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11 Tips to Make the Most of Your Black Friday Shopping Trip

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 12, 2011 · 48 comments

Black Friday Shopping Tips

If you're planning on scoring some deals on Black Friday, prepare ahead of time to make sure you walk away happy with what you've bought and spent. Below are 11 tips to make your Black Friday shopping trip a success:

1. Make a list

Black Friday is not the best time to go out just to browse. To maximize your savings (and prevent yourself from overspending just because something looks like a great deal!), make two lists -- a shopping list of the deals you want to take advantage of and a gift list with the people that you still need to buy for. Start by scanning the ads and writing down any deals that are within your budget for yourself or as a gift. Take a separate list with you so that if you come across a great deal on a fondue set, you'll be able to quickly scan your list to see that you still need to buy for Aunt Mildred, who happens to love fondue.

2. Prioritize

Once you have your shopping list done, decide which items are your highest priority. Prioritize both by store and by item so that you start with the deals that are most important to you.

3. Be realistic

Realistically, you're going to have to choose just one doorbuster item at one store as your top priority because you simply won't be able to wait in line to be the first person at each store. You'll also want to be realistic about how much you can get done in the amount of time you have to shop and how long your energy will hold up.

4. Take a shopping buddy

That said, taking a shopping buddy who is interested in the same deals as you is a great way to score multiple deals at your first stop. Split up when the doors open and each head for a different section. Pick up two products instead of just one and then split them between you.

5. Leave the kids at home

Dragging young children around on Black Friday will most likely just make you, them and everyone around you miserable. You will probably end up spending more, getting less of what you want and feeling frustrated in the process. Leave the kids home so you can focus on your list, your budget and the deals, and you'll enjoy your day much more.

6. Research prices ahead of time

It's important to remember that not all advertised deals are as great as they seem. Spend some time researching the low prices of any items you're hoping to score so that you know what's really a deal and what's not.

7. Wear layers

If you're planning to stand in line outside early in the morning, it may be chilly. You'll want to dress accordingly so that you're not miserably cold while you wait, but be sure to wear appropriate layers so that you can peel them off as the day warms up and as you race around the stores!

8. Bring snacks and water

Pack plenty of snacks and water so that you have something to eat and drink while you wait in line or drive between stops. Waiting too long to eat because you're afraid you'll miss a great deal will affect your mood and energy level, so don't do it!

9. Set your expectations

While it's important to have a list of the items you'd like to get so that you don't end up wandering through a store, don't expect to get everything on your list. Some items may be sold out, shopping at a certain store may take longer than you planned, or you may just run out of steam. Work through your list in order of priority so that you get the most important gifts taken care of first.

10. Be friendly

Some people approach Black Friday like a contest and consider everyone else their competition. They become so focused on their goal -- to save money and buy more stuff -- that they forget to take the time to be friendly. Try being friendly instead, building a camaraderie with the shoppers and store employees around you. A little smile goes a long way!

11. Carry the sale ads with you

If you've made detailed notes about what you want to buy and plan to stick to your list and budget, you may not need the sale ads. But it's better to carry them all day and not need them than to want them and not have them. For example, if you're planning to buy a GPS at a specific store, but it's sold out when you arrive, you'll be able to check to see what the sale prices are at the other stores on your list. Or you might come across a deal that you hadn't noticed in the ad and want to compare the price to the other sales to make sure it's a good deal.

Bonus Tip: Wait until Cyber Monday

While many people find the challenge of Black Friday challenging and fun, it can be stressful and frustrating if your heart's not really in the game. If you're looking for great deals but don't want to deal with the hassle and the crowds, plan on shopping online on Cyber Monday instead. I can guarantee you'll find all the best deals here at Deal Seeking Mom, and even if they're not quite as good as the doorbusters in stores, the extra sleep and low-key day following Thanksgiving may be worth it!

Do you usually shop on Black Friday? Share your best tip in the comments!

