Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. People brave the elements to camp outside for huge savings. They trample and fight each other for the latest iThing (some even die, sadly). Shopping on Black Friday takes us back to our caveman roots, to the primal instincts used in the days of hunting and gathering. There’s something in it that spikes the adrenaline and brings out people’s cutthroat side, even if they’re normally mild-mannered. If shopping was a sport, Black Friday would be the Olympics.
Yes, it’s a jungle out there. But we’ve got you covered. Here’s your Black Friday Survival Guide to help you stay safe and maybe even score some deals.
If you’re going to take on the masses, increase your Black Friday savings with coupons in the Thanksgiving edition of the newspaper. Since all the stores place ads and coupons for the year’s biggest sale, it’s the thickest paper of the year. Some store coupons (like Macy’s) can also be combined with in-store coupons for even bigger savings.
If you have a specific item in mind, check out the prices at competing stores and record them. If you’re comparing prices with items online, don’t forget to factor in shipping costs. Some stores, like Best Buy and Nordstrom, allow you to place your order online for in-store pickup the next day (not a bad idea).
You want to keep your kids safe, right? In the bustle of shopping, kids could get lost in the crowd (or even kidnapped!). Plus, you don’t need to add the stress of a crying or screaming child to what is already a stressful activity. Play it safe and hire a babysitter.
Black Friday shopping is serious business. You’ll need a game-day plan. Write a shopping list and make note of your priorities in advance. Know what you want to buy for whom and where. Which stores will you need to hit, and in what order? Locate the registers with the shortest line so you can get in and out fast.
Mall parking lots can get crazy. It could take forever to find a spot. Since you’ll have a ton of shopping bags on your way home, riding your bike or taking the bus doesn’t seem like a good idea, either. Have a relative or friend drop you off and pick you up if you can.
Resist the temptation to check in to the mall or individual stores on Foursquare, Yelp, or Facebook. It’s basically inviting burglars to come over while you’re gone.
Shopping in pairs during heavy sales increases efficiency. That way you and your friend can make sure you both find what’s on your lists in record time. (Just pretend you’re on The Amazing Race.) One person can shop while the other waits in line at the register. Keep your cell phone with you with the ringer turned on in case you get separated.
Power-shopping totally counts as a sport, right? As such, you wanna stay hydrated and caffeinated, and bring snacks for sustenance. Skip the food court — it’s a waste of time and money. Bring fruit, energy bars, and bottled water. (Dehydration is for amateurs.)
Don’t get sidetracked by things for yourself. You’re there to buy Christmas gifts for your loved ones. Stick to your budget and your list. You can shop for yourself after Christmas, when everything’s on clearance.
The typical return policy gives you 30 days with receipt to make a return. But some stores only give a week to 10 days, and some stores don’t allow refunds of any kind — only store credit. If you buy a sweater for your sister in the wrong size on Black Friday and the return policy only has ten days, she’s S.O.L.
The recipient of your gift will have a better chance of returning or exchanging it if you have one. A gift receipt won’t say how much you paid for the gift, but it will record the date and other info. Without a receipt, your friend or family member will only get the slashed, after-Christmas price — usually much less than what you paid.
It’s unfortunate, but there are a lot of pickpockets out there. Keep an eye on your wallet and only bring the necessities. You may want to use a cross-body bag because it’s harder to snatch. If you have several large shopping bags, consolidate them and don’t advertise expensive items or leave them unattended.
Along the same lines, lock your newly purchased gifts in the trunk of your car, not the backseat. If you have a pickup truck, use a canopy. People have been known to break windows and steal expensive items out of the back of a hatchback. So if you have a hatchback, cover your goods so they are not in plain sight.
This is maybe the best of all our ideas! If the thought of joining the mob of shoppers on Black Friday gives you a panic attack, just don’t go. Stay home and order your gifts online. That way you can avoid the mad rush and get your shopping done from the comfort and convenience of your own home. Or just enjoy leftover turkey and don’t shop at all.
The holidays are about people, not stuff, after all.