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Black Friday: 28 Shopping Tips Straight From the Experts

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Back in the day, Black Friday would start around 4am on the Friday after Thanksgiving. If you feel like the holiday shopping is sneaking up on you faster than ever then you, my friend, would be correct. Truth be told: lately it is more like “Black Week” instead of just that one day.

Black Friday Shopping Tips

What does this mean, you ask? Well, it could mean that you are foregoing your Thanksgiving meal on Thursday in favor of standing in line at Walmart to snag that cheap TV that goes live at 6pm. Or it could mean that you’re sitting out the shopping entirely and shopping online in the comfort of your holiday-themed pajamas instead.

Whatever your stance, there will always be those shoppers that brave the weather and the crowds, the lines and the chaos to snag those rock-bottom prices. No matter which category of shopper you fall into, we are here to help you navigate the shopping extravaganza that is Black Friday.

Black Friday: 28 Shopping Tips Straight From the Experts

1. Be prepared
Whether being prepared means wearing your comfy shoes or having a list, you’ll want to plan far in advance. Seasoned shoppers know what they’re going for, which store has the best deal and what time they open (see below for times).

2. Plan your route
By being an informed shopper (and before the big day), you will be able to determine which stores to hit and in which order, or if you should skip one entirely.

3. Pay with plastic (only if you can pay it off next month)
I charge every single purchase I make on any given day, and I absolutely charge all of our holiday and Black Friday shopping as well. If (and only if) you can pay off the entire balance when your next statement arrives, you’ll rack up some serious rewards points AND if (God forbid) you are pickpocketed, the thief won’t get away with all of your cash. You can cancel/dispute a credit card. Not so much with cold hard cash.

4. Check your credit cards for their rewards programs before you head out
Speaking of using credit cards, it’s always a good idea to check your rewards programs before heading out to charge your purchases. Some cards (such as Chase) offers 5% Cash Back in select categories instead of their usual 1%. If the stores you’re shopping fall into those categories, you’ll get that much more back in rewards = money back in your pocket.

5. Take ALL of your ads with you
Sure, you can check the ads online now, but when the ads are actually released in the newspaper, take those with you. I like to check the ads in the car between stores, making sure that I have circled the HOT deals with my Sharpie and that I have my game plan ready for action.

6. Have a DD
Now, I don’t mean for you to shop while intoxicated (although you may want to in order to battle the crowds, HA!) but to have a designated driver for your shopping excursions. This person can keep things organized, drop you off at the front door without driving around and around looking for a parking spot and have refreshments ready along with route plans. When you’re at checkout, text your driver that you’re about done and they can keep an eye on the door and pick you up right away. This cuts much more time out of your shopping extravaganza than you may think!

7. Have a list for each store and person you’re shopping for
Not only should you have a list for each store you’re shopping, but it is a good idea to have a list for each person as well. Say Susie is getting a doll and a toy horse for Christmas, mark those items off as you go, so that you stay as organized as possible. Also keep an eye out for items you’ll need in the following year. Have a friend getting married next June? See if you can snag a wedding gift now at a fraction of the price.

8. Keep your receipts/Ask for gift receipts
I find it helpful to use an envelope for writing my list, perhaps even by store. Simply write which items you’re going for at Walmart on the outside of one envelope and cross them off as you purchase the item(s). When finished shopping, place each receipt inside its respective envelope. This only helps you to keep organized! Always get gift receipts as well, just in case!

9. Know your return policy
Many stores alter their return policy for the days around Black Friday. Some may normally give you 90 days to make a return, and give you only 30 days for items purchased on Black Friday itself. It will always be wise to stay ahead of the game.

10. Wear comfy shoes/clothes
While this may seem like a no-brainer to some, I can not begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen others wearing high-heeled boots (for example) while Black Friday shopping. You’ll be walking and walking and walking, so be sure you’re wearing your most comfortable shoes and comfy clothing.

11. Keep a snack bag in the car
This is one thing your Designated Driver can do for you. You keep the car fueled up, why not your shopping buddies too? Keep snacks in the car to woof down in between shopping stops. This cuts out the amount of time AND money you spend in the drive thru.

12. If shopping online, take advantage of free shipping and comparison shopping
Staying ahead of the game is key to saving big. Peruse the ads now, and do some comparison shopping online today. You could find a comparable laptop for instance, at just $15 more than you would get in-store on the big day. That $15 would be worth my gas and time and frustration, especially if I can score free shipping!

13. Research doorbuster deals ahead of time
Many doorbuster items are extremely limited. Doorbuster deals are only to get you into the store in hopes that you’ll pick up a few other things while you’re there. One year my husband went for a super price on a TV. He was the 9th person in line (wow, right?! Go babe!) only to learn that they had eight of those TVs per store.

14. Leave your purse at home
The stores will be crowded, which leads to bumping into other shoppers which leads to dropping/losing your purse. Avoid the hinderance by leaving it at home. Wear a jacket with zippered pockets where you can store your wallet and your phone.