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program. Walmart has provided me with compensation for the time and effort spent creating this post. However, my participation in this program is voluntary and my opinions are my own -- always have been, always will be.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melissa V November 12, 2010 at 8:07 pm

My advice as a BF shopper expert, stake out the store before hand. If you are looking for an item that you don't usually purchase, head to the store a few days in advance and make note of the aisle and shelf that the item is stocked. Write this down on a note card or on your phone. It will come in handy if you have multiple stores to hit that morning and are in a rush.
Good luck, and have fun!
P.S. Love your blog! ;)


2 Liz November 19, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Awesome tip.. Thank you!


3 Nada November 12, 2010 at 8:10 pm

You want to try that count 1 more time? Normally when I count to 12 I include the number 6 but I am was always goofy like that. On the plus side, with that bonus tip you do have 12 tips.


4 Tara Kuczykowski November 12, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Oh, thanks for pointing that out -- I don't think anyone noticed last year! I've fixed it now!


5 Mom November 23, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Wow, you are perfect!


6 christina November 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm

wow what a rude comment.


7 Amy November 12, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Can you tell me if there's a good way to find out Cyber Monday deals? I see lots of places putting out preview adds for Black Friday... but not a lot for CM.

Wow! That last comment was snarky! Guess people aren't allowed to make mistakes.


8 Christie November 12, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I never have down the really early black friday shopping. This year, Target has a great deal on a TV. For those who have experience, what is Target's procedure. do they hand out numbers in line for certain hot ticket items or is it a mad dash? Is there a rule of thumb for how many each store carry for large items such as a tv. while it seems like a great deal, if the chances are slim, I'd rather not get up at 3 am, with the turkey hangover and all.


9 Jenn November 12, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I worked at Target on BF a few years ago and if you really want that tv you have to be prepared to RUN for it. Of course that could be different depending on each Target but at ours it didn't matter if you were the first in line. It mattered how fast you could run and how hard you could shove. One man even leapt over the cash register to get in front of people. Really unappealing way to behave imho.


10 Darlene November 12, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I think only places like Best Buy give out numbers...most of your department stores is mad dash to the electronic dept. if you want something...a lot of stores now have BF stock in the main aisles so you don't necessarily have to go that dept....Target last year gave out maps of where to find the BF items...that was awesome!!


11 TJ November 12, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Last year, our target was very organized. they have a place for the line, they man the line, and they had out tickets for the main hot items ahead of store opening. If it's the TV on the front, you'll need to be in line an hour or two before opening, depending on your sore. the likelihood of showing up just before opening and still scoring a ticket is minimal. If you don't have a ticket, you won't be able to purchase it.


12 Amanda November 13, 2010 at 8:45 am

Our K-Mart also hands out tickets as you walk in the door for the big ticket items.


13 Rose November 12, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Wow Nada, as if a simple mistake was a downside? Thanks for the tips Tara! :)


14 Darlene November 12, 2010 at 10:39 pm

My daughter & I do BF every stores like ToysRus where the checkout line is usually a good hour/2hr wait, I go stand in line & she goes & gets her stuff, then she comes & finds me in line & takes over my spot, then I go get what I want...most stores have adjusted their BF stock to avoid the pushing, shoving, nastiness of previous years, so we usually find every thing we want...& we only buy the big savings items that day...if I'm only going to save $10 or less, I wait on the item, it will be on sale again before Christmas....Be safe this Black Friday & Have Fun!!


15 Anita A. November 13, 2010 at 2:03 am

Darlene - That's exactly what we do. My sister, mom and I hit up stores on BF and we usually put mom in line with a basket while my sister and I shop and bring things back to her. Mom is like home base. And very appropriately so. :o)


16 Jaye Ike November 10, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Haha! "home base" !! Love it - I'll call mom that this year! :)


17 Rebecca Manfredonia November 12, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Depending on the store, you might be able to buy the items on Wednesday then go get a price adjustment (confirm that they will do this) or if you go later in the day Wed. they might give you the sale price anyway. Staples did this for me last year. It was awesome!


18 Kris November 14, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Some stores specifically don't match black friday prices. I had to REALLY fight with Sears last year on this issue, bringing up their own website and price matching policy on a computer in their store to prove I was right. An hour later, when I walked through the store again to go back to my car, they had posted a sign that they were NOT price matching previous purchases! But, I got my $200 on my TV!


19 Jennifer H November 23, 2010 at 8:24 am

We are hoping this works at walmart this year! We purchased the items yesterday and plan to do a price adjustment during the bf sales. I contacted several stores and one store mgr said "yes", but was unsure what time their cust serv desk would be opening so that's the only glitch....


