Monday, November 8, 2010

Black Friday 101: A Beginner's Guide

Nov 4, 2010 Michael Mashburn

Black Friday Sales - Michal Marcol

Black Friday Sales - Michal Marcol

‘Twas the morning after Thanksgiving and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Except for mom, who woke up at 3am like a crazy person to go stand in line at Target, freezing her behind off for a chance to nab the latest and greatest new Tickle Me Elmo doll.

That same scene plays out year after year, all across the country. Black Friday marks the official start of the holiday shopping season and it can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. It all depends on how you prepare. Here are some helpful tricks to scoring some major savings on Black Friday sales.

Prepare Early

Running blindfolded into a crowded store with no idea what you’re even looking for is definitely not something you want to be doing on Black Friday. Preparation is key. During the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, take some extra time to ensure you get the best Black Friday deals by scoping out the store you plan to visit on that crazy day. Pay attention to the layout and what departments are where. You don’t want to be figuring this out in all the madness. Also, take note of any “shortcut” paths that will help you avoid the main drag, as it will be quite difficult to navigate come Black Friday.

Another great way to prepare for Black Friday is to look into whether or not your store offers a credit card. While certainly not for everyone, a credit card can be a great way to maximize your savings on Black Friday sales because most places will let you pay off your balance the same day you shop. So not only will you be scoring major savings with the already-low Black Friday deals, you will also be packing on even more discounts by using your store’s credit card. If credit is not your thing, look into whether or not your store offers a check card. In many cases, these cards act just like a debit card but allow you to take advantage of rewards similar to those of the store’s credit card.

Know Before you Go

Peeking at gifts before Christmas is usually frowned upon, but not on Black Friday! In order to make the best of Black Friday deals, peeking ahead is totally acceptable. During the week of Thanksgiving, do a little browsing on your favorite store’s website. Most places make their Black Friday deals available to the public on the Wednesday before, so be sure to check them out. Many places will even have better deals that are online-only, so be sure to watch for those. Another great tool is that old-fashioned paper copy of the ad. These are distributed via your local newspaper on Thanksgiving Day and can also be found anywhere that sells the paper. But be quick! Black Friday ads usually go very fast.

Another great tip is to visit your store the Wednesday before Black Friday to scope things out. It may sound a little stalker-ish, but you can actually get some useful information by doing so. Since most places are closed on Thanksgiving, their employees will be setting up the big-ticket items ahead of time so they are all ready to go when the doors open on Friday. For bigger items, like TVs and computers, pay attention to areas that you wouldn’t normally expect to find these types of items. For example, Target rearranges its clothing departments to make room for bigger items that are usually stacked on pallets so the customers can just grab what they want and go. Pay attention to where employees are setting up these types of displays. Most likely, they will be the hot items come Friday morning.


Before you know it, Friday morning will have arrived. Time to pull yourself out of the food coma from last night’s feast and get moving! Make sure to give yourself plenty of time by arriving early and claiming your spot in line. Folding chairs and warm beverages aren’t bad ideas either. Depending on where you go, the store may hand out maps of where the big-ticket items are located. This map will be your new best friend. As the doors finally open and people begin to rush in like mad men, remember to be focused but polite. No deal is worth compromising your integrity and embarrassing yourself.

As you move around the store scoring deal after deal, be sure to keep an eye out for other deals that were not advertised. Many places will offer substitutes once they sell out of the original sale item. Also, remember that even though you may not have snagged that fancy flat screen TV, you now have that much more extra money to spend on other fantastic deals.

Black Friday can turn you into a Grinch pretty quickly if you are not prepared. Luckily, a little planning is all it takes to make Black Friday one of the most fun and enjoyable shopping experience you will have.

Additional Resources

How to Get Big Shopping Deals Before Christmas

Black Friday Shopping Tips for College Students

Black Friday Strategies

Copyright Michael Mashburn. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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