This year will be my 10th year going Black Friday shopping. I remember my first Black Friday purchase was a Nintendo DS kit at Costco. I remember my first time Black Friday shopping at Macy’s in NYC and the influx of people flooding in as the doors opened. As the years went by, I developed a strategy to make life more interesting and fun while shopping on the overwhelming day (or night). Here’s some tips and tricks to help you out this shopping season:
1. Doorbusters are hardly worth it
Stores used to open at midnight after Thanksgiving. It was great to hop in line after eating dinner with the family. People would tell stories and laugh while waiting to grab the doorbuster snow globe from JCPenny. Now it’s different. Don’t try to go to Wal Mart on Thursday at 6 p.m. for that doorbuster. Don’t stand in line for days at Best Buy. It’s not worth it. I remember one year a doorbuster for Best Buy was a video camera and everyone was wanting it for $400 or something like that. Now what? No one uses handheld videocameras. Everyone uses their smartphones for their family videos. The people in line lost that year of Thanksgiving because of that.
2. Buy what you actually want online
I’m telling you now: if you want something veeerrrry specific, do your research. I guarantee you, you will find the item you want on a Black Friday sale online. And buy it online. Don’t try to go inside a store to grab that specific thing. Do your homework, figure out when the sale starts online for that store, make sure you’re reading the right time zone (i.e. Best Buy will start their Black Friday sales at midnight on Nov. 22, but with the PST zone it’s 9 p.m.), and prepare for when the sale starts. Sign up for their emails, download the app (sometimes it’s cheaper to buy on their app or use the app to get a discount, like Cartwheel for Target), receive texts, and put the items you want in your cart. I bought all my clothes for work from Express for a couple years (they give 50% off everything). I signed up for their texts and put everything I wanted with the correct sizes in my cart. As soon as I got a text, I went online and checked out. Within minutes most of their inventory was picked through, and I was one of the lucky ones who got everything I wanted.
3. Bring a team
This part is helpful and almost necessary. I used to have my two nephews come with me while one grabbed certain items on one side of the store, I on the other, while the other nephew stood in line. It was teamwork that ended us with a trunk filled with Christmas presents for years to come–I still wear that fluffy red robe that Andrew found for me!
4. Avoid sale traps
Avoid the words “closeout sale” and also look at model numbers for certain electronics. Look up reviews and figure out if the item was made to sell on Black Friday. It might not be your best quality, and you could actually get a similar better item somewhere else or another time. A great example is TVs. This year soundbars are really hot too, but make sure you look up the model/item number.
5. Go prepared: Card, Phone Charger, Gas, and Trunk Space
Make sure you have a little cash (you never know when you’ll need to pay someone off for that last Elmo toy), your credit card, your phone charger to plug in your phone while driving from one store to another, enough gas, and enough space in your car for items. Last year I bought a 7.5 ft. artificial Christmas tree and tried to fit it in my small car along with three other people. We survived.
6. Go for the experience
People tell me all the time, “How can you do it? It’s too crazy for me!” I can see how it would be stressful. I can see how some people would get angry. But really, if you’re going Black Friday shopping, you have to realize you’re not going to get everything you want if you make a super long specific list. You have to realize you’re going to be tired. You have to realize everyone will be running solely on coffee. And that’s okay. Go for the experience. Go to have fun. Go with someone who can stay up all night running around town with you. It will be worth it. Just drive safely, let go of the negative shoppers, and realize there will always be a Black Friday next year.