November 13, 2013

How-To: Survive Black Friday

Chances are, if you are reading this, you are NOT going to be one of those camped out in a tent several days prior to Black Friday! Because if so, then you don't need to waste your time reading my tips! Just go and put up your tent already because by doing that, you WILL get the item you want! That is a guarantee. And if not, the employees may just even give it to you anyway for your crazy dedication! But for those who want to actually enjoy Thanksgiving, I wrote this post to share with you my tips and strategies on How to Survive Black Friday without having to camp out all night!

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I know there are many who loathe Black Friday and think of it as a stressful, chaotic waste of time. However, if you really put in some effort, you may be able to score some great deals and may actually even have a good time! It always feels good to get an item on sale or to purchase an item for a better deal than someone else, so Black Friday is a perfect opportunity for everyone to walk away with that feeling of accomplishment! I actually look forward to it every year! But, to be honest, the first couple of times I did it were not great experiences for me...

My first time I actually ventured into what people call "Black Friday", I thought to myself, "Hmm... Black Friday sounds like fun! Let's see what deals I can get!" So, I looked through the ads the day of Thanksgiving and figured I would just go to the store and be able to walk right out with the item I wanted. Boy, was I wrong! My biggest turn off were the crowds and the lines! I'm the type of person who will avoid lines like the plague! Like when we took our daughter to Disneyland for the first time! I planned it in mid February on a Wednesday just to avoid crowds! Heads up, that is the PERFECT time to go if you want to get off and on Space Mountain with no lines! Actually every ride at that time has little to no wait time! I loved it! Anywhoo back to Black Friday... my biggest word of advice is be prepared for the crowds and long lines! If that is a concept that you cannot accept, then I really suggest that you DON'T EVER attempt Black Friday because you will only have a miserable time! So, as a person who generally HATES lines, this is a mentality that I have to change once a year just for Black Friday!

Once I accepted this reality, my Black Friday's got better. I planned for the lines and crowds. I prepared more. I learned tips and strategies. I enjoy it! And now I am writing this post to hopefully help you make your Black Friday experience a more enjoyable, successful, and less stressful time as well! Below are my Black Friday Tips and my 6 Steps to a Successful Black Friday!


6 Steps to a Successful Black Friday
1. Do your research.
2. Prioritize your items.
3. Create a game plan.
4. Bring recruits.
5. Dress warm and comfortable.
6. Be calm, patient, and courteous.

  
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Rather than waiting until the day of to view your ads, you can easily find "leaks" of all the Black Friday sales online a few days or even a few weeks in advance! Some stores will even post a preview of their ads on their website prior to Black Friday. My favorite site that I use every year to start pre-planning is: http://bfads.net/. They update as soon as a store comes out with their latest ads, they post summaries of what they consider are the best deals at each store, and they have actual ad scans so that you can see the store's flyer before it is even printed! You can view all the ad scans that have currently leaked here: http://bfads.net/Adscans.

Most Popular Ad Scans:

I suggest you start writing a list of all the deals that spark an interest with you. Also, if you already have a list of items that have been on your Christmas wishlist for awhile, now is a perfect time to look for sales on those items! As you go through the ads, write down the store, product name, and price. Make sure to go through every ad of all the stores that you are considering of hitting and if you see the same product in each store, write it down as well so that you can compare which store is offering the best deal for the product!

Nabi 2 - 7" Kids Tablet
In my situation, the Nabi 2 is a tablet that our daughter has been begging to get for her birthday. At a price of $179.99 my husband and I decided it would be too costly and that we could find a cheaper tablet. However, as I looked through this year's ads, I was able to find a great deal! In Target's ad the Nabi 2 is being sold for $129 which is an okay deal, but then I checked out Wal-Mart's Black Friday ad and found the same exact Nabi for only $99! So, you now know where I'm going to be this Black Friday! Our daughter will be so happy!


Walmart Ad (left) and Target Ad (right)
As you are writing down your lists, make sure to note any rebates, coupons, or giftcards they are offering along with the item because that can easily make a difference in who is offering a better deal! For example, in the photo above, both Wal-Mart and Target are selling a 16GB iPad Mini for $299. However, Wal-Mart offers a $100 Walmart giftcard with purchase, while Target only offers a $75 Target giftcard with purchase. So, at this point, the main question is which giftcard do you prefer? Some people would rather have $75 to spend at Target instead of Wal-Mart, or some would rather go with Wal-Mart's deal since it technically "gives back" $25 more than Target. So, that is your choice to make!