20 catlady November 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Target and Walmart will usually match anyone's ads. As long as they're not a time sensitive one, they have done it in the past. The one I loved was when I shopped at the BX (military store) on base and they were doing price matching as well - awesome customer service and awesome manager that helped me out with that. They stopped doing it the next year though.


21 rebecca November 12, 2010 at 11:27 pm

I have never, ever attended a BF which is saying something since I LOVE finding bargains. The idea of running around a store trying to scoop up deals while others are trying to do the same is too much stress for me, lol. I hope CM is something I can enjoy. I would like to try to get a Wii so we can disconnect from Time Warner Cable. :)


22 heather November 13, 2010 at 3:29 am

where can i find the bf deals i thought you had to wait untill the thursday before bf before they were released in sales paper or online


23 Christie November 13, 2010 at 7:45 am

Heather, if you google black friday ads 2010 there are a number of websites that publish the ads early.


24 stacey November 13, 2010 at 4:31 am

Another idea is to take the flyers with you and if an item that lets say Target or Toys R Us had a good deal on for BF that you wanted then just take their flyer to Walmart and try to price match it. I have done this at Walmart for something I wanted at Target and it saved me from having to make a trip to Target,. Thank goodness for price matching!


25 Amanda November 13, 2010 at 8:48 am

I do that every year it saves a trip to that store and usually even if I had gotten to that store it was sold out by the time I got there. Last year I had so many price matches that they had to call a manager to check me out.


26 Ruth Ann November 15, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Check that the store you want to price match is doing this for Black Friday sales. I've run into a number of stores (Best Buy particularly) that won't price match Black Fridays deals. You might be able to convince them, if they don't have signs up/it's not on the web site and you are willing to argue with the manager. But better to check first.


27 Rebecca November 13, 2010 at 5:12 am

I love tip #10 Tara! I have only experienced BF from the retail side of it from my years of working through college. Let me tell you we all dreaded it and prepared for it months in advance. I think I actaully developed a BF phobia by the time I was a dept manager. It's a very important and stressful day for the stores. It really makes all the work and waking up SO early that much better when the customers are friendly. (I always loved it when the ladies wore reindeer antlers or fun hats...allowed me to take a smile break.)


28 catlady November 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm

One thing I loved!!! about going shopping with my sis is that yes - everyone is stressed, yes everyone is trying to get the same things in a rush for their kids. Yes you get bumped and banged around BUT I have the best times with her!
The people are usually nice. We'll pick something up and debate getting it. If we don't want it, usually someone is standing right by us and you can make their day by giving it to them or they can make your day by handing you an 'extra'. And yea we go into it with a good attitude and a smile on our faces.


29 cheri November 13, 2010 at 8:53 am

Hello, I do BF every year, the last few years I have looked at the ads and used index cards. I put the same of the store on each card and then cut out the picture of the item I want and tape it to the card. That way I make no mistake about the price or the exact item I want. Once I leave the store I throw away that card and move to the next store's card. It has worked for me and I have NEVER missed an item! Plus if the person I am shopping with is either finished or does not want anything at that store I can hand her a card to help me out and she knows exactly what I want. Hope this helps!


30 Kristine November 15, 2010 at 8:00 pm

What a fantastic idea!


31 cheri November 13, 2010 at 8:54 am

Sorry the NAME of the store


32 Sarah November 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

Thanks for the great tips. I shared them with our readers too.


33 Sheila November 13, 2010 at 11:38 am

Don't want to sound stupid but when is cyber Monday?


34 Sheryl November 13, 2010 at 1:49 pm

It's the Monday after Thanksgiving. It is similar to Black Friday, but the deals are all online.


35 shelly November 13, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Are BF deals available online during the same time in store?


36 Ruth Ann November 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Depends on the store and the deals. A lot of the all day/all weekend sales will be available online. A lot of the "Door Busters" won't be.


37 Kyla November 19, 2010 at 2:43 pm

A few years ago I was able to purchase the GPS we were wanting from on Thanksgiving afternoon. It was nice to have it ordered and not have to go to that store. I'm not sure if other stores will be offering that this year or not. It'd definately be worth checking after the Turkey feast though.


38 Shari November 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm

About tip #8. Don't drink too much unless there is a bathroom nearby!


