(ABC)– Whether you wait in line for hours or stage a silent boycott every year, there’s no ignoring Black Friday. But are these deals as life-changing as we’re led to believe? Sometimes, yes, but in most cases, not really. After all, doorbuster discounts aren’t exclusive to after Thanksgiving. In the past several years, retailers have held “Black Friday in July” sales, pre-holiday sales in October, and early bird sales the week before Black Friday.
Still, Black Friday is coming whether you like it or not. While some of you die-hards may have your strategy in place, newbies may need a tip or two if they plan to go shopping. Here are eight things to keep in mind as you prepare for Black Friday.
1. Make a List
Black Friday shopping can be overwhelming, so if you want to avoid going off the rails and buying a bunch of gifts you don’t need — or winding up in debt, which could drag down your credit — don’t keep your list in your head. Instead, use a gift-list app like Gifted (available on the Apple Store and Google Play) to keep track of recipients’ likes and dislikes, sizes, ideas and budgets.
Historically, the deepest Black Friday discounts are on electronics, apparel and beauty products, so instead of trying to conquer your holiday list in one day, focus on those three areas and tackle the other categories later. Also, since you still have plenty of time in the holiday shopping season to look for deals, go for only the deepest discounts (40 percent and up).
3. Sign Up for Store Emails
Now is a great time to sign up for emails from the stores you want to hit on Black Friday. You might be privy to advance details on sales or private discounts. Set up a separate free email account to capture that mail — there’s going to be a lot of it. Following stores on Twitter or Facebook can also keep you in the know.
4. Discounted Gift Cards
If you have a general idea of where you plan to shop, search online for “discounted gift cards (name of store),” and see what comes up. Many gift card merchants sell digital or printable gift cards that are discounted between 2 percent to 30 percent. Use that gift card to make a purchase, and you’ll save a bundle!
5. The Early Bird Bonus
If you’re game for getting up at the crack of dawn, you could be well-rewarded. In previous years, stores like H&M, Best Buy, JCPenney, Kohl’s & Kmart have handed out goodies like gift cards and even movie tickets to folks at the front of the line.
6. Consider Opening a Store Charge Account
Once you’ve made it to the store, you may consider asking about opening a store charge account to get an extra discount. While most stores offer 10 percent or 15 percent off your first purchase with a new account, some may have restrictions on sale days like Black Friday. If they don’t, you’ve scored an extra discount off of your Black Friday merch! Keep in mind, store cards usually have a high annual percentage rate (APR) so it’s a good idea to pay them in full. If you can’t, the rewards won’t be worth it. (Not sure if your finances can handle another credit card? You can view two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)
7. Divide & Conquer
If there’s a store where you need to get several items, see if you can find a friend to join you. Compare lists and help each other out. You can dash off to the electronics section to grab discounted Apple Watches, and your friend can check out those doorbuster beauty deals you read about.
8. Don’t Ignore the Internet
If you just can’t bear the thought of pounding the pavement and fighting the crowds for deals, stay in, grab a cup of coffee, and check out the online deals. Retailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Newegg and Best Buy always offer a wide array of Black Friday deals.
Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist, TV presenter, spokesperson and educator specializing in beauty, tech, apps, toys, gift guides and smart shopping. She writes personal finances stories at Credit.com.
Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.