Also, as you do your research, make sure to check if the Black Friday deal is really a better deal. Sometimes people assume since it's Black Friday, you will always get a better deal. That is not necessarily true! For example, I have friends that have worked for Coach Outlet (a luxury leather goods company who specializes in purses). People will line up for hours just to enter their doors thinking that since it's Black Friday they will get a bargain, but in all honesty, the sales they offer on Black Friday are the EXACT SAME SALES they offer on regular business days! So, that would not be a store that I would make a priority on my Black Friday list. Just go on a regular day instead to avoid the crazy crowds and lines!


PRIORITIZE YOUR ITEMS
Once you have done your research on what is out there, now you can start downsizing your list. To help you narrow it down, below is a list of items that I have had the most success with and recommend to focus on:


Best Things to Buy on Black Friday
Desktop Computers
Tablets
TV's
Video Games
DVD's and Blu-ray's
Kitchen Gadgets
Toys


Try and focus your lists around the 7 items listed above because you are most likely to get the best deals on them! Once you have shortened your list to items that you really want/need, narrow it down even more by dividing your list into 2 separate categories

MUST BUY LIST vs. WANT LIST

Everything on your "MUST BUY" list has to be items that you are going to put 100% effort into finding, getting, and purchasing! Usually the "must buy" list contains the TV you've been needing for your living room or the top selling toy that your child has been wanting for Christmas. They are usually the products that everyone else is targeting too, so make sure that when you put it on your "must buy" list, you must also understand that there will be a lot of competition for those items! So you need to make them your PRIORITY! These will be the main things you target as soon as you enter the store! Only after you get the things on your "must buy" list, then can you start looking for things on your "WANT" list. The "want" list are things that would be nice if you did get, but not a big deal if someone beats you to it. Once you get everything off your "must buy" and "want" lists, then you can start to wander around and see what other things they have for sale. However, if you have other stores to hit, I suggest moving on as soon as you finish your lists!

TIP: DO NOT recommend having more than 5 "must buy" items at each store. The more items on your "must buy" list you have, the more likely you won't be able to attain ALL those items unless you have recruits to help you!

My Black Friday list this year breaks down to this:
MUST BUY
WANT
WALMART
Nabi 2 Tablet ($99)
MegaBlocks Build & Learn Table ($25)
Intex 18” Queen Air Mattress + Pump ($25)
Toshiba 1TB External Hard Drive ($55)
WALMART
Rival Hand/Stand Mixer ($15)
Crockpot 6-Quart ($10)
“Monster’s University” Blu-ray ($10)
“Life of Pi” DVD ($5)
“The Walking Dead” series ($10/each)
TARGET
Rose Art 3-in-1 Easel ($24)
Sony Wi-Fi Blu-ray Player ($55)
TARGET
Bath towels ($2/each)
“World War Z” Blu-ray ($9)
“This is the End” Blu-ray ($9)
Brown heel boots ($18)

I am not going super crazy this year with what I'm purchasing nor am I going to a lot of different stores. However, in prior years, I have successfully purchased TV's, video game systems, cameras, and computers by going through this process!

TIP: DO NOT use a shopping cart unless you REALLY have to! Do your best to carry everything you plan on buying! Carts just take up space and make it hard for you to weave in and out of crowds! Either use a hand basket or carry it in your arms! So, I highly recommend that you keep this in mind when you are prioritizing your list. If it's too big to carry, that may be something you consider before making it a priority!


CREATE A GAME PLAN
Once you know the items you are focusing on and the stores that you want to target, you now need to create your game plan. A game plan is especially important if you have multiple stores that you plan on visiting! When creating my game plan, I focus on store locations, store hours, and store layouts.

Store locations: When you have multiple stores to visit, try and plan your route by priority. If Wal-Mart is where a majority of your purchases are going to be made, then Wal-Mart should be the 1st place on your map! And try to plan your route by choosing a central location that will allow you to hit many of the stores without having to go too far. For example, there is a Target and Wal-Mart right across the bridge from each other at N. Decatur and 215. For me, that would be the ideal location so I don't lose time driving between stores. Shopping malls where you can hit Sears, Macy's, and JCPenny's all at once are great too. Also, keep in mind store locations that don't get a lot of traffic. Most people tend to go to the locations they live close to, however, if you know a location that is a little further out and less popular, you may have a better chance at scoring the item you wanted! But only drive far if that is the only store you plan on visiting. If not, then I suggest to stay near other stores you plan to target.

