Posts Tagged ‘Black Friday’

Despite not having a list, Domingo and I decided to go out black Friday shopping. We went out Thursday after the kids had gone to bed for some hot cocoa and to enjoy the atmosphere, and then took the kids out on Friday when the kids’ cabin fever forced us out of the house, but rain kept us away from the parks.

Turkey, Shmurkey

We arrived at Target about 2 hours after it’s initial opening. It was crowded, but not over overwhelmingly so. While we were waiting in line for those hot chocolates we couldn’t help but notice how many families were sitting down with sandwiches, pizzas and pastas. The barista commented that in those two hours since opening they had already sold more sandwiches than they sell in a typical day. I know that an early dinner on Thanksgiving day is probably more typical than not, but it appeared as though a large group of people may have opted out of the traditional meal altogether and in to a quick dinner at target once their shopping was complete.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been thinking about the class divide of late, but I couldn’t help but wonder if skipping the meal was less about desire and more about necessity. Popular culture likes to caste black Friday as rampant consumption on luxury items that aren’t needed, but for people of limited means it’s sometimes black Friday or never. Surely one can make the use case that a laptop or computer is not necessary a luxury item in today’s digital world?

TVs in Threes

The hot item this year was clearly the 50″ and 55″ TVs. We saw person after person walking out with two or sometimes three large TVs. Apparently Target was selling 3,200 televisions per minute nationwide. If TVs are meant to be gifts, these shoppers are way more generous than I am. If they’re meant to be personal, I’m amazed at the size of the houses they must have. Domingo’s hypothesis was a spare TV for elderly parents.

TVs weren’t the only thing we saw bought in, for lack of a better word, bulk. We walked passed one couple that was dividing laptops between their two shopping carts to get around the “2 per person” limit. (Large family looking for laptops for the kids, maybe?)

I know it’s been a while since I’ve visited a store in person on Black Friday, but I was stunned by all I was witnessing.

The good news if you’re looking for a deal next year: 2 hours after opening, Target was still bringing out TVs and laptops in shifts. It didn’t appear that anyone who wanted one was going without.

We are Black Friday Small Potatoes

I did end up with the Costco laptop a month ago, otherwise I would have done the replacement with the same specs and saved myself another $150. Sigh. Can’t control when these things break, I guess.

We took advantage of the $4 and $6 sale of DVDs, as well as half priced board games for the kids. We also bought their winter wardrobe at 30% off.

Our biggest purchase was a new Keurig ($65). The cheap ($35) off brand one I bought over the summer was a huge waste. After a few months it broke and would spew water allover our counter top. It was under warranty but I still had to pay $10 shipping to replace it. The replacement only lasted a few weeks. Domingo didn’t feel like spending (wasting?) yet more money on coffee machines. I can understand that sentiment, but I know how much he enjoys his coffee and I feel like a little guilty being so often the beneficiary of our spending. Domingo is always way more willing to spend on money for extras for me (like my new lens, which was way more expensive). I put the Keurig in the shopping cart joking I wanted to take up coffee. Don’t worry, he saw right through me. I’ve never had a cup before in my life, and likely never will, but he is enjoying his daily cup.

We would have saved an additional $15 had I been able to figure out the cartwheel app in time. We got stuck in line behind a two college age kids buying three laptops and an ipad who were also opening a credit card to get an additional 5% discount. I used the time to download the app, but didn’t realize I had to select the relevant coupons. I am still miffed at myself about that.

There’s a part of me that misses the Black Fridays atmosphere. Domingo and I used to take our time going to the stores, meandering in mid-afternoon, and still get deals we were after. These days it’s a lot harder to get away to go to the store, and when we manage it we rarely get the deals were after. So this year we’re thinking of just staying in.

Domingo and I started thinking about our list and came up rather empty. We went through most of our home setup costs last year, so there really isn’t anything on that front. We could use another rug, I guess. Additional ornaments are always a possibility. The kid tree was pretty barren last year (not that they mind). I also still need a new laptop (I’ve been needing one since 2013), but Costco’s every day price on the one I like is pretty good. Mobile and tablet sales have been eating into laptop sales, driving the prices pretty far down. I’m just waiting for this one to kick the bucket first. It’s casing is cracked and it’s missing a screw, but still chugging along.

