Posts Tagged ‘Black Friday’

November 20, 2011

Disappointing Season

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This year’s lead up to black Friday has been a little disappointing.

We’ve been debating about a 3D TV. I’ve been hoping for a good deal to help us make up our minds. I’ve seen a couple fliers for black Friday deals and wanted to see the TV in person, to see the TV quality. We went to Best Buy first. They had five 3D TVs on display. Two of which were not receiving any signal. One was displaying a movie in 3D, but the active glasses weren’t powered, so you couldn’t view the 3D! The final two were receiving a signal, but not responding to commands, so you couldn’t compare them using the same video. One was showing ESPN in 3D and was so horribly pixilated you wouldn’t believe it was HDTV. We couldn’t tell if the problem was the TV, or the ESPN feed. What gives Best Buy?! I think this may have been the push I needed to settle on a 2D TV.

Another thing we’re considering is a Dyson Hand Vac. I previously mentioned we needed a new dust buster. We love our Dyson Animal. It’s the only vacuum that’s held up over time. Since our hand vacs keep losing suction, we decided it’s time to consider the next level in hand vacs. I found a few black Friday deals, but the original price was marked higher so the black Friday deal doesn’t beat Bed Bath and Beyond with their 20% off coupon! Lame.

We have a couple little things on our list, but so far, this year is looking like a bust for the big ticket items.

November 6, 2011

Our Black Friday Strategy

We have a strategy we employee every black Friday for the past few years, and no it does not involve waiting in line all night or getting up pre dawn, or even fighting massive crowds. I hate crowds, cold, and lack of sleep. Instead our strategy starts super early and involves a lot of advance planning, with very little lifting on the actual day.

Know the Season. It starts earlier and earlier. There are targeted “Black Friday” like sales throughout the months of October and November. I tend to wait for sales for most purchases, but starting in September I hold off on most major purchases. Anything that we don’t need right away and a possible candidate for a Black Friday goes on a Black Friday wish list. Best candidates for black Friday sales: electronics – especially video game related, or digital picture frames, TVs, VCRs, personal laptops, cameras, both point and shoot and DSLR camera bodies and kits, etc – winter clothing, household items, kitchen appliances.

This year I’ve been holding off on a new dust buster. Ours is functional, but we generally need to do a couple passes to pick up all the dirt. As long as it doesn’t die, I refuse to replace it until the sale is right.

Plan in Advance. The list helps me stick to a plan, and keeps me from being overwhelemed. The items on the list are the things we need, so these are the things I will search for. I use pre-Black Friday announcements to find stores offering discounts on the things I want. I keep track of multiple stores per item, since I adamantly refuse to wait in line in the cold over night, sometimes the door busters are gone by the time I am ready to shop. Our goal is to find great deals – not necessarily the best possible.

The Day Of. After waking up from our tryptophan induced sleep we start with a hardy brunch. Most of the diehard black Friday enthusiasts are winding down, and heading home to nap. At this point, anything deal that hasn’t already sold out, is not likely to in the next couple of hours, so we don’t feel particularly rushed. Shopping on a full stomach after a full night of sleep is so much more pleasant.

Be Persistent. Just because the door busters are gone at one target, doesn’t mean they’re gone at another. We’ve been surprised at how one store will be completely out of an item, and another store not five miles away still has all their’s stock. If there’s something you really want, don’t give up. Try multiple places. Remember some stores will price match. So if Target is out of dyson vaccum cleaners, you may still get your deal by taking the sales flyer to Best Buy.

Evening/Two Day Deals Both Target and Walmart do a “two-day” black Friday. This means they hold off on some merchandise to put out for Saturday. Last year we were in Target around midnight Friday, when they were bringing out pallets for the next day. We scored both a crockpot and a toaster from Target, simply by being in the right place at the right time.

We’re going to get a HDTV. Really. Honest. We’ve been talking about it for a few years, we’ve just yet to pull the trigger. We’re talking about getting a 3D HDTV.

The issue that’s holding us back is our real projection TV still works. The frugal-ista in me doesn’t want to spend money I don’t have to, so if it still works, why replace it? Well, rear projection TVs have an aspect ratio of 4:3, meaning the height is approximately 3/4ths the width. HDTVs have an aspect ratio of 16:9, meaning they are much wider. These days, most cable providers assume everyone has an HDTV, so they’re broadcasting more and more in the 16:9 aspect ratio. Sometimes this means the image is shrunk so it fits the width of the TV, and some of the screen is blank. More often, however, it means the ends of the image are being chopped off. It’s surprising how often something important is in that chopped off corner and I end up not knowing know who John Stewart was making fun of in the daily show. So I think it’s finally time to buckle down and get a new TV.

Last year we discussed getting a 3D HDTV. I was amused at the notion of completely skipping the 2D HDTV generation. But they were expensive, too expensive. I missed the 2D TVs I wanted for black Friday so I thought I’d wait another year rather than settle for a mediocre sale. Today I’ve found a article in the economist that 3Ds are starting to become worth it. There’s still not a lot of 3D content, but the 3D technology comes on TVs that have better HDTV capabilities. So the economist argued a 3D TV was worth it, for the better HDTV. There seems to only be a $100 difference between comparable 3D and 2Ds from the same manufacture, so 3D TVs are no longer “premium” priced. Score!

