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Tips to make the most of Black Friday, Cyber Monday

The Globe and Mail

Shoppers carry their bags as they walk in downtown Seattle on Friday, Nov. 26, 2010. (Ted S. Warren/AP/Ted S. Warren/AP)

More cost-conscious Canadians hoping to save a boatload are expected to hop across the border this holiday season, to take advantage of massive Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in the United States – the Friday and Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday – as they cross off gifts from their shopping list.

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A recent Bank of Montreal survey found that 18 per cent of those surveyed planned to shop in the U.S. as they prepare for the holidays, up from 13 per cent last year. The survey also found that people expect to spend $1,397 this year on holiday shopping, travel and entertaining.

“With the ongoing strength of the Canadian dollar, a still significant – although narrowing – gap between Canadian and U.S. retail prices and proximity to U.S. cities and shops, it isn’t surprising to see more Canadians planning to head south of the border to shop this holiday season,” Doug Porter, deputy chief economist of BMO Nesbitt Burns, said in a release.

The lure of huge deals, the strong loonie and a big desire to save money in these tough times is encouraging more people to head stateside to do some holiday shopping, says Stephen Fine, director of business development with CrossBorderShopping.ca, a website with an array of information and coupons to help Canadians shop in the U.S., and about shopping this holiday weekend.

“Our [online]traffic is higher than it’s ever been before, there’s been more interest than we’ve ever had before,” he says.

“I think people are always trying to save during the holiday season because people spend a lot of money regardless, but I think when the economy is rough, people will try to save that extra dollar.”

But before you whip out your credit card and run off across the border or jump on your laptop to go on a cyber buying spree, there are a few things to consider to make sure you’re buying items you actually want to give as gifts and that they’re being sold at a good price.

With long lineups expected, people planning to head to the U.S. to shop need to check out which retailers they want to visit, where they are located, what their store hours are and what door crasher sales they have planned, says Mr. Fine. Then you need to know what items you really want and are a good deal, by doing your price comparison ahead of time.

Some of the best savings are on clothing, footwear, electronics, video games and toys, Mr. Fine says. Knowing the season, retailers often have cut prices on housewares and giftware as well.

For Canadians who prefer to shop from the comfort of their own home, U.S. money-saving expert Andrea Woroch suggests you have a list in hand before your mouse starts clicking, and you do some online comparison shopping first, at sites such as PriceGrabber.com. And be aware that some online retailers try to get a jump on their competitors by starting their sales before Monday. Website CouponSherpa has a list of Cyber Monday deals in the U.S.





A recent survey by Visa Canada/Ipsos-Reid found that 34 per cent of those survey expected to shop online to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. And they’re also expecting to spend more online – an average of $262 this year, up from $242 last year.

The survey found that the most popular online purchases were clothing and accessories, followed by books, movies and music.

More Canadians who shop online are taking advantage of free U.S. shipping by using services that let them send packages to a depot in the States, and then drive over the border to pick up the items at a later date, Mr. Fine says. Otherwise, steep shipping costs can negate your savings.

And there aren’t only deals in the U.S. More Canadian retailers are taking advantage of the shopping-focused weekend and are offering sales – both in store and online.

On this side of the border, Redflagdeals.com is highlighting deals in Canada over the weekend, including ones at Wal-Mart, Zellers, Amazon.ca, Canadian Tire, Old Navy and Sears.

Websites CyberBlackFriday.ca and ecoupons.ca also lists Canadian retailers who are making sure they’ve got deals to convince Canadians they can stay at home and find big savings.

If you do plan to drive across the border to find some deals, be prepared. Many websites have the information you need. Make sure you have the proper identification with you such as a passport.

You can check Canadian border wait times online or via your mobile phone You can also sign up to border updates on twitter.

And remember the rules about the value of goods you can bring back duty free: $50 for an absence of 24 hours or more and $400 for an absence of 48 hours or longer.



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