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How to Find Great Deals on Gifts

Before I became a professional deal seeker, I was a talented amateur. Not paying too much, negotiating a deal, and finding a great price is an art. It’s an art that I learned from my mother and she learned from hers. I am a serious deal seeker. 

But I am not willing to get up at dawn and stand in line outside a retailer to get a deal, because I think sleep and comfort are the best deals going. Some people enjoy it. And to them I say: Have fun!

Now read this: The Best Gift Cards for the Geeks on Your List

But getting a good deal is an art that has become less time consuming and much easier to do while staying warm and comfy because of technology.

How to get Black Friday deals and keep your sanity

Black Friday is insane. The deals are insane. The crowds are insane. The things people will do for a deal are insane. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great time to get deals (sometimes, and on some things). I keep an eye on the the sale offerings. But I do not fall for the hype. And I would never get into fisticuffs to save few bucks. 

Often, you can get Black Friday deals in advance of — and after —Black Friday. I keep a weather eye on Amazon’s Black Friday sales, Walmart’s Black Friday sales (which start at Walmart.com beginning at 12:01 a.m. PT on Thanksgiving morning), Target, my favorite discount retailers’ Web sites, and my favorite online boutiques to see what’s on sale. If I’m searching for a new computer, TV, or gaming console, I definitely time that purchase for during or after Black Friday if possible. But I buy online, not in the stores.

The smart way to shop in stores

I’m not saying I never shop retail stores. I like to shop locally and support the people who live where I do. And there are some things you don’t know that you love or hate until you see them in person. This is a social activity and a way to find unique gifts. 

Apps like Red Laser let you compare online prices while you’re inside the store.

But I use technology for this, too. If I see a pair of shoes (or any other mass-market commodity) that I absolutely must have, I scan the bar code with the Red Laser app to make sure I’m getting a competitive price before I line up at checkout. It will tell me what that item costs in another retail store and online, so I can comparison shop without doing anything. Sometimes I even type the brand, style, and size into a search at eBay.com

The best ways to shop online

There was a time when shopping online meant you had to be super organized and shop early to make sure your stuff arrived in time. Wow, that changed quickly. Retailers have gotten phenomenally good at getting goods delivered fast. In some cases and locations, Amazon can deliver the same day you order. Shopping online saves me tons of time — and money.

The RetailMeNot website and app deliver instant coupons directly to your phone.

Here is something you can only do when you shop online: Search for a coupon code for the retailer you’re buying for. Just Google the name of the store and “coupons.” Or go to Retailmenot.com and look the retailer up. Chances are good that you can lop a few dollars off the price between putting it in your cart and paying for it.

Wait for prices to drop 

If you are organized enough and have a bit of time between the shopping and needing to have the thing, I recommend stalking, especially for high-ticket items. By “stalking” I mean, put the item in your cart at Amazon, or wherever you shop, and leave it there. Just walk away. Amazon will let you know if the price drops – or goes up. (You have to look at your cart periodically and check in on the things you are stalking.) 

And some retailers, in an effort to avoid the bane of their existence (an abandoned shopping cart), will sweeten the deal by offering free shipping or some other incentive.

Your loyalty will be rewarded

Retailers – online and off – crave loyal customers. So, if you like a brand or shop, register. Follow the brand on Twitter. And say what you think. You will learn about sales first, get coupon codes via email, and learn about deals through social media. Columnists who cover shopping and deals, such as yours truly, also reward loyalty. I don’t just reprint deals I find elsewhere. I negotiate exclusive deals for my readers because I can. So be sure to stop by and read.

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When not out finding great deals, Christina Tynan-Wood can be found here on Twitter.