Shopping Shopping Shopping

Y’all, there are some seriously important shopping days coming up, so put on your focus pants and listen:

This Friday:  Black Friday.  The famous (or infamous) annual day-after-Thanksgiving event where the masses go crazy, spend money, and save even more (depending on who you ask).  In the past, sales would start as early as 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m., but now more and more stores are bumping up the start of their “Black Friday” sales to midnight or even as early as 10:00 p.m., Thanksgiving.  (Honestly, I’m pretty strongly against this last one because it takes people away from their families — and I mean the store associates in this case — but this trend has caught on nonetheless.  Be classy – boycott these Thanksgiving night sales, folks.  As Teresa would say, “That’s just tacky.”)

Regardless of how you feel about it, Black Friday sales really do live up to the hype (especially in department stores like JC Penney and Macy’s).  For a bevvy of Black Friday tips, check out my post from last year: Black Friday Shopping Tips

Moving on.  Small Business Saturday.  Ah, just the name of this shopping holiday brings a smile to my face.  Aaaand it is exactly what it sounds like:  A day to show small businesses a little love by patronizing them (you know which definition of that word I mean) – as opposed to the big box retailers you usually give your money (no judgment, just tellin’ it like it is).  This is a relatively new shopping holiday — in the long history of shopping holidays, of course – so every year it grows just a bit more in scope.  Check out my previous post on Small Business Saturday.  I said so many wise things about it last year, I wouldn’t want you to miss out.  ;)

Cyber Monday:  Oh, how I love online shopping, and oh how I love Cyber Monday even more.  This fabulous event occurs the Monday after Thanksgiving (so this year, it’ll be November 26th, 2012).  For the full scoop, you can read… broken record time… my post from last year… but suffice it to say, it’s a great day to score fabulous deals with many online retailers offering discounted or even FREE shipping.

So yeah, that was a whole lot of review of posts past, but now it’s all in one place for your browsing pleasure.  Wasn’t that sweet of me?  :)

Happy Shopping… and more importantly, my American readers…

Happy Thanksigiving!!! 

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Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 6 (continued): Cyber Monday

***”Twelve Weeks of Christmas?  Is this some evil ploy driven by corporate greed to get even more money out of me and my vulnerable, consumer-driven wallet?”  No, not exactly…. this is just a blog!  But if you want to check out the other parts in this ongoing, 12-part series, which are not particularly evil and only mildly consumer-driven, check it out right here.  You won’t be sorry.

***ALSO, check out previous parts in week 6, “Black Friday Shopping Tips” and “Small Business Saturday.”  Kind of like a series within a series… a miniseries?  No, that doesn’t work… sounds like something on the Lifetime channel.  Anyways, check it out!

Ok y’all, I’ve asked you to put on your “focus pants” before– today I need you to turn on your listening ears (and whatever other metaphoric accessories will help you pay attention).  Today we’re talking about…

Cyber Monday!

My thoughts exactly. (Though I'm not sure why the heart has eyes and a smile. Creepy.)

Now, about ten, fifteen years ago, back in the age of chat rooms and “the-internet-is-still-a-novelty” this would have sounded like a very naughty thing, indeed.  So, dirty jokes aside, Cyber Monday is my favorite shopping holiday!

I love the internet (did I mention that a couple…3 dozen times?).  I love shopping!  I love getting a good deal (“duh” to the fifth power).  When all three of these things merge in a sweet, sweet union — in a weird kind of polygamist who’s-the-real-bride-and-groom thing — I am one happy lady!

(Quick, not boring) History Lesson:  Cyber Monday began as an official shopping holiday in 2005, after online retailers noticed an upsurge of online shopping during the weekend (and week) after Thanksgiving.  Wanting to capitalize on this, shop.org, the National Retail Federation’s digital edition, declared the Monday after Thanksgiving “Cyber Monday,” thus encouraging online retailers to reduce prices or offer a percentage off their purchase, free shipping, free gifts, et al.  Needless to say, the holiday took off and has only grown over the past years.

History lesson aside, Cyber Monday is a day to get some of the best deals imaginable, but careful planning is key for success.  So… guess what?  I made a list!  (I know what you’re thinking:  I never do that :)  )  Well, kind of a list, kind of a step-by-step, ya know… it’ll all be clear very soon.  And soon = NOW:

1.  Review your Christmas list, specifically what you have left to buy.

I know… Black Friday and Small Business Saturday haven’t even gotten here yet!  However, for some items on your list, it will be clear that you won’t find those things on either of these days (or you’ve already looked at the websites I recommended and know that you won’t find what you need on Black Friday).  Small Business Saturday comes with hidden surprises, so wait until after that before you make any solid decisions, but you should still have some idea of what you’re going to need/want online.

(Oh, and if you’re at a loss for online resources, look no further than this post.)