That’s the kind of stuff that’s always on our list. What’s new this year?

I need to get Alexis’ baby book printed. We’ll probably do MyPublisher again for that, since that’s who I used for Nicole’s baby book and I like to keep things ridiculously even. I looked through my email inbox and it looks like the best coupon I can hope for is 60(ish) off. Last year it came in October and just before Christmas. (Score one for team never-deletes-an-email.)

I also have two large frames I want filled. mpix is the only place I’ve found that can print to the right size. They currently have a 10% off coupon, but I’ve found a 25% off flyer in my mail box from September. I’ve also found a 25% off your entire order flyer. I haven’t been a customer long enough to have a long mailbox history with them, so I can’t predict when that sale will come back again. At least I know the kind of sale to target!

We’re pretty settled on the idea of Santa bringing Nicole a toy camera this year. We’re less clear what he’ll bring for Alexis. One of the joys of being the younger sibling is there are always tons of toys for your developmental stage. (One of the drawbacks is that finding those toys can be challenging!)

Looks like we’ll be spending this year in. Depending on how those printing coupons line up, we may pass on Black Friday all together.

November 29, 2015

Swing and a Miss

To say that was a bust is putting it mildly. We ended up with very few things on our list, and not for lack of trying.

On Tuesday we went to Target after the kids had gone to bed to take advantage of their Pajama day sale. Domingo got his peanuts themed pajama pants. I turned out to be a size xs (only because I’m short), which they didn’t have in stock in the color I wanted. No problem, I thought, I’ll buy online. Only they weren’t available online. When I tried to add them to my cart I got a “visit store to purchase” error message. The website happily told me they were in stock at both the Target I was just at, and another one not too far from us. It was wrong on both accounts.

We weren’t intending to go out on Black Friday, but I needed a few last minute items for Alexis’ party on Saturday, and we had managed to finish off the last of the bread before lunch. So off we trode. I was hopping to hit the $75 mark for the 20% off a future visit coupon. In order to get the coupon the $75 needed to be in a single transaction, either in store or online. We would have hit the mark, but the coffee maker Domingo wanted was out of stock at that target, despite the website claiming that, like the pjs, it too was in stock.

At this point I tracked down a sales associate and asked about the coffee pot. I showed her the mobile app on my phone listed the pot as in stock and asked if maybe it was misplaced or they had more in the back. She said more than likely they were out of stock and that website was just slow at keeping up with inventory. She checked their inventory system anyway. The website was in deed incorrect.

We came up $5 short that visit.

I found the coffee maker on Target’s website and tried desperately to find other items (those darn pjs again!) so we could hit the $75 mark. I searched for doll houses (Santa’s planned present to Nicole), ride-on toys (Santa’s planned present to Alexis), kids clothes, Christmas ornaments. The kids clothes also required me to “visit store to purchase”, but the ornaments were shown as “not available” online. I have no idea what the difference is between those two distinctions. Neither was available for store pick, regardless. As for the toys, they were full price and I knew I could do way better elsewhere. So I didn’t meet the $75 threshold that time either either.

Friday evening I went to Target, again, this time for a full grocery run. (4 person household + 4 house guests, we can go through groceries lighting fast.) I ended up $5 shy again. Normally at this point I would have grabbed a chicken breast to put in the freezer for a future dinner, but the customer behind me did not seem to be in a particularly patient mood so instead I grabbed a handful of candies from the check out line. Assuming we use the coupon on a $25 purchase, the candy will have paid for themselves.

I intended to go Christmas ornament shopping on Saturday, but at this point I had been to target a ridiculous number of times. I had visited the Christmas section to see what was available each visit and had very little faith that any one target would have the all the ornaments I wanted. If I wasn’t able to combine them into a single purchase I’d be out of luck. Again.

Basically I can sum up the first half of Black Friday experience as “Target dissapointed.”

The second disappointment was the cutting machine. After doing some research I realized the Silhouette brand of cutting machines matched my needs a little better than the Cricut brand. That was a hard realization as the circulars were showing better sales for Cricut machines. In the days leading up to the Thanksgiving, I had three opportunities to get a Black Friday deal on a Cricut machine while shopping in my PJs from my couch. Oh how I wanted that machine to be the one that would work for me.

