Under normal circumstances, Black Friday and Cyber Monday would have been just one part of our overall holiday shopping game plan—an online experience meant to be combined with a doorbuster line (or two). But this year, with 88 percent of shoppers planning to carry out the majority of their Christmas errands virtually and major retailers closing their doors for Thanksgiving and the day after, Black Friday and, subsequently, Cyber Monday are set to look a bit different. Here, how to navigate the sales.
Prep Your Cart the Night Before
You’ve made your list, checked it twice…and by the time you get online, everything you want is already sold out. Try this trick: The night before Black Friday (or Cyber Monday), load your online shopping cart with the merch you plan to buy, and leave the tabs open. Then, the second the clock strikes midnight (or after you’ve had your a.m. cup of joe), open up your laptop again and click “buy.” Thanks to cookies, the items in your cart should stay intact, but with Black Friday savings now ready to be applied. Just beware of sites that put an expiration timer on your cart, as this hack won't work (*sigh*).
Install a Browser Extension
A browser extension is the ultimate savings tool to have in your back pocket when searching from a promo code. It will automatically search and apply coupon codes and cash back offers immediately at checkout, explains Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot. This money editor can attest: It can save you hundreds of dollars and call up deals you never even thought to Google. A must-have. (Our favorites include RetailMeNot’s Deal Finder and Honey.)
Check out Minimum Shipping and Curbside Options
Isn’t it the worst when cost of shipping outweighs the goods in your cart? To avoid this, says Skirboll, research the minimum spend requirement for free shipping before you start to shop. (On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s usually spelled out loud and clear on the site’s homepage.) That way, you know what’s required and if the promotion is worth your money and time. If no free shipping is being offered, there are a couple of work-arounds. First, try pinging customer service via chat or the phone. “Asking a simple question can go a long way,” Skirboll explains. A lot of times the rep will fast track your order with complimentary shipping, too. Another option? Curbside pickup. Yes, everyone is buying online, but brick-and-mortar retailers still exist and may be open for you to (safely) pick up your purchase.
That Vizio OLED TV you’ve been patiently waiting to buy? Make a shopping plan for that item—and any other electronics first—since this is the category that sells out fastest on Black Friday, says Skirboll. It’s also one of the better ways to differentiate Black Friday from Cyber Monday in a year when most everything retail is happening online. Retailers may drop discounts even further on Monday, but hot ticket items? When they’re gone, they’re gone. Skirboll notes that in addition to electronics, video games, consoles and big ticket appliances like fridges are also expected to go quickly.
Use Social Media to Score Last-Minute Savings
When it comes to day-of deals, the best way to stay up to speed is to subscribe to a brand’s newsletter, Instagram account or Facebook page, where they tend to announce savings opportunities first.
Set—and Actually Stick To—a Budget
The thrill of the chase—and the ticking clock letting you know you’ve got approximately three minutes to checkout—can get the best of all of us. So, in addition to making a shopping list ahead of time, try to nail down a budget and actually stick to it. (Retailers bank on shoppers spending beyond the Black Friday deal, per The Washington Post.)