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5 Ways to Save Big Online on Black Friday

by Tom Caporaso

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If you love shopping, the holiday season is indeed "the most wonderful time of the year." From Thanksgiving week through Christmas Day (and sometimes beyond), you can find daily specials, seasonal promotions, product-specific deals, and a whole slew of other eye-catching offers designed to encourage you to make a purchase.

Black Friday, the semi-official start of the holiday shopping season, has traditionally been a day to shop in stores, but retailers have been almost too successful in their efforts to attract customers to their physical locations, resulting in crowded aisles, packed parking lots, and long checkout lines. Fortunately, most retailers have also embraced the recent explosion of online shopping, so your chances of finding great deals on purchases that day have dramatically increased, no matter where you like to shop.

Whether you're a savvy internet shopper or just hoping to avoid crowds while getting a jump on all your holiday obligations this year, we have five tips that will help you save on your online purchases this Black Friday.

1. Plan Ahead

Do you want to do all of your holiday shopping in one day, or are you just trying to buy a few select items? Before Black Friday arrives, write down everything you want to buy for loved ones, your family, yourself, and anyone else on your list. Be sure to map out a few back-up plans and/or gift ideas, just in case your original strategy doesn't pan out.

2. Research Your Options

If you're looking for specific items, check beforehand to find out which retailers sell them and which ones have the best sales. Sign up for email alerts and other distribution lists and follow your preferred retailers on Twitter or like them on Facebook. Do whatever you have to do to ensure that you stay current on all your chosen retailers' deals. Be sure to organize the information in your email account (or a Word doc or Excel file) so you have instant, handy access to it whenever you're ready to shop.

Pro shopping tip: Cyber Monday technically starts on the Monday after Thanksgiving, but most retailers offer Black Friday discounts online as soon as they're available in stores. Better yet, sometimes the websites offer lower prices, and you don't have to navigate through swarms of other shoppers.

3. Protect Yourself

Knowledge is power. Before you start shopping, read the various retailers' return policies so you know and understand what your options are. Remember that even after you place an order, there are ways to save, including price protection offers. Use credit cards that include low-price guarantees, especially if you're buying high-cost, high-volume items that might be discounted later. You can also find membership shopping programs that offer rebates when you find a better price on a recent purchase.

4. Reward Yourself

Most retailers only allow you to use one coupon per purchase, so look for retailers and shopping programs that let you take advantage of multiple discount deals. A few programs even offer cash back on purchases, which you can earn simply by shopping through their site. And keep an eye out for free shipping promotions, which seem to bloom in greater numbers every holiday season. Be sure to read the fine print, though; some retailers provide free shipping only for purchase totals that reach or exceed a defined threshold.

Pro shopping tip: Sign up for retailer and credit card loyalty/reward programs that allow you to apply points toward discounts, free delivery, and other money-saving deals. By combining credit card rewards, retailer points, cash back, and free shipping with an already substantial holiday discount, you could end up paying just a sliver of an item's retail price.

5. Create a Schedule

Come Black Friday, you can dive straight into the online fun, but be aware that the hot-ticket items (called "doorbusters" by industry pros, because they're used to draw shoppers to retail outlets) often sell out quickly, both on websites and in stores. Plus, due to the surge in traffic and sales volume, some sites can have maddeningly frustrating performance issues.

Use the organized knowledge you've gained through all your research to set up a series of personal alerts so you can time your shopping forays for the exact moment that sales go into effect and/or items become available. In the meantime, keep a close eye on social media outlets to find out what coupon bloggers, retailers, and the brands themselves are saying, both leading up to Black Friday and on the day itself.

Black Friday, November 28, is the launch of the 2014 holiday shopping season, when, as always, it's better to give than to receive. With the proper preparation, the right information, and a well-designed schedule, you can roll out of bed that day, kick back in your PJs, and shop online to your heart's content, confident in the knowledge that you'll be doing right by your loved ones and your budget.

Tom Caporaso is the CEO of Clarus Marketing Group. Tom has nearly two decades of direct marketing experience, specializing in continuity, subscription, and custom loyalty programs. His background includes senior management roles in, E-Commerce, Subscription Programs, Site Optimization, SEM and SEO, Product, Marketing, Sales and Client Services.

Take the Next Step:

  • Be sure to save on your online holiday shopping! Receive cash back on your purchases when you use the ebates cash back site.

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