Wednesday morning my sister and her husband came to town. With the house full of small kids and new house guests it wasn’t until 10pm I was finally had a chance to sit down to check email. That’s when I saw it, the email from 16 hours earlier. Amazon’s Deal of the Day: the Silhouette Cameo with the bonus started bundle. It was far better than any Black Friday deal for either machine I had seen so far. The best deal that I’ve seen ever on a cutting machine. My heart dropped. It was too late. They were sold out.

I was really bummed about missing that deal. Domingo tried to cheer me up. He assured me that he had seen Amazon repeat their deals of the day before. In his experience deals get recycled every three days or so. I set up an email alert so I would be ready, then started poking around the internet to confirm his observation. I stumbled upon a facebook conversation in a crafting forum I had never heard before. In the comments section someone mentioned that Jet beat Amazon’s Deal of the Day price. While the prices had gone up, Jet’s price was still significantly cheaper than Amazon’s current price, and only $4 more expensive than the Deal of the Day price. I’d rather pay the extra $4 than risk missing out again.

For those keeping track at home, of our wish list we only purchased pj bottoms for Domingo, a new coffee pot, and my cutting machine.

November 11, 2015

2015 Black Friday Prep

Today I did something I rarely like to do: I looked at Black Friday ads before solidifying my wish list. Usually I like to do those tasks in the opposite order to guard against being enticed my deals on items we don’t need or really want. But with November rapidly racing buy, I figured I best get started. As always, I’m hoping to spend as much of my shopping time from the warmth of the couch.

Here’s my list:

New PJs. It may sound silly, but hey, if I can get them on sale, why not? My current set of “PJs” consists of a over-sized free t-shirt and a pair of maternity sweat pants. The only reason I’m wearing the maternity pants is because my last pair of the non maternity pair got a little too thread bare to be considered decent, even for home use. I’m ready to retire my free t-shirt collection in general, starting with a pair of actual PJs. This pair from Gilligan O’Mailey is super soft. Domingo likes character sleep pants, but his last pair did not survive the wash.

Target’s black friday sale includes 40% off all apparel. Target’s been having a number of sales lately, and typically has a fairly large one the three days before Thanksgiving that usually includes apparel. I plan to keep my eyes opened. 40% off is the price to beat.

Ornaments. We’re going from one to three trees this year, two more than past years, which means we’ll need a ton more ornaments. I’m torn between my desire to save, and my desire to set up the trees Thursday night per tradition. I’ll probably try and split the difference: get enough ornaments ahead of time that it makes sense to put the trees up, and get the rest during sales.

On Saturday Target is having a “spend $100, save $50” deal on Christmas decor. So far Target’s been the best place I’ve found nice, durable, inexpensive ornaments for the kid’s trees. These tin balls are pretty great. Like most of the cheaper ornaments on Target, they’re not available online, either to ship or for store pick up. I prefer to do my shopping from the couch, if possible. I am not one to stand in line for the doors to open, and I’d worry the selection will be pretty picked through by the time I make it to the store.

Board Games. For as long as I can remember, $5 board games have been a staple black Friday door buster. I’m hoping to stock up on the classics: Sorry!, Trouble, Chutes and Ladders. They’re suspiciously absent from Target’s flyer, but they’re on Walmart’s. What’s not clear is whether I need to go to the store.

New Phone for Domingo. Domingo and I have gotten to the point where our contract is up on alternating Black Fridays. This is Domingo’s year for a new phone. In the past we waited until the phone died – a mistake that cost us $200!

We’ve seen at least one flyer listing the phone he wants for just a penny for Black Friday, a good $300 cheaper than we could get right now. I’d say it’s not worth the weight! This one I’m confident we could get online from Amazon.

New computer. Both my computers are showing their age. My primary work machine can no longer hold a charge, and constantly loses the wifi connection – both not so useful traits when you’re starting your own company! Two black friday’s (technically Cyber Monday) ago I went for a special buy laptop that was more expensive hoping it would last longer. It did not. This year I plan on buying the cheapest computer which meets the specs I need.

