Black Friday shopping tips

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Black Friday. Do you know it? Do you love it? Maybe not as much as I do. I look forward to this day all year. Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, I peel myself out of bed around 4am, and head off to find those bargains! Here’s how I make the most of the day:

1. Check out BlackFridayAds.com a few days ahead of time. That way you’ll have a little more time to plan your approach, think about the people you need to buy for, and then only buy what you need. Black Friday is only a frugal event if you plan carefully, stick within your budget, and don’t get carried away.

2. Pay close attention to which stores open first, and plan where you’ll go first, second and third. Figure driving time and map out the most efficient route.

3. Write out a list for every store, with the highest priority items at the top of the list. Include name brands and even a photo of items (cut apart your ads and tape pictures to your lists.) This makes it much easier to spot items on shelves.

4. Plan to bring another adult or teen with you and arm both people with a cell phone.  Communication is essential when you’re separated in the midst of a crowd of people.

5. Bring a couple of big mesh bags. Without a cart, you’ll be able to move more quickly through the stores–sometimes there are huge traffic jams, and you will be just standing still if you’re trying to maneuver a cart. I usually leave my coat in the car, and stick my credit card/checkbook/ID in my FRONT jeans pocket so I don’t have to carry a purse.

6. Divide the list for each store into two parts– you and your shopping partner can each shop and then meet at the checkout. Have one person just grab a few things, then go stand in the checkout line while the other person finishes shopping. If you can hit the checkout line within 15 minutes of the store’s opening time, the line won’t be too long yet.

7. If your partner gets to the head of the line before you get done shopping, he/she should call you and just let the next person in the checkout line check out first. Whatever happens, your partner shouldn’t step out of the line– just wait at the front, letting people by, until the partner arrives.

I know lots of people just prefer to avoid the chaos and sleep in that morning. But shopping the day after Thanksgiving helps my stretch my Christmas dollars, which is really important with 10 kids to shop for. I wouldn’t want to shop like that every day. But once a year is fun. I love working out an efficient plan and seeing just how much I can get for my money. It’s also fun to sneak the loot in the house when I finally get home around 11 am. If I’m really energetic, I’ll even get a gift or two wrapped before I collapse for a nap in the early afternoon.

(This article reposted from a previous year.)

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More tips

My 2007 Black Friday shopping trip

Walmart 2008 Black Friday Deals

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Walmart Black Friday tips

A reader asked a question: “Since our Walmart is open 24 hours – If I get there at 4 instead of 5 am I better off?”

Her question made me think of more tips that might be helpful for people preparing to brave the crowds at WalMart next Friday.

The very hottest ‘doorbuster’ deals will be on covered pallets in all the main aisles of the store, and you won’t be allowed to grab those items until 5 AM.   As you walk in you might be handed a map, which makes it much easier to locate the things you want the most.  Once you find your highest priority item, if you get there a little early you can camp in front of it, so that as soon as they uncover the heap at 5 AM you can grab what you need.  Be fast, though. Some things are out of stock literally within 2 minutes.

If you happen to miss out on something you really wanted, if there’s an employee nearby, ask if/when it is going to be restocked.  Also keep an eagle eye as you shop later.  Sometimes people abandon things in odd places that they have changed their minds about.  More than once I’ve found something I really wanted, abandoned in an odd spot.

Another reason that it might be helpful to show up a little early at WalMart is that usually the less ‘exciting’ sales are left uncovered.   You can’t buy them early, but you can usually grab them early, and be that much quicker to get to the checkout.   I usually stock up on Rustler jeans (last year they were $7 a pair, I think) and they are usually uncovered, free to be taken before 5 AM.   Be sure you have your ads with you, to make sure you have exactly the right item.

Probably the most important thing is to have a competent helper so that there can be one shopper and one ‘waiter’ when the checkout lines are long.  The best way to get through the lines quickly is to try to hit the checkout within 20 minutes of the store’s opening, before the lines get too insane.  That takes fast organized shopping.

If at all possible, leave the cart with your ‘waiting-in-line’ buddy, since carts are HORRID to navigate through crowded aisles.  Much better to make fast trips back and forth to your waiting buddy with heaps of good finds than to get stuck for precious minutes in cart gridlock.

Oh, and last thing– DON’T get carried away and overbuy.  Only buy what you need!!

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My other Black Friday post