Black Friday Survival Tips

by Melissa Jaramillo

triumphant shopperAre there any "Black Friday" shoppers gearing up for the sales? Have you been pouring over the early release ads to make your game plan? Found any "must have" great deals? Alternatively, have you been disappointed with your findings thus far compared to previous years?

For those unaware, the term "Black Friday" most often refers to the day after Thanksgiving (and throughout the weekend really!) when retailers hope to move their bottom line from being 'in the red' (i.e. owing more than they made for the year) to being 'in the black' (revenues greater than expenses.) This annual sales event tends to have an appeal for almost everyone -- from those desperate for rock bottom prices, on to those that are seeking quantity at the best deals possible. Online shoppers aren't left out either! Many brick and mortar stores now offer the same Black Friday pricing to their online shoppers and those online giants like Amazon, Overstock, Buy.com, and even EBAY tend to offer terrific specials as well!

Here are a few ideas to help you get the most out of this year's Black Friday sales:

Make a list of those you are buying for and also plan out your budget. Sales or not, overextending credit card debt is NOT a good idea for anyone!

Check out the various "Black Friday" websites. There you will find scans of the Black Friday ads that will be appearing in newspapers on Thanksgiving Day. Match up their offerings with those on your shopping list. Since many items are sold in limited quantities, you may want to list a few alternatives.

Prepare a "game plan" -- putting the ads and offerings in order of day and time the sale begins. Decide, are you willing to get up and out for those 4 a.m. sales? Know for big ticket items with a really limited quantity, you may need to be there super early to get in line.

Dress comfortably! This is not a day when you are going as much for style as you will for longevity! The advice from those veteran Black Friday shoppers is to wear low heeled or athletic shoes, layers (to avoid freezing if you get stuck waiting outside or having to carry bulky items in addition to your packages), and clean out your purse to lighten it up or, better yet, carry a fanny pack!

Take some coffee, hot cocoa, or your favorite (non-alcoholic) beverage. You also may want to bring some snacks along. Area fast food restaurants and food courts tend to be swarming with people.

Plan bathroom breaks. Need to *go* while you are on the go? If possible, you may want to plan ahead! Major department (anchor) stores in the mall offer far better, not to mention generally cleaner, restrooms than in the public areas of the malls.

Take a partner or more than one! Not only could you 'divide and conquer', it also makes waiting in lines much more pleasant! Be sure to have a designated meeting place or cell phones in case you become separated.

Speaking of cell phones, be sure yours is charged! You may want to check in with others (or vice versa!) Additionally, there are some terrific new mobile apps that you can download to know whether you are truly getting a bargain or not BEFORE you buy!

Take advantage of those stores that do price matching! Be sure to read the store policy ahead of time to insure you have the proof needed. Generally, stores will not match "online only" prices, will need to see a copy of the ad (warning some will NOT accept printed versions ), and "may" not match limited quantity. Keep in mind that the item must be EXACTLY the same make/model/quantity. Still, this can be a lifesaver to help you avoid having to run all over town.

Watch for early sales Looking for something to do other than watch football on Thanksgiving Day? As more stores are eager to get a jump on the competition, "Black Friday" sales are seeping into Thursday! Also, MANY businesses now launch extra deep savings online on Thanksgiving day! Makes waiting for the turkey to cook a lot more productive!