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Black Friday Shopping Tips And Strategies

It’s not just a shopping day any more.

For many people, Black Friday is a tradition. To others it’s just an opportunity that makes holiday giving affordable. And to some it’s a curse to be endured for the sake of meeting a Christmas shopping budget target.

While current urban mythology attributes the Black Friday name to retailers finally making a profit for the year, the day and name actually have their roots in 1950’s Philadelphia, when hordes of shoppers would create chaos downtown on the day before the annual Army-Navy football game.

By the early 1960’s the name had caught on nationally, and today the day after Thanksgiving is viewed across the country as the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Crowds camp out overnight to get the best deals, and TV news covers the sales—and the fights that sometimes break out to see who can get to those “doorbuster” sale items first.

But getting your shopping all done on the Thanksgiving Black Friday holiday weekend doesn’t have to be an exercise in frustration and disappointment. Just keep these tips and strategies in mind to ease the shopping strain.

Make your list

First, make a list of who you’re buying for, what you know about what they might want, and what your second choices are for them. Shopping without a list is a recipe for buying and spending too much.

Do your Research

Research these days is far more than just spreading out the Sunday paper on the floor and looking at the ad inserts. There are whole websites dedicated to showing you leaked Black Friday ads in advance and sharing the hottest rumors on what will be available and where. Check out sites like,,, and sign up, and these sites will send you all kinds of alerts on upcoming offers.

The same goes for your favorite stores. Most will have websites where you can sign up to get emailed coupons and offers. Want to keep your inbox organized and make it easy to unsubscribe after the holidays? Establish a Gmail, Hotmail, or other free email account and using it to sign up for all your shopping updates.

Set a budget, then stick to it.

This may sound obvious, but Black Friday sales, especially those “doorbuster specials,” are designed to get you in the door and sell you more. Once you’re in the store, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and spend more than you planned. Keep all your receipts in one pocket or purse and keep a running total of how much you’ve spent. Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend, then you have a target to compare your running total with.

Download Sunmark's FREE Holiday Spening eBook. The the goal of this book is to empower you to make your holidays meaningful to you and your family. Along the way, there’ll be tips on budgeting, gift giving, traveling on the cheap and other financial matters. 

Always price check before you buy

Getting into this habit can help you stick to that budget we just talked about. You’ve got two hands. Use one to hold your shopping list and you phone in the other. Then use one of the many comparison pricing apps like BuyVia, Shopkick, ShopSavvy, or Shopular to scan the bar codes or QR codes to make sure that “incredible” deal isn’t available for less down the street or online.

Look for Early-bird discounts

Some retailers now advertise sales on certain items earlier in the week, or even on Thanksgiving Day. Yes, it IS a holiday, but heading out before or after the Thanksgiving dinner to grab one or two important items may end up being worth it. The same goes for online buying. Some specials may be available on the holiday. You can order and pay, then pick them up in the store the next day and skip wading through the crowds.

Price match? Won’t hurt, might help!

Because they have cut prices up front, many large chains suspend their price match policies on Black Friday. But there’s no harm in asking—politely! --if you find a deal worth pursuing. The worst that will happen is the store will say no.

Leverage your credit card

Picking your Sunmark card and using exclusively for your holiday shopping can have several different advantages.

Does your card offer extra benefits such as free warranties, return protection, or sale price protection? If it does, now is the time to take full advantage.

Uing a card that has cash-back rewards or another rewards system can be just like getting additional discounts.

After the weekend, check your online statement against that stack of receipts you’ve kept together to make sure all the charges are accurately recorded, and your security hasn’t been compromised during the big shopping weekend.

Going forth on THE day? Plan your shopping trip.

This is the day where it all comes together, and your research can really pay off. Grab a map and plan your travels to minimize miles driven and be able to arrive at any stores at the right time to take advantage of specific advertised time windows for sales on items you want. Consider shopping with a friend and sharing lists. Not only is it more fun, but two sets of eyes can catch twice as many unexpected deals. Also, leave the kids at home! They’re certain to get bored and you need to cover as much ground as possible today.

Last but not least: It’s also about YOU

Don’t forget to include yourself on that gift list, and make sure to include some relaxed lunch time in your plans so you can de-stress. Remember, this is supposed to be fun! Now . . . Go GET ‘em!