Seven ways to shop smarter during the pre-Christmas sales


Love it or hate it, Australian shoppers appear to be embracing the pre-Christmas sales as the major retail event on the calendar, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday proving more popular with bargain hunters than the traditional Boxing Day sales.

Around a third (32%) of Australians reported that they were planning to participate in the Black Friday sales which kick off on November 25, a recent Finder survey found, compared to 30% who said that they would partake in the Boxing Day sales. Meanwhile, 17% of respondents said that they would be taking part in Cyber Monday on November 28.

On average, Finder found that shoppers expected to spend $375 each during the sales this year, with clothing, footwear, electronics and beauty products proving to be the most sought-after items.

how to make the most of black friday shopping sales

With the elevated cost of living still front of mind though, many of those planning on getting in on the sales action this year may be doing so with a strategic mindset.

Research from eBay Australia found that 60% of Black Friday shoppers were planning on using the sales to buy at least half of their Christmas gifts, while plenty of younger shoppers were likely to turn towards second-hand items as cheaper, more sustainable options.

"We know Christmas is an expensive time of year and coupled with the increased cost of living pressures, many Aussies will be feeling the pinch," says Sophie Onikul from eBay Australia.

If you do have your wallet on hand and ready to make the most of the sales, there are a couple of tips and tricks that may be worth knowing before filling your cart though. Here are seven to keep in mind.

1. Write up a budget

Let's be honest, it's not difficult to get caught up in the sea of discounts and end up overbudget and with a larger than anticipated number of packages rocking up at your front door.

As Onikul notes, plenty of people are going to be wanting to avoid that this year though, which is why taking relatively simple steps like planning ahead and keeping to a preset budget will be crucial.

"Setting a budget, writing a list and sticking to it is more important than ever, but buying Christmas gifts doesn't have to break the bank. eBay research shows that almost one-quarter of Aussies are set to spend less this Christmas and 40% are planning to buy gifts for fewer people."

2. Check the price history

How do you know that the discount you're getting on that pair of headphones or runners is actually any good? Retailers have been known to be tricky with their pricing, including during Black Friday says Finder shopping expert, Chris Jager, so doing some extra detective work may be worthwhile to ensure that you're getting a bargain.

"Something that can happen is that brands will advertise a sale based on the recommended retail price, which may have been from when that product launched five years ago," he says.

"One good website for price tracking though is CamelCamelCamel. It has the historic price record of everything sold on Amazon, which is obviously one of the biggest sellers around - especially during Black Friday. So if an item is on sale for 30%, you'll be able to check to see how that price actually compares to previous prices it's been sold for."

3. Earn extra cashback and rewards

While nabbing a bargain will be the name of the game during the Black Friday sales, shoppers might also be able to take advantage of additional rewards points or cashback deals that they can get on top of their discounted purchases.

There are a number of cashback websites and rewards programs out there to choose between, but a few that may be useful for online shoppers include the Cashback browser extension from Cashrewards and the Points-Prompter browser extension from Qantas.

"Cashback can be a great way to get a double deal, buying a discounted item and then receiving a cashback. But be prepared to wait for your cashback to hit your bank account, as many cashback services have a waiting period of 30 to 60 days," says Mozo personal finance expert, Claire Frawley.

4. Make the most of price-matching

Another way for bargain hunters to ensure that they're getting the best price possible is to make use of the price guarantee schemes offered by various retailers in which they match or beat the price offered by a competitor for the same item.

Officeworks, JB Hi-Fi, and even David Jones are among the larger retailers with price-matching offers, although various limits and restrictions tend to apply.

Online shoppers will be pleased to know that price matching isn't just for in-store purchases either, and it can even be done online.

For instance, Onikul says that anyone wanting to price match using eBay's price guarantee can do so via phone or online chat with the eBay item ID and a link to website with the competitor's item.

5. Go for brands you know

With so many items on sale it can be easy to get swept up in the frenzy, but like sticking to a budget, Jager recommends that shoppers stick to major brands and vendors that they're familiar with during the sales, because not all items will prove value for money.

"A lot of the big brands do actually tend to have pretty good deals during Black Friday, so I would recommend playing it safe and going with brands you know rather than brands you haven't heard of. Third-party sellers on Amazon are a good example, because even though they may be offering some large discounts, you usually get what you pay for."

6. Factor in FX fees

Looking to make the most of some Black Friday deals abroad by shopping on an international website? Given that many debit and credit cards come with foreign exchange fees in the 2-3% region, Frawley says that they're a cost that shoppers shouldn't forget to factor in to the overall cost of the purchase.

"Before checking out with your Black Friday purchases, double-check if you are shopping on an Australian or international website. International transaction fees can be costly, and could see your discount evaporate."

7. Watch out for scams

In the first ten months of 2022 Australians had already lost $475 million to scammers according to the ACCC's Scamwatch. Unfortunately, scammers are also likely be out in force during the sales period says Jager, which is why shoppers should be extra vigilant with any promotions they receive.

"The big ones that I'd avoid altogether are texts, emails and newsletters. For instance, you might get an email saying it's from Amazon, eBay or another retailer and it might look quite legitimate, but there's always the chance that it won't be."

"So you're better off just going straight to the retailers' website or straight to the source if you're familiar with the URL, because they're going to have all the best deals on the website itself anyway."

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Tom Watson is a senior journalist at Money magazine, and one of the hosts of the Friends With Money podcast. He's previously worked as a journalist covering everything from property and consumer banking to financial technology. Tom has a Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) from the University of Technology, Sydney.