Rejoice, one and all! That magical time of year full of hope, joy, and goodwill towards all is fast approaching. Yes, that’s right: It’s almost Black Friday/Cyber Monday season. The two days (wisely separated by a weekend so you can rest up and properly recover between them) of bargains, big savings, and bountiful markdowns all across the country/internet.
As exciting as this time of year is, it can feel pretty overwhelming. There’s a lot to take in. A lot of places offering all kinds of enticing offers. And, no doubt, a long list of relatives and loved ones who need gifts for the upcoming holiday season. Rather than charge headlong into the physical and digital throngs on 11/29 and 12/2, respectively, let us help you put together an organized, step-by-step strategy for tackling your shopping whirlwind as effectively as possible.
Step 1 – Check Your Exchange
With their tax-free system and already low prices, your local base PX/MCX/NX/AFEX is probably the first place you go for shopping anyway. But AAFES typically offers a whole host of additional price cuts for Black Friday. And, with the My Exchange website now open to all military personnel past or present, it’s never been easier to save big. They may not have everything you’re looking for, but it’s well worth it to buy whatever items on your list you can from them before looking elsewhere.
Step 2 – Research & Check Deal Websites
This isn’t a difficult task, but it will probably take a while if you want to be thorough. After all, there are a lot of bargains to be had, in store and online, from pretty much every major brand and retail chain in the US. There are some handy sites that assemble and compare the sale details across the big brand every year like Blackfriday.com and Hip2Save. Starting with one (or more) of those should give you a good jumping off point to finding where the best price(s) for the item(s) you’re hoping to snap up will be.
Step 3 – Black Friday vs Cyber Monday: Which is Better?
In all the excitement of bargain hunting, with reduced prices for everything from socks to smart TV’s, it’s all too enticing to leap at the first round of deals you see. In the past, when Black Friday existed on its own, that was usually the smart move, too. But now, with Cyber Monday growing in scope every year, sometimes a little patience is the smarter move. After you’ve narrowed down prices to the best one being offered by a store on Friday, poke around online. See what the same item is likely to run you if you hold out until Monday to buy it digitally. Unless you desperately need that aforementioned smart TV on Friday and not a day later, there’s a chance it’s worth waiting a few days.
Step 4 – Weigh Your Shipping Options
So this relates pretty much directly to your decision about whether to buy on Friday in store or Monday online. Chances are, if you’re buying something at the Exchange or a retail location you’ll be sending as a gift to someone, you’ll use the on-base post office. It’s your easiest and cheapest option in most cases. But it can still run you pretty high, particularly if you’re shipping something big, heavy, or to someone a long way off. Someone deployed or stationed outside the US, for example. In a case like that, it might be cheaper to buy something online and have it shipped directly to the recipient. Compare the postal rates with the website shipping rates and do a little math if you want to see which way saves you more in the end. If you order online, just make sure you check off the “this is a gift” option at checkout.
Step 5 – Celebrate, Give, & Enjoy the Holidays
Joking and consumerism aside, we all know the real heart of the holiday season is showing our love for friends and family through the time we spend together the gifts we give them. So while it’s easy to get bogged down in the hassle of holiday shopping, don’t forget it’s all about showing how much you care. And if you can save big bucks in the process of spreading such cheer, well, that’s all the better.