Secrets to surviving Black Friday

spauff@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 20, 2011 

It’s a family tradition, says Tiffani Mitchell.

She’s not talking about Thanksgiving dinner, but about Black Friday, the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Mitchell and her family will be at the stores in the early hours of the morning, looking for deals on Christmas presents. Mitchell said she’s shopped the Black Friday sales for about ten years. This year, she’s on the hunt for a tablet, like an iPad.

“My family always uses the department strategy. One person in toys, one person in electronics, one person to get in line, etc. We usually like to visit about four stores and we take two vehicles to store everything. We will have our 4 a.m. store, 5 a.m. store and 6 a.m. store,” she wrote in an email.

Whether shopping on Black Friday is a family tradition or you prefer to wait until December to shop, here are some tips to remember:

Be prepared: “Black Friday is like a war. You want to get in and get out and not kill anyone,” jokes Kelly Pressy, who runs the couponing website, Kelly’s Coupon Addiction.

Pressy said she does most of her Christmas shopping throughout the year, looking for sale and clearance items. This Black Friday, she will be looking for an X-box, but she’s still trying to find the best price.

Pressy recommends always comparing prices. She uses Bizrate.com, a website that lets you comparison shop and read reviews of items.

“It’s just a matter of making sure you compare it to other places,” she said.

Have a shopping plan: Pressy has a plan for her post-Thanksgiving Christmas shopping. She’ll start on Thursday night, with some of the early sales. Stores like Target and Macy’s have announced plans to open at midnight, while Wal-mart will offer sale prices on some items at 10 p.m.

“Wal-Mart first, then Target,” she said, adding that while she hasn’t found any spectacular deals this year, she’s hoping there will be some good doorbuster sales. While Pressy recommends not bring your children along to shop the sales, she’s trying to get her husband to help her shop this year.

“If I could have my way, we would have walkie-talkies,” she said.

Jayne Meadows Govar said she usually shops Black Friday sales in a group.

“It helps if you can have someone to wait in line while you shop and also to help look for items on your list,” she wrote in a Facebook message. She makes a list of items she’s looking for, as well as stores to visit, then ranks them according to which she wants to visit first.

Melannie Walker, who runs a couponing workshop at the Phenix City-Russell County library, recommended sticking to a list and limiting the number of stores you visit.

If you’re worried about racking up credit card debt, “carry cash and then that’s all you can spend,” she said.

Double-check prices: Finding a good deal on Black Friday can be a rush -- but double-check prices before you buy, Pressy said.

“You get that Black Friday high and then you get home and realize ‘Oh, it wasn’t that great.’” she said. A store might advertise items are up to 70 percent off, but that could mean that only a few items in the store are actually 70 percent off, she said. “Just make sure you are getting the right price,” she said.

Walker recommended shopping the store deals and looking online for coupons. Some stores even offer coupons you can download to your phone.

“You don’t run the risk of losing little bitty pieces of paper,” she said.

Shop online: If Walker shops on Black Friday this year, she’ll do it from the privacy of her own home, she said.

“It’s too much to fight the crowds,” she said. “If you’ve got a laptop and a credit card you can get as good a deal.”

Pressy also said checking out online deals is a good idea.

“Sometimes the deals online are as good as the ones in the brick and mortar stores,” she said.

Be safe: You may want to be first in line for a sale, but don’t camp out on the sidewalks, Walker said. Be safe and aware of your surroundings. Instead of carrying a purse -- which can be easily taken from you by pickpockets, she said -- put your license and money in a wallet and carry that in your pocket.

Be positive: “Look at it as an adventure,” Govar advised. After bargain shopping for a few hours, she said she usually treats herself to coffee.

Mitchell said she’s ready to shop all night, starting with the midnight sales on Thursday and continuing into Friday.

“Everyone is out, trying to get a good deal to see smiles on their loved ones’ faces, so for those few hours everyone shares a common bond,” she wrote. She tries to keep a positive attitude when shopping and hopes others will do the same.

“Many times I have been unable to get an item on the shelf, but as you walk around the store sometimes people have remorse and leave items and will also leave them at the register,” she wrote “So keep your eyes open and a smile on your face. The other shoppers and employees don’t mind helping you when you are positive.”

Sara Pauff, 706-320-4469

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