Tips For Black Friday Shopping

(Story previously published in Canstar weeklies)

As seasons transition from autumn to winter, Americans and cross-border travelers are gearing up for the holy grail of shopping days.

Black Friday is the day after US Thanksgiving, and the beginning of Christmas shopping season. While not officially a holiday, many employers give staff the day off to extend Thanksgiving into a long weekend. This results in the busiest shopping day of the year.

The term ‘black Friday’ has been used in different contexts since the 1800s, including reference to past financial crises. It began being used in association with Thanksgiving in the 1960s and 70s, referring to massive downtown traffic jams and packed sidewalks. This year, Black Friday is November 23, and translates into huge shopping crowds seeking the best deals and lowest retail prices.

Getting caught up in the bustle of the day is an annual tradition, and Canadians go down in droves to take advantage of the bargains. If you’re going yourself, be prepared. Know in advance what you want to buy, and research online. Have a list, and know where you need to go. Map your route. Plan your attack.

Stores typically open Friday morning at 4:00am – that is, the ones that don’t open at midnight – for door-buster specials. Just like Boxing Day, there are limited quantities of the exceptionally low-priced advertised items. If you really want something, line-up, wait for the doors to open, and be among the first wave into the store. Early birds get the tablet, laptop, e-reader and television.

Know a store’s price-matching policy, and if they have current coupons, or apps with special offers. Socialize with them and stay on top of news and shopportunities. Find out if they offer further discounts with store credit cards. If you set up an account, you can pay it off with cash before you leave town.

Allocate in advance how much you want to spend, and your ceiling on particular items. Comparative shop before you get there, so you’ll recognize a good deal when you see one. If you’re okay at sticking to budget, make all purchases on a cash-back or other incentive credit card. If you don’t trust yourself, strictly cash.

Decide if you’re going to go it alone, or in tandem with a friend. If you have different shopping styles, split up and meet at a predetermined place and time.

Get into the spirit of the day with the sights and sounds. Music will be in the air, and the atmosphere sure to put you in the holiday mood. If you enjoy the people around you, the day will be much more enjoyable, and lineups and crowds more tolerable.  Take snacks, stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes. Keep all receipts in one place.

If you don’t feel like traveling, many Canadian retailers have adopted the Black Friday tradition, so look for equally good deals north of the border.

And if you end up not getting what you want, don’t sweat it. There’s always Cyber Monday.

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