Store hours: A trend that I have noticed, especially this year, is every store opens whenever they feel like it. The times all vary, so make sure that when you create your game plan, you keep store hours in your mind. Here is a list of the different store opening hours for 2013:

Thanksgiving Day:
6am - Kmart
9am - Old Navy
5pm - Toys R Us
6pm - Wal-Mart (Event #1), Best Buy
8pm - Macy's, Kohl's, JCPenny, OfficeMax, Office Depot,
Sears, Target, Wal-Mart (Event #2)
9pm - Staples

Black Friday:
Midnight - GameStop, Old Navy
4am - Lowe's
8am - RadioShack, Wal-Mart (Event #3)

Note for Wal-Mart shoppersWal-Mart has 3 different "events" spread throughout Thanksgiving and Black Friday. At each "event" only certain items will be available. So, if you plan on shopping at Wal-Mart, make sure to keep the different hours in mind! For example, for me, the air mattress and blocks table I want to purchase are available at 6pm but the Nabi I really want isn't available until 8pm, which is also the same time Target opens, so I will need to keep those things in mind as I create my plan of action!

TIP: Plan on waiting in line for a store at least 2 hours prior to opening! However, now that the hours have changed and cut into Thanksgiving dinner and football time, I'm not sure if there really will be much competition around 6pm, but you never know since some people have Thanksgiving dinner super early and don't care about football! But, I still recommend to get in line at least 2 hours prior so that you can have somewhat of a decent spot in line!
 
Store maps: This is something that I only came across maybe 2-3 years ago. I don't know if I was just oblivious to them or they only started the maps a couple of years ago, but store maps are amazing! They show a map or where in the store you can find your item! Usually on Black Friday, the "hot buy" items are scattered throughout the store, never where they SHOULD be. Like one year they had laptops in the gardening section of Wal-Mart. If I didn't have a map, I would've wandered around forever! So, the maps are VERY useful! You can now look up your local Target store's map here: Target - Black Friday Map. Usually you can find the store map through the store's website about a week before Black Friday. If not, they will probably have printed copies the day of or you can go to the store a couple of days prior and pick one up that way! Wal-Mart is the only other store I know of that does the maps. But maybe, more stores have since joined the trend! The store maps will be your best friend! Use them to map out the order of the store you would like to go! Go directly to the location where you want to get the most important items first! Then you can plan on picking up the other stuff as you go. 

TIP: Through all of my Black Friday endeavors, I've learned a specific order to pick-up items to guarantee that I will get them: Electronics should always be first since they are usually the first to go! Then focus on toys/bikes/video games/kitchen gadgets/vacuums (depending on your priority). From there, the 3rd section of items that usually go quick are DVD's/home goods/luggage. And the things you can probably save until last when you are on your way to checkout are clothes/tools/books/CD's/furniture. Usually furniture stays around for awhile because most people don't want to be lugging those around the whole time. So, if you are targeting an ottoman or futon or entertainment system, I would suggest to get those last!

TIP: Wal-Mart stays open, so the lines actually start forming within the store depending on the item. So, if you are wanting a specific TV or item, look for that on the map and make sure you are standing in the correct line for it! If there are multiple items that require you to stand in line for, then you will definitely need to read my next topic about bringing recruits!


BRING RECRUITS
A big thing that I have learned when going Black Friday shopping is to go in groups! This way you can easily divide and conquer! I usually go with my husband and we bring along a couple of my sisters or friends. Most of the time they aren't looking for anything for themselves, so they are mostly there to help Eric and I, which we don't mind! Plus, we tend to bribe them with food after our shopping is all done by taking them someplace to eat (our treat), so it's a win/win for everyone! haha

When going in groups, try and follow these suggestions:
  1. Tell everyone the stores you want to hit, the hours, and the items.
  2. If you have to hit multiple stores at once, have at least 2 people at each location for back-up and to keep the other company while waiting in line.
  3. If at the same store, assign different items to each person depending on the area they are going to. Give them copies of the store maps!
  4. If you know the item will require them to stand in line, make sure to only assign that 1 item for them and assign the other items to those who will be mobile.
  5. Have someone standing at checkout for you.
  6. Have a form of communication between parties (cellphones are good but walkie-talkies are way more fun!)
  7. Have a safe zone for everyone to meet at afterwards.
  8. Have fun!
For my plans this year, I will probably have my husband and a friend wait in line at Target while my sister and I shop for stuff at Wal-Mart when they open at 6pm. Then, I'll hangout at Wal-Mart until I can get the Nabi 2 at 8pm while my husband gets the things we need at Target. Afterwards, we will probably meet back at the house to drop off our purchases and then go out and treat our recruits!

