We’ve got it pretty good when it comes to Black Friday shopping. You and I get some of the best Black Friday deals — 60%, 70%, 80% off gifts for friends and family — and all we need to give up in return is a small piece of our sanity.
I kid, I kid … but Black Friday shopping can be make for a pretty hectic day filled with stress, and even a little bit of danger.
So your smart play heading into the biggest shopping day of the year? Do a little bit of mental preparation for Black Friday 2013, and have a little bit of awareness while you’re out and about.
To help you out, we’ve thrown together a Black Friday shopping checklist to run through — one that will help you save the most money, score you a little extra time, ensure your safety and keep you from tearing your hair out for the holidays.
Before You Leave for Black Friday Shopping
Dress for Success: Some of us will do our Black Friday shopping in sunny California, but others of us will be trudging through snow-covered parking lots to get into the mall. Either way, once you’re indoors, you can be sure that hunting for Black Friday deals will be nothing but walking or standing in cramped quarters. So wear comfortable shoes, and also make sure to dress light under your coat, unless you want to shop in a sweat bath. (Also check the weather this Black Friday 2013 — if it calls for it, you might be looking for your most comfortable boots, not shoes.)
Know Your Friends/Family: Whether you ask for lists ahead of time, or simply know what you want to buy your friends, have as many specific ideas on paper as you can. Having a Black Friday shopping list can be helpful considering Black Friday is a grab-‘n’-go affair. You don’t want to be hemming and hawing while others are snatching the best Black Friday deals. Also, know clothing sizes in advance — the best Christmas gift is one you don’t have to return.
Watch the Clock: Compare sales papers (or for the technologically inclined, sales PDFs) ahead of time. Now that Black Friday is spilling over to create Black Thursday, retailers are throwing different “events,” meaning a deal good at 6 p.m. Thursday won’t necessarily be in effect once the 8 p.m. Thursday bonanza begins. Make appropriate notes on your Black Friday shopping list and plan accordingly.
Identify the Doorbusters: The devil’s in the details — specifically, the fine print that says “ONLY 2 PER STORE” right underneath the giant, bold print that says “60-INCH HDTVs FOR 50 CENTS.” Determine what Black Friday deals are the most important to you ahead of time. And if they include any of these limited-quantity deals … well, start dragging the camping supplies out of the attic.
Case the Joint: Because no one has created an infinite-capacity storeroom, there’s technically going to be a limited quantity of everything. Improve your chances of success this Black Friday 2013 by knowing the layout of the stores you plan on hitting up — especially if you’re going after doorbusters and other limited-quantity deals. It’s hard enough to find what you want without having to peruse through human walls.
Plan a Route: If you’re not beholden to doorbusters, you can save yourself a little traffic hassle by planning out your route for Black Friday shopping. Try to hit stores in a line, and use a paper map or GPS to suss out back-road routes. Time spent driving is time not spent shopping or relaxing.
While Shopping for Black Friday Shopping
Save Those Receipts: If your gifts are 100% perfect year in and year out, then more power to you. But if you occasionally whiff, ask for gift receipts everywhere you go this Black Friday 2013 — then save them in a single bag or box. Save yourself the hassle of rifling through piles of shopping bags, or worse, realizing that they were thrown out.
Keep Tabs on Your Wallet/Purse: Stay mindful of whether your wallet is still in your pocket during your Black Friday shopping. If you have a clasp or zipper on your purse, use it, and always keep your purse in sight while checking out or grabbing a bite to eat in the food court. You might consider RFID blockers to thwart more technologically advanced thieves while hunting for Black Friday deals, but keep in mind that Consumer Reports and other reviewers have pooh-poohed most RFID shields’ efficacy.
Be Ready: Have your credit card or cash ready to go by the time you’re up at the register, and whatever you do, don’t gab on your cell phone or get lost in texting while you’re on deck. Yes, you’re bored. Yes, you’ve been in line for an hour. But so has everyone else trying to get the best Black Friday deals, so don’t hold up the queue. (This is less about survival and more about courtesy, but if everyone did this, Black Friday shopping would be a little more tolerable.)
If You’re Going to Eat, Eat Early: Surprise, surprise — when the whole world is out doing Black Friday shopping, restaurants tend to fill up in a flash. If you think you’re going to get a seat right away at noon, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. If you’re even getting remotely hungry by 10 a.m., figure out who opens at 11 and be there at 11. Otherwise, you’ll be enjoying that bench by the door.
Outside the Store for Black Friday Shopping
Lock Your Car: Thieves take the path of least resistance. Much like simply locking your doors at home can deter crime, so can locking your car when heading in to hunt for Black Friday deals. Of course, some criminals are brash enough to pull off the smash-‘n’-grab, so …
Don’t Leave Presents in Sight: If you’re looking out for the five-finger discount, are you going to break into the barren Jetta or the minivan with Macy’s bags piled up to the headrests? If you said the latter, congratulations, you’ve got a criminal mind! (Just kidding.) But seriously, keep as many of your gifts — especially the more expensive ones — in the trunk. And should you have a heavy Black Friday shopping list, stow other gifts under seats, or throw a coat over a bag or two.
Watch Out for Black Ice: A Three Stooges-esque spill in the parking lot might kill on YouTube, but it can also kill in real life. Many retailers don’t take care of parking lots like they should, so just keep an eye on the ground during Black Friday 2013 to keep your keister from landing there.
Pay Attention Behind the Wheel: Seems like common sense, but driving awareness is one thing people find themselves awfully short of during the holiday Black Friday shopping rush. You will encounter more cars and people on the road and in parking lots than almost any other day of the year, and the last thing you want from Christmas is a fat insurance claim or date in court. Get yourself, your children and your husband’s new Apple iPad home safe.