2.  After you’ve figured out what you may need to purchase online, comparison shop to find the best prices.

Bookmark these websites, save the links in an e-mail to yourself, whatever.  Obviously, the price you see today may be reduced on Monday, but it will usually be relative to its original price on the website.  If you have an extra minute and you feel pretty strongly about a particular website (for example, my go-to’s are Amazon and Overstock), go ahead and save yourself some time in the future and set up an account with them (this is a free account by the way, I’m not saying to open up a credit card account with them — Danger, Will Robinson!).

3.  Sign-up for e-mails, Facebook friend them or subscribe to their Tweets (or all three).

By registering for an account, you will probably already get their e-mails, but some companies give special deals to their Twitter followers or Facebook friends, so it’s worth the short-term hassle if it means you’ll get an incredible coupon or free shipping.  Needless to say, after Cyber Monday, you can unsubscribe (until next year, of course).

4.  Log in to your account with these websites, and add the necessary items to your cart (but don’t buy them yet!).

Most websites will save the items you added to your cart, and then when Cyber Monday rolls around, you have a much easier job!  You’ve already comparison shopped, so based on the price drops for the big day, you can remove or add more items to your cart.

5.  Check out CyberMonday.com

Here’s the link: http://www.cybermonday.com/   It’s basically what it sound like: a website dedicated to my fave shopping holiday, and sometimes it divulge leaked promos or other offers that will be available.

6.  Get up early!

This is important, especially if you have to work that day (though the National Retail Federation says that 50% of people who work at a desk with a computer will use it for shopping on Cyber Monday, so I’m not necessarily encouraging you to shop online while at work, but getting up extra early won’t hurt!).  Again, if you already have your virtual shopping cart full, it’s just a matter of double-checking with their Cyber Monday deals (sometimes you have to spend x number of dollars to get free shipping), then entering your credit card information, and wa-bam!  Done.

Another reason to get up early:  Online stores, though they are online, i.e. part of the world wide web, can CRASH or SELL OUT of the items you are wanting.  Eek!  So, get that worm early, early birds (there’s a proverb in there somewhere).

7.  Check out big box retailers’ websites as well.

Traditionally, that’s what Black Friday is for, but in case you were pining away for something and weren’t able to get it on Black Friday, you can still try to find it on their website (walmart.com, target.com, bestbuy.com, ya know).  These big box websites often surprise with some lovely Cyber Monday deals, so check them out!

8.  Etsy.com

I know, I know…. I talk about Etsy a lot, but I also talk about my husband a lot and it turns out, I like him… this is also how I feel about Etsy :) (though to a slightly lesser degree).

I know I mentioned this website in my Online Shopping Tips and Tricks post, so you may already be two steps ahead of me, but I can’t mention online shopping without giving Etsy a little love (and no, they don’t pay me to say this… but they could.  Etsy advertising people?  Are you listening? :) )

Since Etsy is an online marketplace comprised of various individuals who have virtual storefronts selling a variety of things, you won’t find any site-wide deals.  However, my tip (that has actually worked for me before) is to contact a seller directly.  Once you find an item or items that you want to buy, contact the seller (via the contact methods given) and ask about their Cyber Monday deals… or ask if they plan to participate in Small Business Saturday.  It doesn’t hurt to ask, and if you start a dialogue with them, sometimes you can open up the possibilities of haggling (quite possibly one of my favorite words in the English language).  Explain to them that you really want such-and-such item, but you plan on setting aside all online transactions for Cyber Monday in hopes that there’ll be some discounts or other perks.  Of course, the seller could go all p’shaw on you and say they don’t participate in such things (awww…..), but at least you’ve asked, and it never hurts to ask.

Maybe the online sellers will already have some Cyber Monday deals in place… or maybe they haven’t even thought of it yet and this will be the springboard for them to consider implementing this into their business plan!

9.  Don’t get spastic with the plastic!

(Can you believe I just made that up?  Will wonders never cease?)  :)

But seriously, remember that your debit or credit card is connected to a bank account (or a soon-to-arrive-in-your-mailbox bill).  It’s not Monopoly money (but oh, how I wish it was!).  It’s one thing to go to a store and swipe a card or hand over cash for your purchases;  it’s another to enter in a few numbers and click-click-click.  Don’t discount the gravity of what you’re doing, however user-friendly it may be.  It’s so easy to get into the mindset of the click-click-click, especially when you’re not dealing with tangible things like cash or a paper receipt.  Have fun, get great deals (I mean, how could you not?), but be SMART.

10.  Number Ten

I didn’t really have a number ten, but I was feeling sort of off balance with a mere nine tips.  I’m sure you understand.

