Black Friday is a big event both for retailers and the customers who get great deals. Finding the best deals on this day is a time-honored tradition that many shoppers look forward to. It can be a fast-paced day, however, and it’s important to take steps to stay safe while bargain shopping.
Start Shopping Early
These days, many Black Friday deals start before the actual day. Stay aware of when stores and websites are marking things down for Black Friday so that you know when to shop. When items go on sale before the big day, they may sell out before the day actually rolls around. Supply chain issues can mean that there are fewer items on the shelves, and items that are scarce will sell out even faster. This keeps you from showing up to stores early Friday morning only to find that the good deals are gone.
Don’t Bust Your Budget
For some shoppers, the biggest risk is going over the amount they budgeted for their Black Friday shopping. You need to go into the day with a fixed budget in mind, and keep track of what you are spending as you shop. If you find yourself tempted by items that would put you over budget, start thinking about all of the bills you need to pay and how much you need to pay them. You don’t want to spend so much that you can’t pay your bills on time.
To do this, you have to fight some of the marketing that will come your way. All of it is designed to get you to buy as much as possible. You may see a great deal and decide to buy five of the items. However, do you need that many? It can also help to make a list of the people who you are buying for and what you’re buying so that you don’t put too much of your budget toward one person and not have enough for the others.
Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi
When you are out going from store to store, or even if you will shop only one store, don’t use the public Wi-Fi while you’re there. This can put you in danger of hackers who are trying to get your personal information. Public Wi-Fi has much less security than a private network that is protected by a password. Keep your info better protected by only using a private Wi-Fi network or using your cellular data to get online while you’re shopping.
Hold on to your receipts
Even if you do a lot of shopping at a lot of different stores, keep each of your receipts. Once you get home, you can put them all into a labeled envelope. When you have the receipts on hand, you are better protected against extra charges that a store may have added to your bill. You can also go back and look at all of your receipts to find out what the store’s return policy is. You might also buy an item with a warranty on it, so you need to be able to prove when you bought it to take advantage of that warranty. When your credit card gets billed, you can also use the receipts to verify that all of the charges on your card are legitimate and correct.
If you get gift receipts, you still need to keep the buyer’s receipt for all of these reasons. And you will be able to tell the recipient of the gifts what the warranty is and when the item can be returned.
Stay Safe in Your Car
In-person shopping comes with a number of risks, and one of these is the time that you will spend in your car. During this time of year, the traffic can be a nightmare. Drive defensively so that you are always ready for problems on the road. Never give in to road rage and get aggressive with someone on the road. You never know who you might be provoking. The same is true in parking lots. If someone steals your parking space, let it go.
When you’re looking for a place to park, be patient. The sheer number of shoppers on Black Friday can mean that it will be tough to get one. Just keep trying. Watch out for drivers who speed up to try to grab a space, and don’t do that yourself or you risk an accident. When you park, make sure the area you are in is well-lit. It’s a bad idea to leave anything of value inside your vehicle. Thieves know that people shop and store their items in their cars and may be looking for cars to break into. If possible, drop off your packages at home in between each store.
Don’t forget to lock your car and be sure to notice where it’s parked so that you aren’t wandering around the parking lot later. When you’re ready to leave the store, get your keys out before you leave. When you reach your car, check around your vehicle before you get in. Watch carefully when you back your car out of its space.
Guard Your Person
When you’re outside the car, you need to make yourself less vulnerable to thieves. If you are carrying a purse or other bag with you, make sure you keep it close to your body at all times, and don’t set it down for a second. If possible, use a strap to wear it across your body. You might want to get a different bag to carry for your shopping trip. Use one with a long strap, and don’t put anything inside it other than what you need for your shopping trip. It can be helpful to bring just one credit card to use. That way, if stores have a data breach, the problem is much less complicated for you. It will mean that only one of your cards is compromised.
If you are paying with cash for anything, don’t take it out until you are asked for it. Make sure you don’t make it obvious to others that you are using cash. Never fight or get aggressive about an item you want to buy. Black Friday fights do happen, and you don’t want to be involved in one. If you are buying a large item, don’t be afraid to ask for an employee to help you bring it out and load it up. Don’t risk your back to try to do it yourself. You could become injured and be unable to drive home.
If you are taking a child with you on your shopping trip, work out a meeting place in advance. In case one of you gets lost, you can both meet up at the meeting spot. Kids should also know to go to a store employee or a security guard if they need help.
Read the Fine Print
Before you take advantage of the deals that are out there on Black Friday, make sure you fully understand the deals. If you look through circulars, websites, apps, and other sources to find out the Black Friday deals, always look for the fine print. Is there a little star after the deal? Look up what the star means. It’s common for the deal to be a little different than the way it looks at first.
For instance, you may want to stock up on an item, but the fine print says that the discounted price is only for one item per customer. A deal may say that it’s for a greatly discounted price, but that price is only in effect if you also buy one at the regular price. The store may suspend its return policy for all of the day’s purchases, or it may have a restocking fee for Black Friday returns. If you are at all unsure about how a deal works, you can call the store to get the rules clarified.
You should also know the price-matching policy before you buy. Some only accept a price match at the time of purchase, while others will extend it to a week or two after the purchase is made. This is another reason to make sure you hold onto your receipts.
Be Safe Online
If you are shopping online for Black Friday, there are other ways that you need to protect yourself. Some online safety rules are similar to the in-person ones. Make sure to shop only on a device that is yours rather than a shared device. Be sure the Wi-Fi you connect to is a private network. Use a single card for all of the purchases, or get a virtual card number. Many credit cards will give you a virtual number that you can only use once for your purchase. This means that a data breach won’t get the actual number of your card and will instead get a number that they can’t use. It can also be helpful to shop only at stores you are familiar with. Larger websites often have better security and better resources for you if there is a problem.
During every Black Friday, take these basic steps to protect yourself in the car, on the road, in the store, and online. You may be very grateful later that you did.