Frugal Friday: Black Friday Shopping. . .without going broke. . . .or losing your soul.

black friday shopping
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This Frugal Friday (a day early) is a special one as it’s also Black Friday.  Well, it’s almost Black Friday.  If you ask the big box retailers, Black Friday has now become Black Wednesday, Thursday & Friday as it seems that the sales start earlier and earlier each year.  Being a frugal minded mama, I have always been a pretty big fan of Black Friday since I love a good deal.  I remember when the deals actually used to start on Fridays and it has gradually gotten earlier and earlier each year and now the Black Friday deals start on Thursday.  Weird.   I’m less enthusiastic about the fact that the good deals seem like they’re creeping into my Turkey Thursday a little too much for my liking.  I will save the soapbox speech for another day but I neither love the idea of rushing family through our Thanksgiving meal just so I can rush off to stand in line for a $5 flatscreen tv nor the fact that all of those retail workers end up spending their Thanksgiving Holiday trying to avoid getting ripped to shreds by shoppers who seem like they’ve contracted rabies.  Disclaimer: I’ve never actually gotten a flatscreen tv for $5. . . .Black Friday or not but you get my point, right?

All this to say that I’ve done my fair share of Black Friday shopping.  In fact, I’ve done a lot of Black Friday shopping.  Mr. FVF started going along with me a few years ago when the sales started in the middle of the night because he says he was worried about my safety being out in the middle of the night.  I think he just wanted to chase those $5 flatscreens! 😉   Whatever the reason, we’ve had a lot of fun together going Black Friday shopping!

I’ve compiled some tips that I’d like to share from all these years of Black Friday shopping experience that I’ve had.  Most of these tips are applicable to actually going to a brick-and-mortar store to try to snag your goodies.  However, read to the end to see my thoughts about Black Friday shopping online.

Have a plan Only a total Black Friday rookie steps foot into a store on Black Friday without a plan.  Don’t be a rookie.  If you aren’t sure what items will be on sale tomorrow, you have 2 options.  You can run out to your nearest convenience store that is open today and pick up a newspaper which will have a hundred (maybe a slight exaggeration but not totally far off) circulars for all of the sales.  Or, you can visit and you can access ad scans for the different retailers.  Make a plan so you know what you’re after.

Know what your priorities are With all of the hot items that are on sale tomorrow, you’ll want to go in knowing what your priorities are.  If you are after 2 hot ticket items, there’s a pretty big chance you won’t score them both as you really need to be in the right place at the right time to snap up those hot ticket item deals.  If you have two (or more) children who both have “must have” items that are on hot ticket items?  Enlist a friend or willing family member to head out shopping with you and see if you can divide & conquer.

Be prepared to wait in line There’s pretty much no way around it.  There will be a line to get into the store, there will be a line to checkout, there might even be a line to get back out. I’ve seen it all on Black Friday!  Heck, I even stood in line once on Black Friday that went nowhere all because someone started standing behind a man waiting for his wife and then someone lined up behind that person and someone lined up behind that person. . . we all started lining up.  Stood there for awhile too until finally the man realized that a whole bunch of people were lined up behind him.  On any other day, that might be slightly humorous.  On Black Friday, I thought people were going to maul the poor man.

Show up early If the doors say they open at 6am (or 2am or 12am or whatever crazy time it may ultimately be), make sure you are there at least an hour or two early.  That may seem excessive but it’s really not.  Especially if you are after a hot ticket item.  The lines will start forming a couple of hours (at least) before the store actually opens for hot ticket items.  Here’s the thing, though. . .all the people that get into that line get into the store when it opens.  It doesn’t matter what the people are in line for, they are the ones who get let into the store when the store opens.  It never fails that I see the same scenario play out every single year.  People think they are going to be “smarter” than all of the people in that line.  They’re going to avoid standing in the cold and waiting.  They’re going to just walk right into the store when it opens at 6am (or whatever time) and they think they’re being clever.  Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong!  Hear me again: Wrong-O!  The stores have caught onto this and they have put safeguards in place to avoid people from doing this.  Two years ago, I stood (in line) and watched a woman SCREAMING at Target employees that they couldn’t legally stop her from entering the store when it opened because she thought she was going to circumvent the line and just walk in when the store opened.  This woman was losing her mind because she was being told that if she wanted to enter the store and shop, she was going to have to get in the line.  The line that wrapped AROUND the building of the Target and then snaked zig zag through an adjacent field.  There had to have been over a thousand people in that line.  Easily.  She was adamant that they had to let her in the front doors of the store and that she wasn’t going to have to stand in line.  As the store opened, guess I saw being handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car because she went so far as to kick over the barricade that was in front of the store when the store security guard told her the only way to enter the store would be for her to get in line and enter through the entrance that was opening to those in line?  Yup, crazy lady.  And that is not the only one of those stories I could tell you.  There have been all sorts of people who have tried this and failed and I could tell you all about the things I’ve seen. Long story short, there is only way into the stores when they open on Black Friday — through the line.

