Some of the biggest retail days of 2020 kick off next week: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
In fact, Americans are expected to spend up to $1,300 for the holidays this year, according to PwC’s 2019 Holiday Outlook. And while stores are set to offer some great discounts and promotions the weekend after Thanksgiving, shopping during these days can be overwhelming and exhausting. Plus, the costs of all those presents can really start to add up.
“Planning and preparation are the key ingredients to a successful shopping season,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot. To help you prepare, here are seven tips from experts that will help you save some time and money while shopping during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
1. Don’t limit yourself to just shopping online or in-store
“One misconception about retail shopping holidays is that you can only go in-store for Black Friday and you can only shop online for Cyber Monday to get the best deals,” Skirboll tells CNBC Make It.
Historically, we think of Black Friday as the day you have to be at the store at 6:00 a.m. for doorbuster sales. “That really just isn’t the case anymore,” she says. Instead, you may be able to score awesome prices from the comfort of your couch.
About seven in 10 consumers plan on shopping in-store for their holiday gifts, with the average person planning to visit about six stores in total, according to the Capital One Walmart survey of 1,00 U.S. adults conducted by Wakefield Research.
2. Don’t buy full price
This year, there is a shorter peak holiday season, with only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to 32 days in years past.
That means retailers are are clamoring for your business. “They need us to shop with them — every single day counts,” Skirboll says. And that’s good news for shoppers because it means stores are willing to offer discounts and promotions.
“There are lots of ways to save and you should, quite frankly, never pay full price around the holiday season,” she says. This can come in a variety of forms, from free shipping codes, promo codes, coupon codes to cashback offers.
3. Do your research
“It can sometimes be really difficult to know if you’re really getting a good deal,” Skirboll says. The best way to remedy that is to do your homework and look through Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads in advance and compare the advertised prices and promotions. Shopping deals site Brad’s Deals has a list of when all the 2019 ads are set to drop.
“It sounds a little bit more complicated than it is,” Skirboll adds. For example, if you have a list of items you’d like to buy, you can do some research online. You can even go shopping and scout out what you’re hoping to buy and just track the price every couple of weeks.
Some stores will even price match during Black Friday season, so it’s worth looking into the policies if you’re debating between several stores. Dealnews has a helpful guide on price match policies for 18 popular retailers for the 2019 Black Friday sales.
“There are lots of places that are offering incentives and promotions to get shoppers to shop with them. So find that place and then make your purchase,” Skirboll says.
There’s even a Black Friday calculator, where you can plug in the type of promotion, the original price and the discount. From there, the calculator will tell you if the deal is worth considering.
4. Strategically abandon your cart
When you’re shopping online and not finding any discounts, it may help to close out of your browser without buying anything and wait a few hours. In other words, abandon your cart.
In an hour, two hours, or sometimes 24 hours, you may get an email from the store with a subject line like: “We noticed you left a few things in your cart. Here’s a 10% off coupon on us to help you check out.” Skirboll calls this a “sneaky” trick to save money, but it works well with retailers where you frequently shop. Keep in mind that you need to be logged in for this to work.
When it comes to using the “abandon your cart” approach during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, make sure that you keep track of when a promotion period ends. If you haven’t received any additional coupons via email and the sale is about to end, you may want to check out other stores or simply move forward with the sale price you already have.
5. Follow your favorite brands on social media
“On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you’re going to find special sales and friends and family codes,” Skirboll says. And sometimes, especially around Black Friday Week, you will find doorbuster codes. These are promotions that promise additional discounts, for example 30% off, if you shop between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.
“Pay attention on social media, because this is where these retailers are really rewarding their most loyal fan base,” Skirboll says.
6. Download apps and browser extensions
If you’re looking to automate your Black Friday and Cyber Monday experience a bit this year, consider downloading some apps for your smartphone and browser extensions that plug into your internet browser and alert you to cheaper prices and deals.
Flipp, for example, can save you some time sorting through all those paper Black Friday ads. The app has every American weekly ad and coupon, so you can browse from your smartphone. And you can double check the advertised prices against what you’re seeing in-store.
Shopsavvy is another app that can help you find the best deals by allowing you to scan in product bar codes and then automatically compare the price to other local stores and online retailers.
If you’re planning to shop at a specific store, you may want to download their app, as retailers, such as Target, may post app-specific discounts and promo codes. You can scan product bar codes to check for discounts. Plus, members of Target’s loyalty program receive 1% cash back on every purchase and Target RedCard cardholders get 5% discount on eligible purchases.
You can also install browser extensions such as Honey and Capital One’s Wikibuy. The extensions automatically find and test all available coupon codes. Wikibuy will also tell you when another store has a better price and notify you when prices drop on products you recently viewed.
If you’re shopping on Amazon, make sure to check out Amazon Assistant, which gives shoppers a look at related products on the site. Many times, there will be a similar product offered by a different brand on sale. Camelcamelcamel is another free Amazon price tracker that shows the cost of items over time, helping you figure out if discounts are actually good values.
7. Shop after the sale days end
Only about a third of Americans plan to shop on Black Friday, according to PwC’s report. In fact, over half say they will wait until the week after Black Friday to complete their holiday shopping.
You may be able to find better deals on certain items after Black Friday and Cyber Monday end. For example, Skirboll recommends shoppers avoid buying any fitness equipment or linens until January, since that’s the time when those products tend to have bigger sales.
In the past few years, Amazon has rolled out the “Amazon 12 Days of Deals” starting on Cyber Monday and offering nearly two full weeks of daily discounts.
Pattern, which monitors e-commerce trends, found that the lowest prices on products sold by Amazon during the 2018 shopping season occurred in December and were usually just as good as Black Friday prices. That’s according to an analysis by Pattern of more than 2,000 products in 26 categories on Amazon.
Of course, those deals may not be as widespread or as well-advertised as the Black Friday and Cyber Monday pricing — and some may not occur until after Christmas or after shipping cut-offs. But if you’re looking to buy a special something for yourself, don’t be afraid to shop after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Looking for a new credit card this holiday season? Check out CNBC Select’s roundup of the best cards for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping.
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!