Ten hup, Black Friday mall maggots. It's time to get those boots on the ground for some serious shopping. Now grab a cart and shove...and push...and reach...and OWN that register!
Black Friday may be Nov. 26, but what you bush leaguers don't know is it takes early discipline and a careful strategy to win the Black Friday battle. We're not just talking some lily-livered civilian who pitches a tent in front of Best Buy, waving a wad of store fliers and coupons. Read on for the basics of Black Friday Boot Camp. Now hit the deck and give me 11 -- tips, that is.
1. Receive Budgetary Clearance
Scour online merchants for ideas and prices, check for lists of this year's hot kids toys, and ask your loved ones what they'd like. In other words, make up your lists early. Then determine how much each item should cost and how much you can afford to spend.
Take empty envelope and write each person's name, gift(s) and dollar amount you need to save, then add cash at each opportunity until you have enough saved to begin buying. Carry a gift list with you at all times. This will help you stay on target and keep you from forgetting what you need when shopping.
2. Make a Preemptive Strike
Some major merchants are already offering better deals than you'll see on Black Friday. Walmart announced in mid-October it's cutting prices on everything from a Nerf gun to Barbie to Ben 10 alien games. Target is discounting half its 2,000 toys via weekly ads, in-house coupons and other promotions. Toys R Us is opening 600 temporary stores for the holidays to capture toy dollars.
Toys aren't the only deeply discounted items. Merchants trying to ensure Christmas 2010 will push them firmly into the black are trying to lure people to their stores and online outlets ASAP.
Buying early means you'll also find a better selection and avoid the massive holiday crowds. Of course, you'll have to hide gifts from inquisitive kids longer, but that's why friends have closets.
3. Reconnoiter the Competition
You've made as much of early sales as possible: Now it's time to plan for the big Thanksgiving campaign. In the past, merchants advertised their deals on Turkey Day, but now they begin their big advertising push one or two weeks ahead of time. Buy the Sunday paper one week before Black Friday, keep an eye on your mailbox and, most importantly, start surfing the online stores of your favorite merchants. Compare prices and decide what you're going to buy, where and when.
Remember that many sale items are available online for delivery to your local store or with free shipping to your home. Some merchants also offer a larger selection through their online stores.
4. Take Advantage of T-Day
Last year, some major merchants began Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day and they'll likely do so again this year. These retailers finally figured out not everyone was sleepy from turkey or watching football. If you plan on hitting these sales, the following rules still apply.
5. Plan a Search and Destroy Mission
Your mission is to get in and get out. You can't do all your shopping in one day. Make a list of the major items you need; map out which stores you want to hit and in which order; and carry along all relevant ads so you don't get rooked into a higher price or the wrong item.
6. Have an Exit Strategy
If you're planning on buying several bulky items, you don't want to have them slow you down all day. Nor do you want to lug a bulky coat around. Have your DD drop you off at a central location then meet back up when you need to send something back to the car or are ready to go home. Thanks to cellphone technology, they can wander off to read a book, do a little light shopping or simply people watch. (What you use as bait to talk them into this role is up to you.)
7. Stock Up On C-Rations
Eat a good breakfast, but nothing too heavy. Remove everything extra from your wallet or purse (for safety), then stick in a couple low-sugar energy bars, maybe a sandwich and a bottle of water. Restaurants will be extremely busy and you don't want to wait in yet another line just to refuel. Staying hydrated and fed will also keep you frosty while all those around you are losing it. Avoid sugary foods, however, as they'll lead to a sugar crash.
8. Break Out the Fatigues
This is no time for fashion. Wear the bare minimum of clothes and ditch the heavy coat so you don't have to cart it around all day. Don't forget comfortable shoes!
9. Establish a Mobile Base Camp
My boss says to leave the kids at home but bring a stroller because it makes crowds part like the Red Sea. Plus it gives you somewhere to store packages and smaller items. Borrow one, if need be, but not a twin stroller. Those things are a bit of overkill.
10. Don't Go AWOL (From Your List)
Take stock every now and then. Do you need to substitute items on your list? If so, can you find something at a comparable price? If not, wait until another day when you've had time to think the purchase through. Don't fall into the Black Friday sales trap or you may regret it later. (In particular, avoid buying items for yourself!)
11. Call In Evac!
There's no point in losing your head over the last XBOX Kinect for $100. It's just a thing! Better to maintain your dignity and your temper than to live with regrets later. So get out of there before you reach a breaking point.
For more details, strategies and attack plans, check out our blog posts "How to Create a Christmas Gift Budget" and "10 Reasons You Should Do Your Christmas Shopping Online."
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