The Black Friday Shopping Marathon: Preparation and Determination Required
There are songs written about it. There are commercials designed for it. Employee schedules are changed and rearranged for it. Police departments prepare for it. Women everywhere plan for it, prepare for it, rest up for it. Black Friday Shopping. It is a marathon proportion of shopping. It takes more preparation than any other marathon. It is growing bigger every year. Here are some tips to help plan and prepare for the one day of the year that shopping causes more fights and injuries than hockey games!
How The Black Friday Marathon Began In Our Family
Now let me begin by telling you that I am not an athletic person. I do not train for marathons, nor do I do hour long workouts over and over again each week. I am not a driven person, one who is single minded on a task and cannot move on until it is conquered. That is unless you are talking about Black Friday Shopping!!! In my family Black Friday is a Shopping Marathon. Preparation and determinations are required to accomplish this task. It must be done at all costs. We leave no child behind, but we never let them slow us down either!
It all began innocently about 20 years ago. I was a newly separated, single mom of 3 children under the age of 6. I had been working and paying the bills, without child support assistance, of course, and Christmas was closing in fast! A lady I worked with told me about the wonderful bargains she got for her children when she did her Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. I knew right then that I would be there too!!
Back then the stores opened up at 6 a.m. for those early bird specials! Be the first in line and get an extra discount, a goofy toy or keepsake ornament! My mom and I prepared with a thermos of hot cocoa and hit the stores at 7:30 a.m. well before the early bird specials went off at 11 a.m.! What a joke! By 6:30 the stores were packed, stripped of all bargains and left in ruins by the serious shoppers!!
Don't get me wrong...there were some sales and bargains still available, but the serious shoppers had carts full trucking out to the parking lot before we ever arrived! I bought the few items I could find and vowed to be better prepared next year. We had a wonderful time, the glittering stars in the sky, the crisp cool morning, the hot cocoa, shopping without men and children....it was all good!
Year Two: Smarter And Earlier
The second year we went shopping on Black Friday meant, first and foremost, that we would be getting up earlier. Lesson learned! After Thanksgiving dinner, we poured over the flyers as we would if we were searching for gold! We made a list, sort of a list, well....a list of what we were looking for at least! We went with cocoa and hit the stores at 6:30 a.m. with list in hand and spent a half hour looking for a parking place! Oh my! It was crazy! By the time we parked and walked the half mile to the stores, we weren't any better off than we were the year before. This was getting personal! I was determined that I was going to get my bargains....one way or another!!
We got a lot of really good bargains, but I did NOT get that $19 bicycle that I wanted for my son. His birthday is just after Thanksgiving and I was sure I could get his bike! The store had 3 of them after all!!! Seriously!!??? Only 3 of the bargain bicycles in a town the size of Joplin was absolutely ridiculous! What would it take to get it for him next year? He was a little young for it this year anyway and I didn't know yet, but I was going to get it. One way or another, my son would have his bike! I was determined!
This Was WAR!
Okay, I have learned something each year. I have worked out a plan. I have a determination that exceeds all possible boundaries. I talked my sister-in-law into staying over the weekend and going along. I have extra help! My mother has been with me all the times before, but she is a sweet little lady. I needed warriors! My sister-in-law and I poured over the flyers following the wonderful turkey dinner. We made a list for each store. We sorted those lists by department. We put the time of the bargains on each item AND the item number from the ads. We had detailed information on each item: brand, price, item number and even size if applicable! We sorted the lists and placed them by store opening time. We highlighted the absolutely URGENT purchases in yellow. They would be our focus from the moment we hit the door! We were determined AND prepared.
The morning was comfortably warm, so we were not burdened with coats! Hooray! We had a thermos of coffee and a box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies! We had the walkie talkies!! WE WERE READY!! We went early! We were at the store at 6 a.m. waiting in line for the doors to open! Kay, my sister-in-law, drove so she could park the car. She dropped me and my mom off at the door of the store. Once the doors opened, my mother headed for the check-out area. She waited until the line got established and then got in it! I went for the highlighted items and when Kay got into the store, she went for the other items. We had prepared! I burst through the crowd going straight for the bikes! I made it there and got my son's bike and one for my daughter and one for my nephew. The store had 35 bikes this year! I took them to my mother and she scooted them along toward the check out while I went for the other items on my list. Kay radioed me that she had gotten the outfits we wanted and I replied with a run down on my shopping accomplishments! Mission successful!! Mom radioed that she was only 2 away from the register and to get over there!! I was thrilled!
We paid for our purchases and proudly struggled to get them into the car! Next stop, same plan! It worked! We were determined and prepared and our Black Friday Shopping was successful! By noon we were exhausted and gladly trekked back home with our trunk full and our hearts happy! It was a rush! I had gotten $500 worth of gifts for less than $150! My children were going to have a much better Christmas than I had thought I could ever afford! I was hooked!
