Live

Watch CBSN Live

Black Friday Kicks Off Holiday Shopping

Yesterday my son asked, "Dad, what's Black Friday?"

I explained that Black Friday was the day after Thanksgiving, when retailers kicked off the holiday shopping season. On this day, merchants experienced significant gains in sales and as a result, made more money. In short, it was the day merchants went from losing money (being in the red) to making more profits (being in the black).

In what's become the "new normal", retailers seem to be offering early sales and discounts again this season. But they are also stocking less on their shelves, so expect slim pickings on popular items.

But Black Friday may as well be called "Red Friday" for shoppers. For many of us, it's the day that kicks off a big increase in retail spending. And with the struggling economy, most folks want to avoid getting into debt. For these reasons, it is even more important to be a smart and frugal shopper.

Shop Online
According to a popular holiday shopping survey, most shoppers plan to shop online to help them with their holiday gift shopping. The most popular activity is browsing for gift ideas and comparing prices. The payoff is time saved by avoiding traffic jams, parking lot hassles and crowds at the mall. When folks shop online, studies show they also save money by avoiding eating out, which is a big added expense of those holiday shopping trips.

Get Codes and Coupons for Extra Savings
Discounts are a top motivator to get folks to shop during the holiday season and research shows that a 30 percent discount seems to be the amount that will get them to spend. But discounts aren't always clearly available. Sometimes you have to know where and how to look for the best deals.

Here's a trick that can help to save a lot of money. When you are at the point of checkout on the retailer's web site and you are prompted to enter a coupon or promotional code, this is a tip-off that there is a special discount available for the product. Before you click "buy", open another browser and Google the merchants name and the phrase used by the merchant (such as "Best Buy" and "promotional code"). Doing this will quickly lead you to coupons and promotion codes you can use to get the best discounts.

Also, log on to websites such as retailmenot, couponcabin and currentcodes, to look up promotion and coupon codes for many retailers and their products. Using promotion codes can qualify you for additional discounts or even free shipping on your purchases.

Later this week, I provide a few more holiday shopping tips.

If you have a holiday shopping tip that has worked for you, please share it with me by clicking on the "Contact Ray Martin" link to the left and sending an email.

View CBS News In