Make friends with the people in line with you You’ll be in that line for awhile so make friendly with those around you.  I’ve been in lines a couple of years where the people around me weren’t the friendliest but most years, the people around me have been just delightful.  You never know when you can work together with other people in the line to help each other snag what they’re there to snag.  I had a woman find me again in the store after we had shared what we were there to try to get and she had actually picked up one of the items that she knew I was looking for because she saw it abandoned in an obscure area of the store and knew someone else would snag it soon.  She put it in her cart and figured if she saw me, she’d pass it off to me.  I was so crazy thankful because there were none when I went try to get it.  If nothing else, making friends with those in line makes all that time spent in line go a little quicker and easier.

Maintain your composure at all times  Ya’ll — please remember that whatever you are there to get is not worth anyone getting hurt over.  Trust me on this.  I’ve seen some really sad stuff in the years that I’ve been BF shopping.  Several years ago, I saw two ladies go to blows over a plastic doll stroller.  I saw a mass of people knock over a woman in a wheelchair in mad rush to get to a $19 printer.  The entire produce department had to be shut down in a Wal-Mart once because two guys started fighting over video games and there was blood everywhere.  Mr FVF & I were at a Wal-Mart in Alabama years ago when someone was shot in the parking lot.  There’s a reason why we don’t go to Wal-Mart on Black Friday anymore.  People just don’t seem to understand that they’re hurting each other over stuff.  Remember — it’s just stuff on sale and isn’t ever worth hurting someone or getting hurt over.  Ever.

Don’t fall into the trap  The trap of buying all of the stuff that’s “on sale”.  I may have fallen into this trap once or twice before.  I’m in the store, my cart is full, I see the one item that it seems everyone else is there to get and I see one that someone has hidden thinking no one else will find and they’ll come back for it later.  The coast is clear and all I have to do is reach out and grab it and put it in my cart and it will be mine. .. all miiiiiine.  And then, I snap out of it and realize that . . I didn’t come for it.  I don’t need it.  I likely won’t ever use it.  Hell, I probably don’t actually even want it.  I’m falling into the trap.  Buy what you came for.  Don’t let yourself get sucked into the energy of the madness happening around you.  People get crazy (I’m not utterly far off when I compare Black Friday shoppers to animals who have contracted rabies!) when there’s stuff on sale.  Stores bank on this. Literally, they bank on this energy and folks falling into the trap of throwing all the things into their card and making a mad dash to the checkout line just so they can claim all of their new treasures.

Don’t just go in knowing what you’ll get, know why you’re getting it Similar to the above point, it may be helpful to only add items to your list (because Black Friday shopping without a list is begging for trouble — make a list and stick to it!) when you not only know what you’re shopping for but also why you are shopping for it.  This may help to cut down on the instances of buying something merely because it’s on sale.  You’re less likely to add that $6 crockpot to your cart if it’s not on your list or you don’t have a pre-established need for it.  See, having a list that you’ve written out before you get to the store is a must!  When I write out my Black Friday shopping list, I write what I’m getting, who I’m getting it for and why I’m getting it.  If I don’t have a good “why” to write down, the items gets crossed off my list.  Writing the list out also helps me to visually see when I’m potentially overbuying for one person.

If all else fails, the return policy is in effect  While I’ve seen plenty of Black Friday sales where the price is exclusive to Black Friday, the return policies have always been the same as any other day.  Therefore, if you go a little crazy on Black Friday and end up with buyer’s remorse when you get all home and see it all in the light of day (since Black Friday happened in the middle of the night for several years there!), you can always return items the next day or later that day.  Which raises another point. . .

Buyer’s remorse sets in for a lot of people after Black Friday shopping  Mr FVF and I have actually had quite a bit of luck finding items that we wanted but couldn’t find when the stores first opened simply by going back to the store later that day and checking through the carts of returned items.  It seems that a lot of people will buy things and then return them later or the store clerks get a chance to clean up after the mad rush of initial Black Friday shopping and they then find items all over the store that people have abandoned.  In our experience, these items end up being brought to the front of the store so there can be a massive “item put back” later in the day.  If you can’t find what you are looking for initially, be sure to check back later, if you can.  You may just get lucky!

Where will I be tomorrow?  Easy squeezy — I’ll be at home.  In my pj’s.  Yep, I’m doing my Black Friday shopping online this year.  If what I want isn’t available at the BF price online then I’ve decided I don’t need it.  In all fairness, this year’s shopping strategy is a little bit different than past years because we aren’t doing anything big in our household for Christmas this year.  We’ve gone a slightly different direct in our gift giving to one another and I’ll tell you more about that soon!  Since most of our family lives in other states, shopping online and having items shipped directly to them just works better for us anyways.  So, we’re going to try our hand at Black Friday shopping online this year.  If I’m being honest, I think I’ll miss the crowds and the energy a little bit.  I’ve gotten so used to it after all these years. . .but, I’m ready to try something different.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll be back in the lines & crowds next year. 😉

Are you going Black Friday shopping tomorrow?  If so, where are you planning to go and what are you hoping to pick up on a good sale?  Or, are you online shopping it?


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