15. Pay using discounted gift cards
This is one of my favorite tips all year long, not just during the holiday shopping season. Buy a $100 JCPenney gift card for $88 from Raise.com (for example) and pocket the $12 difference, or use that to eliminate another item on your list.

16. Prioritize
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize – and have a game plan. Know which items you want at each store, prioritize them based on deepest discount or most importance. If two stores open at the same time, and both have a hot item on your list, decide which item you can’t live without and go from there (or see #17).

17. Have a buddy (divide and conquer)
Let’s say my friend Missy is looking for one of those Nintendo consoles this year. I want one for my children as well and our mutual friend Nicole is also looking for this set. The three of us can make a pact, and keep each other on speed dial so that if Missy finds them at Walmart she can instantly let us both know that she found (and purchased) them, and we can keep an eye on her wish list as well. This could also work as: I’m going to Target, you’re going to Best Buy. You get my item A and I’ll get your item B.

18. Get a babysitter if at all possible
For the love of all things holy, do everything in your power to leave your littler kiddos at home with a family member or a sitter. I understand that sometimes this is simply not an option, but a valiant effort never hurts.

19. Price matching? Think again!
Many stores that price match pause price matching on Black Friday, or even during the entire Thanksgiving week. In fact, many Walmart stores around the country have stopped price matching period.

20. Know where certain items are best purchased
Historically, the following items are always your best bet at these corresponding stores:

Where to buy…

Tablets/TVs: Best Buy
Computers/Laptops: Office Depot (sister company to Office Max)
Clothing: Kohl’s and JCPenney
TVs/smaller electronics: Amazon
Toys: Toys R Us/Target/Kohl’s

21. Set your budget (and stick to it)
By knowing (and keeping in line with) your budget, you’ll keep on track for holiday spending. Don’t let your spending ruin your holiday spirit.

24. Do your best NOT to use a shopping cart
Unless absolutely necessary, avoid using a cart. They are only aisle hogs, space wasters and it will take you twice as long to navigate the stores. Speed is the name of the game!

25. Make sure your phone is fully charged (and take a car charger!)
If you have a buddy system (see #17 above) you’ll want to be sure that your phone’s battery has juice. Don’t let it die leaving you stranded.

26. Skip the accessories (and warranties)
Find a bangin’ deal on a TV in-store? Leave the extra cords and/or wall mounts out of the equation. Many times accessories are cheaper online (especially on Amazon or on Cyber Monday). Don’t feel like you have to get it all in one place and at one time.

27. Shop online when you can
Many stores (such as Walmart) will offer the same or similar deals online that they are offering in the store. Keep an eye on the deals you want, perhaps even adding them to your shopping cart and hitting refresh when the sale goes live, or keep multiple tabs open with the items ready to add. You’ll need to ACT FAST if you’re planning on purchasing online. Have your credit card and shipping information on auto-fill. Also, Cyber Monday is growing in popularity, and this year will be bigger and better than ever before.

28. Stay home and pocket the $
This last tip takes us back to our roots. What are the holidays about? Time with your loved ones. If money is tight this year (when is money not tight?) you could come to a family agreement that this year will be about TIME spent together instead of money spent ON each other.

Known Holiday Hours by Store (2016)

Thanksgiving Day

Bass Pro Shops – most locations are 8am to 6pm on Thanksgiving Day and 5am to 9pm on Black Friday
Best Buy – Thanksgiving Day 5pm and 8am Doorbusters on Black Friday
Dollar General – Thanksgiving Day 7am to 10pm
Gordmans – Thanksgiving Day at 5pm to 1pm on Black Friday
JCPenney – Thanksgiving Day at 3pm to 5pm on Black Friday
Kohl’s – Thanksgiving Day at 6pm (Doorbusters end at 1pm Black Friday)
Kmart – Thanksgiving Day (Doorbusters 7pm to 2pm on Black Friday)
Macy’s – Thanksgiving Day at 5pm to 2am and 6am Black Friday
Michael’s – Thanksgiving 6pm to midnight and 7am to 10pm Black Friday
Sears – Thanksgiving 6pm to midnight and 5am on Black Friday
Target – Thanksgiving 6pm to 10pm, 11pm, or midnight on Black Friday (varies by location)
Toys R Us – Thanksgiving 5pm to 11pm Black Friday
Walgreens – Thanksgiving 8am to 10pm
Walmart – Thanksgiving 6pm

Closed Thanksgiving, Open Black Friday Only

Costco – 9am
GameStop – 5am
Harbor Freight – 7am to 9pm
Hobby Lobby – 8am to 9pm
Home Depot – 6am
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores – 6am to 9pm
Lowe’s – 6am
Office Depot and OfficeMax – 6am
Petco – 7am (most stores)
PetSmart – 7am to 9pm (Doorbusters end at noon)
Sam’s Club – 7 am

More money saving tips:

Six Reasons You Should *EXCLUSIVELY* Use Credit Cards
11 Tips for Staying out of Debt at Christmas Time
Tips for Choosing Credit Cards (for Their Rewards Programs)
6 Secret Tips to Saving BIG on Airfare {without signing up for 100 credit cards}
5 of the Worst Money Habits

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