I haven’t done any research on this front. Truth be told I’m dreading the process.

Dollhouse. Nicole’s present from Santa this year is going to be a doll house. She fell in love with my sister’s old Playskool Dollhouse when we visited last labor day, so we’re in the market for something similar.

I liked Babies’ R Us’ You & Me Happy Together, as it reminded me a lot of the PlaySkool house, but the reviews were pretty terrible.

Cricut. Cutting machines are another staple of Black Friday that I always assumed I would get one day. When we moved I had all sorts of ideas for vinyl wall decals. Now that I’m finally ready to pull the trigger on a cutting machine, they are absent from those black friday ads! Argh. File this one in the maybe, but not likely category.

As predicted, I did not wait to purchase the new iPhone. I cannot wait to try out the camera! We did get a pleasant surprise on the deal. It turns out Verizon (our current carrier) is offering a $200 trade in for an iPhone 4s with the purchase of an iPhone 6. That’s roughly 4 times what an iPhone 4s is worth! Since I was planning on renewing with Verizon anyway, it’s a pretty sweet deal. This is the second time I’ve had a phone actually worth something when I’ve upgrading. It’s pretty nice to be able to get a little cash back. I love my “free” money! Now if only Verizon would do away with those lame upgrade fees.

Incidentally, it’s becoming obvious just how critical good timing is to get good deals. That phone that Domingo got last black Friday for a penny now retails for $200! I’m very happy Domingo and I are now on the ‘holiday’ schedule for renewals.

We also came up with another idea for this year’s dinky Black Friday list: Santa will be getting Nicki a leap frog tablet. The tablets are geared for ages 3 and up and she’ll be just shy of 2 & 1/2. Like the play kitchen, though, I suspect she’ll manage to get some use out of it early. She’s already pretty good with my phone. We’re also planning a couple trips back East closer to when she’s three and I have friends who swear by the leap frog to keep kids entertained on long plane flights. From what I can tell, it’s a good bet this toy will come on sale.

We also briefly considered a toy camera. Nicki loves my camera. Most of the time she loves being in front of the camera, but I’ve let her press the remote button during more than a few family photos. Now whenever I get out the remote she wants to push the button! She’s always chanting “cheese!” and “more photos!”. The big issue (besides her being on the young side of recommended age range) is most toy cameras seem too toy and not enough camera. I don’t see that holding her interest as much, so we’re going to wait until she’s older.

There’s a part of me that misses our old Black Friday ritual of sleeping in, visiting the stores during the afternoon lull, the hot chocolates and fun decorations. Sure, shopping from the couch in my PJs is easier (and more effective!). Still I can’t help but think this would be a good year to go out, since we don’t have much of a list. Like last year I could be done shopping before the turkey comes out of the oven. My parents will be in town for the holiday and to spend time with Nicki. Maybe if Ziggy decides to come late Domingo and I will go out for a little bit.

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

Perhaps it’s because the weather’s been cooler this summer than normal, or maybe it’s that Hallmark’s ornament premium is tomorrow, but I have winter holidays on the brain! I even read Llama Llama Holiday Drama to Nicki as her bed time story last night. Since we’ve been spending a lot of time going through everything we own I’ve been starting to make our Black Friday wish list.

Here’s what I’m hoping to find deals for:

New Screw drivers The blades on all our screw drivers are pretty worn down. When assembling our desk I had to constantly switch between them trying to find one with enough grip to get the job done. I’d really like to get one or two high quality screw drivers that will outlast me. Tools are a popular holiday gift, and you can usually find them on sale.

New Coffee Maker Poor Domingo. His barely six month old coffee maker is already seeing better days. Both the coffee pot lid and the lip of pot are deformed from the heat of the washing machine. The lid no longer sits on the pot, and the pot is prone to spilling. Prone to spilling is not big deal per se, which is why we’re willing to wait for a replacement. Given how much he does around the house for me, I’d really like him to have a “nice” coffee maker. Alas, not being a coffee drinker myself I don’t really know what features constitute “nice”, so I’ll have to do more consumer research on this one.