Question time:  Do you plan to participate in Black Friday, Small Business, Saturday or Cyber Monday?  All three?  Just one?  None of the above?  Or are you going the Courtney route this year and giving all handmade, re-purposed, or thrifted gifts (if so, good luck — it’s no easy task)???  Are you going to start using the catchphrase “Don’t get spastic with the plastic,” especially considering I spent 3.75 seconds thinking it up?

Let me know in comment form below!

***To check out my Black Friday Shopping Tips, go here.

***To read my Small Business Saturday spiel, go here.

***To check out the other parts of “The Twelve Weeks of Christmas,” go here.

(SUBSCRIBE!)

Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 6 (Continued): Small Business Saturday

*** “Twelve weeks of Christmas?” you say, with an incredulous tone.  That’s a lot of Christmas… or is it just enough?!  You decide: here

Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday, which falls on November 26th this year, is a an initiative of American Express, the credit card well known for supporting brick-and-mortar mom-and-pops.  It’s part of the busiest-shopping-weekend-of-the-year triumvirate, which includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  However, unlike these other two shopping holidays, Small Business Saturday doesn’t support the big box retailers; it supports the little guys!

Ok, for real y’all, just the name of this special day gives me warm fuzzies.  I love supporting small business!  However, that whole penny pinching quest of mine can get in the way of this more often than not.  However, having a specific day dedicated to this makes it even easier, and hopefully, the specified day encourages small businesses to have their own sales, sharing in the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

Here’s where you come in!  To get the word out about Small Business Saturday, first check out their website here.

No really, click on that link now.  It will open in another window and you can come back to me in a minute.

Ok, good.  If you clicked on the link, you probably noticed the whole Facebook sharing thing.  If not, there’s a direct link here.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it (and c’mon, it’s easy!) is to social-media-nudge the mess out of this!  Share it on Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, in conversations with friends and family… anyone. Get the word out!

Small Business Saturday is still a relatively new holiday (ok, it’s only two years old), so not everyone knows about it.  It’s our job, as penny pinching advocates, to promote this holiday and increase its awareness.  (I know… misuse of the word “holiday,” but that’s what the American Express website calls it, so move on, language purists.)

The more people that know about it means more people will partake in it, which means more small businesses will feel encouraged to drop their prices, take a percentage off, et al, if even for one day.

And of course, the last component of your mission:  SHOP on Small Business Saturday.  Even if a particular (small) business is not in the American Express OPEN Retail Index, patronize it anyway.  When you’re checking out and they say “thank you,” (and hopefully they do), tell them you’re just partaking in Small Business Saturday!  Hopefully they’ll ask you (or look it up) if they don’t know what this means, and you can explain to them (or Google can).  When it comes to Small Business Saturday, the more the merrier!

Well… looks like you’ve got work to do, dear GPP readers and accidentally-stumbled-here-via-search-engine folks!

In summary:

1.  Check out http://www.smallbusinesssaturday.com/.

2.  “Like” them on Facebook and share the link:

3.  Tweet it!

4.  Bring it up in random conversation… with whoever you randomly converse with!

5.  Put it in your calendar.

6.  Shop small on November 26th, 2011.  It’s as easy as getting coffee from that little cafe you’ve been meaning to go to… instead of Starbucks.

Happy (small) Shopping!!!

(SUBSCRIBE!)

***To read the previous posts in this ongoing, twelve part series, go here.  Only 5 weeks left!

Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 6: Black Friday Shopping Tips

This picture has NOTHING to do with Black Friday shopping, so don’t waste your time trying to find an intelligent correlation. Instead, spend your time appreciating the beauty of this picture (and Josh’s flower drawing skills). This is from when Nola had her “lady parts” removed a couple of years ago. We couldn’t resist decorating her cone, since she was forced to wear it anyway. Isn’t she the cutest little post-op puppy ever!?! (I also posted this picture because I decided every post needs a picture, whether related to it or not.)

**Check out the previous parts in this twelve part series here.

***Sorry for the late post, folks.  To say I have been busy today is an understatement:  I have been on (and off) hold with the gas company for the last 2.5 hours today, and in case you’re wondering, if the previous tenant of the unit you are living in passes away without paying his gas bill for two years, that might result in you having your gas turned off, even if you have paid your bill.  The moral of the story is keep good records!  The only reason they’re turning my gas back on today is because I have a bill from my previous residence proving I lived there and not here with the previous tenant.  Seriously.  Crazy times.  I’m exhausted. 

Ok, ridiculous stories aside, I am so EXCITED!  Why?  Well, aside from being able to use my oven and stove again (very soon), this is a very exciting week in the world of penny pinching!

No, not Thanksgiving… though I like that, too.

Over the course of the next week, you can take advantage of….   (drumroll)

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday!!!

(Oooh…. Aaaah…..)

