Let’s go shopping!

Since today is Black Friday in the US, I thought I’d do my own little tribute to shopping.  For those of you that don’t know, Black Friday is considered the biggest shopping day in the year, the official kick-off to Christmas holiday shopping, with many stores offering outrageous deals to shoppers who are willing to darken their doors at 4am.  I wish we had something like this in Canada, although Boxing Day (December 26) is traditionally  one of the biggest shopping days here. If only it happened before Christmas!

In this great year of financial crisis, many people are thinking of limiting their shopping so that their already-stretched budgets don’t burst completely.  In my house, we do a lot of comparison shopping, both online and in-store, but we could also benefit from a few new strategies for better shopping.

#1.   Have you heard of “cashback shopping”?  This is really a new term for me, but one which makes complete sense since I do a lot of my shopping on the web.  You sign up at one of the many sites devoted to cashback shopping (many are free, but some have a small yearly fee), and they pay you a percentage for each purchase you make through their site. Some pay monthly, others require your balance to be a certain size before they send you the money, but it might be something to consider, even if it is just a few dollars a month.  I’d much rather know I am being paid a few cents on something I was going to buy anyway.  You can look at sites like Spree.com, TreasureTrooper.com, and CashCrate.com.

#2. Rewards Cards.  We have a few stores in my town that offer points on everything you buy and days to cash them in later for merchandise.  (Although I must confess that some of the smaller stores have rather silly rewards options.  Let me just say, if I am not allowed to know what my point balance is, I will not think to go to your store first.)  Shoppers Drugmart has a fabulous rewards program that we have benefited from several times now.  You shop, earn points, and later, you can cash in the points to purchase anything in the store from beauty products to groceries to health supplies.  We’re waiting for our next $200 shopping spree!  Costco is another great store that offers rewards for items purchased over time. The more you spend, the more you can save with their program.  And don’t forget your credit cards.  Certain banks offer rewards for using their cards.  Check with your bank to see if you could be earning money towards something fun!

#3.  Comparison shopping through your phone.  Right now, Google’s iPhone has a great new application to allow you to comparison shop while you are in the store.  How many time have we been shopping and wondered if we were really getting the best price?  With the iPhone, you can scan the bar code with the camera phone,  and the application will source out other deals in the area, even providing you with a map and directions to the store with the better deal.  Sound useful?  It might have some rough edges just yet, but I can see this idea taking off soon!

#4. Let me just say….online coupon codes. This is one little secret that I have only just started using.  If you are shopping online at many major retail stores, before you checkout, do an online search for a coupon code for that store and you might wind up with a deal.  I often wondered where you’d get one of these coupon codes that seem to be on every store checkout page.  All you need to do once you find a coupon code for the store you’re shopping at is copy the code and paste it into the box and you’ll save!  Amazing!

What are your tricks for saving money during this holiday season?