This is a post by staff writer Libby Balke.
Thanksgiving used to be about three things: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, turkey (with all the trimmings), and football. (My husband would add a nap, but with two young children in the house, we don’t sleep very much, day or night.) Last year, though, a family friend brought something unexpected to the Thanksgiving dinner table – a stack of Black Friday circulars and a legal pad.
“What are you doing?” I asked her as I sipped an after-dinner tea.
“Plotting my strategy,” she answered nonchalantly. She was equally as casual when I asked her what time she planned to get up to start her Christmas shopping in the morning. “Oh, I’m not going to sleep. I’m heading to the stores as soon as I leave here.”
Forget Black Friday; Meet Black Thursday
Black Friday got its name because it used to represent the day when retailers got out of the red for the first time all year. These days, however, the term is more accurately applied to the entire four-day weekend, starting with Thanksgiving Day. In 2011, the National Retail Federation reported a record $52.4 billion spent during that period; an estimated 226 million shoppers (nearly 70% of the U.S. population) dropped an average of nearly $400 each in stores and online over the extended holiday weekend.
In the past, stores used to open to shoppers at the crack of dawn on Friday, just as the malaise of all that turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie was finally wearing off. But a quick check of Black Friday store hours finds the big shopping day is encroaching on the holiday itself. Although slews of retailers will open as the clock strikes twelve, Target and Toys R Us aren’t even waiting until midnight. Tar-jay opens at 9 p.m., while the toy store chain opens at 8 p.m. Thursday. It’s a move Walmart tried last year, when it launched its Black Friday deals at 10 p.m.; this year, they’re upping the ante and will start some of those sales at 8 p.m., as will Sears.
Planning In Advance
As a kid, I remember going Christmas shopping on Black Friday with my mom and grandma; it was always a surprise to get to the store and grab a Black Friday circular – for the first time. Our Christmas shopping strategy literally changed at that moment. A mom who had planned to buy a bike for her child suddenly switched course to take advantage of a big discount on a gaming system instead.
Now, though, just about every store out there publishes their Black Friday ads ahead of time. There are plenty of websites that compile these deals; my favorite can be found right here on Bargain Babe.
Do All Your Shopping At One Place
Say you were hoping to capitalize on a deal for a 40-inch HDTV at Retailer A, a new Dyson vacuum from Retailer B, and a washer/dryer from Retailer C. So much to do, so little time, but that’s life on Black Friday, right?
Just about all major mass retailers now offer price matching policies. In short, they’ll match any advertised price from a local brick-and-mortar store, but there are exceptions. But some retailers are introducing restrictions; Target won’t honor price matches on advertised prices between November 22nd and 24th, while Best Buy is extending that blackout period all the way to Cyber Monday (the Monday following Thanksgiving). They also won’t honor limited-quantity sales or deals that are out of stock on a competitor’s website.
Walmart has yet to announce any date limitations to its price match policy, though – so if you only have the time (or energy) to hit up one store, this should be your place.
Or You Could Just Stay Home
I love to shop, but there are limits to how many deal-obsessed shoppers I can take. Even with all the advanced planning, the stores are still pure chaos on Black Friday, and I plan on avoiding them. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be Christmas shopping.
Most retailers offer corresponding deals on their websites that are just as good – and sometimes better – than what you’ll see in stores. This starts as early as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, extending all the way through Cyber Monday. The bottom line? Check your favorite store’s website early and often the week of Thanksgiving for info on these web-exclusive deals, and save yourself the trip to the store.
Do you even bother shopping on Black Friday? What are your strategies to save money, time, and headaches on this day?