This list covers everything you should do ahead of time, in the planning and preparation stages.
Plus, Black Friday shopping tips that you can’t live without — like what things you should do the morning of Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving each year) and what things you should do while you’re in the stores taking advantage of Black Friday sales.
Things To Do Before Black Friday
Start shopping early. No, not on that day (Black Friday), but even earlier! Many stores are offering pre-Black Friday sales weeks before the big day. And the night before Black Friday may yield even better deals yet! Plus, don’t overlook Black Friday sales online.
Before you even begin to look at the Black Friday advertisements, you want to know the store policy on returns. The question you need answered is if they lower price on an item that you have already purchased, will they refund the difference? If so, what time period (usually a month) is this service in effect? If the store will refund the difference on an item purchased for more on a prior date, then there is no need to wait in line to purchase that item on Black Friday. Simply go to the store the week before Black Friday and purchase the item. When Black Friday comes along, stroll into the store (conveniently bypassing all the lines and crowds of people fighting for what you are carrying — or even waiting until the afternoon when the crowds have thinned out a bit and all the items are already gone from the store) and ask for the difference. Source
Don’t miss these other Black Friday strategies to outsmart the competition!
Sign up for email alerts & newsletters. If you really want to score the best deals, you need to whittle down your list to a number that’s manageable. Email alerts & newsletters are a great way to be among the first to learn about a new item to go on sale somewhere, and fine-tune your Black Friday shopping list.
TIP: You can keep track of your Black Friday shopping list and the store ads all in one place with the following Black Friday iPhone apps:
Clean your cookies. When shopping for Black Friday deals online, retailers can tell which products you’ve already looked at and your basic shopping habits online.
Retailers base a lot of their online promotions and price points on shoppers’ habits. So, it’s not uncommon for shoppers to notice price fluctuations after repeated purchases on the same site. Prices typically drop for these power shoppers as an incentive, but there have been documented occurrences of increases, too. You can check to see if this is happening to you by logging out from the retail site, clearing your browser’s cookies, and then revisiting the product page. If you find a lower price, buy it — re-registering with a new customer account if necessary. Source
Buy a newspaper the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It will be full of Thanksgiving fliers and sales announcements! You will want to take the store ads with you when shopping on Black Friday (see why below). And use a highlighter and/or Sharpie marker to identify key items that you may need to reference while in the store. Use these store ads to create your Black Friday shopping list.
Check out the Black Friday Survival Guide: Planning.
The Night Before Your Black Friday Shopping Trip…
Make a list. And check it twice. That way, you will feel 100% certain of your shopping goals on Black Friday morning. Ideally, your list will only have the top few items that you really truly want or need. The truth is you really only have one chance to get those “super duper bargains” — because stores only have a limited number. So, if you don’t get it early, you very likely won’t get it at all. That’s why your list is so important. Also, what you put on your list in the #1 spot will ultimately determine your ability to get to A) other items in the same store, or B) other items in a different store.
Map out your route. If you’re going for the most popular items, then this is crucial. Otherwise, there’s no way that you’ll be one of the lucky few to snag those really low-priced deals.
Know the downsides of using a debit card versus a credit card. For example, usually refund policies are different with debit card purchases. And remember, unlike credit cards, debit cards are just like cash. They hit your bank account immediately, and debit card purchases can also leave you more vulnerable in terms of your rights and protections.
Charge your cell phone. You may need to call home for an opinion, a size, or a description of an item that’s on sale. And if you’re Black Friday shopping with a friend, then you’ll need to have a way to contact each other when you’re at opposite ends of the store. (Walkie talkies are another option.)
Here are some interesting strategies for doing Black Friday shopping with a friend.
Pack light snacks and keep them in a bag inside your car. This will enable you to stay energized by snacking when you’re driving to and from stores, rather than taking the time to sit down and eat somewhere. Don’t forget the bottled water!
The Morning Of Your Black Friday Shopping Trip…
Eat something before you go. You’ll have more energy and will be more alert during this early morning shopping trip.
Take your list and your map. (Both mentioned above.) As long as you are clear about which items you are focusing on and which stores you’re starting at, then you will be increasing your odds of getting the best deals on the times you want the most.
Leave young kids at home. Unless your children are old enough to go to assist with your Black Friday shopping, then you’re better off to leave them at home. On the other hand, if they are old enough to be trusted alone in a store, then your kids could be helpful in helping you to score some Black Friday deals! Just send them in search of one specific item, while you’re on the other end of the store looking for a different item.
