Every year, the Friday following American Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. This is kicked off with what it perhaps the biggest shopping day of the year, rivaled only by Boxing Day – Black Friday. All over the U.S., major retailers open their doors at ridiculously early hours (sometimes as early as four a.m.), and posting ridiculously low sales. The deals are on a first-come-first-serve basis only, so you can imagine the rush. Since 2005, it is said to be the busiest shopping day of the year.
For Canadians, who don’t have Black Friday, taking part means going south of the border to try to score the deal of a lifetime – and maybe even get some holiday shopping out of the way for less. Here are a few ways to prepare for scoring the best Black Friday deals.
Know What to Expect at the Border
Crossing the border on Black Friday is easier said than done. Prepare to leave early – very early – and be sure bring everything you need including proper ID, your passport and methods of payment, such as a credit or debit credit card accepted by U.S. retailers. If you forget something, it’s not just a quick jaunt back home.
Make a Plan
What do you hope to accomplish on Black Friday? Are you hoping to get all of your Christmas shopping done in one day? Or are you just there for that one big item? Whatever your goal is, have a plan and stick to it.
Map it Out
Where are the big sales? Does it make sense to drive all over town looking for that one big store, later returning only to find out that the other store you wanted to hit was right next door? Make a map and plan out a time-friendly, gas-friendly route. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Prioritize Your Purchases
Which items on your list are must-haves? Which ones aren’t? Make your plan and your map correspond with your prioritized list – that way you won’t be disappointed that you’ve missed a sale item.
Do Your Research
Spend a little time online looking at forums, store websites and online ads. You’ll want to look for where the best deals are, compare prices, look for opening times and see if some items are available online as well. Many stores are selling sale items online now too, which can save you a lot of time in line.
Prepare Yourself Mentally and Physically
If you haven’t experienced Black Friday yet, know this: It gets ugly. People are impatient. People are excited. Be prepared for this because it really can make or break your day. If you don’t do well in crowds, take a friend or bring an iPod to distract your mind. Also be sure to dress appropriately for the day – Black Friday is not the time to wear heels.
Consider Your Camping Options
As I mentioned before, some stores open as early as four a.m. – but if that’s the time you actually decide to arrive, expect a massive lineup. Some people actually bring tents and sleeping bags and camp out the night before. If you decide to go this route, be sure to bring something warm to wear, food and drinks and know where the nearest bathroom is.
Pack a Lunch
If you think the mall is busy, imagine the food court. All of those people will get hungry at some point. Save yourself another lineup and bring a bagged lunch. You can even store drinks and snacks in a cooler in your car if you want.
Every year we hear stories of people who have had their cars broken into during the Christmas shopping rush. Be smart. If you’re going to store gifts in your car, put them in the trunk, or at the very least, make them less obvious. A flat screen TV in the back seat of a car is just asking to be taken.
It’s going to be a long, long day. Relax; take it easy and have fun. Smile and be courteous with salespeople, cashiers and fellow shoppers. It will make for a much nicer shopping experience.