Black Friday Survival Guide

Making the Most Out of the Biggest Shopping Day of the Year

by kat hobza

Much like over eating turkey and pumpkin pie, after-Thanksgiving-day-sales (also known as Black Friday) are rapidly becoming a family tradition.  Philosophically, you many disagree with following a gluttonous day of food with a greedy day of shopping.  Perhaps you feel Black Friday is nothing more than a shining example of our materialistic, instant gratification society.  You’d be right on both accounts.  It’s just that Grandma Pearl really needs a new pair of slippers, and on Black Friday they cost $5 instead of $25.  What’s a fiscally minded girl to do, especially during these challenging economic times?  She has to swallow her pride, set the coffee pot for 4:00 a.m. and participate in the busiest (and arguably the tackiest) shopping day of the year.

  Last year, as I stood in line for 45 minutes to purchase a $40 down comforter (regularly $150), I had an epiphany.  I realized that like many of the silly things I subject myself to, Black Friday is all about attitude.  Here are a few survival tips I mentally generated as I watched two women, presumably former best friends, scrap over the last George Foreman grill.

Have a sense of humor.  Don’t even leave the house if you can’t appreciate that what you are doing is complete madness.  You have to be able to marvel at the crazed consumers around you, and then you have to be able to laugh when you realize you’re one of them.

Don’t be claustrophobic.  This is not a joke.  I’m typically not sensitive to tightly constricted places and hordes of strangers in my personal bubble.  However, I have to assume that if Black Friday makes my upper lip perspire, claustrophobic folks might want to consider a light form of sedation before leaving the house.

Plan your shopping strategy while the turkey is in the oven.  Crack open the free holiday paper and pour over the flyers.  Have a legal pad and writing utensil ready.  Write down the name of the store, what ridiculous time of day it opens, how long the “Door Busters” are good for, and a list of advertised bargains.  Then prioritize.  This will help you decide between saving $7 on a Snuggie blanket (as seen on TV) or $75 on an I-Pod.

Go to bed early the night before.  This is the easiest step, since most of us fall asleep on Thanksgiving day somewhere around 4:00 p.m.  It is also one of the most important steps, because a well adjusted attitude and sense of humor will elude you otherwise.  If you have to eat extra turkey and a second slice of apple pie to doze off early, then do so. 

Take a friend or relative.  I started taking my daughter with me, which turned out to be a stroke of genius.  We take our place in line as soon as we arrive, and then take turns shopping. 

Bring an electronic form of communication.  Whether you bring radios or cell phones, be certain to have a way to stay in touch with your shopping accomplice.  That way, she can direct your attention to the altercation over a 2 carat cubic diamazoid at the jewelry counter while you’re gathering cheap towels in domestics.  Also, if you need to shop for each other, you can part company and choose a meeting place when you are finished.

Think outside the gift box.  Black Friday is a great time to stock pile lotions, potions and candles for other gift giving occasions throughout the year.  Cheesy holiday gifts, such as singing fish in Santa hats and CDs by “artists” we thought died 10 years ago, are in abundance.  This is the perfect time to find gag and white elephant gifts.

     And for those of you who refuse to get up at 4:00 a.m. for Door Busters, go shopping after 10:00 a.m.  All the early birds will be back home, napping atop a pile of purchases.  You may not get the same bargains, but you’ll have the store to yourself! 

    In 2008, American shoppers dropped over 2 billion dollars on Black Friday.  If it makes you feel better, remember that you aren’t just giving your beleaguered wallet a break the day after Thanksgiving, you are helping to boost your local economy.  If you need further justification, remember that participating in Black Friday is better than waiting for Cyber Monday, where the same concept is applied to online shopping the Monday after Thanksgiving.  At least Black Friday involves planning, hard work and determination.  Cyber Monday just requires a computer, credit card, and an internet connection.  Where’s the fun in that?

Kat Hobza lives in Billings and is a mother, retired media empress, writer, exceptionally poor golfer, occasional hiker, infrequent jogger, sporadic reader, part-time elementary school aide, high-heel collector and a miserable failure at cooking/cleaning.