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Shopping On Black Friday

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Shopping on Black Friday has become a uniquely American institution.  Find out how and when to get the best deals without being trampled to death.

The term has disputed origins.  Some believe it originated in Philadelphia in the 1960’s due to the volume of disruptive foot and car traffic.  More likely, it refers to the period when retailers stop operating in the red and start turning a profit, so were in the black.

It was common practice for stores to open at 6:00 am on Friday.  We’ve all seen news reports about idiots without jobs sleeping in tents outside Best Buy to save $20 on a Play Station. But shopping on Black Friday has started earlier and earlier, even before Friday.

In 2011 several large retailers started opening at midnight and in recent years, some are now opening Thanksgiving Day itself.  This has proved controversial with employees walking off the job in protest.  Americans aren’t legislated any holidays at all and people bristled at one they usually could count on being taken away.

Black Friday is a big deal for retail because it marks the unofficial start to the Christmas season and most people have it off from work allowing plenty of time for shopping.  It’s forecast that the average person will spend $804 for a total of almost $617 billion once the final numbers are in.

Well, I love a deal as much as the next person so let’s find the best ways to save some money while buying our loved ones (and the relatives you don’t like but have to buys stuff for anyway) the perfect gift.

 Start Early

Been in a store lately? If you have, you may have noticed that Christmas puked all over the place already and we’ve just closed the book on Halloween.  You may even have heard the faint strains of White Christmas wafting over the PA system.

Not only are the decorations going up earlier and earlier, the sales are starting sooner too.  If you’d like to avoid the pillaging crowds of Black Friday or the last minute anxiety of shopping on Christmas Eve, hit the stores now.

 Do Your Research

This is important if you’re buying a big ticket item like a television or lap top.  Just because a certain brand is being advertised at a big discount doesn’t mean it’s the one you should choose.  Know what features you are looking for and read some on-line reviews.  Saving $50 won’t matter so much if the product doesn’t do what you want it to do or stops working as soon as the warranty expires.

 Use A Credit Card!


This one is important for a few reasons.  There have been several major data breaches at big retailers in the past year.  Credit card numbers were stolen as well as debit card numbers but if your credit card is breached, it takes one phone call to the company to have the charge removed and you don’t lose any money.

If your debit card information is stolen, it’s a much bigger hassle to sort out and you will automatically lose that cash until it is corrected.

You can also collect points, air line miles or cash back with a credit card.  Most debit cards don’t offer that perk.

You’ll get an extended warranty with most credit cards.  Sometimes it doubles the life of the manufacturer’s warranty.  Check your terms of service for details.

 Shop On-Line

“Cyber Monday” has become a trend recently.  Rather than working, lots of people shop on-line while at their desk the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Maybe because you’ve just spent the weekend with your family and got some ideas of what they would like for Christmas.  But according to Market Watch, shopping on-line Thanksgiving Day will net you better deals.  On-line retailers are expected to cut prices by 24% Thanksgiving Day compared to 20% on Cyber Monday.  So ask what your family wants at dinner and then sneak off with your smart phone and get on Amazon.

 What To Buy And Not Buy

Some of the best deals can be found on electronics, DVD’s, video games, and home goods like kitchen ware and bedding.  Things to leave off your list until another time include furniture, travel, and designer clothes.

Although if you live within reach of a Sleepy’s and need a new mattress, they don’t let a holiday pass without a sale.  I think I saw a sign for a Sadie Hawkins Day Sale in their window once.

 But If You Love Chaos…

I can sort of see the appeal of getting up in the pre-dawn or late night hours to hit the big sales.  It’s cold and dark out and the stores are bright and warm.  Your kid will die if they don’t get the latest thing they really want that is in short supply.  You can pretend like you’re on a seek and destroy mission and mow down everyone in your path to reach the display of shiny big screen TV’s before anyone else.

With the new BCS playoff system I can see the dire need for that big ass TV.  But I want you all to make it out alive.  So here are some survival tips that even Bear Grillis doesn’t know, having never faced so harsh an environment as Wal-Mart on Black Friday.  Don’t forget to update your will.

Know What You Want Before You Get To The Store.  This is no time for a leisurely stroll perusing the items on offer.  Be a shopping sniper.  Get in, get what you came for, get out alive.

Don’t Drive If You Can Take Mass Transit.  The Ikea headquarters in the Netherlands recently had to stop offering their one Euro breakfast at weekends because the highways couldn’t handle the additional traffic.  Americans love a bargain even more than people in the Netherlands love a cheap breakfast so if you can take public transit, you’ll save a lot of time sitting in traffic and looking for the closest parking space.

Have A Plan B.  If you didn’t get there in time to get the coveted item, have a second or third choice.  Or see if you can get a rain check for when the item is back in stock.  This approach probably won’t work if your recipient is a young child but the adults on your list can probably handle delayed gratification without a screaming, bawling melt down.

Get A Gift Receipt.  You meant well but it’s not so easy to shop for other people.  Maybe the size or the color is wrong.  Maybe you just have terrible taste.  There’s no offense inteneded if someone wants to exchange a gift.  That’s the point of giving a gift, right?  To make the recipient happy.

Wear Kevlar.  We’ve all seen shots on the news of people stampeding through the doors while hapless employees try to bring order to chaos.  They fail in the face of the onslaught so it’s best to be prepared.

Happy shopping everyone.  If you’re wondering what to get Matt and Andrew, wonder no more.  Send beer.

Candice Elliott - Senior Editor
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.

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