A couple of years ago, none of us had really heard of Black Friday (this Friday, the 27th November) and Cyber Monday (next Monday, the 30th November) or if we had we’d no doubt written them off as strictly limited to those looking to stock up on ‘tech.’ However, in the last year or so these two days have become huge. In fact they are now widely regarded as the most important shopping days of the year, even bigger than Boxing Day. With sales of £810 million in the UK on Black Friday last year it’s easy to see how this has become a global phenomenon.
Both Cyber Monday and Black Friday are terms coined by marketers to create an event that essentially encourages people to spend money. The idea behind these two days is that retailers offer discounts to their customers – a limited number and for a limited time. Black Friday is traditionally in store and Cyber Monday online, although the boundaries between the two are now blurred. In general, the tech deals tend to be better on Black Friday while those looking for online fashion bargains are better off shopping the Cyber Monday sales. But what’s the best way to approach these events?
Get up early
As you can imagine, with discounts of in excess of 60% Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a very popular time with shoppers and if you want the best deals then you need to set that alarm clock. It’s often unclear when the sales actually start on websites so test them just after midnight and then set an alarm to wake you early just in case. If you’re shopping in store then be prepared to get up at the crack of dawn and queue.
Even if you’re shopping online for your deals this year things can still get a little bit crazy. Rather than getting caught up in the madness, browsing too long and missing out on what you actually wanted, be prepared to go straight for your target purchases. If you’re shopping online, pick the sites you want to buy from and then make a list of the items you want to buy. If you want to be really efficient then copy and past the urls of those items into a separate document so that you can just click straight through when the time comes. If you’re opting for shopping in store then make a list before you go so that you can move quickly when you arrive.
Check your destination
In 2014 we saw some sites and stores buck the Black Friday trend and start their sales earlier. Net-a-porter, for example, began their sale a day early, catching a lot of people off guard, and some brands, such as Gap, kicked off their sales weeks before the big day. You can find out in advance whether a brand is taking part in Black Friday and a bit of searching will usually also reveal whether their Black Friday sales are likely to start on the day itself or in advance. Be aware that some companies don’t take part – for example, Apple didn’t offer discounts last year and all the indications are that it won’t do so again in 2015.
Make some time
Depending on whether you manage to get up and get on to a website, or into a store, before others do, and also whether the site or store you’re aiming for is a popular one, it can take some time to get to the point where you’ve checked out/purchased everything that you want. If you’re shopping online, the most popular sites will often crash and you may not even be able to get onto them. This is immensely frustrating and you might find yourself pressing the refresh button every ten seconds to try and get back to your basket. Be persistent and patient and don’t assume that you can simply complete the purchases in the length of time that you normally would.
Whether you’re making your purchases using credit cards to acquire points and manage Christmas spend or your financing them another way, make sure you stick to the budget that you have. It can be difficult to remember that you don’t need a life-size statue of a bear when the discount on it is 90% but you really don’t. Completing your purchases within your budget will be far more satisfactory than going crazy, spending excessively and ending up out of pocket before the Christmas season has even begun.
Amanda Gillam is Solution Loans's General Manager and has been since 2009. She is also a prolific writer on personal finance issues, and has been quoted numerous times in articles published on 3rd party websites and in press releases. Her...Read more about Amanda Gillam