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As kickoffs to the holiday shopping season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are big business for brick-and-mortar and online retailers alike. Last year, shoppers spent over $655 billion over the course of the holiday season. In 2017, that number will go as high as $682 billion.
When it comes to online shopping, no one looms larger over Black Friday than Amazon. Last year, the online retailer dwarfed other sites by capturing 31% of sales in the five days following Thanksgiving (which include Black Friday and Cyber Monday). Amazon combined size and savvy marketing with incredible deals on just about everything.
Finding the best deals on Amazon's Black Friday can take work, however. Not every deal advertised is going to save you a ton of money, and not every great deal is going to be right in your face. If you want to make the most of Amazon Black Friday, you need know how to make it work for you. The 14 tips below can help you save big and kick your holiday shopping season off with a bang.
1. Research the best deals out there before Black Friday begins
For most retailers, Black Friday is no longer a single day; the season starts in mid-November and extends nearly up to Christmas.
Amazon is no different. Its Black Friday deals started to come out in the first few weeks of November and it'll continue to reveal new deals as we get closer to Black Friday itself.
You can browse current deals on Amazon's Black Friday page to get a better idea of what's out there. There are over 7,000 deals currently listed, and more will come and go as Black Friday approaches.
To make things easier, Amazon allows you to filter deals by category, price, and even discount percentage. To help you plan, Amazon also lists select "Upcoming Deals" near the bottom of the page. If you see something you like, you can click "Watch This Deal" to receive a notification when the deal actually releases.
Take some time to browse through Amazon's deals now just to become familiar with what's going on sale. If you see any deals that you like, make sure to "watch" them. Finally, check back on Amazon's Black Friday page regularly to stay on top of any new deals that come out.
2. Make a budget and stick to it
Impulse shopping rarely works out in your favor, but it's the economic engine that makes Black Friday work. Retailers provide enormous discounts hoping that shoppers won't be able to stop themselves from buying before the sale is over. Amazon takes this strategy to the next level by providing limited-time sales that come and go throughout the holiday shopping season, constantly putting pressure on shoppers to buy now or regret it later.
If you want to take advantage of these sales, then you need to know how much you can afford to spend. That means making a budget for your holiday shopping.
How you make that budget is up to you. You might mentally assign each friend and family member a dollar amount, telling yourself that you can spend $100 on each child, $50 on each family member, and $25 on each friend. You might also just come up with a total budget and subtract each purchase from that.
Either way, you're setting limits for yourself. Limits stop you from overspending while allowing you to be a little bit more impulsive, as long as you stay within your budget.
3. Know the categories that are most likely to offer significant discounts
Just because it's Black Friday, that doesn't mean that everything is on sale, or that every sale is a good deal. In fact, for some items, it might be better to shop early on Thanksgiving or wait until Cyber Monday to pull the trigger.
DealNews looked at last year's deals to figure out what to buy and when. They found that Black Friday is often the best time to buy Android electronics, tablet computers, toys, and clothing. For many other categories, it might be best to wait.
You don't have to take their word for it. After all, those assumptions rely on last year's deals. Use the guide as a starting point and cross-reference it with Amazon Black Friday deals so you can figure out if the items you want are truly good deals.
4. Find a shopping buddy who knows how to spot a good deal
The best way to know you're getting a good deal is to ask someone you trust. It can be easy to convince ourselves that buying the latest gadget we've been coveting is a smart decision. By consulting with a friend who has your best interests in mind, you can get a second opinion that you trust.
Since we're talking about shopping online, it's relatively easy to reach your shopping buddy through any number of messaging apps. If you really want to make Amazon's Black Friday sale a special event, you can bring your computer to your friend's house, make some snacks, and shop online, side by side.
5. Know your return policies
Black Friday shopping can be impulsive, and impulsive shopping often leads to buyer remorse. Sure, you thought you needed those new work boots when they were 50% off, but when will you actually wear them?
Taking advantage of Amazon's return policies will help you to minimize the impact of any bad decisions that you might make. Of particular importance is the holiday return policy, which states:
"Items shipped by Amazon.com between November 1 and December 31 of this year may be returned until January 31 of the following year for a full refund, subject to our other return guidelines…"
In short, anything you buy on this upcoming Black Friday is returnable through that date. Restrictions apply, so make sure you check out the return policy in full before you buy.
6. Consider that Amazon Prime trial
If you aren't already a member of Amazon Prime, Black Friday might be the time to start (or at least to give the 30-day trial a shot). Prime gives you access to tons of benefits across the Amazon ecosystem, a handful of which are especially useful on Black Friday.
