What to know before you go Black Friday shopping

What to know before you go Black Friday shopping

We’re entering bonanza shopping season, and whether you’re searching for the perfect gift to impress a new partner, or you and your long-time spouse are looking to score deals for your household and kids, you’ve got Black Friday on your radar.

But before you head out to line up at the crack of dawn, take a deep breath and a look at some of the tricks retailers use to trap you into spending more than you’re prepared to. You don’t have to give up shopping altogether; just shop smart. Here are some of my tried-and-true tips, along with some updates:

Hands off the merchandise

People in a study by CalTech researchers were willing to pay an average of 50% more for things (from desserts to trinkets) they could actually touch than things they just read about or saw in pictures. The lesson: Don’t overvalue something just because it’s right in front of you. 

Don’t trust your senses

Stores use fragrances, fancy lighting, and music to create an atmosphere that says “You’re cool, and our stuff is cool. You belong here, and our stuff belongs in your home.” For example, a company called Prolitec provides “ambient scents”—pleasant indoor odors conducive to shopping—to clients including Abercrombie & Fitch.

Watch out for mobile mania

From the time stores open—as early as Thanksgiving eve this year—folks can expect to be bombarded by deals on their smartphones or tablets. Companies will post real-time sales on Twitter and Facebook, and flash sale sites like LivingSocial and Gilt Groupe will email deals when you’re most vulnerable (i.e. sleep-deprived and waiting in a long line). Stay focused: Use apps that help you price compare, but avoid being too trigger-happy when purchasing on an iPad.

Wait for Cyber Monday

If the idea of crushing into a big-box store with thousands of rabid shoppers at 5AM doesn’t appeal to you—hello?—consider looking for deals online next Monday. Also watch for Free Shipping Day, when more than 1,000 retailers agree to offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve.

Know when to walk away

If an item isn’t on your shopping list—you DO have a shopping list, right?—then buying it isn’t saving you money. “Half off” is still more than zero.

Good luck! And most important: Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

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