What we (probably) won’t wait for:

New Shaver for Domingo This is another item that went kaput way earlier than we expected. Domingo has been using his backup/travel shaver in the mean time. Given that Black Friday is still 4 months away, I’m not entirely sure we’re going to wait on this one. Since it’s his shaver I’m leaving the decision of wait or not up to him.

IPhone 6 I’ve been using an IPhone 4s and eligible for a phone upgrade since February. At the time, there were some rumors that the iPhone 6 might make a debut during the World Wide Developer Conference in June, and was supposed to have a significantly improved camera over the IPhone 5s. I didn’t want to update my phone and have the camera component be obsolete again in a few months. The new rumor is September. I’m hoping this one is true, as I’d very much like to have a better camera phone for Ziggy’s arrival! (I plan to use my DSLR more, but late’s face it, the camera phone is easier…) Given that I’m not the kind of person to wait in line overnight when not pregnant, and Ziggy’s due date is November 20th, waiting for a Black Friday deal may be tricky.

SodaStream Fountain Jet Home Soda Maker Starter Kit, Black and Silver We live in a top floor apartment towards the end of the hall. Carrying groceries, but especially something heavy like drinks back and forth from the car can get real tiring, real fast, especially at the end of a long day. Last year there were a tone of Black Friday deals, so I was planning on waiting for another Black Friday, but noticed they were in the middle of a $20 rebate promotion. That brings the effective price to be in line with the average Black Friday deal last year (although last year there were a few better bundle deals). I found the cheapest one above the $65 minimum needed for the rebate and decided to make the purchase now. The added cost will be offset by a few extra months of usage. After I made the purchase Domingo pointed out we can make other carbonated beverages, like sparkling apple juice. I have been craving it all pregnancy with Ziggy. Double win.

A word of caution: if you go with the amazon one, do NOT accept the 10% coupon. The rebate is not valid with any coupons. Unless your buying a $200 soda stream, the rebate will be a better choice.

What we’re considering, but only if we find a super awesome deal:

Dishwasher safe Knives (and other odds and ends) The switch to dishwasher safe dishes has been an awesome time savor. (Seriously Calaphon, why couldn’t the contemporary line have been dishwasher safe before we set up our wedding registry?!) So now we’re making an even bigger push to have only dishwasher safe items. The biggest issue right now is the knife set. The set, like most of our good kitchen stuff, is Calaphon brand. It doesn’t appear that they make dishwasher safe knives, so I’ll have to do consumer research to find out good brands. I likely won’t have time to pick out a new set and hunt for the best deals before the holiday sales start. (Deals on kitchen stuff tend to be early November, sometimes even late October in preparation for Thanksgiving.)


Update: Domingo did a little research and found the after school sale season is a good time to buy a shaver. Guess we won’t be waiting until Black Friday after all! The back to school sign sales flyers already starting to circulate.

December 7, 2013

Black Friday Addendum

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

My order of the Step 2 LifeStyle Dream Kitchen was still on hold as yesterday, so Domingo and I decided to go ahead and cancel it. It didn’t seem likely to arrive on time, and our second choice of play kitchens (the LifeStyle Custom Kitchen) was on sale on Amazon. It’s a good price (the same price that I got the bigger Dream Kitchen, actually) and comes with free shipping which the Dream Kitchen did not. Not as good a deal overall, but still a good deal.

The Cottage arrived earlier than expected. Domingo and I had just gotten Nicki down for bed when the doorbell rang at 8 pm. The thing was huge, nearly as tall as our Christmas tree! We were debating about saving it for Christmas and setting it up early, that is, until we saw the box. I wanted Nicki to have a ‘big present’ under the tree, but not one the size of the tree! I was beginning to feel like we had gone waaaaaay overboard this holiday season.

This morning I set it up outside while Domingo watched Nicki. Actually, I set it up around them, working on the pieces they weren’t playing with. At one point Domingo had both side walls standing up with the windows open and Nicki was crawling through them and running around in circles. Even though all the pieces are laying flat in the box to conserve space, the assembled cottage didn’t seem nearly as obnoxiously big as the box. It fit nicely on our patio, with plenty of room to spare. Nicki has been tickled pink with it. In, out. Open, closed. Around again. She keeps asking to go back outside.

