LB Note: I'm not a big Black Friday shopper, but without fail I get questions about it every year.
Ahhh…Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving, when people crowd the stores nationwide to get the best possible deals on everything from holiday gifts, to replacement electronics, to that special splurge you couldn't afford other times during the year.
It's a stressful time, and the retailers design their sales so you spend more than you would have if you didn't participate. Some choose not to participate in the world's largest retail holiday, but you can have it both ways. With the right preparation and approach, you can get in, get out, and get ahead whatever your reasons for buying might be.
The first rule about Black Friday shopping is, “You do not talk about…”
Sorry. That's a different rule. The first rule about Black Friday shopping is you are in this to save money. Retailers participate in Black Friday for two reasons:
- To offload merchandise that's about to be replaced with newer models, reducing their losses
- To trick you into spending money on more expensive stuff once you're in the store, increasing your spending
Both of those can mean you spend above and beyond what you would have spent just ordering your purchases online a week earlier. The tips and tricks below are some of the best ways to avoid running afoul of the retail agenda, but they're just a few examples among many.
Show up with this in mind, and make all of your decisions based on this Prime Directive. Your wallet will thank you later.
6 Black Friday Shopping Trips to Save More Money and Reduce Stress
1. Start ASAP
The thing about Black Friday is you can't start preparing on Thursday night and expect to succeed. Get busy just after you finish your back-to-school shopping, so you wake up Friday morning locked and loaded. A list of things you could be doing during those intervening weeks includes:
- Making comprehensive lists of what you want to buy in the final quarter of the year
- Identifying which items on that list are likely to be discounted on Black Friday
- Checking Black Friday websites where people leak the deals likely to be announced
- Using online coupon tools to maximize day-of savings, finding alternative ways to save
- Enroll in loyalty programs for stores you intend to target
- Clear space on rewards credit cards to maximize rebates
- Stalk retailers on social media to get early announcements
- Read store policies for deals and returns
- Prep your holiday gifting lists
There's no way to get all that done in just a few days. Prep early and prep often to make the most of your next Black Friday.
2. Show up Early
Yes, lining up in the wee hours for Black Friday shopping is a cliche. Yes, it's a pain to do. Yes, it means being cold and uncomfortable on a day you'd rather spend at home with your family.
The big-ticket Black Friday savings are limited to supply on hand and first-come, first- served. If you show up late, you miss the deal. Your best bet is to arrive two hours or so before opening (which is often much earlier than usual) and bring a book, some coffee, and a friend to keep your spot if you have to use the restroom.
Make a day of Black Friday, starting with early morning shopping and ending with some family time like a movie or dinner out once the shopping is done. The late bird on this day has to buy the most expensive worm.
3. Divide & Conquer
If you're buying from more than one shop, you can't be first in line for everything you want. Beat that by coordinating efforts with your friends and family (many of whom will be on-site for the Thanksgiving holiday anyway). Again, this should be something you plan well in advance.
Use email or a group chat to set up shopping lists divided by store, then have somebody sign up to do everybody's shopping at that one location. Then, get together in early December for a shopping-swap party.
Bonus points for arranging this across friends and family in different cities, so folks who don't live in a town with certain stores still get access to those deals.
4. Bring a List
This is “Shopping 101” but bears repeating. Embark on your Black Friday mission with a list of everything you plan to buy and stick to that list.
You've heard this one before, and read it in advice about everything from grocery shopping to holiday gifts, but it's extra-important during a day when every store in the country is spending its best energy on making you break that rule.
So, remind yourself: make a list, bring the list, and buy only what's on the list. Get a shopping buddy to keep you on the straight and narrow. Do whatever you have to do.
If you absolutely must stay open to impulse buys, put a budget on the list like “$50 for impulse buys,” and hold yourself to that limit.
5. Love the Dollar Store
One of the places stores make you spend more than you expected on Black Friday is on small stocking stuffers, seasonal goodies, and decoration items. These small purchases might seem like nothing individually, but they can easily add up to $50, $100, or more by the time you reach the checkout counter.
When you see those deals, do the math and see if they cost more than a dollar. If so, put them back. Organize an expedition to the local dollar store in the first week of December, where you'll get similar (and sometimes the exact same) goodies at a huge discount.
6. Book Your Holiday Flights
Did you know airlines have been holding their own Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for over a decade? That's right. You can save 40% or more on booking your next vacation or holiday seats if you take advantage of these sales.
Approach them just as you would the physical retail Black Friday deals. Decide your needs, research the best options, stay alert on social media and leak pages, get up early to spot the deals, and then pounce on savings.
One final thing to keep in mind: make your list of things to buy before you start looking into specific Black Friday deals. The other way retailers make it big on this day is by convincing you to buy things you otherwise wouldn't because of the attached value.
Remember: if you need a new refrigerator and get it for $500 instead of $800, you've saved $300. If you buy the same refrigerator because it's on sale, and your current fridge works just fine, you haven't saved $300. You've spent $500.
This applies to all of your Black Friday shopping. Stick to what's needed, get the best possible deal, and then get out.
What are your Black Friday shopping tips?
Mary Green is a freelance writer and mother of four children. She writes about personal finance, family life, and gardening for several blogs and websites. She lives with her family in North Carolina.