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Financial planning tips

November 15, 2018

8 smart ways to shop on Black Friday without breaking the bank

Want to avoid overspending this Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Keep these money-saving tips in mind as you shop.

November marks the unofficial beginning of the holiday shopping season as Canadians start flocking online, to the nearest malls or across the border to seize the best deals on Black Friday.

Originating in the States, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are notable shopping days that fall on the Friday and Monday after U.S. Thanksgiving in late November. And since Canucks love a good bargain, it’s no surprise that Canadian retailers have adopted these sale events here at home over the last decade. Of course, that hasn’t stopped many of us from still heading south for a bit of cross-border shopping.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good sale from time to time – be it here, in the States or online – but we’re assuming you’d prefer to take part in one without breaking your bank account. To help get you ready for Black Friday sales this year (November 23), here are some cost-saving tips to consider before you buy:

1. Find out if crossing the border will cost you more.

While it might seem as though there are better bargains to be found stateside, that’s not always the case for Canadians. Whether you’re shopping online from a U.S. retailer or heading south of the border in person, you must consider the current exchange rate as well as duties and provincial sales taxes to be paid.

When the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) takes effect in 2019, Canada’s duty-free limit will rise from C$20 to C$150 and the sales tax threshold from C$20 to C$40 for all online purchases. For the time being, however, Canadians must pay duty all on all online and in-store purchases over $20 made outside of Canada, the U.S. or Mexico (even if they’re bought from a U.S. store). Bonus tip: You can get an estimate of how much you could be paying in duty and tax with the Canada Border Services Agency’s free-to-use online calculator.

There’s more: Canucks travelling south will also have to add in the cost of gas, road tolls and travel insurance, while online shoppers have to deal with shipping and handling costs. After you factor in and calculate all these extra details, you could find that you might save more money by shopping Canadian.

2. Set your limit and stick to it.

One of the best ways to avoid buyer’s remorse during a sale is to set a limit on how much you can actually afford to spend. So, if you’re buying in person, try only taking cash with you and leaving the credit cards behind in a safe place, like locked away in the glove compartment of your car. That way, you can only spend a limited amount. Just don’t leave your credit card at home if you’re cross-border shopping – you may need it in case an emergency arises while you’re travelling.

However, if you’re shopping online, remember your budget and stick to it. Once you’ve reached your limit and finalized your purchases, be sure to log off and keep your eyes away from the screen for a while to avoid the temptation to buy more.

3. Use a coupon aggregator.

You might not clip coupons anymore, but that’s only because they’ve gone digital. Coupon aggregators like Finder and RetailMeNot allow you to browse by product, category or store and then proceed to list all the latest sales and promo codes associated with your search. Think of them as search engines that provide coupon- or discount-related results.

Some coupon sites like Ebates.ca also work as a cashback service, so you get a little money back when you buy from a retailer promoted on their sites.

4. Look for pre- and post-Black Friday sales.

Black Friday sales aren’t necessarily limited to that particular Friday. Many retailers offer great discounts for the entire week leading up to the sale day. In some cases, these discounts stretch out beyond Cyber Monday (November 26). For example, Indigo’s post-Black Friday online sale extends from November 24 to 27 this year.

Simply do your research ahead of time and find out which vendors are offering early or post-sale day bargains. This will help you avoid the stress of trying to accomplish all your shopping goals in one day.

5. Take advantage of free shipping.

Along with duty and tax, Canadians must also contend with pricey shipping and handling costs for online purchases. Watch for online vendors who will waive the shipping costs during big sale events or provide free shipping for purchases above a specific amount before tax. Companies like HP offer free shipping and returns if you buy directly from their online stores. ASOS provides free delivery worldwide on orders over C$45, while Sephora drops the standard shipping fee across all provinces for orders over C$50.

6. Subscribe to e-newsletters for discounts.

Several retailers dangle one-time discounts or free shipping as an incentive to sign up for their email lists. For example, H&M offers 25% off one item for its newsletter subscribers and Free People provides free shipping on your first order if you opt in to its mailing list. You’re free to unsubscribe afterwards if you want.

7. Maximize your rewards program on Black Friday.

Canadians love rewards programs and subscription services for everything from groceries to tech to travel. Luckily, for all you points collectors and membership-only shoppers, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are ideal times to make the most of your loyalty or rewards programs. Judging by previous years, Amazon Prime Members will likely have access to Lightning Deals and discounts earlier than shoppers without a membership and Shoppers Drug Mart may enhance the amount of PC Optimum points you can earn with select purchases.

8. Wait for better deals.

Whether you’re buying jewellery, electronics, furniture or household items, the best bargains may show up in December and January. So, if you can, wait for it. You could very well come across a bigger, better bargain soon enough and your bank account will appreciate your patience.

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