I think the cottage is going to win as my favorite black Friday purchase yet. With the park 15 to 20 minutes away, there are times when we’d like to get Nicki outside to run around, but just don’t have the time before we have to start dinner, or be some place. Now we can let her play outside and burn off all that crazy toddler energy.

Though not a Black Friday purchase, I’m also in love with my Dyson Slim. I bought it in October right after we moved and shortly before finding out it was going to be a Black Friday sale item. Normally missing out on a deal sours me a little on a product, but the slim is so cool I can forgive the universe for this one. I love how versatile and maneuverable it is, and have taken to holding it ‘gangsta style’ with the handle horizontal simply because I can. We got it so we wouldn’t have to bend over cleaning up all the spilled kitty litter with the hand vac, but it’s proving to be quite effective near a certain toddler’s high chair. I know, I know – I’m a mom, with a blog, who loves a vacuum. I’m a cliche.

December 1, 2013

Black Friday 2013 Recap

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

Another Black Friday has come and gone. Much like last year most of my shopping was done online. The major difference this time around was more than half of it occurred before the Turkey even came out of the refrigerator, and it was one of our best years to date with an average saving of 48%! That is, assuming none of our purchases fall through. I’ll get to that.

Thanksgiving morning I got up with Nicki to give Domingo a chance to get a little more sleep. While she was eating breakfast I decided to check the websites of some of the stores whose deals we were hoping to snag, to see if any of the deals were live yet. The Step 2 Cottage was already on sale on Toys R Us matched by Amazon, as was another item Domingo wanted to get his father for Christmas. (Actually Amazon’s deal for Domingo’s dad’s gift was a few dollars cheaper on Amazon, a happy surprise.) In my cart both went. That’s my kind of shopping: in the comfort of my own home, at a leisurely pace, exactly what I wanted at the price point I wanted.

Alas, the Step 2 Kitchen, was not available online from Toys R Us, nor price matched on Amazon. I figured I would wait until 5pm eastern standard time (the time Toys R Us was opening it’s doors on the East coast) to see if Amazon would price match then. Nada. Okay, 5pm our time. Still nope. I was bummed, but hopeful for a surprise lightening deal.

I continued to monitor Toys R Us and Amazon’s websites throughout the day and Friday. To my surprise Friday morning the kitchen was suddenly available for shipping. In the shopping cart it went. While in the middle of the check out, right after supplying my credit card information, I suddenly found myself viewing my cart. I was confused. Did I click the wrong thing? Did I finished checking out? The kitchen was still in my cart, and I hadn’t received a confirmation number so I decided to try again. The checkout process failed at the same place the second time, with the kitchen still in my cart. The third time I tried to check out I was told my purchase couldn’t be completed because my cart was empty. I went back to the search page, but the kitchen was now listed as sold out. I was very bummed. Eight hours later the kitchen was once again available for shipping. This time, on the second try, I was able to confirm the purchase and received an order confirmation number, but an hour later I received an email saying there was a problem fulfilling my order. The kitchen is back ordered.

I am questing whether my order will be fulfilled in time for Christmas. My experience on toysrus.com reminds me of the bestbuy.com website glitches of 2011. BestBuy’s front end website had no notion of how much inventory was still available, and too many orders went through. BestBuy was ultimately unable to fulfill all those orders, and had to cancel someone of them. The constant fluctuations between in and out of stock could be due to a similar inventory accounting problem. Maybe my order kept failing because there wasn’t a product in stock to buy? Toys R Us’ original estimated delivery date was mid December. While my order isn’t canceled, I no longer have an estimated shipment date, and there’s not a lot of slack time between mid December and Christmas.

I am trying not to be too pessimistic. Domingo pointed out that the BestBuy shoppers had no idea there was a problem with their orders until a few days before Christmas because BestBuy had no idea there was a problem with the orders. This isn’t the case here, as I have already received an email from Toys R Us letting me know of the delay. From Twitter and Facebook it sounds like I wasn’t the only one this happened to, and some other folks had their orders out right canceled. Toys R Us didn’t cancel my order, which likely means they think they can fulfill it.

Fingers crossed.

