How to save money and hassles on your Black Friday shopping

If the idea of Black Friday shopping gives you the blues, cheer up.

A few innovative approaches can help you find lower prices without having to camp outside a big-box store.

• Use discounted gift cards.

Joanie Demer, a co-owner of thekrazycouponlady.com, recommended going to websites such as raise.com and giftcardgranny.com to buy discounted gift cards, a strategy that works year-round. Savings average between 8 and 12 percent. “It’s not a ton but it adds up,” she said in an interview.

Instead of buying a gift card before shopping, add up your purchases in the store and use an app from the site to download the amount you need. This will help curb overspending, she said.

• Timing is important.

People who do all their holiday shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving are not getting the best deals, Demer said.

The sweet spot for the best bargains is Dec. 10-18, but, she warned, shopping from Dec. 19 onward is a “no-no” because retailers know you are desperate, and they are less likely to cut prices.

She added that 95 percent of the Black Friday bargains to be found in brick-and-mortar stores — with the exception of “doorbusters,” those deeply discounted items intended to draw shoppers in — can be found online. If you are not keen on crowds, shop online.

• Abandon your virtual shopping cart.

The week before Black Friday, fill your virtual shopping cart with merchandise, then log out of your account — don’t just close your tab but fully log out of the site — said Kyle James, the founder of rather-be-shopping.com.

“By doing so, in many cases, it will trigger an automated coupon sent to your inbox pleading for you to come back and complete your purchase with the coupon,” James said in an email.

The coupon offers may be for free shipping or discounts of up to 20 percent off a purchase, he said, adding that “it’s a passive-aggressive way to get a deal.”

• Have a live chat online.

Sometimes getting a price break can be as simple as asking.

Activate the live-chat feature that many online retailers have and politely ask for a coupon for free shipping or a percentage off your purchase.

“These live-chat operators are trained to see this person has stuff in their cart and they’re prepared to make a purchase — let’s throw them a bone,” James said in a telephone interview.

• Shop on eBay.

Doorbuster merchandise is usually in such limited supply that only the most dedicated shoppers — those who camp outside the store to be the first ones in at opening hour — will get what they want. The remaining shoppers become a “captive audience, and now they’ll go out and buy a bunch of stuff at near full price or full price,” James said.

Many of those people will turn around and sell the heavily discounted items on eBay, he said. Because they’re looking to quickly turn a profit, their markups will be modest.

• Look for price matches.

Downloading the Amazon app can be a useful way to compare prices in stores against the online retail giant. “It’s a good tool to make sure you’re not making a stupid purchase,” Demer said.

Many big-box stores will match a lower Amazon price if you present proof of the lower price at the customer-service desk. That rule is in place year-round, but many stores make an exception for Black Friday. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Bed Bath & Beyond are among the few retailers that will still honor the price match on Black Friday, Demer said.

• Shop strategically.

Skip the shopping cart, because navigating crowded store aisles with one will only prolong your visit, Demer said. She recommended taking an oversize reusable shopping bag instead.

It’s also best to avoid bringing your spouse and children to the store, she said.

“The more people you bring, the more money you’re going to spend and the more angry you’re going to become,” she said. “Chaos and impulse buying, it’s all much worse.”

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