Saturday, November 21, 2015

TEN tips for a successful Black Friday, from a Black Friday NINJA

I consider myself a Black Friday Ninja. My sister says it’s like my personal Olympic sport, and I am prepping many weeks in advance. Perhaps it’s my competitive nature and my quest to find the best deal possible that brought me to my destiny of Black Friday savings.

My husband thought I was a bit crazy when we started shopping on Black Friday. With the crack of dawn trip to get ads, the hours pouring over ads to make our lists, sharing the lists, gearing up with walkie-talkies, cell phones, hot chocolate and breakfast to go – he was a bit overwhelmed at it all. And then we tallied up our spending for that year, and he has been a supporter ever since. We saved nearly HALF on what we used to spend on birthday gifts and Christmas shopping over the prior year. You really can save that much money and more, IF you know what you are doing. Part of my strategy is to use after-Christmas sales to buy stocking stuffers for the next year, and use Black Friday to buy remaining gifts needed for this year, and birthday gifts for the coming year. For example: Instead of the $25 I budgeted for a birthday gift, I only have to spend $10-$12 for the same gift on Black Friday!

If you are a Black Friday novice or the queen clipper of extreme couponing, there are some things you should know. Black Friday has evolved into something like a Gray Thursday, with stores and deals available on Thanksgiving Day (or before) the game has changed and I am here to help!
Here are some tips for your 2015 Black Friday quest for savings:

1. Shop online early. In 2014 many stores opened up their deals online ON Thanksgiving Day, no need to wait until Black Friday or even Cyber Monday. This year, some stores like Wal-Mart will offer their deals online and skip the door-busters. Maybe it’s just safer for everyone this way anyway. I mean someone getting in a fist fight over dollar priced towels probably doesn’t need encouragement of live competition and lack of sleep to slip into the Hunger Games in a box store. So check now, your favorite place to shop might already have deals going!

2. Don’t have your heart set on any THING. Know that unless you have been camping out for a few days already, you might not get all the things you have on your list. You might not get any of them because that store only got three of them. This is part of strategy, so get a better game plan than just locking into one gift for one person, and it has to be this thing I circled in their flyer. If not getting that one thing on your list will ruin your day, week, or Christmas, Black Friday is not for you.

3. Have a game plan and be flexible. Your strategy is to have a back up plan, when an item you wanted is not available, or you just aren’t willing to wrestle someone else for it. This is a novice mistake. Refer to #2. You may just want to skip it if you are not willing to budge on your list, but trust me when I tell you it’s unrealistic to believe you will get everything you want at the price you want at the store you want. You can pre-shop the flyers before they come out at if you want to spend more time with family that day! You can also see upcoming and ongoing deals called Brad’s Deals on their facebook page or website

4. Bring your flyers with you. I keep them on me and in the car. When #2 happens and you need to learn #3, it’s a good idea to have your back-up plan ready in the car. I like to keep a few on me at once, so when I need assistance from a sales person I can point out the very thing I am looking for. I also look at them while waiting in line to the next store’s flyer. It’s like my “pregame” routine to get ready for the next stop.

5. Get your finances in order. Bring cash, or call your bank on Tuesday to let them know you need your limits lifted from your cards if you plan to do a lot of shopping. Many bank cards have daily limits set to prevent theft. Call ahead and have them lifted for the time period you will be shopping. It’s embarrassing to finally get through the line with your cart full of stuff, only to have your bank decline the charge, even though you have the money to pay for it all.

6. Pay close attention to the savings. Many offers will be for rebates that you mail in the receipt to get back, so just be aware you may be waiting for your money back instead of getting instant savings.

7. Plan for sustenance and hydration. Bring energy drinks or beverage in a cooler in your car, and a few snacks too. Nobody should shop “hangry”. Or take a mid-spending break after a few stores to get a 3am hamburger or an early breakfast.

8. Set a budget. It’s easy to overspend if you don’t set limits for yourself. It’s not smart to go into debt just to give gifts.

9. Sign up ahead of time for any rewards systems. Because it’s great to save money, but getting money back to spend on yourself is even better!

