Win Black Friday with these shopping hacks

Following a few shopping tips will help you save money this holiday gift-giving season.
(Julio Cortez / AP)

Use these hacks to guarantee yourself the deals you want, whether you decide to shop from your couch or at the store.

Online shopping

Think outside the box. Some stores are synonymous with Black Friday: Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy, to name a few. But don’t limit yourself, especially if inventory is selling out quickly at these mass merchants.

“Almost everybody offers something,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst at Forrester Research, a business advisory firm. She recommends seeking out less mainstream sites, such as Newegg for electronics.

Go incognito. When it’s time to buy on Black Friday, open an incognito window to enable private browsing and disable plug-ins, says Mike Catania, chief technology officer of coupon website If you don’t, he says, some websites can track your previous visits or coupon plug-ins and adjust their prices accordingly. When in doubt, compare prices across a few different browsers.

Scour social media. Follow retailers on Twitter and like them on Facebook for sale news in your social feed. Stores such as Target and Home Depot also have Black Friday pages on their websites where customers can sign up to receive deal alerts.

Check your inbox frequently on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Retailers sometimes offer deals for a few hours or less, says Jackie Breyer, editor in chief of toy review website the Toy Insider.

Michael Parrish DuDell, chief strategy officer of coupon website CouponFollow, suggests going “all in” at retailers with a history of Black Friday discounts in hopes of being rewarded with exclusive offers. Subscribe to their newsletters, download their apps and join their loyalty programs.

Seek out free shipping. Find retailers that offer free shipping with no minimum or a very low minimum. Best Buy, for instance, has announced free shipping with no minimum on eligible orders through Dec. 25. If you can’t find free shipping, get your online order sent to the store instead of your home.

Keep an eye on deals that will start flooding your email inbox on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.
(Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

In-store shopping

Lean on retailers. The best way to win Black Friday is to plan ahead and use retailer resources. Last year, Target released an online map that detailed where specific deals would be located in the store. Stores including Best Buy and Wal-Mart post Black Friday shopping tips on their websites.

Keep your phone handy. Make sure your phone has a full charge before leaving for the store. You can use it to compare prices and load scannable coupons.

Slice is an app that compiles sales. Open it on Black Friday, tap the “deals” tab and browse available promotions. And Thinkover lets you save items you want to buy ahead of Black Friday. If something you’ve been eyeing goes on sale, you’ll receive an alert.

You also could get rewarded for shopping. With the Shopkick app, users earn points, or “kicks,” for walking into stores, scanning bar codes and making purchases. Points eventually can be redeemed for digital gift cards. Drop is another app that rewards users with points — and eventually gift cards — for everyday spending.

All shopping

Request an additional discount. It never hurts to ask, according to Mark Ellwood, author of “Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World.”

If you’re shopping online, Ellwood advises contacting the customer service department a few days before Black Friday to see if it can sweeten the deal. There are “too many shops and not enough shoppers,” he says, so representatives might be willing to work with you rather than lose you to a competitor.

Earn credit card cash back. Match your method of payment with the store where you shop. Some credit cards are offering generous cash-back percentages at certain stores this holiday season. That could pay off, especially if you’re already going to be shopping at one of those stores.