7 ways to prepare for Black Friday shopping

April Henley

Are you ready for the biggest shopping mania in the country? Have you drawn up a battle plan that will enable you to safely tread the chaotic storefronts and leave with loot in hand, unscathed and unharmed? Do not enter the fray unprepared, readers, or you may blacklist this holiday for years to come. Follow these seven steps to prepare yourself for shopping on Black Friday.

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Step 1: Research

Knowledge is key; the more you know, the better you will benefit from your Black Friday shopping experience. First, conduct an investigation of the merchandise you hope to purchase; read online consumer reports and customer reviews that disclose the quality of each product. Even if an item is on sale, poor design and value should automatically eliminate it from your shopping list.

Next, examine Black Friday ads in the paper and online to compare prices between retail stores; determine where you will save the most money on your purchases, and then investigate if the superior store has better deals in-store or over the web. Learn if any stores boast a limited hourly sale on their merchandise – those are the stores you will want to hit up first. And, identify each outlet’s hours of operation, as some may open their doors on sales as early as Thursday evening.

Finally, become familiar with the in-store and online Black Friday policies of each business with respect to refunds, returns, and price-matching. Look out for “final sale” items, restocking fees upon return, and shorter timespans to return merchandise. If a retailer offers competitor price-matching, this saves you gas and time by eliminating one or more stores you previously intended to visit, and it spares you from the disarray of customers at product-specific department stores. An example: If Target is willing to match a price on an electronic device, you can avoid the mayhem arising at Fry’s over the same item.

Additional Sources: Consumer Reports, Thanksgiving & Black Friday 2016 Store Hours

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Step 2: Make a List and Game Plan

After researching the points above, make a list of the products you want and the location and order in which you plan to purchase them. Your top priority items are those that weigh heavily in popularity (e.g., game consoles, tablets, and trending toys) and/or are available for a limited hourly discount; visit those retailers first, but be sure to have a secondary list of “back-up” items on hand in case a first-choice product disappears before you have a chance to acquire it.

You will cover more ground on Black Friday by enlisting your friends and family – the “troops” – to help you in your shopping mission; better still, you can service each other by coordinating shopping lists and agreeing to divide and conquer. Each of you goes to a designated store, where you procure the merchandise at the desirable discount; then, at the end of the day, you all come together to pay what is owed and exchange items. For the sake of a more feasible and fun shopping experience, visit each retailer as teams of two; together, you and your buddy can navigate opposite sides of the store, thus improving the likelihood that both of you will obtain everything you want.

Additional Sources: Ultimate 2016 Christmas Gifts Guide, 2016’s Most Popular Toys

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Step 3: Know When to Shop Online

The appeal of shopping online, especially on this particular day of the year, is convenience; you can conduct purchases from multiple vendors in a matter of minutes without leaving your home and avoid the frustration of long lines. Conversely, a few downsides to this purchasing method include shipping costs, retailer ratings, and unsightly events like website crashes and poor inventory transparency. You must also be mindful of rotating deals and verify the sales online equal or outperform the in-store shopping experience. Still, if you can feasibly navigate the web pages and buy everything you want without network struggles, you will save yourself time, gas, and stress.

You may be wondering, “Is it better to shop the Internet on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?” Cyber Monday tends to offer better savings and fewer ads, and it is popular amongst buyers of “soft goods,” such as clothes and makeup. A couple disadvantages to Cyber Monday though are no doorbusters and the risk of extinguished stocks if online sales begin on Black Friday. Sources suggest purchasing, if anything, electronics on Black Friday in the store due to the fragility of these devices in the mail.

Additional Sources: How Cyber Monday is Different from Black Friday, Cyber Monday 2016 Deals, What to Buy Each Day

Step 4: Keep Up with Ads and Collect Coupons

Though some retailers publish Black Friday ads as early as the beginning of October, sales are subject to change as the holiday draws closer, and some department stores wait till a few days before to announce their crowd-captivating bargains. The following free mobile apps keep a current log of Black Friday deals at your fingertips, allowing you to stay in the loop on rotating and fixed savings:

Most vendors offer their own branded app for download, on which you should be able to view Black Friday sales information; however, these apps can slow down and crash from a flood of over-app purchases. Another option available to you is to check the retailers’ Facebook and Twitter accounts for Black Friday updates.

