If you haven't done it before, here's how to shop Black Friday/Thanksgiving sales. I am a long time Black Friday veteran shopper and I want to share some tips to get the best electronics shopping deals.
Ever since I bought $500 worth of toys for $75 when my son was about 3 years old, I have scanned the ads for the best deals. Certainly, Black Friday is the best time to get a deal on electronics. Looking for a 42-inch plasma TV for under $600? Black Friday is when you'll find it.
While Black Friday has traditionally started early Friday morning, this year some of the stores are opening their doors for Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving night (so much for the moniker, Black Friday). I'm with fellow Family Goes Strong writer Irene Zutell who writes that Black Friday is stealing our Thanksgiving.
But I digress. If you've never braved the lines and cold night air, in hopes of snagging the perfect bargain, here are some tips that will help you succeed in getting what you want.
Planning Your Black Friday
The first thing you need to know is that there are very limited quantities of electronics items that are deeply discounted. They will be coveted purchases for which hard-core Black Friday goers will line up literally days in advance. That being said, what you treasure may not be the most popular item (particularly if you don't live in a big city). In the past, stores like Best Buy, Office Max, and Staples have handed out vouchers to people standing in line for the more popular items. This has gone a long way toward preventing incidents where people have been trampled or fist fights have broken out over an item.
If you simply want to pick up some odds and ends, like electronics accessories, a few Blu-ray movies, or an inexpensive Blu-ray player, you'll want to get to the store as close to when it opens as you can, but may not need to stand in line.
Now that you understand a few supply and demand aspects of Black Friday, here are some tips to getting great deals on the items you want.
- Know what's on sale - Peruse the ads or get a Black Friday app to see what's going on sale. There may be items that you wouldn't buy at full price that become appealing when they fit into your budget. Check the model numbers and the current prices online to be sure you are getting a good deal.
- Make note of what time each store opens - Many of the sale prices are only offered for a few hours after the store has opened (aka "Doorbusters"). If there are items that you want at several stores, plan the order in which you'll visit each store. Be sure to include time to stand in line to make your purchases.
- Bring a shopping list - Even if you want only a couple of items, create a shopping or a gift list. It will be crazy in the stores. The chaos is distracting and it's easy to forget why you are there.
- Bring a shopping partner - It may be hard to find someone crazy enough to do a late-night or all night shopping spree, but it is valuable to go with others. Lines are very long. Your shopping partner can stand in line as soon as you get into the store while you run to grab your items. You can take turns running back into the store to pick up more items while the other person holds a place in line. Lines can wind through a store, and take more than an hour. (See number 5)
- Bring a sense of adventure and all the patience you can muster. And be a good sport - Please treat Black Friday like a treasure hunt. Everyone is there to snag a great deal. There is a camaraderie of strangers who stand in line together. They'll often share the deals they have found. If someone is alone ahead of you, offer to watch their cart so they can pick up extra items. Remember that the cashiers are working as fast as they can. Be generous and patient; it is, after all, Thanksgiving.
- If you are going after a big deal, you will need to stand in line before the store opens. If it's something you really want and it's a great price, you might consider getting in line hours earlier. Bring a folding chair, blanket, hot cocoa, your Thanksgiving dessert, and something to do while you wait. If you are extroverted, you might query the people ahead of you in line about which items they will be buying. If everyone ahead of you is waiting for the same big screen Samsung TV that you want, you might be wasting your time.
- Pay attention to store employees that are walking along the line. They may be handing out vouchers, and you want to find the employee who has the one you need. They may also be telling customers instructions, or giving everyone an update as to when they will be opening the doors.
- Pick up the big items first-If you don't have a voucher, when the doors open, find the big deal items first.
While you will be getting ads in your newspaper either in the next day or so, there are Black Friday apps that can help you plan and stay within budget. Find out more in my story about Black Friday apps.