Some people consider it the start of the holiday shopping season; others avoid it like the black plague. Black Friday shopping is not for the timid. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a newcomer, here are seventeen survival tips for Black Friday.
Check out the not-so-secret ads. It's easy to scope out the ads early by typing "Black Friday 2012" in your favorite search engine. The actual ad pages are scanned in as soon as they are available. Stores often leak them on purpose to create buzz. Some sites to try include BlackFridayAds.com, ShopLocal.com, DealNews.com, and CyberMonday.com.
Make a list and check it twice. The list is all-important, starting with the must-have items.
Have a plan of attack. Figure out which stores to visit first, starting with the ones that open earliest. For example, Best Buy hands out tickets for their best deals at 2am, although the store doesn't open until 4am.
Expand your resources. Enlist as many friends and family members you can drag out of bed. Split up to maximize your shopping. Unlimited coffee is a good bribe, as well as breakfast afterwards.
Leave the little ones at home. This goes for whiny spouses who hate to shop as well. No one likes a crying, pouting six-foot guy who throws down the bags and shouts, "Why do I have to carry everything?"
Plan your parking. Instead of everyone taking a separate car, carpool. Look for parking across the street at a closed business.
Don't take up three parking spots in your rush for bargains and never park illegally. Handicap spaces are for people who really need them.
Dress warmly. Many stores won't open until the exact moment, and you may have to stand in line. Avoid frostbite with lots of layers, warm boots, hats, mittens, and scarves. A mega-size mug of hot coffee doesn't hurt, either.
Go cartless. Unless you are looking for a gigantic flat screen or an eighty-pound drill, skip the cart. You'll be able to maneuver better and weave around slowpokes.
Speed but don't trample. You can move quickly, but outright running is discouraged and attracts the attention of security, which is tripled during high density shopping.
Are you naughty or nice? Manners count, even in cutthroat Black Friday shopping. Don't take someone's cart parked outside the bathroom just because they scored the latest Xbox Kinect or the last $3 toaster.
Don't be a greedy Grinch. Don't take more than your share, thinking to score big online or in the Classifieds. Some people really need the savings to make Christmas special for their children.
Patience is a virtue. Once you grab your deals, you may have to stand in line. If allowed, see if you can check out through less busy registers or through the courtesy counter. Self-checkouts are an option, but often take longer because prices aren't entered correctly or coupons don't scan.
Hold someone's place in line if they have a toddler jumping up and down and loudly asking for a bathroom. Hey, maybe she didn't have a babysitter.
Pick smiling clerks. They're the ones who have everything under control and can get you through the line the fastest. Avoid the crying ones.
Keep your sense of humor. Black Friday is all about scoring the deal, but it helps to have some fun along the way. Some of the most memorable times are chatting with others waiting in line or shuffling along an inch at a time to get to the back of the store where all the deals are.
Don't forget Cyber Monday. Actually, by shopping online, you can often score terrific deals anytime. I just hooked up my new DVD/VHS recorder that arrived yesterday, scored at 75% off clearance at BestBuy.com with free shipping. No waiting in line required.
Shaunna Privratsky writes from Fargo and is a black-belt Black Friday shopper. Please visit The Discount Diva for affordable E-books and FREE newsletters.
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