Surviving Black Friday and Living to Tell About It

With four kids, we have a lot of shopping to do over the holidays. Add in family and friends and the lists grow long. Don’t we wish the holiday budget grew in proportion as easily as the list does? Here are my tips on surviving Black Friday!

Alas, it doesn’t, so we look for ways to save money without cutting back on the gifts we want to buy, which means shopping on Black Friday. I’ve done it for many years now, and it doesn’t scare me anymore, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a challenge. A lot of people I know won’t set foot in a store that day for any amount of savings, but the little bit of inconvenience and early awakening are totally worth it to me. It’s sort of a sport for us, where we have our goals in mind and we do our best to meet those goals. Part of the bonus? Great time with the husband and usually a nice holiday breakfast out!
Here are my tips for surviving Black Friday shopping and coming out ahead!

  • Plan ahead. Spread out the circulars you’ve received and map out your day. Create a list of the items you’re looking for, and break it up into a series of mini-lists, with one list for each store. I staple them together in order of the visits, with the hours of the sales, open times, etc., notated on each store’s page. Done with one store? Rip it off the stack.
  • While making those lists, comparison shop so you know where your best deals are. Put your most important or cost-effective purchases at the top of your pile.
  • Decide on your budget, and make sure that your master list of items you’re looking for is within that budget. Walk away from extraneous purchases if there’s no room in the budget.
  • Take that hot cup of coffee or tea with you in a carpool mug. It will make that cold, dark start to your day a lot easier; coffee shops can be mobbed with Black Friday shoppers and you don’t want to lose valuable time in line.
  • Eat before you go…or throw a protein bar in your purse.
  • Speaking of purses, pare down your most-needed items into a small over-your-neck small bag. Not only does this minimize the possibility someone will steal your bag, but your arms and shoulders will appreciate the lighter load. Don’t carry any extra cards than you’ll actually be using, and don’t flash wads of cash.
  • Go in pairs. Just like your mom taught you, the buddy system is a safe way to go. It also means you can split up and take turns cart-guarding. One takes it for the team and runs into the fray to grab the wanted items; the other person stays out of the chaos with the cart, guarding what is already in there. (I have, more than once, had to stop someone from stealing a coveted item out of my cart.)
  • If you can, unless your kids are old enough to be helpful, leave them at home. Trust me. It’s not just for your sanity, but for their safety. Black Friday shoppers desperate for deals sometimes have no shame. I had my 10-year-old son picked up one year by a very rude man, and by the time I got to him, he was cowered on empty shelves, picked clean already by shoppers, holding onto the side of the cart for dear life. (Side note: People, touch my kids and you will be sorry.)
  • Be flexible. If your heart is set on a brand new laptop computer for $199, you may be disappointed. Don’t build your day around one item, unless that’s the only item you’re going for; in that case, waiting in line days prior to The Big Day may be worth it to you, but if you have a list of things and a few of them are the hot ticket items, you don’t want the disappointment of missing one of them to ruin your day. You also may have to change up your map based on lines or inability to park.
  • And speaking of parking, if you know of a place that’s outside of the mall or way on the fringes, and it’s legal to park there without taking up residential parking space, consider parking there. You may find the walk takes less time than getting in and out of the lot, and more than once, I’ve been blocked in a lot.
  • And despite what I said earlier about the buddy system, there is also a time to divide and conquer. Two stores having great deals at once? If your list is short there, like one item, you may want to go it alone, with one of you at each store. Just be careful walking through a dark lot by yourself, even if it’s crowded…with strangers who you have no idea why they’re there. The number of shootings and thefts at stores on Black Friday rises yearly. Safe over sorry.
  • Take photos of where you park, if you’re concerned you may forget where the car is, something that’s so much easier than you think when you’re in and out of stores in a rush, along with a lot of other people. Keep your phone charged in the car between stops so you don’t have to worry about running out of juice at a critical point.
  • Score on a really cool item that others will want? Don’t flash it as you walk to your car. I scored on a Wii Fit a few years back, when they were THE thing to have. I got followed to my car and someone offered to buy it off of me. If I hadn’t been going straight home, who knows if someone would have broken into the car.
  • And last but not least, hide those electronics and things of value in your car, even just your phone or tablet. People aren’t just looking for sale items – they’re looking for things of value, which doesn’t mean just new purchases. Dark, crowded lots are easy targets for thiefs, as break-ins are hard to spot and people aren’t paying attention.

Surviving Black Friday is doable, and you may find you even like it! If not, kick back at a fun brunch after you finish, check off items on your list and celebrate that you got out and tried it!

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