Take advantage of Black Friday deals with these shopping tips

The time to prepare for holiday shopping is now.

With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday falling just a few days apart, doing your homework before going shopping is key. Otherwise, you could end up spending more than you save.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. In fact, websites like BlackFriday.com and Consumer Reports can tell you which items are going on sale and when. And don’t forget about smartphone apps, either.

“Apps like Shopzilla, Google Shopping and PriceGrabber – these are all sites in which you can see what prices are being offered in the store and compare it with prices in other stores,” said Consumer Reports Money Editor Octavio Blanco.

Another tip? Don’t be fooled by advertisements. Some of them might make it seem like you’re getting a better deal than you really are.

Take Apple’s AirPods, for example. Both Walmart and Staples have deals on these headphones. Staples’ ad says you can save $20 by getting a pair for $139. Even though Walmart only advertises a $15 savings, its overall price of $129 is cheaper.

If you find a great deal online, Consumer Reports suggests adding it to your cart immediately. You typically have about 15 minutes before checkout, so you can compare prices elsewhere before completing your purchase.

Paying close attention to social media can also pay off.

According to Consumer Reports, some of your favorite retailers and brands might be posting their deals directly on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages over the holidays. So, it’s worth checking their feeds before heading out the door.

Of course, with so much money changing hands, there will always be those looking to take advantage.

That’s why state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis recommends only shopping at reputable retailers. He suggests double-checking websites’ domain names and looking for a padlock icon next to the URL – that’s a sign the site is secure.

“You got to look for clickbait,” Patronis said. “It will look like an advertisement (that’s) part of the website, but it’s not. It’s meant to get someone to click on the ad and take them to a different site that is not part of the original company.”

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office said consumers should be just as skeptical when it comes to making charitable contributions.

“The fast pace of the shopping season brings with it more opportunity for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers,” Moody said. “I encourage everyone to take steps now to safeguard their personal information and finances and avoid falling prey to common holiday scams and identity theft.”

Below are some tips from Moody’s office to make your holidays as stress-free as possible:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to shop. That way you can stick to a realistic budget for holiday shopping, and you’ll be less likely to fall for high-pressure sales tactics and impulse buying.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. So be wary of any price that seems absurdly low as it might not be a legitimate offer.
  • Get acquainted with the store’s refund policy. Also, ask the store if any warranties or guarantees will be honored by the manufacturer or retailers.
  • Avoid using your credit card to make purchases over the phone.

Anyone with questions about making secure holiday purchases or potential scams can call the Attorney General’s Fraud Hotline at 1-866-9NO-SCAM or by visiting MyFloridaLegal.com. You can also report fraud to Patronis’ office at FraudFreeFlorida.com.

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