes on sale within 60 days of purchase).
10. Save More with Price-Match Guarantees: Stores generally will not honor price matches from Black Friday through Cyber Monday but will after that period. Keep checking the prices of items you bought and you may be entitled to get back some money if the seller or a competitor offers a lower price before Christmas.