Anyway, here’s what worked for us this time around:

Checking Early if the Deal was Live – For stores with a physical presence “Thursday, midnight!” corresponds to a single, specific time. A website, on the other hand, could have a physical presence in multiple time zones and receive visitors from all over the world. Do they mean Thursday according to where the website servers are located (which could be anywhere in the world and even multiple locations)? The company headquarters? The potential shoppers?

In the past two years I’ve found many retailers have soft start times, and the kind folks answering the help lines often don’t know exactly when the sales start. We discovered some deals went live when it was Thursday in Europe & Asia, but still Wednesday here in the US.

Keeping Multiple Tabs For Easy Deal Checking – I kept a tab open for each product/retailer combination I was considering. I had the play kitchen opened on Amazon’s website, Toys R Us, and Target. Periodically I’d refresh each page to see what the current offer price was. I found this worked better than price alerts websites which are usually restricted from crawling merchant websites too often.

November 26, 2013

Deals That Aren’t

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

Behavioral economics is a field of study that explores the hows and why of consumer shopping; the social, cognitive and even emotional decisions that are in play during a purchase. As consumers like to think of ourselves as rational, but we can often be influenced by other factors that lead us to make irrational decisions. Consider free shipping. Consumers (myself included) typically hate shipping costs, and will pay more for an item with free shipping thinking they’re getting a better overall deal (not necessary). Another emotional decision influencer is the presence of sale signs. We’re more likely to make a purchase if we think we’re getting a better deal. Some retailers are marking up prices to offer better ‘sales’ without lowering the final price this holiday season.

My tips to avoid sales that aren’t sales:

Start with a list. Lists are great in general to curb impulse buys as they can keep you focused. Spend some time figuring out what features you like (and thus are willing to pay for) and what features you don’t mind (but won’t pay extra for). It’s probably too late for this season, but I recommend creating your list before looking at any holiday circulars to avoid any subconscious influence.

Get a baseline price. Once you have your list do some comparison shopping. I typically use CamelCamelCamel.com and Baby Cheapskate to get an idea how much the things I’m interested in historically have cost. I’ll also typically do a internet search to find out what other retailers are selling an item for. These datapoints can give me a base line price that help me distinguish if an item is actually on sale and how good the sale is.

For example, that Calphalon Unison Cookware Set? Amazon says the list price is $1000, and thus the $335 price was 67% off. Or so they claimed. CamelCamelCamel lists the average price from amazon as $537, and Bed Bath and Beyond list it for $599.99, ($479.99 after 20% off coupon). The $335 is still a good price, but more like 30% off, not 67%.

Realize There’s Often a Reason for a Price. Ever look at a Black Friday circular and wonder how any company can stay in business offering things like $2 waffle irons? Many of those rock bottom prices are on items manufacture specifically for the November/December shopping rush. They’re more cheaply made, with fewer features and lesser parts. If that’s what you want, great! But keep in mind it’s not the same item as the one that’s being sold for 10 times as much, and shouldn’t be used when figuring out the base line price.

I suspect the TV we purchased last year falls into this category. It was a very cheap price for the time (sub $400 for a 50 inch) and only came on the market June that year. The price never really rose to the level that you’d expect of TVs for that size. That’s okay for us. It’s our first flat screen TV and we’re unlikely to notice if it has sub par picture capabilities. Anything beats our old rear projection TV, even a cheaply made TV with fewer HDMI ports.

Remember, it’s not the % off that matters. It’s the price you’re paying (including shipping) to get the features you want.

Identify Multiple Alternatives One strategy retailers will use is to try and get you emotionally invested in the particular item they are selling. Last time I went to a car dealership the dealer kept using possessive pronouns. Let’s go pick out YOUR car, how about you drive YOUR car to the front lot? (emphasis mine.) If I start thinking of one particular car as ‘mine’ I’m likely to agree to pay a little more for it when we negotiate the price, or agree to extras/accessories I wouldn’t otherwise get. If I remember that there are multiple dealers with multiple cars of the same make, model and color, I’m more likely to remain objective.

It’s best to find several similar products that fit the bill. When that’s not practical, look for several retailers with comparable prices on an item. If you find yourself fixating on one particular deal ask yourself is it the item you really want, or the deal.

