Best Black Friday Deals & the Worst Shopping Traps to Avoid

Holiday shopping season officially starts with Black Friday, here's how to come out on top without breaking the bank

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It’s official, recession or not, Americans are going to be out in full force shopping and spending on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. If you’re one of the 74 million consumers expected to open your wallet for the official start of the holiday gift-buying season, follow these tips to score the best Black Friday deals—and to avoid several financial pitfalls lurking on Black Friday.

HOW TO FIND THE LOWEST PRICES

First, here are a few pointers on how to get the best bargains, no matter what you’re buying.

Tip #1: Let Technology Be Your Guide
You could run yourself ragged driving all over town trying to find the best deals come Black Friday. Or, you could take the safer and saner route and let technology save you a lot of time, trouble and money.

Two of the best ways to use technology for holiday shopping are:

  • 1) Sign up for deal websites that blast promos, new ads and special offers. Two good picks are Dealnews.com and 2011BlackFridayAds.com. Simply supply your email and these sites will tell you about new deals as retailers announce them.
  • 2) Download various shopping apps to your mobile phone. This way, if you’re already out at a store, you can find any special deals, coupons or other bargains you might not have discovered on your own. Many retailers now offer their own apps, so check your favorite stores. But some of the best all-purpose, holiday-shopping apps come compliments of TheFindCoupon Sherpa and FatWallet.

Tip #2: Ask For a Price Match
Have you been scouring Websites, tracking local circulars and advertisements or visiting stores in search of the best prices on clothing, holiday toys or electronics? Well, if you see something you want at one store but you’re shopping in a different establishment, always ask the manager or even a store clerk if they’ll match a lower price you’ve found elsewhere.

In many cases, you have to provide proof of a cheaper price, in the form of a published ad. But if you do show that a competitor is offering the same goods at a lower price that will almost certainly net you a price match from most merchants on Black Friday.

Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
For some reason, when consumers see a price listed in black in white, they automatically accept that price as “gospel.” But there’s nothing that prevents you from asking for an even lower price. Believe it or not, many retailers are eager to do deals and move inventory on Black Friday, so they’ll take 5% or even 10% extra off the lowest listed price based on any number of factors.

The most common things that will get you an even lower price are: if you offer to pay in cash, instead of credit; if you’re buying in bulk or are buying more than one item (especially high-priced goods); or if you’re interested in getting any merchandise that’s slightly damaged, irregular, or is part of a retailer’s floor model.

Tip #4: Use Those Coupons
There’s no shame in shopping with coupons, especially if you’re buying expensive merchandise. So when you walk into a retail store, always ask if they have a coupon book, or a circular that highlights goods on sale or merchandise for which you might use a coupon. If you’re somewhere that is offering a coupon and you don’t have one, ask the manager for one. They’ll often have extra coupons on hand, or will simply ring up the discount for you.

This happened to me recently at the Kohl’s store near my home. My family had a coupon for 15% off everything in the store, but my husband had it and he wasn’t with me. I tried to get him to scan and email it to my phone so I would have the bar code on the coupon to show the manager or cashier. But when the email didn’t come in, due to poor phone reception, the manager simply went in the back and found a 15% coupon for me. That single moved saved me more than $40 off my bill—and reminded me why I love shopping at Kohl’s.

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