Black Friday Shopping Tips
For many people, shopping is just as much a part of Thanksgiving weekend as turkey and pumpkin pie. In fact, last year more than 140 million shoppers hit stores on Black Friday alone. Besides being the first day of the Christmas shopping season, Black Friday marks the day when retailers realize profits—going from being “in the red” to “in the black”—hence the name.
Before you brave the crowds of frenzied Black Friday shoppers, here are some tips to make the most of your bargain hunting experience:
1. Plan Ahead
Most Black Friday sales fliers go out with the Thanksgiving newspaper, but information is largely available on the internet weeks ahead of time. Plan your shopping strategy as early as possible. Sites like blackfridayads.com clue shoppers in to what will be on sale at major retailers like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Toys R Us will offer on Friday morning.
2. Have a Backup Plan
While most places offer limited quantities of doorbuster items, the sale merchandise that isn’t quite so hot is readily available. If you’re visiting a store for a doorbuster item, make sure that there is something besides else your list. Otherwise the odds of leaving empty-handed (and having wasted precious shopping time) increase dramatically.
3. Comparison Shop
You may want to browse the internet and comparison shop before you set foot in the stores. What seems like a good deal isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be and may not be worth standing in line for. Look up current pricing on major sites like Amazon.com, Toysrus.com and Bestbuy.com. If you don’t plan ahead, use a barcode scanning app on your smartphone such as ShopSavvy that will do the comparison shopping for you.
4. Prep Your Car
If you’re going to be bringing home a new 50″ LCD HDTV, you’ll want to make sure there’s room for it in your vehicle. Make sure the trunk is cleaned out or back seats removed from your van. Top off your tank to avoid wasting time at the gas station.
5. Dress Appropriately
For most people, this means boots, mittens, hats and a warm coat. Don’t try to be too fashion conscious; just be comfortable. Be prepared to wait outside in some situations. Leave your purse at home and just bring a credit card or enough cash. It’s one more thing to worry about or potentially get lost or stolen.
6. Arrive Early
If you snooze, you lose—especially on Black Friday. In recent years, doorbuster promotions have started earlier and earlier and are available in limited quantities only. In some cases you’ll need to arrive several hours before the doors actually open to get the best deals. Many stores have started to use a numbering system to be fair to shoppers who have camped out in line for the store to open. As they enter, they are handed a number to allow them to purchase in-demand items.
7. Grab a Black Friday Shopping Partner
Send one person to the checkout lanes while the other snatches up the bargains. Keep your cell phones charged so you can easily meet up later. Leave the kids at home. Crowded aisles and unscrupulous shoppers can be a dangerous combination for small children.
8. Take Advantage of Price Matching
Some stores (such as Walmart) will also honor the advertised prices of their competitors—even on Black Friday. Use this strategy to your advantage to avoid long lines. Make sure you take the competitor’s flyer with you—otherwise you may be out of luck.
A similar strategy involves buying the item ahead of time, returning it on Black Friday and immediately re-buying it at the lower price. The ethics of this are questionable and most stores don’t appreciate customers who do it. Some stores have even made Black Friday exempt from their regular price-matching policy.
9. Realize Additional Savings
If you’re making a big-ticket purchase, consider signing up for a store credit card to save an additional 10-15% on the transaction. Only do this if you’re disciplined with credit and won’t be tempted by having an extra piece of plastic in your wallet.
10. Shop Online
Avoid the hassle and gas expense by shopping online. Some sites even start their Black Friday promotions on midnight—well before their bricks and mortar stores open. The Monday following Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday, is one of the busiest days for online shopping as employees head back to work (and their computers) after the holiday weekend. Many sites offer special deals to Cyber Monday shoppers. Be sure to look for online coupon codes for additional savings.
11. Make the Most of Your Smartphone
Before you head out, load the Foursquare and Shopkick apps onto your smartphone. Come stores will give you coupons/promo codes just for checking in.
12. Go Where the Crowds AREN’T
You may improve your bargain-hunting odds and limit your exposure to lines and crowds by shopping the smaller stores. Skip the big box giants and shop retailers like hardware stores, craft stores and pharmacies.