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Tips from an experienced Black Friday shopper

Updated on November 20, 2014

Shopping on Black Friday can be a tradition, a sport and a day of deals. Last year, 92.1 million people shopped on Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation, and 95.5 million are expected this year.

The day after Thanksgiving got its name because it is traditionally the day retail businesses start making a profit, or go in the black, for the year. Holiday sales can make or break a retailer's year for this reason.

I have enjoyed both shopping and working in retail on Black Friday, and know the tricks to best encounter the day.


Plan ahead

Black Friday ads are available as soon as the first week in November. Some stores post their ads on their website or reveal items on social media. However, websites like, post all the ads they can get their hands on.

Compare these Black Friday ads to the stores' current ads. Sometimes the items you want to get are actually available for a better price (or even the same price) the weeks before Thanksgiving. If the deal is better or just as good, get it before Thanksgiving when it is more likely to be in stock.

On the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, visit the stores you plan to shop at on Friday. Most stores will set up where merchandise will be located for the sale that Wednesday night while the store is still open. Some stores, because there will be barely any shoppers, will even start signing the store for Friday, so you may be able to get away with the sale price early.

Shop online

According to NRF, 56 percent of holiday shoppers plan to shop online this season. But, don't think all that shopping will occur on Cyber Monday.

Some stores are open on Thanksgiving. Most of those stores will have the sales prices available online. Unless the ad reads that the price is available in store only, it is likely available for the same price online. Why wait outside in a line that wraps around the store when you can shop in comfort of your home for the same price?

We purchased an item from Best Buy this way, and we were able to pick up the item in the store on Saturday.

Dress appropriately

Some people don't bother getting out of their pajamas before they go out for their post-Thanksgiving shopping. While dressing for comfort is smart, you'll also want pockets for lists and warmth for walking through parking lots. A jacket with an inner pocket is great for holding a wallet and cell phone.

But, the day can be filled with people in bad moods for a variety of reasons. Wear something festive, whether it's a Santa hat or a fun shirt, to help keep yourself and others in a good mood.

When do you prefer to shop for holiday gifts?

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Best time

As long as you are not shopping for something with very limited quantities or is only on sale during a certain time frame, the best time to shop is between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.

The people who had to be out when the stores opened Thursday or midnight are already back in bed. The people who would rather wait until daylight to shop are also in bed.

If you shop during these hours, you'll see less traffic, shelves being restocked and shorter lines (if any!) at checkout. As a plus, you can still get home and hide gifts before the rest of the family thinks about waking.

Avoid the impluse

Chances are you'll see something for a great deal that wasn't in the sales flyer and that you didn't plan on purchasing. Before you purchase it, ask yourself do you really need it? Is it a gift for someone you didn't have something planned for? Can it replace a gift you were planning to buy?

If not, don't get it. Stick to your budget. It's not really a great deal if it kills your budget. If it helps, bring cash only so you are less tempted to make impulse purchases.

© 2014 Samantha Sinclair


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