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black friday sales

Whether you like it or not, we are heading for a collision course with Christmas and the end of 2018, so strap on your tinsel belts and hold on to your spending budgets tightly, the impact is hard to predict, but may result in damaging blows to your savings and a stack of unwanted gifts awaiting new homes on boxing day.

Online shopping now makes up a significant percentage of our retail buys over the year, and as we approach Christmas most will agree it really is the easy way to avoid long lines in the mall or finding a park at crowded Westfields. Retail stores putting on sales in November and December was unheard of before the GFC, as traditionally the last two months of the year was when retail made up to 70% of their yearly profits. But the world of online shopping has had a devastating blow on bricks and mortar retailers and so SALE time it is, across many stores online and in traditional retail stores. Many shops with physical locations now also have online stores and allowing them to remain competitive and attract online shoppers while still proving a hands on retail experience for those of us who like to touch and try goods before we buy, you know, the old fashioned way. 

But if you so choose, you can avoid the crowds, traffic, fluorescent lights and trashy Christmas tunes and shop in the comfort of your own home. You don’t even have to get dressed and can do it at 4am if it pleases you. The good news is you may even score more bargains than expected during your Christmas shopping particularly if you time it with Black Friday.

It sounds kind of ominous (and perhaps it is for retailers who are having to slash their profit margins in order to compete), 'Black Friday' sales have created a whole new shopping frenzy which occurs in the final weekend of November. Originating in the US in physical stores (kind of like the Boxing Day sales held right after Christmas), Black Friday sales occur the weekend after Thanksgivings, and to many it’s seen as a great opportunity to get Christmas shopping done and dusted, along with some bagging some great bargains along the way. Aussies first got a taste of Black Friday Sales as a result of making purchases from from US based online stores, but the flow on effect has been rather dramatic over the past few years, and now businesses worldwide are trying their hand at a black Friday Sale.

Buying online means you have to wait for delivery, and with more and more people taking advantage of online shopping there is a huge demand on couriers and the postal service this time of year, it's better get in early than late! And while there might not be the crowds, or the unhelpful staff (in fact there is no staff at all!) shopping online has its own challenges. There is a world of other dangers such as unsafe credit card transactions, Phishing sites and lecherous fraudsters who may be stalking you online.

Here are some tips to keep in mind before you make your online Christmas purchases:

  • Online Security.  Only use trusted sites, pay through PayPal or other websites which keep your credit details encrypted.  Always log off banking websites and email, particularly if on a public computer. In fact avoid doing any transactions on a public computer or with free wifi if possible. Save banking and shopping for when you're on a secure and private device.
  • Check your rights as a consumer before you commit.  Ensure there is a refund policy if you don’t get what you have ordered. Keep in mind if you purchase internationally you may not have the same protection so its worth investigating.  
  • Look at photos and read the product description carefully to ensure you are happy with what you are purchasing.  If buying holiday packages or retreats make sure you know what is and isn't included in the package. Read all of the fine print, even if its very long and boring looking. Often these packages don't include airport transfers, taxis, extra meals and the costs of day to day activities.
  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  Double and triple check the terms of sale, read reviews and ensure the website (and products) are legitimate.

Don’t forget the real reason for the season, and don’t spend beyond your means or your budget.  More important than bagging a bargain in the Black Friday sales? Quality time with family and friends and some money left in your pocket to shout them an ice cream or a beer on a hot sticky Summer’s day.

Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.