November 5, 2013

Upgrades Abound

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I love this month. I love the whole holiday season, but November and December have got to be some of my favorite times of the year. Now that we’ve actually moved and the stress of finding a place is gone, it feels like the timing of graduation was perfect. Being able to get everything we need for the home at great holiday steal prices is a wonderful treat, but it get’s better. We’ve also made it my graduation present to upgrade some of our household items. (Have I mentioned I love to bargain hunt?) That means extra shopping this season. As such our Black Friday list is growing.

The Big Deals Thus Far

A Canvas Print – It’s time for a big family photo in the living room, afterall we can never have too many photos with Nicki! I was after another canvas print. Remember how I beat myself up about missing out on that last good canvas print deal? Not this time! I waited for the cafepress deal came around again and this time I pounced! I got it for about half (51%) of what I paid for the canvas print of Nicki as a newborn. The only trouble is I’m not sure any of my current photos work, but I have until the end of the year to pick a photo.

New Pots and Pans – I love the set of pots and pans we got for our wedding (Calphalon Contemporary) but I made the mistake of registering for the non-dishwasher safe ones*. We didn’t realize that at first, thus voiding the warranty. It was our first good set of dishes, and we loved the non stick coating and how evenly they heated. The trouble is washing them by hand takes up so much time – a precious resource these days – and, well, they were damaged from us not knowing how to care for them. We’ve been talking about getting the dishwasher safe kind (Calphalon Unison) someday when our current set wears completely out.

Someday is today. I was looking for a 1 qt pan for Thanksgiving on amazon.com and happened to notice that the Unison set was 39% off! That’s the lowest price ever on amazon. But it get’s better. Amazon’s also in the middle of their holiday sales, and are offering it at an additional 15% off. That makes for a total of 48% off! They’re sold out, but the deal price is still live and I don’t mind waiting. Backorder it is!

* The new contemporary line is reportedly dishwasher safe now. I stumbled upon this fact in the process of writing this blog post and after I made our purchase, otherwise I would have considered just buying the same pots. Our current pots are most definitely not dishwasher safe.

Deals I’m on the Hunt For

A New Computer – No exaggeration my desktop is seven and a half years old. My laptop is a lot younger, but has been on it’s last legs since I got it and nearly kicked the bucket the day of my defense. The laptop was a serious disappointment. I need a new computer stat! The dream setup is a new server with raided hard drive (gotta protect those baby photos!) that can also serve as a media center and a new laptop so I can continue to work lounging on the couch.

New Tools – Specifically I want a pair of really good screw drivers. Maybe just two philips head and two standard head. I’m not sure what qualifies ‘really good’ but I know we don’t have it. In assembling the furniture this past weekend I used not one, not two, but three screwdrivers. The tread had warn down on all three of them, and I was constantly switching back and forth between them trying to find one that could grip the screw. I got everything assembled, but not before giving myself a blister. While I hope there isn’t much furniture assembly again in my immediate future, I’m sure I’ll need a screwdriver eventually. The trouble is, since I don’t know what makes a good screw driver, I can’t really tell what’s a good deal.

Tools make a great stocking stuffer and Christmas list fodder for me. I love gadgets, especially useful ones! A few years ago my aunt gave me a handy screw driver magnetizer. I also love my Mini Screwdriver Set which is all the more useful for changing batteries in kids’ toys. I’m thinking of asking Domingo for a right angle screw driver to help with those hard to get at screws since he’s insisting we do stockings this year.

Nicki’s Play Kitchen or maybe A Play House – Someone is getting spoiled by Santa this year. Toys R Us has a great Black Friday deal on the Step 2 LifeStyle Dream Kitchen ($75!) as well as the Neat & Tidy Cottage ($100!) which I’m hoping that amazon matches because shopping from the couch is so much nicer than going to the store these days! I suspect these will be amazon lightening deals. I think that’s usually how they price match door busters. My plan is to stalk the various kitchens and play houses online and see which deal (if any) I can snag.

Domingo’s New Cell Phone – If Domingo upgraded his cell phone when he was eligible, he would be eligible again, his phone is that old. It’s also incredibly unreliable, and dies often in the middle of phone calls. You can guess how much fun that was organizing the move. The one he wants is advertised as free on Black Friday! Can’t get better than that!

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