How to Get the Best Deals on Black Friday

By Linsey Knerl on 23 November 2009 (Updated 4 February 2011) 8 comments

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This article shares tips from the 14h episode of Dealista, our podcast that'll help you get more for less.

Assuming you’ve already checked out the deals sites and have an idea of what you may want this Black Friday season, there’s still a bit more preparation that we recommend you make time for BEFORE you head out into the crazy crowds. Surprisingly, most of these tips are not at all high-tech, but they’ve proven effective year after year.

1. Snag that newspaper

We realize that many Black-Friday specific deal sites have had the scans of the ads leaked for days or even weeks. But let’s face it, planning your shopping around digital copies can be cumbersome (and really expensive if you need to print out copies to make notes on). Get the paper on Thanksgiving, and get the deals straight from the horse’s mouth. If you find that you’re missing a circular due to regional paper restrictions, then you can go online and print to your heart’s desire.

2. Comparison shop

With so many of the same “doorbuster” items being offered in each store, your deciding factor may ultimately be price. Many retailers, like Walmart, offer price matching on any competitor’s ad. Other stores will be offering one-of-a-kind or promotional items that can’t be matched. For easy tracking, I like to get out a stack of 3 x 5 cards and title each card by store. Be sure that you know which store is offering the lowest price on the item you want, and indicate it by writing the item down on the appropriate store card.

3. Track times

Stores may be opening as early as 4 a.m. (and a few are buzzing over their midnight madness sales). To keep everything clear, note what time each store opens on its corresponding card. Then sort by which opens the earliest, so that you can hit them in order.

4. Turn in early

Some of your best-laid plans can occur the night before, when you lay out your clothes, pack your purse/wallet/credit cards/cash, gather your ads and notecards, and tuck a breakfast bar or other healthy snack into your to-go bag. Will it be cold in your part of the country at 4 a.m.? If so, bring layers. You’ll want to stay warm when standing outside, but cooler when in the long checkout lines.

5. Be there

The best way to ensure success is to get to the store early. Plenty early. If you’re first in line, head directly to a shopping cart and grab one before they’re gone. Then proceed to the best deals in an orderly fashion. (This is where it’s helpful to bring a friend, as they can hold your cart or place in line, while you scout out additional items.) Don’t forget your receipts for refunds, returns, or gift exchanges!

Additional tips to note:

  • With all the buzz surrounding Cyber Monday, it may be tempting to wait out the deals for something cheap you can buy from home. While some stores are already leaking what deals they will make available online the day of Black Friday, most experts agree that the Cyber Monday deals will pale in comparison.
     
  • You’ll also want to be sure to think about what items may not be available during the peak shopping season (remember the Wii shortages?). If you absolutely have to get “the” gift of the season, you might be better off taking advantage of any good sales now — rather than taking the chance of missing out altogether.
     
  • Stores like Walmart have gotten a bad rap for incidents like last year’s trampling of a store employee and have taken some reasonable steps to ensure things go more smoothly this year. If you can, visit each store’s corporate website to see how procedures may differ from year’s past. Walmart, in particular, is offering previews to their sale prices online right now, and even provide a map to see where the limited-stock products will be dispersed throughout the store on the big day.

Dealista is a collaboration between Wise Bread and Quick and Dirty Tips, the producer of popular podcasts such as Grammar Girl, Money Girl, Winning Investor, and Mighty Mommy.

If you enjoyed these tips you can find more in our show's archive.

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Guest's picture

Keep in mind many of those items at rock bottom prices are merely lures to get people into the store. Then it turns out that the store only has 5 of the $500 flat screens but the next "viable" option is the $1,000 item. There will be many deals but I'm curious how well stocked the stores will be? Many may be gun shy because of all the credit contraction in the economy. Why stock up if consumers are not expected to spend as much?

My bet is that many people will shop for the deals but I'm not sure retailers will see loss-leader bumps in their sales this year. Just my own early reaction but the American consumer surprises every year.

Guest's picture
Ken

I like that idea...it keeps your info in one place and keeps you on the target...I'll have to pass that on to my wife....teh Black Friday shopper.

Financial Samurai's picture

Don't let the retailers take all your money!

Get that "spend more, save more" out of your mentality.

Good luck with the crowds folks!

Keigu,

Financial Samurai
"Slicing Through Money's Mysteries"

Guest's picture
Dave

Above all: Have mercy (i.e. be NICE!) on the folks who have to WORK in the stores all weekend. Not one of them is going to be able to truly enjoy Thanksgiving day because they will be dreading what is come. Smile and say thank you for giving up what you take for granted. A little will go a long way.

Guest's picture
Samantha

Let's see if another poor person gets kicked to death for 30% off a GPS or a TV. Christmas and the "holidays" are about people, and cherishing your relationship with them, and God. Stop worshiping crap imported from China.

Guest's picture

I'd say that's all great advice--IF you plan to venture out that day.

Personally, I'll do it all from the comfort of my own home.

Friday, I'll scour the internet for any great deals I can find and scoop them up--if there's nothing enticing that day--I'll simply hold out till Cyber Monday to take advantage of the savings.

You couldn't pay me a million dollars to go out in that insanity on Friday.

But great advice for those that do--and I wish you all luck.

Guest's picture

Getting to the stores the night before at Midnight might be the best idea, with the sale flyers in hand.

John DeFlumeri Jr

Linsey Knerl's picture

That Black Friday shopping shouldn't be what it's all about.  I am not doing Black friday this year because a special relative that I almost never get to see will be in town for just one day, and spending time with her trumps any shopping.  (Plus, to be honest, I've been resourceful with my shopping and have almost everything purchased.)

Taking time to be kind to others is important, as well.  But in my area of the country, I have never witnessed the kind of horror stories that others see in their local stores.  I usually strike up nice conversations with others in line, chat while waiting outside the stores, and get a chance to know others who have the same frugal ideals as I do.

Maybe it's unique to my community or the stores I shop at, but aside from being a marathon event (store after store), it's always fun.  The stores offer free coffee and donuts, the crowds are usually upbeat and cheerful, and the employees are treated respectfully.  If I ever see that change, then maybe I'll reconsider my frugal tactics.

(I always see the bell ringers get extra love on the way out of the store on Black Friday, as well.  Maybe people feel like they have extra to give since they saved so much?)

Thanks for the comments, folks.  The holidays are for family first, but I have to admit that it's rather indulgent to go shopping without my 4 children in tow.  It's kind of nice to get out of the house and shop!

Linsey Knerl