Money, Style

black friday survival guide

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black friday

So you’re taking on Black Friday shopping for the first time. It does get a lot of hate: all these people who have to work rather than spend time with their families, the gross display of American consumerism, blah blah blah. There’s some truth to the arguments, to be sure – but Black Friday in my family is just as much of a tradition as the Thanksgiving day turkey. Lots of great memories from it as well – like the year I was sick with pneumonia and still insisted on going out, and promptly passed out at the outlet mall, or the year I was on crutches and wheeled around Walmart (full disclosure, these were the same year, but still.)

Over the past ten years that we’ve been attacking the stores, we’ve gotten pretty good at getting in and getting out with minimal damage – to ourselves, others, and our bank accounts. If this is your first year heading out, or even if it’s not, here are some of my best survival tips!

  • Hydrate: if you’re just now reading up on how to prepare, you’re a little bit behind – you want to go into Black Friday with a clear, well-hydrated head. Spend the week before drinking enough water, and know where you can find coffee late into the evening. My protip for Black Friday: stop drinking water around 6pm on Thanksgiving. You want to have a fair bit of dehydration so you’re not jogging for the bathrooms.
  • Have a plan: when you’re going through the ads, triage your list store-by-store. When I shop for my grandparents, their list always goes first, so this year I traipsed through Walmart with their 32″ TV and tablet, then ran around in search of a inflatable air mattress for my house.
  • Go big first: this is perhaps an obvious one, but pick the #1 thing you “must” have, and make that your first stop and first target. Once you’ve checked that off your list, hit the rest.
  • Communicate: if you’re going out with friends or family, be sure you have a communication plan. Cell phones have always been fine for NP and I, but if other family members are joining you, be sure they share your philosophy. I’ve seen some hardcore (read: crazy) groups head out with walkie talkies – whatever works out for you, because you’ll want to split up in order to better conquer the deals.
  • Go off the beaten path: your best luck to get all your buys is to pick a store or shopping center that won’t be hugely trafficked. If you’re in a bigger city, pick a less popular store to cut down on the crowds. If you’re in a small town where Walmart is the only thing to do… get to a bigger city.
  • Ask for a map: at big box stores, doorbusters will be strewn about the store at random. Staff should have maps that will help you find your big scores.
  • Have a budget: it’s easy to go overboard on spending with so many great deals being thrown in your face. Be sure to steel yourself against any impulse buys, and you’re all set for success!

Are you a Black Friday shopper? What are your feelings on shopping as a family tradition?