Oh boy, oh boy!  Right?!  Today I’ll address the crazy (and slightly intimidating) magic  that is Black Friday; I’ll leave Tuesday and Wednesday for the rest.  Don’t worry, you’ll be fully prepared for bargain hunting nirvana.  I’ll make sure of it.  :)

Black Friday:  It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and it’s considered the “official” first day of Christmas shopping (though if you’re smart GPP readers, you’ve been doing the Christmas shopping thing for a while now).  The term first came into use in 1966, and it refers to this specific day when retailers turn a profit or are “in the black” (as opposed to “the red”).

Typically, retailers open their stores at 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m., though some will open as early as 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m..  Very recently, some retailers have even pushed it back to midnight.   As in, while you are eating your Thanksgiving dinner, stores are getting ready for soon-to-arrive customers.

This opening at midnight stuff has been met with much frustration, and one Target employee even started a petition against this plan, garnering over 190,000 signatures.  It gets worse:  Wal-Mart is opening their doors at 10:00 p.m., with most employees being requested to arrive at 8:00.  Gross.

Clearly, I’m not the biggest advocate of the midnight sales, and I still believe you can get AMAZING deals by just going early in the morning.

That said, here a few tips from a veteran Black Friday shopper, i.e.,  ME! 

1.        Pre-Black Friday sales:

As someone who has worked in retail, I know that at some stores, Black Friday sales actually begin the Monday or Tuesday before.  Seriously.  One such retailer that has always done this in the past is the J. Crew Factory store.  Random tip, I know… but you’re welcome all the same.  :)  This means if you don’t feel you’ll have the necessary game face ready for Friday… or if you are working or otherwise unavailable, you can still get some great deals RIGHT NOW.  It’s totally possible.  (In fact, my mother and I usually go Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving, where she does the majority of her Christmas shopping.  She refuses to be a part of Black Friday and “all those crazy people” as she says.  I guess she forgets that I am “one of those crazy people.”)

2.        Get up early!!!

This really does make a difference as a lot of retailers, particularly department stores, have “doorbusters” or “early bird” specials that are only available before 9:00 or 10:00.  The crowd can be a bit crazy, but it will totally be worth it if you get a great deal (genuine leather Etienne Aigner boots for $40?  Ok!).

3.       Eat breakfast.

Many irrational decisions can be made when you’re hungry.  Don’t let it happen to you (more on this in a future post scheduled for December).

4.        Stay hydrated.

This is in the same vein as #3, but seriously, very important.  Piggybacking on this concept, go ahead and bring your own water bottle, too.  You may think you can just buy something somewhere if you’re really thirsty, but I promise, everyone else will think that as well, and while Black Friday is a big day for retail, it’s also a GREAT day for the restaurant business (read: a day for CROWDS/LINES everywhere).

5.        Pack lightly and dress even more lightly.

Nothing is more frustrating than carrying a too-heavy purse when you’re on a serious Black Friday shopping mission.  Just pack what you need, i.e., wallet, sales fliers, water bottle, a snack, and a first aid kit (just kidding… or am I?).  The “dress lightly” part:  Perhaps equal in frustration is having to carry around a coat or scarf while also trying to carry shopping bags and push through the crowds.  Wear something where you think you’ll be comfortable both inside and outside (hopefully, you’ll be inside most of the day and it won’t matter beyond the trip you have in walking to your car).

6.        Check out Black Friday deals BEFORE Black Friday.

Thanksgiving day is THE day to buy a newspaper if you want a tangible copy of the sales fliers, but if you’re wanting to plan even earlier – perhaps before you slip into a turkey induced coma – there are a few websites that feature the “leaked” deals, so you could know as early as NOW!  Here they are:

The Black Friday

BlackFriday.info

BlackFriday.us

Black Friday @ Gottadeal.com

Yeah, sensationalized is an understatement…

 7.       Make a list.

If you don’t have a battle plan going into Black Friday, you could fall victim to over-spending (eesh!) or overwhelm-edness.  With the crowds and the general state of frenzy, it can be easy to just say “This is too much – I don’t need to shop this badly.”  But… don’t do that, silly!  Because… again, this is both the busiest shopping day of the year AND the best if you’re looking for great deals.  For real.  It’s not just mass hysteria  (though it is that, too).  Make a list, know what you’re looking for and where you’re looking for it, stay tough, and make me proud :)

———————————————————-

Hope these tips help!  Yes, Black Friday is a CRAZY day, but if you come prepared to do battle (I’m only sort of kidding in my tone), you’ll be fine (and maybe even slightly surprised to discover it’s not even as crazy as I’m making it out to be).

Good luck.

And, as always, please pass along any other tips you may have for Black Friday shopping in comment form below!

Coming up this week…

Tuesday:   Cyber Monday

Wednesday:  Small Business Saturday

Stay Tuned!