10. Use the buddy system. Divide and conquer. Split up into teams! Team one goes to the ladies department and team two will head to kids. This is where list sharing is so helpful!

Remember to laugh, have fun, make some new friends in those long lines and not get too serious – you want to enjoy the journey!

NOTE: This year you won't see my "haul" be very big. Despite all my tips here, I have been reflecting for a few years now on our consumerism lifestyle and the real meaning of Christmas and giving. This year I combined birthday and Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews, to instead provide their families with "experiences" to make memories. They each get stocking stuffers to open, but the real gift is that they will have a memory that will last long beyond a toy. I can only remember a hand full of Christmas toys from my childhood, which challenged me to instead focus on "making a memory". For some it will mean swim lessons, cooking lessons, a family trip to a museum or zoo or sporting event. No judgement from me either way, I didn't become a Black Friday Ninja by accident. If YOU also opted out of traditional toy gifts, I'd love to read your comments and reactions from the families you gave them too!

WELCOME to Extraordinary Life, Not Ordinary

My life is anything but "normal". Man, how I crave normal somedays, but that's not the life that I was given.

My husband and I are raising a miracle boy who is a warrior... he has received over 9 miracles in this lifetime and outlived his prognosis by more than 7 years now. He is 9 years old, medically-fragile, terminally-ill and living with Leigh's Disease. We have chronicled our journey from the beginning, and we hope it helps other families know they are not alone on this scary road. You can check out that part of our life here:

After infertility and miscarriage, we embarked on the journey to adopt. Through adoption, you can set all sorts of criteria for for the child you want, the type of family you want to work with, where the family is from, etc. We established a set of criteria and quickly learned that God had other plans for us than we knew!! We have adopted a beautiful mixed-race baby girl, and still have hopes of adopting a son in the next few years. Adoption is NOT for the faint of heart. It is not easy, there is loss, uncertainty, and JOY. Oh the joy. I haven't made many blog posts on our journey, I mostly used social media. Here is our Facebook link: and a few blog posts here:

On this "Tough Loves" blog I also talk about what it is like to mentor the next generation. My husband employs over 200 young people every semester at LSU since 2002, and I spent nearly 9 years at LSU managing over 150 student employees. We have learned a LOT about how this generation differs from others, how to bring out the best in them, how to provide guidance and discipline to prepare them for real world scenarios and be productive employees. It has been these experiences that also has prepared us on how we want to raise our own children to be best prepared for life out of the nest!

My "therapy" and passion is in the kitchen. I love to cook, and my specialty is taking those time tested family recipes and finding ways to make them in 30 minutes or less. Easy, healthy meals for families on the go. More recently, I was diagnosed with IBS, lactose intolerance, soy intolerance and gluten sensitivity - so I like finding yummy recipes to fix up and share for others on the same journey. I do have a cookbook available, self-published as a fundraiser for my son's medical expenses. You can find some of my recipes here: Soon I will be embarking on making organic baby food for our newest addition to the family, so I plan on sharing some of that journey too.

I love to save money, and am a bargain shopper. I am not an extreme coupon or anything, but I like to share little tips I've learned about saving on every day products for life on a budget. I am also a "Black Friday Ninja"... and will share some of my stuff with you here!

I am a God-fearing, people-loving human who loves to serve others. My spiritual journey has been long, and I have learned much along the way. I hope to share some of what God is revealing to me here, and on my blog focused on the battles of the spirit "Armored and Dangerous: Awakening the Warrior Woman of God".

I have a long career in marketing, event planning, sales, business strategy and planning that includes social media, web development, SEO and app development. I have presented at nearly every convention and conference I have attended, and have been teaching these topics for over 13 years. I have garnered the highest possible achievement as College Media Advisor of the Year, and have a proven track record in sales management and new product development. I will probably use this blog to discuss some of those things that might be helpful to the general population or small business owner here. I will especially love to share what i have learned that will help young people take steps to build the best possible career track for themselves and share tips on creating digital profiles here too. Just shoot me a question, and I may even do a whole post about it.

This jack of all trades is ready for your questions, and I hope you look forward to this melting pot of a blog!! :-)

Be blessed!
Kodi L. Wilson