Going with a group of people always makes it way more fun! You can huddle with them if it gets too cold outside while standing in line to get in or you can just chat and play card games with them while you have to wait hours in line!

TIP: I DO NOT SUGGEST BRINGING CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 13. They will get cranky, tired, and just the chaos of everything is a scary situation to put young ones in anyway! They could get lost or hurt so please do not bring young children with you!


DRESS WARM AND COMFORTABLE
So far I have mainly talked about my tips on how to get the items you want, but how you feel is also a big part in making Black Friday a success! Be aware that you WILL be standing in line for most of the night! You will either be standing outside in the elements waiting to get in or you will be standing in line waiting to checkout. Either way, make sure to dress warm and dress comfortable!

DO NOT go Black Friday shopping in your Thanksgiving best! We always dress up for Thanksgiving, so after dinner, I slip into something comfortable and warm! Since it is November, it WILL BE COLD. So, make sure to dress in layers, have a warm coat, and bring a beanie, scarf, and gloves! Many times, the employees are nice enough to pass out hand warmers or hot cocoa and granola bars to customers to help make their wait a little more bearable. Some do, not all. But those who do are amazing and I appreciate them for it!

It is also important to make sure to dress comfortably! Do not go walking around in heels or a dress. You WILL be walking/standing everywhere and should not be worrying about your outfit or tripping/falling! Plus, wearing comfy shoes makes it easier for you to maneuver through crowds and get the items you need!

TIP: In Las Vegas we don't really have a problem with rain or snow, but one year it did start drizzling while waiting in line, so bring an umbrella just in case!

TIP: To help ease the pain from standing outside waiting for a store to open, I suggest to bring folding chairs that you can sit on as you wait. Also, bring card games so that it can help kill some time. Just make sure, when there is about 15 minutes left before opening, PUT AWAY your chairs back in your car, so that you're not lugging them around the store with you!


BE CALM, PATIENT, AND COURTEOUS
This is something that is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to remember! It may get chaotic and hectic out there, but always try to remain calm, patient, and courteous! There WILL definitely be those who test you! Like the people who try and cut in line as you enter the store or those who jump in front of you to get the last video game. DO NOT let those low-lifes get to you. You blowing up at them will not help you get the item you want! Worst case, you can even get kicked out of the store or arrested for getting into an argument or fight! As long as you plan everything accordingly, you shouldn't have to worry about those issues. If you get there in a timely manner, you will have a good enough spot in line not to worry too much about cutters. If you have a game plan you don't have to worry about another person getting an item before you because you will be one of the first to get it! If you bring recruits they can keep you calm in stressful situations and it's always nice to know that you have back-up. And if you dress comfy and warm then hopefully you stay in a good, optimistic mood! So, just always remember to be calm, patient, and courteous. Hopefully others will also do the same!



Those are my 6 Steps to a Successful Black Friday! I hope my post helps make Black Friday a stress-free, enjoyable, and successful day for you! Make sure to remember all my steps and TIPS! They can be the one thing that changes your Black Friday into a great one! Start your research now and be safe out there! If you have more Black Friday tips or any questions, feel free to ask them in the 'comments' section below! Remember: The person getting it "last minute" will NOT win!  GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!
 

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8 comments:

  1. wow, you could tell that you've been doing this year after year after year .. & mastered how to make it not stressful & make it a fun experience instead . Great tips !!! :D
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  2. This Black Friday blog covered everything we do each year! I can't think of anything else to add! You did a great job oOsa! Hopefully we'll get everything on our list!

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  3. Such great tips Mabby!!! :D Ryan and I are gonna be black friday shopping too, but sadly I'm working on Thanksgiving day until 11PM so I won't be able to get everything that I want :(

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    1. Thank you Angie! Just try your best and have fun! Maybe next year we can do it together again! :)

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  4. Thanks for all the info! I'll be trying it out for the first time this year! This really helps!

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