Yes, Kelli and I were among the crazed shoppers Black Friday morning – and I do mean morning! We set our alarms for 3:30 am and were out the door by 4. Let me tell you: doing this in Florida is a heck of a lot easier than in Massachusetts. Here you can stumble outside in a t-shirt and shorts, where as you need to bundle up in the cold north. When the freezing air hits your face the second you walk out the door, you really just want to turn around and curl back into your warm bed!
Since I explained my system to Kelli, she’s dubbed me a professional Black Friday shopper. You see, I treat it like a military mission. You have absolutely no hope of surviving – let alone success – if you don’t plan carefully and follow it through. Here’s what we do:
- Buy the biggest newspaper with the most ads on Thanksgiving day.
- Allow plenty of time to peruse the papers, looking through each and every ad the first go round. Set aside any with items of interest.
- After you’ve gone through the first time, grab a pen and notebook and make lists. (Note: it helps if you’ve made a list ahead of time of the people you need to buy for. You’re less likely to over spend that way.) For each store, put the store name, the opening sale times and the location. Then list the items on sale in that flier, the sale price and if they’re on sale all day or just certain times.
- At this point, it’s important to know what’s really a good deal. It helps to have people to call and get advice on certain items from. For example, my little brother Jake, the electronics expert. When I saw electronics we were considering, I called or texted Jake and he gave me the low down on if they were a good buy or not and if I could do better elsewhere at another time.
- Cross out any items that aren’t great deals or that you don’t really need – don’t waste your time with them.
- After you’ve done that for every store with items you want (and know what’s worth braving Black Friday for), compare the lists. What is the most important item on any of the lists, the biggest buy? That’s where you need to start. (Note: this is why it’s often better to do Black Friday alone, so you can zoom in on what’s most important to you, unless you both have similar needs. Otherwise, one of you has to be flexible and risk missing the deals you want. I was happy to go with Kelli and simply get what I wanted from those stores, since there weren’t any absolute die-if-I-don’t-get-it items on my list.) Make sure that it’s something that even if you only get that one item, you will feel accomplished and like it was worth going out at that time for. Because it is possible that all the other big items will be gone by the time you get your first item!
- Another factor to consider is location – even if it’s a little further, drive to somewhere that has a lot of the stores you need close together so during those critical early morning opening hours, you’re not wasting time driving.
- Prepare yourself: at least bring a bottle of water, all the sale fliers for the stores you are going to and, of course, your list! (Note: some stores, like Wal-Mart, will price match, so having the other fliers could save you time. But always check with someone in the store before wasting time with that. Some stores change policies for that one day.)
- Don’t forget to clean out your car, too – you’ll need all the space you can get!
- Depending on how important it is to you to get a certain item is how early you need to get there.
Driving into the Target parking lot at 4 am, Kelli was amazed at the throngs of people lined up, wrapping around the building, and the fact that the entire parking lot – and that of the furniture store next door – was full. We decided we’d rather be at Wal-Mart (next door) an hour early and get those more important deals than wait in line at Target.
This Wal-Mart is open 24-hours so people were already inside, waiting in lines by the items, which were mostly on shrink-wrapped pallets and guarded by Wal-Mart associates. On the way to our items of choice (Wii for Kelli and printers for me) we saw some of the other items on our list were already out, so grabbed them as we went. While waiting at the printer, the two Wal-Mart guys entertained us with stories of earlier that morning (some of the Wal-Mart stuff went on sale at midnight). One guy tried to bribe the worker: he kept offering the guy $5 to give him one of the $1 towels a few minutes early. Yes, $5 for a towel on sale for $1 – and the regular price is $3.99! There was also a fist fight that broke out between customers, and a few yelling matches.
People got antsy as the clock approached 5 am. Even though there were clearly more printers than people standing there, some started pestering the poor sales associate. Geesh – be patient people! As soon as the plastic was cut, people dove for them! I reached in, got ours, and got out of the way! The commotion coming from the tons of people by the laptops was crazy – like a concert. It started sounding like an angry mob. Kelli texted me to make sure I was ok and I assured her I wasn’t going anywhere near that! We went around, got the other items on our list (that were still available) and got out.
That’s another important thing: don’t dawdle! Stick to what’s on your list, check out and move on to the next store. The regular stuff will be there another day. This is no time for browsing!
Kelli and I were most impressed with our full (mostly of electronics) carts and the amount of money we saved. K-Mart was next, and after we got what we needed there (by 7 am), we took a few minutes break and had breakfast. We’d already done so much, everything else was simply a bonus. We did forge on, though, back to Target and visiting the mall.
We were home by noon for Steve to nap before work. I took a nap, too, and then went out again. You see, one of the things you have to watch for are stores with afternoon specials, including coupons only good after certain times. JC Penney was one of them ($15 off $75 ). The mall was much less crowded – more like a regular day – and people had calmed down. A much nicer shopping atmosphere!
Was it worth it? Absolutely! I’m almost done with my shopping, and I had a great day out with my sister-in-law. Talk about great girl-bonding! And you can’t beat the weather. I may need to be in Florida for Thanksgiving and Black Friday again next year…