Last year while looking for BlackFriday deals and Cyber Monday deals, and all the way through the day before Christmas Eve, I relied on one main source for finding great deals online: Wantnot.net. If you are shopping online this year, I recommend that you, too, check Want Not frequently, if not hourly. Pretty much, whenever you're not here on Chicago Shopping.
But today I have a treat for you -- Miriam Kamin, the bargain shopping expert behind Want Not, shares her tips for preparing for online shopping on Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday deals. Turns out it's not so much about limbering up your fingers and finding a good seat cushion -- although those things would surely not hurt. It's more like, the more you know, the more you save. Just like in the store, some items online are going to be available in limited quantities, so if you are ready to pounce you'll be the one who gets the stuff. And if you have your coupons and other tools at hand, you'll also be the one who saves the most.
I attended a presentation that Mir gave recently at the Savings.com conference, and came away with these tips:
Know what you want.
Research for the big day includes reading your favorite stores' Black Friday ads, many of which are already available online. If you're buying for a picky teen, you may need to take them to the store to try items on before buying them online.
Pre-shop on Thanksgiving.
Some stores will make Black Friday deals available on Thanksgiving this year. But for other stores, you still might want to pre-shop on Thursday. If you're not running around serving 12, Thanksgiving can be a sleepy day. Most stores are closed until evening, Net traffic is light. So, log on during that post-turkey sleepy time and fill your shopping cart ahead of time. "There are sites that will save your cart," Kamin said. But if the site will delete your cart contents, or if you're not sure, just record the item numbers so you can quickly put them back in your cart the moment the big sale starts. If nothing else, make sure you are registered with the sites where you want to shop, and consider saving your credit card number on file for faster checkout.
Gather all your discount ammunition.
Black Friday deals may look good, but often you can make them even better by throwing more discounts at them. You can go in through a rebate site like Ebates or a savings portal like Chicago Shopping (yeah, I mean this site that pays my bills). You can use a coupon code -- search for them on Retail Me Not or plain old Google. Kamin even suggested buying discounted gift cards in advance from a site like Gift Card Granny. Or -- and this is a Frugalista idea here -- if you have daily deal vouchers sitting around, you might get even better value for them this weekend.
Know the return policy.
If the online store allows local returns, like Kohl's does, or free return shipping -- a new Amazon policy -- you can buy with impunity. In fact, you could buy more than one size and return whichever doesn't fit.
Know precisely when the deals are coming.
This is the one that separates the expert shoppers from those who are just browsing. On Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout the holiday shopping season, some retailers will have daily deals and flash deals. Daily deals go up, of course, once a day -- if you figure out what time they go up at your favorite store, you'll get the best pickings. Kamin starts by finding out where the store is headquartered. For instance, since Amazon is on the West Coast, you won't see the first of their flash deals until 6 a.m. Pacific Time -- 8 a.m. here. Kohl's, on the other hand, posts its first Black Friday deal around midnight Thanksgiving night, Central Time. "If you're going to get up early, Kohl's is one of the stores you want to go to first."
Use social media.
"Social media is huge for retail this season," Kamin said. "You want to fan those retailers on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, have your Facebook feed up." Some retailers might Tweet or post a deal for the first 100 customers only. If you're listening on all channels, "You can hop right on those." Naturally, that includes following Mir on Twitter @wantnot, and following The Frugalista @carriekirby.