10 Hints for Black Friday Shopping Success

Due to how the planets have aligned (or perhaps more appropriately, how the calendar is set up), Thanksgiving is occurring on the latest possible day in November.  Go on, check to see if it’s possible for the ‘fourth Thursday in November’ to fall on a later date than the 28th.  (While you’re at it, check out that whole ‘Thanksgiving and Hanukah Converge’ things that’s going on.)  This means that Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the (un)official start of the Christmas shopping season, is occurring as late as possible as well, making the shopping season as short as mathematically possible.

As a result, Black Friday and the sales that are scheduled for it are going to be even crazier than usual.  Between the normal need to bring in shoppers and ever increasing pressure from online sellers, there are many stores that are simply going over-the-top and then some for Black Friday.  Heck, the stereotypical ‘opening at 4 a.m. on Black Friday’ sales have gotten to the point that they’re spilling over into the prior evening, aka, Thanksgiving.  (But more on that below.)

Before you head off to brave the crowds and adventure into the department store, or dare I even say it, the mall, let’s review some pieces of advice for maximizing your success during Black Friday.  I’ve covered this matter before, but let’s be honest, it makes a pretty good subject for personal finance bloggers at the end of November.  With that in mind, here is my 2013 edition of

10 Hints for Black Friday Shopping Success

1. Prepare Properly: Most of our discussion is going to be about getting your list of deals and plans for shopping ready, but it’s also important to be prepared for the physical pressure of all-day shopping.  Sleep well on Thanksgiving night (yes, I know some deals actually start then; as noted, I’ll cover that below), be sure to stay properly hydrated during the day, and rest regularly.  Don’t push yourself, it’s far from required that you shop yourself to death when the deals are only starting.

The mall will be much more crowded and crazy come Black Friday
The mall will be much more crowded and crazy come Black Friday

2. Start Planning Now: There are savings to be had out there, but ensuring that you successfully get the best deal on your purchases requires preparation.  If you do intend to shop on Friday and you haven’t already begun to look into what sales are going on, you should get started now.  Having a good idea of what sales are available, which ones are legitimately good, and where you should be going in order to take advantage of those deals will help you to create a plan to get what you want during Black Friday while spending as little time in stores as possible.  Speaking of which:

3. Review Those Deals: It’s a reoccurring theme in Black Friday advice articles: the deals that the shops use to draw you in are limited to only the advertised items and/or aren’t deals at all, reflecting only the regular price at the store but are merely promoted highly.  Black Friday is a frenzied shopping day, with lots of people, few items available, and a generally frantic atmosphere, so it’s easy to get shoppers to buy things without too much forethought.  But before you buy anything, you should make sure that it is a legitimately good deal.  There are increasing numbers of apps available that enable you to compare prices as simply as scanning a bar code, so be sure to do so when doing your shopping.

4. Know Store Policy: While you are doing your preparation and looking at deals, you should make sure you are familiar with the policies of the stores you will be visiting.  There are lots of different policies that can be utilized by the stores you visit, and depending on which are in effect at the stores you visit, you will have to take different tactics in order to maximize how far your dollar can stretch.  The next several suggestions should provide an idea of which policies to look for:

5. See If You Can Get The Black Friday Prices at Other Times: While you looking into prices, see which prices you can get at other times in the coming month.  In some cases, Black Friday is the only day a sale occurs, but it could be the start of a full weekend or even month of sales, so don’t always feel the need to be there at the crack of dawn to get the best deal.  For that matter, some places have started offering Black Friday prices already; being able to go in on Slightly Off-White Monday (or whatever today is called) and getting the best prices sounds pretty good to me.

6. Bring the Ads for Price Matching: One way of helping to ensure that you get the best possible price is to use price matching where available.  Of course, even most stores that do price match won’t do so without proof that the price you’re providing is accurate; otherwise, there’d be far more iPads being sold for $4.99.  Having the ads that show the best prices for the goods you want on hand can help get the best prices as you go, and potentially cut down your travels.

7. Get Rain Checks: This one is likely a Hail Mary; a lot of stores use a ‘first items, until we sell out’ policy for their Black Friday sales, so if you aren’t there in time to be one of the first shoppers, don’t expect the best possible price.  Still, some places offer specific time periods for sale prices, and if you are present during that time, you should be able to get the price listed.  Besides, it never hurts to ask; speaking of which:

8. Haggle: You’ve probably guessed, but it’s worth saying out loud: haggling can save you plenty of money.  It’s not always going to work; heck, you better expect it to fail most of the time, as with many of the tactics we’ve covered so far.  But those few time it DOES work, it can save you hundreds of dollars, more than enough to justify the failed attempts.  Give it a try; the worst thing that can happen is they tell you no.

9. Don’t Go Right When The Stores Open…: This flies in the face of many of the suggestions you’ll read, but I recommend you stay away from the stores at opening time (particularly if they open on Thanksgiving, but more in a moment).  There’s a reason they call their sales ‘doorbusters’; you find people who are simply insane, trying to get in the moment that the store opens, sometimes to the point where they will cause injury to others (yourself included).  If you can’t wait a few hours to get a deal, it’s probably going to draw the sort of crowd that you don’t want to be fighting for a TV.

10. …Or on Thanksgiving, Period: I’ll admit, this is less a matter of getting success with your shopping than a personal feeling, but here’s the thing: the more we let Black Friday get earlier and earlier, to the point where it’s rapidly turning Thanksgiving into ‘Gray Thursday’, the less we’ll have Thanksgiving as a special time to spend with our families.  Besides shoppers finishing off dinner early to get to the deals (if they get dinner at all, that is), we’re making it so that thousands of workers are forced to go into work on a holiday.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t shop come Black Friday, but I’d be happy if I can help keep stores empty on Thanksgiving night.

Those are my suggestions for this coming (Black) Friday.  How are you planning to spend Black Friday?  Any more suggestions to maximizing your buying success if you go out shopping?

Image Source: Wikimedia

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