Leave the umbrella at home. If it happens to be raining or snowing on Black Friday, you can’t let that slow you down. That means leaving the umbrella at home. It’s just one more thing you have to keep track of and it limits the number of good deals you can grab on the spot! If it’s raining really hard, try wearing a light jacket with a hood. Then, tuck that jacket away your purse or pocket while you’re shopping. Or take a very small compact umbrella, or maybe even a cheap or broken one that you wouldn’t mind accidentally leaving behind in the store.
Wear extremely comfortable clothes… and shoes! One thing I always forget about is the fact that it’s usually quite cool early in the morning, but it quickly gets warm outside. And it’s even warmer inside the stores! Plus, you’ll be moving quite quickly to find the items you’re after, so you’re likely to break a sweat in no time. Your best bet is to dress in light layers, so you can easily take off a lightweight jacket or sweater. Better yet, wear “packable” items that can easily be stuffed into your purse or attached to your belt loop.
A fanny pack or small purse that you wear across your chest is the best option for Black Friday shopping. Why? You can’t lose it! It will always be securely attached to your body. And you won’t become the victim of a pick-pocket or purse snatching. Of course this means, leave all of the accessories at home. All you need is your cash, checks, or credit/debit card. Plus, the less you have to physically carry, the more your arms will be free to carry all the great deals you find!
Shirts with pockets (like a breast pocket) are great for storing items like your cell phone, walkie talkie, or shopping list while doing your Black Friday shopping. By using pockets that are close to your body at all times, you will be able to quickly grab items off the store shelves and keep your valuables safe at all times.
Leave the chairs and tents at home. If your strategy is to be one of the first in line and you’re willing to spend the night outside the store, prepare to be uncomfortable. While things like chairs, blankets, and tents sound good right now (and will indeed be much appreciated through the night), when that time comes to rush through the door, you’ll be hugely disappointed when all that bulk you’re carrying around gets in your way of grabbing that prized item you were after. When you’re doing Black Friday shopping, you want only the bare necessities on your person. Nothing else.
Here are some great tips for camping out before Black Friday sales.
Take the store ads with you. Many stores will match prices for the same items at other stores. However, you must have the ad in hand in order to get that low price. This is an especially great strategy for items that the store you’re shopping in doesn’t have on sale. Thus, while Store A might have huge Black Friday prices on the flat screen TV you’ve had your eye on, you may be able to get that same item at the same low price and without the crowds at Store B instead — even if that item isn’t on sale at Store B! That is, if you have the ad from Store A in hand and Store B matches other stores’ prices.
In-Store Black Friday Shopping Strategies
Get there early! Since stores limit the quantities of their lowest priced items on Black Friday, if you arrive much after daybreak, you’re likely to miss out on those items.
Avoid using a shopping cart, if at all possible. They will just slow you down and get in the way. It’s not easy to maneuver through thick crowds with a shopping cart. That’s why it’s best to just stick to a handful of items that you REALLY want. And hopefully, they’re items that you can carry yourself. If not, enlist the help of a friend or family member.
Don’t shop for yourself. As hard as it might be to resist the urge to buy fun things for yourself, to get the most out of Black Friday holiday shopping, you need to spend less money and cross items off your list. If you buy for yourself, you’ll just en
d up spending more money in the long run — and you’ll be left with the same post-holiday credit card bills.
The National Retail Federation reports the average shopper spends $99 on themselves during the holiday season, so you’re not the only one tempted to treat yourself. Save those personal gifts for another time of year, perhaps during post-post-holiday sales. Source
Don’t limit your purchases to just Christmas gifts. If friends or family members’ birthdays are around the corner, add them to your list!
Ignore instant-savings credit card offers. Many stores provide extra savings — on top of already low Black Friday prices — if you open one of their store’s credit cards. While the deals may sound quite lucrative at first, who cares about saving an extra 20% when you’ll really be paying much more than you’d save in interest rates?
Don’t buy things that aren’t on your list. Often, a good deal isn’t always as good as it might seem at first. And no deal is a good deal if it’s an item that you don’t really NEED.
Shoppers need to evaluate the deals because not all sale items are really on sale. Retailers like to boost prices just before Black Friday so they can advertise attractive savings on “sale items.” You can save gas and shoe leather by comparing prices from home [online]. Source
Conceal the items you’ve bought in your car. It’s not a good idea to leave packages in full view, since there are may be some who are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers. Along those same lines, keep your purse in front of you and close to your body at all times. It’s very easy for a purse-snatcher to slip your purse off your arm in a hurry!
I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money — so I write about “outside the box” ideas that most wouldn’t think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed over 10 years before switching gears to pursue activities that I’m truly passionate about. I’ve worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo — to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).