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Friday, October 7, 2011

Black Friday

This was a post I shared on a local moms site a few years ago. I would revisit the subject every year around Thanksgiving week in anticipation of Black Friday. I thought I would post it here since that site may be shutting down soon and I put a lot of time into sharing this information to save others time, and money!

Are you a Black Friday Virgin or a seasoned shopper? I have always enjoyed Black Friday for the most part. No matter where you shop you will most likely run into some sort of problems, but the savings have always been worth it for us.
Last year I posted a few tips about shopping for Black Friday. My friend decided to go shopping with me for Black Friday this year, and she is a Black Friday Virgin. There was a lot to teach her about the process!
I thought I'd expand my tips and tricks of the trade from last year’s post. I encountered so many ill prepared people this year! I hope that by sharing what I and so many other Black Friday shoppers have learned will help other Moms you can make your day go as smoothly as possible each year! 
Get plenty of sleep. If you are well rested you automatically have the advantage! Your mind will be sharper than the shoppers who stayed up all night to ensure they get to the stores early. You really want to be at the store at least 30 minutes to an hour before the start of the sale. The shoppers who walk in at the start time of the sale miss a lot!
Dress comfortably. You are not trying to impress anyone! Wear comfortable shoes! You should also dress in light layers. Instead of wearing a heavy coat that will take up space in my cart I wear a zip front hooded sweatshirt that can be tied around my waist should I get too hot. If you have long hair you may be more comfortable wearing it up. My hair is very long and it gets caught on hangers and other items as I buzz around the store. I usually start the day with my hair down, and keep a hair band on my wrist as a bracelet so I can pull my hair back when I've had enough.
Take a snack with you. A Protein bar or cereal & fruit bar can sustain you while you wait in long lines! I find that I get hungry much earlier than a normal day, so be sure to eat breakfast too! Take a drink. Many people take a Travel mug of coffee, or bottled water. You'd be amazed how many people I hear say they are thirsty while they are shopping!
Clean out your car. Remove car seats, and anything that may make it difficult for you to load your deals when you are done shopping! You may want to keep trash bags or reusable grocery bags in the car to consolidate your load, and this also helps conceal your items in your car. 
Spend time making a list. The more detailed the better! Write down the store name for each item, the advertised price, and if it is a price that has restricted hours, and be sure to write down sizes too for clothing, shoes, etc. It is a lot easier to reference your list versus flipping through ads while pushing a cart. You want to still take the ads with you, as often times there will be items that are not in the stores computer system at the correct price!  
Be patient. Have realistic expectations. You should go into the day knowing that you will not get every item on your deal list. By the time you get to a few items, other items will sell out. It is the nature of the sale. There is no sense in getting upset, angry, or violent. I have personally watched shoppers push, yell, curse, and display other unsavory behavior. If you engage in this type of activity you can be thrown out of the store, and it also takes away from your edge of being well rested. Tell yourself that no deal is worth fighting over and you will have the energy needed to move on when you find a deal you missed out on. This is probably one of the most important things to take with you. Your patience! There is no sense in getting angry over not getting a sale item. You will carry that anger with you all day and pass it onto everyone you come in contact with. It's not worth letting something like that take away from your Black Friday experience!
Do not take personal items with you that you will regret losing. It is easy to lay down your purse or wallet and forget it. Unfortunately during this Season people become desperate and theft is always a concern. If you want to carry a tote or purse I suggest one that can sling over your body and keep it on you at all times. I carry a small tote with a long strap. It has a pocket in front for my cell phone, a zippered pocket to make my debit card and ID less accessible, and it has room for my snack, gum, shopping list, pens, and ads.
You should decide which item(s) are most important, and focus on finding that item first. Remember-it is not realistic to let yourself think you will be able to get all of the door busters.  
Take a friend or family member. Misery loves company! In all seriousness though, things will run smoother if you work as a team. The aisles are cram packed, and trying to maneuver a cart is nearly impossible. One person can stay with the cart while the other ventures off on foot to grab items that would otherwise take you 20 minutes to get to with your cart. Take turns watching the cart, and it helps to be familiar with each other’s list. This way if you see something your teammate has on their list you can grab it as you go along. If you do not have cell phones take walkie talkies. It is easy to get separated in the crowds, and this makes finding each other easier!
Err on the side of caution. Almost anything can be returned! Don't regret passing up on a deal because you weren't sure if it was the right item, color, size, etc! I also suggest you save all decision making until you are in line to pay. I am a visual merchandiser and I know how much it stinks to pick up hundreds of discarded items at a store, but on Black Friday I think it is totally acceptable to decide later you do not want an item and discard it so someone else can buy it. The stores expect to deal with this, and it is not realistic for you to put things back where you got them in these crowds!
You can expect to be in line at the registers anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour waiting to pay. I find that the longer you shop the less time you have to wait. You can wait in line for an hour, or you can lap the store a few times and get in line later when the lines are down. 
Another popular Method is to get in line right away, and continue to take turns with your team mate. You'd be amazed how many times you can take turns venturing out while you wait in the long checkout lines. Just be sure you don't stay away to long and hold up the line when you aren't there to pay!
Many people start their Black Friday at Wal-Mart. There are a few great reasons to start there. My number one reason is that they are a 24 hour store. This means I can stand indoors while awaiting the start of the sale. If you get there early you may be able to find some of the items on the shelf and save yourself from hunting down a few items later. 
The second reason some start their day at Wal-Mart is because they normally do price matching. If you have the competitors ad with you, and are checking out at the register during the time of the sale at the competitor most stores will honor the competitor's price. This saves you a trip, and also saves you from possibly missing a deal at another store if they sell out before you get there. Wal-Mart will normally only price match the exact same brand of an item if it is a sale price. They will not price match Buy one get one offers, or percentage off deals. Remember to take those competitor ads!
Wal-Mart offers really great door buster prices, and often times offer more door busters than the competitors. It really depends on what you are in the Market for!
 If you go to more than one store on Black Friday be sure you have a spare key on you for your car. Keys get locked in the car. Keys get dropped or otherwise misplaced. Make sure you lock your car, and try to hide your purchases that are stored in your car. You should lock the items in your trunk, or cover them with a blanket if possible. You don't want to encourage anyone to break into your car by leaving high ticket items visible from outside of your vehicle.
Place an envelope or some sort of container in your car to store receipts. Retailers are getting very strict about returns, and you don't want to lose the receipt and be stuck with an item you didn't need. I also suggest you get gift receipts! You don't want your gift recipients being stuck with an item that may be the wrong size, color, style, etc.
I hope this helps you to have an enjoyable experience on Black Friday. There are deals out there that are worth the waiting for. It is also a fun way to spend some time with a friend or loved one.
Happy Shopping!

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