Black Friday 2009: 6 tips from Coupon Sherpa

Today at WalletPop we have a special treat. We packed our backpack, grabbed an oxygen tank and took off to the top of Deal Mountain in search of Coupon Sherpa, a master of deals who answers questions about deals at the Ask Coupon Sherpa Blog, to find out how he does it and share with you his 6 tips to gear up for Black Friday and holiday shopping.

WalletPop: So, Coupon Sherpa, we know you're all about reliable coupons. What can you tell me about getting ready for Black Friday and holiday shopping?

Coupon Sherpa: Thanks for making the trek up to my summit on Deal Mountain. My first tip for shoppers is to save wear and tear on your feet and wallet by checking your junk mail for Black Friday sales, many of which include useful coupons. If you don't have a subscription, Thanksgiving is an excellent day to pick up your regional papers as Black Friday advertising consistently makes this the fattest newspaper of the year.

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WP: Thanks, that is a good reminder of the value of newspapers, another place to find out what's on sale is to look at our Black Friday 2009 Predictions and to look for a rundown of Black Friday sales in the coming weeks. Do you have any advice about finding out if a deal is really worth it?

CS: Yes, shoppers need to evaluate the deals because not all sale items are really on sale. Retailers like to boost prices just before Black Friday so they can advertise attractive savings on "sale items." You can save gas and shoe leather by comparing prices from home using comparison shopping sites like BizRate, or

WP: After I've evaluated the deals, what can you tell me about making sure I score that bargain-basement price?

CS: Well Josh, it is easier than ever to beat the early birds. Some large retailers are now opening with deep-discount specials on Thanksgiving Day or as early as midnight on Black Friday. You can avoid some additional aggravation by checking online before Thanksgiving to find stores offering the same deals on their Web sites.

WP: The deals do keep coming earlier each year, in fact; Sears has already started their Black Friday sales for 2009. Even though the discounts are as deep as Deal Mountain is tall, many people overspend on Holiday shopping. Do you have a tip to control the extra spending?

CS: It's easy -- Don't shop for yourself! As with grocery shopping, compiling a list and sticking to it will help keep you on budget and get you out of the stores faster. The National Retail Federation reports the average shopper spends $99 on themselves during the holiday season, so you're not the only one tempted to treat yourself. Save those personal gifts for another time of year, perhaps during post-post-holiday sales.

WP: Wow, $99 is a significant amount to overspend. I'll keep that in mind when shopping for gifts this year; though I'll still buy myself a present on Black Friday since technology items are so cheap. Given your lofty perch on Deal Mountain, it's obvious that you have a pretty good sense of direction, any tips about planning for Black Friday?

CS: Sure do -- map it out. Once you've made your shopping list, map out a plan of attack before hitting the stores. Decide the order of stores you'll visit, taking into consideration location, opening hours, priority of list items and desirable freebies.

WP: Excellent suggestion, may I also add that planning your refreshments or a coffee break is also an important part of a successful Black Friday outing. Do you have any advice for making sure you get the best deal after Black Friday?

CS: I sure do. Shoppers can save more with price guarantees. Register to continue saving after Black Friday by signing up to be notified of price-protection guarantees. These guarantees ensure you'll receive money back if the seller or their competitor offers a lower price before the holiday season is over. Watch for stores that offer an email alert providing automatic notification when you're due a refund on a specific item.

WP: Yes, gotta love price protection guarantees. Even though many retailers suspend price matching on Black Friday, they are a great tool to make sure you get the lowest price, even after you're done shopping.

My oxygen supply is getting low, so I need to head back down to WalletPop HQ, do you have any other tips before I go?

CS: One final tip for Holiday Shopping is don't pay for shipping. If you wait until December 17th to place your order you can take part in Free Shipping Day. For the second year, participating merchants will offer free shipping on Dec. 17 with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.

For additional Holiday Shopping tips check out WalletPop's 8 ways to save time and money on holiday shopping.
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