The following tips are extremely relevant for Black Friday shopping and way beyond. The jolliest season approaches, starting with November 26, and sales have already started all over the internet, with retailers and brands offering the best of their wares at attractive prices. Apparel, appliances, cosmetics, gadgets, toys, kitchenware, furniture, jewelry, you name it – all offered for less.

Some of us are waiting all year long for Black Friday discounts, perhaps with a list attached including our most desired items lowered in prices – these are the best times to save up a few bucks on that 32-inch smart TV, eh?

But as you know, 2020 has set some challenges starting with product shortages and unclear shipping times, not to mention retailers shifting their focus online as people are not frequenting physical retail stores much as of late. Drastic times require drastic measures? Not so much. Online shopping was a hoot in previous Black Fridays but with more and more people cutting back on brick and mortar stores and heading online, you need to strategize to fight the rush.

1. Create a wishlist

Starting out Black Friday’s sales frenzy without an organized list is much like going to the supermarket hungry. You’re baffled and confused with all the options around you, your stomach is growling and your mouth is slightly drooling and you’re gradually developing an irritable feeling of hunger. Or FOMO (fear-of-missing-out). And… you end up spending a lot more money than you have planned, usually on stuff you don’t really need. Preparing a wishlist is a great way to go through Black Friday cool and calculated. Are you eyeing a new MacBook or a fridge freezer? Some websites give the option of creating a wishlist of all the items you want to buy. A list will help you look for the lowest discounts early and quickly.

2. Start your shopping as early as yesterday

This tip will always be relevant for hectic shopping seasons. Get ahead of everyone else by staying alert to early-bird deals and sales. In recent years, retailers have adopted the idea of starting sales as early as two or three weeks before Black Friday, with this year’s promotions running all through November, so there is plenty of room to maneuver for bargains.

3. Use websites and apps

It’s impossible to hop from one retail site to another to snag the best deals they offer. Shopping sites and apps can save you a lot of Black Friday hassle as they sum up the best ongoing deals and discounts from reputable retailers on items you might be eyeing for a while now. Apps like PriceGrab and ShopSavvy let you scan, save, and track products from basically any online store you can think of. Plus, you can compare prices, read user reviews and enjoy gift cards and coupons while you browse without waiting for price drops. You can also visit GoogleShopping and Shopzilla to scout some good deals and sign up for deal alerts from sites like DealNews, and GottaDeal.

4. Do your research

Bargains are only great if you’re getting a quality product for an attractive price. Otherwise, it’s money down the drain. The best way to make sure you’re spending your money wisely is to do some groundwork beforehand and read customer reviews. Reviews can save you a lot of time in creating your wishlist and setting up your budget. It pays off to get first-hand experiences from other customers because they help you understand if the product you want to buy is as good as the retailer promises or isn’t worth the spend at all.

5. Set up a budget

This tip goes hand in hand with creating your wishlist. The holiday season is filled with temptations, with marked down prices and door-busting deals everywhere you look. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and overspend when you go about a shopping spree without a little planning. Setting up a reasonable budget can help you traverse this alluring season without emptying your pockets completely and you can even set aside a smaller budget for unexpected purchases.

6. Check the return policy

Ninety nine percent of online retailers offer a return policy. Many have extended or special holiday returns periods, offering at least a two-week extension into mid-January which can be quite handy if you’re buying gifts.

However, make sure to always keep your receipt as some stores will not accept your returned goods with it. Other stores will only offer site or store credit instead of a full refund which is something you need to consider beforehand.

7. Save some for Cyber Monday

Much like Black Friday, Cyber Monday deals are already happening even though the date is November 30 and retailers are already dropping prices as we speak. Black Friday and Cyber Monday both offer fantastic deals that run all through November and beyond. However, Black Friday was historically designed to hit the high streets while Cyber Monday was purely dedicated to online deals. Since the Covid-19 spread and global lockdowns, this is no longer the case and almost all retailers are focused online. In some instances, you are actually better off waiting for November 30 deals, especially if you’re more into buying tech and home appliances.

8. Get social

Your favorite retailers have Facebook pages, Instagram accounts and Twitter feeds. Don’t forget to check them as they are probably fueled with posts, stories and tweets on the best deals they have to offer. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are important days for online merchants as they are designed to drive more traffic and bring more sales to the business. Marketing ideas are getting more and more creative towards these days with retailers rewarding shoppers for likes, follows, shares and comments. Keep your eye on any special social updates, texts, tweets and posts and share some shopping intel with your friends.

9. Sign up for emails

Decided which stores you’re going to buy from this year? Visit their websites and sign up for email newsletters. If you haven’t yet, you should really do it right now, as online retailers are already targeting their subscribers’ lists with the sweetest deals and discounts. The holiday season is all through January so there’s still enough time to spot some of the best deals.

10. Beware of unfamiliar brands

Due to the pandemic, most people will shop exclusively online. This is a wonderful opportunity for ambiguous brands to drop cheap deals everywhere for poor-quality products. This doesn’t mean that brands you’ve never heard of are bad or necessarily offer no good products, but there’s a reason why some remain household names and others survive by cropping up on sales. Doublecheck, read reviews, and get an idea of a brand’s quality right here before you hit the ‘Buy’ button.