Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to Shop Black Friday

So, you wanna shop Black Friday, huh? I gotta admit, there are some truly great deals to be had on this famous Day-After-Thanksgiving Sale. It's an excellent time to stock up on gifts for Christmas and throughout the next year. That is, if you are up for it — literally!

Now, keep in mind that I generally HATE shopping, and I am by no means an expert shopper or deal-monger. But Black Friday is one time when I usually get to shop without children and with adults I love. I have a plan, a mission, and a challenge — that's my kind of adventure!

Whether you are new to this crazy shopping experience or an old pro, I thought I'd share a few tips to make your trip slightly more sane. :-)

1. Plan your trip.

Definitely the most involved step. After setting your budget (VERY IMPORTANT!), one of the first things you'll want to do is peruse the black Friday ads. These usually come out the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but most of the major ads have already been leaked to sites like The Black Friday and Black Friday 2011.

As you are looking through the ads for the stores you might want to hit, make a chart (or table or list) of 1) the items you may want to purchase, 2) where they can be found, and 3) for what price. Many stores will have the same product at different or similar prices, and if you find that one or two stores are going to carry most of your wanted items, it may be worth the few dollars to just get it all in one place rather than go to six different stores. Then again, some stores use a particular item as their "doorbuster" to get people in the store and so it may be MUCH lower than you'll find it at other stores.

A pretty easy way to look at ads and begin making your list is through an iPhone app. My favorite is TGI Black Friday because it lists all the stores, and then separates the deals by category (women's apparel, toys, electronics, etc). Plus, you can create a shopping list, see the actual PDF scans of the ads, compare prices, email your list or individual deals, and even shop for deals online that may be available before Black Friday.

Prioritize your list according to which items you most hope to purchase. This will help with the next step.

2. Know your stores.

Next, you need to know what time your stores are opening, when certain sales begin and end, and which items are "doorbusters" (these are generally the higher value and/or lower priced items of which there are only limited quantities, and they usually go fast). You'll obviously want to plan your trip so that you get the items at the top of your list, and what order you shop different stores will depend on those factors.

You'll also want to be aware of your stores' return policies, possible item limits, and connected deals (like get a gift card when you purchase such-and-such item). Also helpful is to know the layouts of your stores - departments, special "action alley" areas for the doorbusters, registers, and bathrooms.

Figure out which stores you can get away without using a cart. If you don't have a lot to buy and no big items, forgo the cart and joyously skip through the aisles unencumbered! :-) (sort of...)

3. Be comfortable.

Now, I'm all for not dressing all frumptastic, but just for this day, think about wearing the most comfortable clothes and shoes that you own. I'm talking comfy jeans (or other comfortable pants with pockets), tennis shoes, and unless it is blizzarding, skip the heavy coat and opt for a long or short-sleeved t-shirt with a cardigan or light jacket that can be tied around your waist if you get too warm. When you are rushing around and standing in line with bunches of people, it can get pretty hot and stuffy, and the trip to and from the car is not going to freeze you to death!

Try not to bring a big purse. I generally minimize my wallet to the cards and/or cash I know I'm going to use and reduce my keychain to just my car keys. This way I can just stick my small card wallet, keys and phone in my jeans pockets and not have to worry about another thing to carry. You may have other items to bring along (feminine items, chapstick, etc), but I urge you to go no larger than a small clutch-sized bag you can wear on a cross-the-body strap.

Also, bring some snacks. This is especially true if you are going to more than one store, if you are starting very early, or if you are not factoring breakfast or lunch into your plans. Your stomach will not thank you for neglecting it. Same goes for water - lots and lots of water!! (Remember, I told you to make sure you know where the bathrooms are!) Something about shopping makes a person feel so dry, and dehydration is not your friend! So make room in your purse or bag for these items.

4. Shop with a Friend (or 2 or 3).

My sister and I grew up doing the after-Thanksgiving-Day sales with our mom, and even when Mom doesn't join us, we still like to go together now that we are all grown up. :-) Team shopping has so many benefits:
  1. You have someone to talk to while you stand in line, thus saving your cell phone's battery life for the important stuff like checking lists and ads for the umpteenth time and posting pics of the crazy people on Facebook. :-D
  2. You can take turns standing in line to check out. This is especially nice when part of your team doesn't have anything to buy at a particular store — they can be the assigned place-holder while you go snag the item or two that you came for. Or you can take turns going to the bathroom without fear of losing your spot.
  3. You can split up to conquer the same store in half the time. One of you gets the toys you all want while someone else gets the small appliances and you can meet back up at the clothing department.
5. Choose joy.

This may be the most important step of all. There can be a lot of crazy people out there trying to get the best deals, and shopping can make even the sane people go a little nutso. So do all the folks around you a favor and be happy!

Not only will you be a happier person, but you may find that your cheerfulness goes a long way in promoting goodwill among those around you. I have gotten more help from sales people and fellow shoppers just by putting on a smile and being friendly and patient and just plain kind. Most people are expecting impatience and rudeness. What a wonderful way to minister to others! Don't forget those magical manners — please and thank you!

Be on the lookout for ways to be a help to those around you. Smile at the tired masses, compliment the husband tagging along with his determined wife, offer help to that largely pregnant or new mama, visit with the grandma who is sweet enough to get presents for all 21 grandkids. I promise that these moments may be the highlights of your whole day. Just because Thanksgiving Day is over, doesn't mean kindness and thankfulness and goodwill should be.

Here's another thought: 

Don't have major shopping to do? Wanna have a ministry to others? Set up a "relief station" (or pack a relief bag) for all those weary shoppers. Stock it with water bottles, small snacks, coffee or hot chocolate, etc. (maybe some tracts or church pamphlets if you feel led). If you get out really early or stay up late Thursday and go out around 10 p.m. to midnight, consider distributing handwarmers to those camping out in line at places like Best Buy and Target that aren't open 24hrs and tend to draw a big line ahead of store opening.

(Note: If you want to set up a table or operate out of your vehicle on store property, you probably need to ask permission from managers.)

Image Source

So, what am I planning? I'm still on step 1, actually. Aaannndd, I haven't really made up my mind about going this year or not. You see, my sweet 8-month-old is still quite needful of his mother. I can't imagine going without him, or with him for that matter. I'll be checking with my mom and sister, and we will make up our minds this weekend.

In the meantime, we've set up a poll on our Facebook page. If you haven't already, go "like" us there and cast your vote! And be sure to share your favorite shopping tips with all of us!

You kidding?? I'm lining up at 2am!
    I have a few deals I'll go for, but I'm not getting up early for it.
      I usually do, but I'm skipping this year.
        Aack! That's my worst nightmare! Count me out.
          I'm saving my shopping for Cyber Monday.

          I'm DONE with Christmas shopping!

            Linking up here:
            Linky Party at I {Heart} Naptime
            Feature Yourself Friday at Fingerprints on the Fridge
            Homemaking Link Up at Raising Homemakers
            Taking Time Out Thursday at Mom on Time Out
            Wow Me Wednesday at Polka Dots on Parade

            1 comment:

            1. Great tips! I never knew how to do this and I've always wondered!!