I love Black Friday (The Friday after Thanksgiving). Every year I get up early and get in line at one of our local shopping centers. I pick the store with the best deals to start with. As soon as the doors open I’m in power shopping mode. I have my list and I strategically move through the store picking up sale items. Speed is of the essence as I need to get out of the store in less than 15 minutes or I’ll be entombed in line.
Once I have my purchases I head to the checkout. I have a variety of payment options including cash. In the past few years I’ve been able to get out of a Best Buy or Circuit City in under 15 minutes. Once I’m out of the store it’s off to a Staples or Office Depot in the same shopping center to finish my shopping. The second store may take a little longer, but the hot buys are usually still available.
After the rush, I usually head to the outlet mall or other less frequented center to finish off my shopping. Having strategic coupons here can save a ton of money. I usually have a 40% off of the entire store coupon for the Haggar outlet which lets me clothes shop for all of the guys on our list. The prices are so low it’s like being at a garage sale.
Usually in a couple of hours I have done about 80% of my Holiday shopping for most of my family and friends. The prices on Black Friday are the best they are all year. I usually save hundreds of dollars in this short spree and I can enjoy the rest of the season, knowing that most of my shopping is done.
Here are 15 quick tips that I use to maneuver this crazy but rewarding day.
1. A few days before Black Friday, I peruse the sale lists on the popular Black Friday web sites. I find a single store with the best overall list of items that fit on my shopping list.
2. I’ll visit that store on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to get the lay of the land. I usually ask a clerk or two where the items that I want to buy will be placed. I also try to find out the quantity they will have on hand.
3. I look at the shopping center and find a second store within walking distance. I’ll make a list of sale items and add them to my list.
4. The early bird gets the worm. If you want the deals you have to get up early. Depending on the items on my list and the quantity on hand it may be necessary to get in line at the store before 4am.
5. Here in Southern California it can be very chilly in the early morning. Layering clothes is a must. You need to be light and nimble to get through the store. I usually stay away from big jackets or other bulky clothes that will cause you to roast when you get inside. Layering sweat shirts or a light jacket usually works best.
6. Bring along an iPod or other music player to help you pass the time. I usually fire up an audio book and the time flies by.
7. Get the newspaper the day before (and get up early to make sure you get one) so you will have a list of the deals. Even though I make a list from the Black Friday sites, it’s nice to have the actual ad so you can refer to it in the store if you need assistance from a salesperson.
8. Carry a cell phone and coordinate with other family members to allow you to take bathroom breaks while in line. If you have kids, they can be very helpful once you get in the store to pickup those harder to find items.
9. Make conversation while in line. I’ve met some of the most interesting people while waiting. It also helps you pass the time. If you find a techie type you might learn something about the items you want to buy.
10. Once inside pick up items on your list as you come across them. Depending on the store, you will probably want to stay away from shopping carts unless you are after very large items. I usually try to find a hand basket for smaller items. If you are after a computer or TV which will require assistance, grab a cart and head directly for that department.
11. Many of the stores in our area will hand out vouchers for large items while people are in line outside. This can really save time and let you know up front if you will be able to get the sale item or not. This is one reason it is really important to get in line early. How much is your time worth? Is it worth getting up an extra hour early to save $200?
12. Most Important! Get out early. Don’t waste time trying to find that last CD or DVD for cousin George. Make sure you get in line within 5-10 minutes or you’ll be stuck in the store for hours. I made the mistake of trying to get one more item at a Fry’s computer store one year. In the extra five minutes it took, the checkout line filled up all the way to the back of the store. Never again!
13. Make sure you get rebate receipts and coupons. That great deal you just got will not save you anything unless you get the rebate!
14. Ultra Important! As soon as you get home, go directly to your office or table and fill out any rebates!!! If you don’t do them right then, you will certainly misplace the receipts and lose out on the savings. If you need to cut out a UPC code from the box, use a razor blade and make a clean cut.
15. Shop at stores that offer online rebates. You can do them in just a few minutes and you can track them online. Online rebates usually get back to you faster too.
If you have never ventured out on Black Friday, give it a try sometime. Using the tips above can help you make this a fun and exciting adventure. And your checkbook will get a break too!
P.S. Shop Responsibly. Only buy what’s on your list and realize it may be months before you see the rebate money. A credit card charge while waiting for a rebate will wipe out any savings you may have had.