Black Friday is not what it used to be.
It’s no longer the biggest shopping day of the year and continues to encroach on Thanksgiving with the majority of national retailers starting their sales before the turkey is served.
Yet there still are amazing deals you shouldn’t pass up from some of the lowest prices on televisions to deeply discounted small kitchen appliances.
The good news is this year more of the big doorbuster items are expected to be available online Thanksgiving Day so you can shop from the comfort of your home.
According to the National Retail Federation’s 2015 Thanksgiving Weekend Survey, more than 103 million people said they shopped online over the Thanksgiving weekend and nearly 102 million said they shopped in stores.
Online shopping is expected to continue to grow but many items sell out quickly so keep your laptop, tablets and smartphones charged up and nearby.
Regardless of where and when you shop, preparation is key to getting the best deals.
Here are some of my best shopping tips, many of which hold true year-round:
1. Be prepared. Make a list, scour the Thanksgiving Day ads and map out a game plan. Also figure out a budget, and pack a bag with the sales circulars, a portable phone battery charger and snacks, such as protein bars and drinks.
2. Do your homework. Know if the item you want is truly a good deal by comparing prices by doing a Google search or using a price comparison website or a smartphone app like ShopSavvy, which is available for Apple and Android.
3. Check prices online throughout the week, especially Wednesday and Thursday, and earn cash back through a website such as Ebates.com. Many store websites, such as BestBuy.com and Walmart.com, will offer doorbusters online and some sales start even earlier, with Kohls.com starting Monday. Choose in-store pickup to save on shipping costs if free shipping isn’t offered.
4. Use coupons and rewards programs. The coupons are another good reason to bring the ads with you. You also can find coupons on store websites, mobile apps and in Thanksgiving Day inserts. Earn points and rewards with store loyalty programs which equate to money off a future purchase. With some store reward programs, such as Toys R Us’ rewards program, you can buy select doorbusters early. Toys R Us’ rewards members can access some doorbusters Sunday.
5. Get in line early at the store if you want an in-store-only doorbuster or other limited-quantity items. Some stores give freebies to the first customers. Consider bringing a lawn chair or cushion. For instance, the first customers at JCPenney, which opens at 3 p.m. Thanksgiving, receive a mystery coupon, which will be $10 off $10, $100 off $100 or $500 off $500.
6. Price match. Some stores will match competitor’s advertised prices if they sell the identical item, but others, including Target and Best Buy, suspend price matching for Black Friday sales.
7. Read store return policies carefully. Get gift receipts and keep your original receipt in case you need to return or exchange an item.
8. Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather, especially if you are waiting for stores to open. This year, I’m trying out Lily Trotters compression socks that promote better circulation and “increased athletic performance,” which can help in sprinting from store to store and for all the hours we’ll be standing. Compression socks also are good when traveling during the holidays.
9. Be safe. Shop with a buddy, and consider splitting up in-store to maximize your time, but go to the car together and at all times watch your personal belongings. Make sure to lock your car and keep purchases out of sight. Also protect your credit and debit cards from “electronic pick pockets” by using a Radio Frequency Identification blocker such as SignalVault cards, which when placed in your wallet form a shield to guard your information from hackers and ID thieves. Learn more at Signal-Vault.com.
10. Be patient, polite and prepared for possible disappointment. Some people will push and shove and be nasty. Don’t feed into their negativity, and always be courteous to store employees, some of whom are mandated to work.
Kelly Tyko is a columnist for Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. Follow her on Twitter: @TCPalmKelly