“Black Friday” Shopping Tips From A Non-Shopaholic

I am not a shopaholic by any stretch of the word.

When ever I enter a store of any sort my head begins reeling with ominous visions of my checking account being fleeced. The only store I can spend more than an hour in is “Books A Million”, and that’s because I am merely loitering/reading the whole time, not planning on spending my money. My wife, an avid shopper, has to put up with two irritated boys (my two-year old and I) if we hang around Hobby Lobby for too long. I mean, why would one store need such an obnoxious number of picture frames?!

Though I know very little about frugal Black Friday shopping in actual practice (my pillow is much too inviting at 3 AM), I now know a bit about it in theory.

We have a “Consumer Awareness” section in the Business Math class I teach. Today I went over some “Black Friday Shopping Tips” in order for my students to be informed customers. I have compiled the best tips I found in the following list:

My only hope is if you absolutely must scratch your shopping itch this Friday, don’t get needlessly reamed in the process!

1. Read the Ads: Check local newspapers on Thanksgiving Day. They will be chock-full of circulars and last minute deals. Friday’s papers will include additional sales. Get on retailers’ email lists, and look for deals and coupons listed on their Facebook pages.

2. Evaluate the Deals: Not all advertised items are great deals. To separate the ho-hum from the good deals, use one of the many internet price comparison sites (BizRate, Nextag, Pricegrabber). If shopping online, find out the total price including shipping and tax (if any), and what the reputation of the seller is using BizRate.com or ResellerRatings.com .

3. Be an Early Bird: Toys-R-Us opens at 10pm on Thanksgiving, Kohl’s at 3am, and Sears and Target at 4am on Friday. Wal-mart will open at 12:01am Friday with all its Black Friday deals except electronics which go on sale at 5am. Plot your route from store to store based on store opening times, and since quantities are very limited, arrive before the doors open. Send family members to different stores if opening times conflict.

Look for “doorbusters.” These are the advertised deals the stores lead with that make so many customers “bust” their doors open in early morning hours. Some of the best deals this year include: a Kenmore front loading washer and dryer pair for $599.98 (Sears): a Samsung 40″ 1080p HDTV for $497 (Sears, WM); a 40″ Westinghouse HDTV for $298, a WD 2TB ext. hard drive $69, Sony Blu-Ray player $99 (Best Buy), Canon SX120 digital camera $129, small kitchen appliances $3 (Walmart), adult sherpa hoodies $10 (all at Target); 150 toys 50% off (Toys-R-Us ); Logitech wireless mouse $4.99 a/r, 8-gig SD memory cards $12.99 (Office Depot); Garmin 265WT GPS Saturday only $99.99 (Kmart).

4. Beat the Early Birds: Wal-mart and Sears have been running pre-Black Friday sales on weekends, with better than Black Friday prices on some items. To plan for the real Black Friday, scope-out key retailers on Wednesday before Thanksgiving to learn each store’s floor plan in advance. Avoid the crowds by ordering online since some Black Friday deals may be available on Thanksgiving Day or Friday in the wee hours.

5. Check the Return Policy: Before buying, find out the store’s return policy. While many stores have extended their return deadlines into January, others are clamping down by imposing restocking fees on certain categories of items, or by using a blacklisting database or returns tracking system to deny refunds to returns abusers.

6. Get a Gift Receipt: Make returns easier for gift recipients by asking the store for a gift receipt and include it in the gift box. Without a receipt, a refund may be denied outright, or may be limited to only an equal exchange, or to a merchandise credit for the lowest price the item has sold for in the recent past.

7. Save More with Price Guarantees: The bargain shopping process does not end with a product purchase. Keep checking the prices of the items you bought. Since many stores offer a price protection guarantee, you may be entitled to get back some additional money if the seller or a competitor offers a lower price before Christmas.

If you want to save the most money, feel free to salute Black Friday as I do: on my couch in my sweats with a brewing cup of coffee and leftover turkey leg for brunch, and a healthy dose of college football the rest of the day. The best things in life are sometimes the most understated.

Let’s be good stewards this Black Friday!

Bryan Daniels

%d bloggers like this: