Tired of the Black Friday Craze? Shop on Etsy Instead

Avoid the long lines by shopping for creative gifts on Etsy.

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The season of giving is here, and traditionally holiday shopping starts the day after we celebrate Thanksgiving. But why fight frantic crowds for the same gifts everyone else buys at big retailer Black Friday sales when you can find more unique, handcrafted gifts personalized for each of your loved ones on Etsy.com? The popular online handmade marketplace used to be a gift-giver's best-kept secret. Now, Etsy has grown to be one of the most popular websites to find the perfect present for your mother, best friend, sweetheart, and even for yourself.

If you're new to Etsy, it may seem daunting to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. With more than 800,000 active sellers on Etsy and millions of products to search through, how will you find the gifts you're looking for and also score great Black Friday deals? Here are some tips on how to best use Etsy for your Black Friday shopping:

1. Search by “Black Friday Etsy.” This year, Etsy sparked its own Black Friday campaign. All Etsy sellers who are offering a special promotion between November 23 and November 26 have tagged their sale items with “Black Friday Etsy” and “Cyber Monday Etsy,” so finding Thanksgiving sale presents is much easier. A special promotion may include a discount on an item's price, free shipping, or special bonus offers with an order such as two-for-one deals or a free gift with purchase. Some Etsy Teams are running holiday promotions, like the San Francisco Etsy Team that's offering free shipping or up to 20 percent off products that you can find by searching by “sfetsyholiday2012.” Searching by “blackfriday” and “cybermonday” will also point you to great deals on one-of-a-kind handmade products.

2. Be inspired by Treasuries. Explore ideas for presents on Etsy Treasuries, which are collections of 16 carefully selected products curated by Etsy members around a special theme. Etsy Treasuries are filled with colorful photographs and thoughtful gift inspirations that you may have not considered before. Popular Treasury themes for the holidays include home décor, gadget accessories, keepsakes, stocking stuffers, party favors, gifts under a certain dollar amount, gifts for particular recipients, and beyond. Throughout each day, the Etsy staff chooses Treasuries that exemplify a seasonal theme to feature on the homepage, which is a great place to start browsing for gifts to match the holiday season.

3. Find Etsy Coupon Codes. Most gifts you find on Etsy are made by hand in someone's home instead of factories in China. While your custom gift may be of higher quality, it may cost more and take longer to make. To score discounts on unique gifts, find Etsy coupon codes at reputable coupon directories like at NerdWallet.com to find discount codes for Etsy products from categories like jewelry, toys, and housewares.

4. Sign up for Etsy Finds Newsletter. Want gift ideas from handmade artists sent straight to your mailbox? Sign up for the Etsy Finds newsletter for your daily Etsy shopping guide. These gift guides are inspiration for gifts specially selected around themes like gifting responsibly, 2012 gift trends, gifts for every budget, gifts for kids, and personalized gifts. You can also browse Etsy Finds under the “Gift Ideas” category. While you're signing up for Etsy Finds, you may also consider joining the Etsy Weddings, Gifts, or Dudes mailing lists for more great gift ideas.

5. Follow Artists on Social Media. After you've experienced browsing around Etsy for gift ideas, you may find several artists you really like and want to follow. Bookmark the artists by clicking the “add shop to favorites” button or the heart button on the Etsy shop's page or product page. You can also look at the artist's “about” page or shop announcement to see if the artist has a Facebook page, Twitter page, or blog. Following your favorite Etsy shop on social media is the best way to discover future sales and coupon promotions.

Are you a new Etsy fan? Find Black Friday deals on special handmade Etsy gifts for everyone this holiday season.

Rita Chu manages NerdWallet Indie Shopping, where shoppers can find Etsy coupon codes and save on fun and unique holiday gifts.