I must admit that Black Friday is my all time favorite holiday. Nothing says "holiday spirit" better than hundreds of strangers camped in a line that wraps around the back of Walmart in the cold at 3 am waiting for the best deals on a Kitchenaid Mixer. The doors finally open and the stampede swarms in and fills the store within 3.7 seconds. Then the true chaos starts with hundreds of people running as fast as they can towards the $200 52" flat screen TV, sometimes trampling the poor employees. Everyone is yelling, shoving people out of their way, and sometimes just flat out grabbing something out of a strangers shopping cart when they turn their back (true shoppers know not to use a cart anyway!) Nothing beats the feeling of running out to the car with the item you actually came there for in your arms at 70% off! It truly is a rush! Not that I've done any of those selfish and rude things... Ok maybe some.
Black Friday has become a tradition in my family. It's something that we look forward to starting as soon as when last year's Black Friday ended. My husband and I are very frugal. We have always lived on a tight budget. We're the type who shop with coupons, bought a house at 23 years old, rarely go out to eat, and try to never pay full price for anything. We're not cheap, we're just wise with our money. This is one reason we love Black Friday- it's the one day each year that we get to have fun and go on a crazy shopping spree. We usually will put off any big purchases for ourselves until then and get most of our Christmas shopping done that day. I'm pretty much a pro by now so I'm going to teach you everything I've learned over the years.
What is Black Friday?
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. It is the biggest shopping day of the year because it officially marks the first day of Christmas shopping. All the stores compete for your business by having their steepest discounts. And people (like me) usually go crazy for them! The whole weekend is full of great deals, but the best ones are the "Early Bird Specials" and "Doorbusters" on Friday morning.
Make a Plan
The biggest mistake you can make is to expect to casually walk in and be able to take your time shopping and comparing items like you would any other day. The key is to move through the store as quickly as possible in order to get to the next store so you don't miss out on any deals. The best way to move quickly is if you know what exactly you want from each store. I start by making a list of all the products we want. Think Christmas presents, items for your home, large purchases that you have been saving up for, clothing, birthday gifts for the future, holiday decorations, and anything else. Then start looking through all the ads. The official ads are in the newspaper usually on thanksgiving but that only gives you one day notice. I usually start checking websites the month before (my favorite is www.blackfriday2011.com). Most stores put out their BF ads online early. Now is when the planning begins. Look through every single store ad for stores that are on your area. Even look at ads for stores you don't usually shop at. You may be surprised that you can suddenly afford to shop at Macy's. Make note of which items you plan on purchasing. And compare prices for the same items at different stores.
Get a Head Start
Go to each store you plan at shopping a few days before. This will give you the opportunity to leisurely find the location of each item in the store and try on clothes, look at details on the product's boxes, etc at your own pace. Keep in mind that they may move some popular items to a large display in the store's aisles or endcaps, but at least you will have a general idea of where each department is in the store.
Timing is Everything
The "Early Bird Specials" and "Doorbusters" will have the best deals. The stores will change the prices of the items throughout the day. For example, Kohl's may have a luggage set at 70% off at 4am, 60% off at 9am, and only 50% off the rest of the weekend. While 50% off is great, why not work a little harder and get the same item at 70% off? So decide if you want to even bother going to sleep the night before. The big Thanksgiving meal makes most people pretty tired. If you must sleep, make sure to wake up on time! This is one day that you absolutely cannot sleep in. Now, because you will be a BF pro, and you have made your shopping list early, you will need to plan out in what order you plan on going to each store. It's really simple. Just start in the order of which stores open earliest. If you're going to camp out in front of a store, plan on getting there a minimum of 2 hours early. Then move as quickly through the store as possible to move on to the next store.
Your Black Friday Survival Kit
- Plan on bringing your significant other or a friend with you. It's important that you work as a team to get what you want.
- Bring only the basics with you. Don't carry a purse. You will need your arms free to carry everything through the store since you won't be using a shopping cart. So make sure your pants have good pockets for your debit card, ID, cell phone, shopping list, any coupons, and folded up store ad. (Notice I say debit card- NOT credit card. BF shopping has amazing deals, but only if you can afford it)
- Bring food in the car to snack on as you drive from store to store. ( A leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwich is a great snack!) Don't waste time stopping to go out to eat. Also bring whatever drink wakes you up- coffee or an energy drink. Just don't drink too much, because only amateurs take bathroom breaks! ;)
- Wear clothes that are comfortable. Dress in layers. You'll be freezing when you're camped outside of Best Buy at 4am, but you'll soon be sweating as you run around a few stores. And this is not the day to show off your beautiful 4" heels. You're going to be on your feet for hours- possibly getting your feet stepped on. So wear comfortable walking shoes.
The Shopping Strategy
My husband and I have a great system we've been using. The second the stampede swarms into the store, we split up. One of us immediately gets in line to hold a spot at the checkout while the other person runs around the store grabbing all the items we plan on buying. Don't bother using a shopping cart. There are so many people in the store that you will just get caught in a shopping cart traffic jam. And people try to steal things out of other carts anyway. If you are not completely decided on purchasing an item, now is not the time to sit and think about it. Just go ahead and buy it. But save your receipt in case you want to return it. If you don't buy it now, you will end up paying more for it down the road. It is almost a guarantee that the Black Friday price is the best all year.
At checkout, make sure to use any coupons from the ads or that you printed online. Make sure they ring everything up at the correct price. As long as you have the store ad in your pocket, you can correct any mistakes.
For those of you who don't want to brave the crowds, you won't lose out on all the deals. The Biggest Online Shopping Day of Year is Cyber Monday. Look out for deals with huge discounts and free shipping deals. To make the most of your deals there are websites that offer cash back rebates on your online shopping by clicking through the store website links on their websites. Sign up for free with Shop At Home and also sign up with Ebates. By clicking directly through my links, you will get a $5 free credit on Shop At Home, and from Ebates you will get your choice of a free $10 gift card from Home Depot, Target, or Barnes & Noble. You're welcome :)
Once you sign up for any of these websites, you will get cash back in the form of a check from every online purchase you make from almost any website. These websites also give you coupon codes for free shipping and discounts on your orders.
Why do we put ourselves through this madness?
Because we love it! It really has become a holiday tradition in our home. We save our money all year and we get one day to go on a shopping spree. We have so much fun running around each of the stores finding things like a treasure hunt. And we take our fun very seriously. :) I hope you got some good tips to help you save some money this year!
If you are local to Ventura County, I will be teaching a class on How to Save Money During the Holidays on Dec 3rd at 4pm. Black Friday is just the beginning of my money saving secrets. I am passionate about finding ways to save and sharing my secrets with you. Click here to sign up for my holiday class. Happy early Black Friday!
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