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!

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