Black Friday Survival Tips

by Melissa Jaramillo triumphant shopper

Are 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 or perhaps plain frustrated as the sales have creeped in to rob your enjoyment of Thanksgiving Day!?

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 skip Thanksgiving with the family and head out to the mall? What about those 4 a.m. sales? Remember - for big ticket items with a very limited quantity, you may need to be there super early to get in line. (There are those that have been camping out at Best Buy for weeks in advance!)

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.) 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 ensure 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 those you've printed at home), 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!

More online options -- when scouring the ads, check out to see whether your store is offering the same (or better!) deal online. Many, in an effort to attract more business, are offering free shipping. You can avoid the crowds, read reviews, place your order, and go back to munching leftovers and visiting with family/friends! Be on the lookout for special codes and "friend" your faves on Facebook / Twitter for even more offerings!

Is your store an all-nighter? Some stores, like Wal-mart Supercenters, are open 24 hours, even though many of the sales prices don't begin until a certain time. Unless you are after one of the super hot-ticket items like a big screen TV, game system, blue-ray DVD player, etc. you may be able to buzz in early and walk out early too! Prepare your list (don't forget those price match items, too), get everything in your cart and be ready to check out as soon as the sales kick in! This technique is great for getting you in and out before the madness begins!

Do you prefer to give handmade items? Check out your favorite crafting stores or grocers (for those making baked goodies!) for discount pricing!

Bring patience and stay safe! You'll need it -- for parking, for waiting in lines to get in the store, to get particular limited quantity items, and to check out. Don't rush to push/shove to get in stores (and either trample or be trampled.) While certainly you want to get the best deals, if you miss one, most likely you can find another to get the same price or close to it. Ask here for help if needed even! Be aware of your surroundings and keep both your purse and packages close. When leaving, get your keys in hand before exiting the store.

Think SMALL: Support the local stores in your community on Small Business Saturday. You'll be keeping dollars in your hometown as well as find some treasures!

Missing the sales? Busy traveling or visiting family and friends this Thanksgiving holiday weekend? No worries! Check out online specials at all your favorite stores on Cyber-Monday! Many sites allow you to build your online Black Friday shopping list ahead of time and just hit submit once the sale begins.

Finally, lighten up! Smile at a stranger.You'll b e amazed at how far that can go towards lifting not only their mood but your own!

Happy Black Friday and good luck bargain hunting this holiday season!

Melissa Jaramillo is mom to many. She's passionate about building, encouraging, and strengthening families on this adventure known as parenthood!

Copyright © Melissa Jaramillo. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.