In particular, Prime comes with free two-day shipping on all orders. If you're impatient and have a hard time waiting for your packages to arrive, free access to expedited shipping can be great.
Amazon also reserves some of its best Black Friday deals for Prime customers. Some deals are exclusive to Prime customers while others simply give Prime members early access. If you want to make the most of Amazon Black Friday, then you absolutely have to have first crack at these deals. A Prime trial will let you do that.
7. Watch deals and get alerts through the Amazon app
You don't need the official Amazon app to watch deals or sign up for product waitlists, but it helps. The app's push notifications should let you know when the deals you're watching open up, meaning you don't have to obsessively refresh the Black Friday page or constantly check your email to stay on top of things.
This functionality is especially useful for Lightning deals, which come and go all shopping season long.
8. Watch for great prices on Amazon's own products
If you ever wanted to grab an Echo, a Kindle, or any of Amazon's other original products, now's your chance. Amazon is very likely to discount these products heavily during Black Friday in order to expand its market share and bring people further into the Amazon ecosystem. There's even a special listing on the Black Friday page for "Deals on Amazon Devices" that you can browse to see if anything strikes your fancy.
9. Don't forget about gift cards
While gift cards aren't the most exciting thing in the world, they can provide some quick discount wins for the savvy shopper. Amazon often marks down certain gift cards for Black Friday, and grabbing a $50 gift card for $40 feels like a heck of a deal.
Don't see any gift cards that you'd actually give as gifts? Look for cards you can use to complete the rest of your holiday shopping. By buying marked down and using them later, you're getting free money to shop.
10. Check price histories to see how good your deal really is
It's easy to get excited when you see that an item is marked down. However, how good is that price, really? If the price was high to begin with, a markdown doesn't do much for you.
Before you buy, run your items through a price tracker. You'll be able to see that item's price history and better discern if you should buy now, wait it out, or give it up.
11. Order through Alexa for extra savings
If you already have Amazon's Alexa, you have access to exclusive voice shopping deals. Amazon wants customers to get used to ordering through Alexa, and it's providing discounts to sweeten the pot.
Amazon's voice shopping deals are great on their own, but the one-time incentives are even better. Re-ordering an item through Alexa can get you a $10 credit, while ordering a gift card can get you a $5 credit. If you were going to order anyway, doing it through Alexa can be a great way to maximize your savings.
12. Save your receipts and order confirmations
In the frenzy of Black Friday shopping, it can be easy to lose track of what you actually bought and how much money you spent. The problem can become even worse since once you get your shopping done, you'll likely be in post-holiday relaxation mode and not checking your email for order and shipping confirmations.
To stay on top of things, make sure you save your Amazon order confirmation as soon as it comes through. For a one-click solution, Gmail users can simply "star" the confirmation when it hits their inbox. When they need to look back at it, they can just go over to their Starred folder instead of digging through their inbox looking for an email marked Amazon.
13. Protect against Package X-Ray to keep the surprise alive
Do you remember how we suggested you get the Amazon app? Well, there's a catch.
Within the Amazon app is a function called the Package X-Ray. Using your device's camera, the Package X-Ray can scan the barcode on an Amazon package and tell you what's inside without any need to open the package.
This function can be extremely useful if you end up ordering a lot of stuff over the course of Black Friday. Instead of having to open up each of your packages as they arrive, you can scan them, see what's inside, and hide them away.
This convenience has its downsides, however. If you're trying to keep your orders a surprise for your family, you'll need to guard against the chance that someone will X-Ray your packages when you're not around.
Your best bet is to wrap everything as you get it instead of waiting until the day before you give the gift. You'll hide the barcode and save yourself from the headaches of procrastinating.
14. Monitor for late packages to get Amazon credit
You signed up for Amazon Prime. You expected two-day shipping. However, it's the busy holiday season and your package is late. As it turns out, that might be great news.
Amazon has a generous policy in place to keep Prime customers happy when their packages arrive late. If you contact Amazon and it turns out the lateness isn't your fault, you might qualify for all sorts of goodies. Free months of Prime are common, but credits to spend on Amazon and future expedited shipping aren't uncommon either.
These tips will help you make the most of Amazon Black Friday, but the most pressing advice we can give is this: don't get carried away. Taking advantage of deals is one thing, but spending (especially on credit) to buy things just because they're cheap isn't smart. However, if you're planning to hit up other retailers besides Amazon, make sure to avoid retailer tricks. If you can keep yourself in check and not spend beyond your means, however, you're sure to have an incredible Amazon Black Friday.