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I have to admit that this is one of my favorite times of the year because it’s when I get to buy a lot of the things I’ve been wanting to buy all year for a lot less than I would otherwise have paid had I given in to the “I want it now” demons that lurk within most of us.
Over the years I’ve gradually become more and more disciplined when it comes to the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales so the number of impulse purchases (of things that I don’t really need) has dropped to almost zero and the number of genuine good deals that I have snapped up (usually from the comfort of my own sofa) has increased significantly….but it has taken time.
Different people will approach these sales in different ways, but for me preparation has always been the key to not overspending and to making good, sensible purchases so I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts before the post-Thanksgiving onslaught begins.
Know The Value Of What You’re Buying
This may seem like a very obvious thing to say but you’d be surprised at how many people I meet who have bought miles, points or other travel-related currencies and memberships in “big sales” but haven’t actually scored a particularly good deal at all.
A good example of this is the Priority Pass Black Friday sale that’s running right now.
It would be easy to believe that the current Priority Pass Black Friday prices are the best that we’ve seen all year and the best that are currently on offer…but that isn’t actually the case.
The current Black Friday deals for the Standard and Standard Plus Priority Pass memberships are offering the lowest prices that we’ve seen all year but, as I explain in this post, there’s a live link to a completely different sale in which the top-tier membership is cheaper than it is in the Black Friday deals.
Someone not doing their research (or not fortunate enough to find my post) could easily overpay for top-tier Priority Pass membership while thinking that they were getting the deal of the year.
The same can easily be true of airline and hotel currency sales.
Just because an airline or hotel chain has an all-out advertising campaign promoting its fantastic/wonderful/amazing Black Friday sale doesn’t mean that the prices on offer in the sale are the best prices we’ve seen that airline or hotel chain offer – they may well not be.
If you need to buy some miles or points make sure you search around to find out what the currency you’re looking to buy is usually sold for when a truly good deal is available, and make sure you bear this figure in mind when deciding if a Black Friday “deal” is worth your time.
Make Sure You Use The Right Credit Card In The Sales
Getting a good price for something you need to buy isn’t all that you should be looking to achieve in the upcoming sales – you should be looking to maximize any other savings on offer as well as earning as many loyalty points as possible.
If you hold American Express cards make sure you’ve checked out all the Amex Offers your cards have been targeted for, make sure you’ve saved them to the cards on which you’ll be getting the best return and make sure you make a mental note (or a physical not if it will help) of what deals you have available.
I, for example, am looking for a great deal on an Apple Watch in this set of sales and although I’m checking all the popular sites on a frequent basis I’m also keeping in mind that I have a very nice Best Buy offer saved to my Platinum Card from American Express.
I value 3,000 Membership Rewards points at $45 so I’ll be factoring that into my calculations when I decide where (and if) I should by an Apple Watch in these sales.
Credit Card Bonus Categories
Don’t forget to consider what bonus categories your credit cards offer before choosing a card to pay with.
- If you’re buying miles from an airline check to see if the transaction is processed by the airline itself (in which case you should use a credit card that offers a strong bonus for airline/travel spend like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card or the Platinum Card from American Express) or Points.com (in which case a strong cash back card will probably be the better option)
- Don’t forget to check the rotating categories that some of your credit cards may offer. Right now (for Q4) the Chase Freedom Card is offering 5% cash back (or 5 points/dollar if you hold one of the Sapphire Cards) on the first $1,500 of purchases made at Department Stores or through PayPal or Chase Pay. With few credit cards offering bonus points for spending at department stores this makes the Freedom card well worth bearing in mind at this time of year.
- If you have a credit card that offers bonus points for spending at locations where gift cards are sold (e.g. the American Express Gold Card at Grocery stores or the Ink Business Cash credit card at office supply stores) consider if it’s worth buying gift cards for the retailer at which you plan to make a purchase. Bear in mind that credit cards offer a lot more purchase protection than gift cards so this may not be a good plan for high-ticket items.
The Best Deals May Not Fall On Black Friday/Cyber Monday
A lot of retailers are already offering some very good deals in advance of the chaotic days ahead (e.g. Amazon is currently selling the older MacBook Air at a 30% discount, the newer MacBook Air at an 18% discount and the 13″ MacBook Pro for up to 17% off) so if you see something that you need and at a price you’re happy to pay (assuming you’ve done your research) then waiting for Friday/Monday may not be the best idea as the deal may have gone.
Don’t Forget To Use Shopping Portals
In the never-ending quest to maximize our miles & points earnings the shopping portals are our friends…so don’t forget to use them. Rakuten, the airline shopping portals, and TopCashBack should all be sites that you consider visiting before you make a purchase as they essentially earn you free points (assuming you’re only making purchases you would have otherwise made anyway).
Make A List
There’s always going to be a temptation to buy something that you weren’t planning on buying when you see prices tumbling and this is a great way to (a) get into debt and (b) end up with less cash for things you actually need to buy…so don’t do it!
It may help you to make a list of items that you genuinely need to buy in these sales and to force yourself to stick rigidly to that list – if you see something on sale that’s not on your list you’re not allowed to buy it.
You’ll still be reliant on your own willpower but it’s a little harder to persuade yourself that you “need” something when you’re looking down at a list that clearly shows that you don’t (this has worked for me in the past).
Do your research, know what things cost, know what things are worth and apply some discipline to your purchasing and you should come out of this crazy sale period just fine.
Don’t be tempted to buy things that, deep down, you know you don’t need and don’t be too hurried to stop and think if there are any additional ways you could save (Amex offers) or earn extra points (portals, credit card bonuses etc…) before you pull the trigger on a purchase.
As hectic and stressful as this time of year can be, it can also be a lot of fun if you’re prepared – enjoy the sales and let me know if you grab a great bargain.