18 Tips For Saving Money On Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Now that the Starbucks #RedCup controversy is behind us, it’s time to focus on the real drama of the holiday season. No, not familial strife, not the risk of over-cooked turkey, and not delayed flights home. The real drama of the holiday season happens right after Thanksgiving, when millions of people lose their minds in an epic battle to snag cheap TVs and discounted appliances. Black Friday and Cyber Monday: the two days that can be more harrowing than a Game of Thrones wedding if you don't head into battle prepared and ready to win.

In honor of this hallowed and insane tradition, here are some survival tips to help you emerge from the mayhem unscathed, with a bunch of discounted clothes and gadgets and electronics in your cart — and your budget not totally blown.

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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Before you stampede into Best Buy or Target at the crack of dawn (or, erm, Thursday night), make a list of things you actually need, in order of priority. If you’re dying to get your sweet little grandma a new toaster, and you’d kind-of-sort-of like some new boots for yourself, too, get grandma’s toaster first so you don't spend the rest of the season consumed by guilt every time you glance down at those really cute boots. Figure out exactly what you need, and hit the most important stores first.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Make a budget and stick to it! Once you have your prioritized list, do some research on prices. Look at your bank account and set aside a rational amount to spend on Black Friday sales. Just because something is discounted doesn't mean it’s free — or something you really need. It’s not a metaphor; it’s money. And shopping for others isn't an excuse to go into credit card debt.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Only certain items are worth buying on Black Friday — for example, smartphones and winter gear are probably best to avoid. Some stores will offer even better deals closer to Christmas. Go to the store(s) you’re targeting before Thanksgiving and try to get some intel (ask people who work there what will be on sale and where will it be placed). Look online and compare prices, to make sure you’re really getting a deal.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Treat Black Friday like you’re training for a triathlon. Have you ever seen a triathlete prep the night before? It’s like they’re going into battle, but their weapons are little packets of electrolytes and chafing cream. They are super organized, which is how you need to be.

Once you've got your shopping list and budget set, map your route, figure out where to park if it’s crowded (which it will be), get plenty of sleep, take your vitamins, and pack a bag with water and snacks. This is not a leisurely shopping day where you can sit down for an arugula salad and some Sancerre halfway through. This is a day for Luna Bars and vitamin C. It's all about stamina, baby.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
A lot of local shops will also have Black Friday sales, as well as deals on Small Business Saturday. It can be a more pleasant way to shop if the mall and big-box stores are just a little too hectic for you.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Start scouring for coupons you can use on Black Friday now. Look on Twitter and Facebook, check out sites like TheBlackFriday.com and BlackFriday.com, dig around for coupon codes, and print them out / store them on your phone.

Apps like TGI Black Friday, Slickdeals, My Coupon Genie, and SnipSnap help you keep track of coupons. Organize your coupons according to your carefully planned route — it’ll make shopping much more smooth.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Sure, it can be a little overwhelming to get so many emails from retailers, but it's also a good way to learn about upcoming deals. And that's what email filters are for!
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Like we said before, not everything is a good deal on Black Friday. This isn't the time to be shopping for toys, jewelry, watches, or furniture — unless you're getting 40% to 50% off of these items. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth the hassle. People get trampled on Black Friday! It’s not for amateurs.

There are often steep discounts on cookware, appliances, TVs, and electronics; that's where you should put your focus.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Bring a friend or family member to make the whole experience much less excruciating. Make a plan together; share your budget so you can keep each other in check financially. Maybe your buddy can conquer the kitchen items while you buy up the electronics. You’ll also have a shoulder to cry on if needed. (Note: It's also good to make sure you are compatible shopping buddies. Don't bring a friend who's not in for the long haul.)
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
No matter what happens (you get screamed at by an octogenarian shopper, a bratty teenager hurls a blunt object at your head), remember to take deep breaths. Do not trample other people to get that blender that's 75% off. Stay calm and cool, and remember that if you don’t emerge with everything on your list, the holidays will not be ruined.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Like for Black Friday, make a list of sites and items you want to check out on Cyber Monday, so you don’t get overwhelmed and forget something important. Prioritize them so that if one site is down or sold out of something on your list, you know exactly where to click next.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Obviously, it's not a wise move to go on a Cyber Monday shopping spree with your debit card or credit card if you’re using a shared computer at a café full of strangers. Make sure you’re using your own, password-protected laptop.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Sketchy sites tend to pop up around Cyber Monday, so if you find an incredible deal on a site you’ve never heard of, don’t give it your card info. If you're not going to stick with sites you know, it's important to Google the deal being offered to see if it has gotten any reputable press. Make sure it's legit and you’re not giving your money to some scam artist sitting in his granny’s garage in Poughkeepsie.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Prepping for Cyber Monday is a bit like getting ready for Black Friday: You need to make sure your gear is fully charged and ready. Update your browser and get your computer running in top shape. Just imagine coming across the perfect gift for your mom, only to have your computer crash as you're trying to make the purchase. It wouldn't be the end of the world, but it would definitely not be fun.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
When you’re ordering online on Cyber Monday, make sure there is free shipping on anything you’re buying. You can check ahead of time, and usually, if you take a few minutes to call the customer service line (before Cyber Monday!) and ask about free shipping, the staffer will give you a code. Just ask nicely.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Before you start buying everything in sight, read the fine print about returns and exchanges, so you don't wind up with a too-giant TV or a velour jumpsuit you didn't really need. Stores may change their policies for Cyber Monday when items are for sale at a deep discount, so return policies are important to look into ahead of time. If you really want to be prepared, take screenshots of the policies in case the company tries to pull a switch.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
PriceBlink is great for online shopping: It helps you find lower prices at other sites as you shop, in real time. Give it a spin before Cyber Monday so you can get the hang of it — and so you don't have a tech meltdown on the big day. You have much more important things to do.
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Illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Don’t lose your receipts in the craziness of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Have a specific place/pocket/pouch to keep them. That way, they'll be organized, and you won't have to frantically ransack your apartment when your kid brother decides he doesn't like the Drizzy sweatshirt you bought him.
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