The trouble is, I still don’t know much about HDTVs. We talked to one sales man who said Plasmas still have the burn-in issue. (Consumer reports appears to back this up). Bummer. There also seems to be a difference in quality. Some TVs have a ghosting effect, some don’t.

Ghosting occurs when the images for the left eye and right eye aren’t filtered 100% correctly. It’s also the reason I try not to watch 3D movies in the movie theater. The movie theater uses polarizing filters to filter the right image from the left image, because the glasses are cheaper to produce and needed in bulk. But anyone who works with polarizing filters for photography can tell you, cheap polarizing filters won’t completely separate the image. Some 3D TVs use polarizing filters, but many use the active shuttering technology. It makes for more expensive glasses, but for the headache prone like me, it seems like the way to go.

The store we were in was playing two different movies on two different TVs, so I’m not sure if the one had ghosting was because of the movie, the TV, or the glasses. Each 3D TV manufacture appears to make multiple different glasses, presumably of different quality. I don’t even know if the TVs were active shuttering or polarizing technologies. We’ll be doing a lot of research between now and Black Friday (because I still refuse to pay a lot!) I need to firm up an idea of what size TV we want, and what would be a good deal.

Oh, and if you like the idea of a 3D TV, but don’t want glasses, you may only have to wait a few more years. Think I can convince Domingo to keep the rear projection TV until 2015?

April 13, 2011

On Being Frugal

I consider myself frugal. To me, that means I spend as little as possible for the things I want. At this stage in my life, I try not to sacrifice quality too much. When I was just starting out I would buy the super cheap cleaners that don’t really clean, or use an old threadbare towel instead of a real bath mat. These days, if I want something, I will buy it, but I’m going to spend as little as possible for it. I do this usually in several ways.

I try not to be as flexible in brand as possible. That way I’m free to do comparison shopping, and availability of coupons can factor into my decision. If I’m interested in something specific, then I’m at the mercy of the manufacturer to get a good deal. I don’t buy designer anything, and I usually stay away from brand names. Of course, this doesn’t always work. A while back I suspected Lily was trying to clone herself by shedding, so I really wanted a dyson animal.

I hold off on large purchases for Black Friday. Each year my husband and I make a list of things we would like to get/replace. We then check out the online websites that make deal shopping easier. Of course, that doesn’t always work. We’ve had a TV on our list for a few years. We did manage to get the Dyson at a substantial savings a few years ago. Lists can also help you avoid extraneous purchases on Black Friday. It doesn’t matter that a printer is 90% off, if you already have one that works just as well. Sales are great, but if you’re going to spend the same amount just on more stuff, you didn’t really save. Along similar lines, I tend to purchase everything in the off season. I buy summer clothes in fall, and winter clothes in spring. I saved 50% off my leather coat by waiting for the end of season sale.

If I don’t care about brand, I set a price in my head of what seems reasonable, and go looking. I tend to set my price low, and anything under that price that still has the amount of quality I’m looking for is good. For bath mats, I’m going to look for something super soft that’s in the right color range to not clash (I want to be cheap, I don’t want to look cheap). Solid colors for linens (and clothes) are easiest, since everyone carries them. Matching colors and coordinating looks always makes everything look more expensive.

I tend to avoid stores that price items outside what I consider reasonable. If you go, and you find something you like, you might feel compelled to open your purse strings a little more. If you never see that designer bath mat at Nordstrom’s, you’ll never miss it. I have a few staple stores, target, jcpenney, bed bath and beyond, etc, that fit the bill both in terms of quality and price. If the price is low enough that there’s no room for much savings, then it’s not worth the time and gas looking for the best possible price.

Being frugal means sometimes not using coupons. Today I had a $.10/per gallon coupon that I decided not to use. The nearest gas station I could use the coupon was roughly 10 miles round trip out of the way. It would have cost me about half a gallon of gas (my car gets roughly 20 mpg) at almost 4 dollars per gallon, for a total cost of just under $2. The problem is I have a fifteen gallon tank, so my savings would be $1.50. Using the coupon would have cost me more.

Being frugal means understanding sometimes a sale isn’t always a sale. I find this to be especially true from stores who have constant sales. While the goal of the shopper may be to save money, the goal of the store is to make money. If it can’t make money off an item, there’s a good chance the store will decide to stop selling it. So if a store has a perpetual sale for the item, you can bet the price is marked-up enough for the store to still profit from the sale. Of course, there are exceptions such as printers and ink. Printers are loss leaders. Stores typically loses money on the sale of printers, knowing they’ll make up for the loss in spades with the sale of ink.

Being frugal means not trusting the percentage off numbers. Today, I saved 44% on my grocery bill. Well, not really. I had a welcome-to-the-neighborhood type coupon for $10 off so I legitimately saved 17.4% (the total bill was $57.38 before the savings). The other 27% is a bit misleading. I typically go with the cheapest item, especially on baking things like flour, butter, sugar. Most often that’s the store brand, but sometimes the name brand is on sale. My receipt may say I saved $1.49 on peanut butter, but had the name brand not been on sale, I would have bought the store brand, which would have been a difference of maybe $0.70. So in actuality I saved about half of what my receipt is claiming.

Of course, I don’t always get the best possible deal. When this happens, I often find it really hard not to get caught up in the numbers. If I bought something on sale for 20% off, and find it for sale 30% off the next week, I feel frustrated with myself. To put it in sports terms, that’s like scoring a field goal only to have the opposing team run the ball back for a touchdown. Yes, I got the 3 points, but comparatively I’m still down.

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