Fine Tuning Our Strategies
Over the years we have fine tuned our strategies. We have learned that the Wal-Mart Stores in the smaller towns have almost as much merchandise as the larger towns but only have a smattering of the customers who will be up and at the doors at opening time! We always go to the smaller towns for our big items from Wal-Mart and we are always successful. We have even gotten cocoa and cookies at our local Wal-Mart in Baxter Springs, Kansas!
We always take a driver! My husband, Tom, joined the family a few years after this all began and little did he know what he was getting into! He became the driver! He would drop us off at the door, take a nap and pick us up at the door when we were done! No more trudging miles to the car!! He also made a trip or two home to drop off and hide packages from the children who were happily ensconced with their Grandpa!
We take granola bars and fruit snacks. Getting up early and running amok often wears a body out!! The granola bars are less messy than the oatmeal creme pies and the fruit helps the blood sugar when we start running out of energy! Less coffee and more water are a better combination too! Keeping our minds alert without the dehydration that coffee can offer!
Once they are old enough, get the kids involved! My middle child, Dustin, LOVES Black Friday Shopping! It is a mission for him and he has been on it from the time he was old enough to go! I could give him a list and he would hit it and load up Grandma and then be looking for things off of my list. The walkie talkies were his idea in the first place and now with cell phones and picture taking capability....we are ROCKIN' it!! Last year, my daughter, Dalaina, was put on bed rest with her pregnancy just before Thanksgiving. She was HORRIFIED!!! Together, she and her husband, Jasyn, had 5 children and a baby due in January! She NEEDED to get that Black Friday list!! We all got together and decided that we could do it for her! It was wonderful to see the family all work together to help make the kiddos Christmas wonderful!
Dalaina had learned well and we were each equipped with a detailed list, possible alternatives, and cash (plus tax) to cover each item. Her math degree was very useful!! The sales began at midnight and so we were all up and about well before time! My husband and I went to tackle ToysRUs, Dustin and his girlfriend (soon-to-be wife) Katy, took on Sears and the mall. If we hit a glitch, we would call Dalaina and she would make snap decisions and we would be on our way! Jasyn handled items for his older boys that were picked up at Academy and I think he even bought his own gift of tools somewhere in there!! Dillon, my youngest, works with the Police Explorers, so was busy working traffic that day, but he picked up some loose items we had gotten too tired to get! My Mom got up early morning and prepared a wonderful pancake breakfast for all of us for after our night of shopping! It was great! Until the stomach flu hit me! I didn't care! I was determined and prepared!!! I made it through ToysRUs, but I was out!! Bless their hearts Dustin, Katy and Jasyn made it through all of Dalaina's list. I am glad that will not be a regular time. Seems as if everyone was unhappy with being up all night!
Once last tip to share, we go online and look at the ads well before Black Friday arrives. There is a website or two that have the ads online. Some of the major stores will release their ads early as well. This really helps to have time to get it all planned and get to bed for some rest!
We head to bed early and get some sleep........SCREEEECCCHHHH!!! WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY OPEN AT MIDNIGHT THIS YEAR!!! AND 4 A.M. TOO!!!
Gotta go! Got to redo our strategies and it is already Tuesday!! Only 2 days to prepare to stay up ALL night and conquer our shopping for grandbabies!!! This is serious!! We shop more for them than we EVER did for the kids!!!
Oh My! Happy Thanksgiving!! And Successful Black Friday Shopping!!!
Black Friday Online! Oh Yeah!
I have found the joy of shopping online for Black Friday! Many of the major chain stores have special items on sale for Black Friday only available online! In addition, for those major items that will absolutely make or break Christmas for your child...this is a wonderful way to ensure the item is safely under the tree on Christmas morning!
Last Black Friday, the "must-have" items were only available online beginning at 4 a.m.! This gave our shopping a twist! We have smart phones, but were not prepared to take the risk of getting it all set quickly with the tiny screens. We timed everything to be at a local all night restaurant in plenty of time to log on and click on those items at the moment they went on sale. Using the hotspot on my phone made it possible for us to each use our laptops and we were able to lock in the items easily! I got myself a new laptop for only $149!! We had a light snack, conquered the online sales and went back to shop!!
Be aware that some stores have even begun to offer items online early on Thanksgiving morning. The retail store conglomerates evidently don't have to cook for the family! I set the alarm for 5 a.m. logged on, bought the camera to die for and then promptly crawled back in bed! It was GREAT!
There are websites that have the flyers available to view. They are simple to find. It is also possible to troll the website for your favorite stores and find a link to their Black Friday flyer well ahead of time. Now that I think about it.....It IS the first of November. Maybe....just maybe....I think I will do some checking now! Try it! Online shopping makes the shopping....OH SO EASY!!