39 Diane November 13, 2010 at 5:28 pm

My mother sister and I had this BF shopping thing down to a science. We go through the ads on Thursday and make a list of what we each want at xyz store and who is going to get what and where. Then we each hit a different store and connect via cell phone to update each other, answer questions (color, size, variety, etc.) and just check in and brag about the deals we were able to score! That way we can cover three times as many places and still get the door buster deals. I have 5 children and my sister has 2, so the lists get a bit long, but the deals are usually pretty darn good so it all works out nicely and worth getting up and going out for!


40 Beth November 14, 2010 at 7:38 am

I never do Black Friday. It's too much for me, the kids are not in school, so I have to find a sitter and I'm way too nice and from the stories I've heard from my sister-in-law, I would get run over. I have found, however, that you can find a great many deals online on BF as well as Cyber Monday! Last year I got my daughter a Dell laptop for only $245 shipped online on BF!


41 Sara-Rae November 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Instead of buying gifts for my children for Christmas, my DH and I decided to take our boys on a special vacation each year. Spending time with our family is priceless (and we don't have to battle the crowds on BF). I used to go out every BF prior to starting a family, but thinking of the deals I got, do the recipients really remember those gifts or appreciate all I went through to get them? Likely not. Getting up at 3:00am was fun for a few years, but the pushing and rude behavior I witnessed just isn't worth it any more. All that said, have fun getting good deals ladies! :)


42 Ruth Ann November 15, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I do a little BF shopping. The past few years I've stood in line about 30ish minutes outside Half Price Books (local chain of used book stores). First 100 in the door get a reusable shopping bag and a $5 gift card. 1 in those 100 gets $100 gift card. Everything is 20% off from open until 11am.
And, since it's a used bookstore, the crowds are good natured, orderly, friendly (and a bunch of big honkin' geeks. But so am I, so no worries there). I've had some great conversations while in line, shared pop tarts, laughed and generally enjoyed the time. After I get done there I usually wander over to Target or a few other stores. By then, the crowds have thinned out and many of the good deals (not the GREAT deals, but the good ones) are still available.


43 catlady November 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Ruth Ann - you sound like me :-) I'm there to get the deals, but also to hang out, have a good time, not stress!
Funniest thing that ever happened - we went into a Staples store to shop. They met you at the door with tickets and had red, blue & green lines on the floor showing where to pick up your items. We got everything and then got in line (easy!) I said Wow! The only thing that would have made this easier was coffee and donuts.
I had to get something out of my car and when I was coming back in - there were coffee and donuts! Awesome! I grabbed some for my son and Mom. They thought I was crazy - esp when I came back laughing my head off! But it was a great day!


44 Kimberly November 16, 2010 at 9:55 am

Thank you for putting these tips together!


45 Tana October 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm

My suggestion is if you go to a store to check out the location of what you want to buy on Black Friday, be prepared to buy in case it's already on sale!

Last year, I decided the time had come to get a flat screen TV (my xmas gift to myself!). Walmart had advertised that they'd have 32" TV's made by a brand I preferred on sale starting at 4am or 5am on Friday. I stopped by Walmart on Tuesday or Wednesday, mostly to check out the specs and make sure it would work with my other equipment (all those jacks, oy!). Turned out the one I had been planning on buying on Friday didn't have all of the right jacks, but there was a Sony for just $10 more (!!!) that did ... AND it was already on sale! Yep, got my TV right then and didn't have to fight the crowds on Friday morning! :-)


46 Jacqui November 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm

When I shop back friday I go with my mom. The night before we go through all the add and cut out the items we want, instead of writing them down. That way we can show a clerk which item we are looking for. Also since there are 2 of us, my mom takes the cart while I walk. That allows me to get to areas she can't we the cart. She will also start standing in line, while I stil shop, so we don't have to wait forever to check out.


47 nonnie November 20, 2011 at 6:21 pm

When we go I have to admit it's just darn fun. Sure im a little dissapointed if I miss out on a big ticket item but oh well I always find other things Im looking for.As for waiting in line for a long time its not so bad if you talk to people by you and see what each is buying. The parking is the worst of all of it but its worth it.


48 Sarah November 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm

My son wants a Meep tablet or a NABI tablet for Christmas... Does anyone know anything about either of theses or any good sales


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