You want to be in possession of the sales ads, coupons, and promo codes that apply to your specific purchases when you venture out on Black Friday. It is not an unlikely scenario that you meet a register clerk who is unaware of one or more deals the store promised; fortunately, most retailers will price-match an advertisement if you prove its existence. One issue that may arise though: Online ads typically apply to “online-only” sales and cannot carry over to an in-store experience; but, feel free to print and propose the ads nonetheless. Bring competitor ads as well to profit from competitor price-matching policies.

A quick tip: To avoid paper mass confusion in your purse and the consequent irritation of customers behind you because you cannot find a certain ad or coupon, purchase a binder with storage sleeves and organize all sales documents in a manner that enables you to easily flip and find a bargain you wish to site.

Additional Source: Black Friday 2016 Ads, Sales, and Deals

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Step 5: Avoid Impulse Purchases by Setting a Budget

Let’s face it: On occasions such as this, when we spend money left and right in a spree, we are suddenly taken over by a fever; we forget ourselves and come home with things we never intended to purchase. These seemingly harmless items are aptly called “budget busters,” and they can be a real problem if later you find yourself struggling to pay a credit card bill, and you are fearful for your credit score. Prevent impulse purchases by setting a Black Friday budget.

The initial factor to consider in outlining a Black Friday budget is Christmas. If your Black Friday shopping list is not the equivalent of your Christmas shopping list, you need to draw out a budget for each spending period to make sure your enterprises on Black Friday do not hinder your efforts for Christmas. Furthermore, divide your budget amongst your friends and family; spend a fixed amount on each individual and limit the cash flow you put towards certain items. An example: If your son wants video games for Christmas, tell yourself that you will spend no more than $50 on video games. This, in turn, helps you narrow your search and not be left standing in an aisle contemplating brand names and such.

Once you have Black Friday and Christmas sorted out, you can complete step one and research the items on your shopping list. As you inquire about each product, note the prices as they stand before and after applying your coupons and/or promo codes; prep yourself to spend the total amount pre-discount. Finally, to avoid any slip-ups on Black Friday, carry the exact amount of money you plan to spend, in cash; only use a store credit card if you win rewards, cash backs, and/or bonus discounts and warranties on your purchases.

Additional Source: How to Set Up Your Black Friday Budget

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Step 6: Shop Comfortably

Black Friday can be an all-day affair if you have a series of stores to visit; therefore, you should make necessary arrangements to ensure your shopping excursion runs smoothly, free from obstruction. This is to say, pack your parachute. If great bargains deter you from stopping to grab a bite to eat, bring snacks, a sandwich for lunch, edibles with protein and carbs that give you energy to get you through the day. Eat a healthy breakfast to wake up your mind and body. And, load a case of water in your vehicle to keep yourself hydrated.

Secondly, dress comfortably. The end of November tends to feel cooler temperatures, so bundle up if you are going to be standing outside a store in the early morning hours. Make sure your articles of clothing are also versatile, easily stripped away upon entering the heated store. Wear shoes that support your heels and make you feel content walking and standing in line for several hours. And, rather than lug around a bulky purse, carry a backpack and shop hands-free.

Long lines are unbearable, agreed? Keep yourself entertained with a cheerful playlist, a thrilling audiobook, or downloadable game apps. Also, bring along a portable phone charger to keep your phone in action.

Step 7: Hold onto Your Receipts

You should save your receipts from Black Friday in the event you have second thoughts about a product and wish to return it. Besides that, sometimes sales deals fall through because a shopper is unaware of mail-in rebates. This is where a retailer will charge full-price on an item, and you only acquire the discount by filling out and mailing in a form request for the rebate. If you have the patience to do this, you must also send your receipt as proof of purchase; make sure you save a copy of the receipt for your own records.

To conclude, ask the register clerk to print you a gift receipt for any purchases that are Christmas presents. A gift receipt does not disclose an item’s purchase price, but enables the recipient to return or exchange the gift – hey, it happens.

Sources:

Top 20 Black Friday Shopping Tips

14 Ways to Prepare for Black Friday

Black Friday Shopping Tips

What to Buy and Skip on Black Friday 2016

Top 5 Stores for Black Friday Deals Online in 2016

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