November 25 2009|10.29 AM UTC

David Tu

Black Friday 2009: The Holiday Shopping Survival Guide

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Does the idea of shopping on Black Friday make you want to cringe?  If the prospect of dealing with the crowds, the lines, the pushing and the shoving intimidates you, take a look at our Black Friday holiday shopping survival guide.  Here are 13 common sense tips to ensure you finish your shopping trip with your sanity intact.

Bring Reasonable Amounts of Cash

Lots of cash.

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Although a credit card will work just as well for purchasing — and at times will make the transaction decisively faster — cold-hard cash will never fail.  You might not expect it, but at times on busy shopping days, credit card processing networks can fail, especially if the retail store in question haven’t updated their card processing terminals in awhile (think smaller stores).  Why take the chance of holding all your gifts in your hand and being stuck in line without a payment method?  Bring some Jacksons with you, just in case.

Set a Buying Budget

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It’s easy to get carried away during the holiday seasons, especially if you’re out shopping and you’re being bombarded with discount and sales signs.  While budgeting can be a drag, its very prudent to keep tabs on your spending — the last thing you’d want is to face an overwhelming bill after the holiday season.  You can try to keep your spending in-line by keeping tabs on the cost of each gifts you purchased during Black Friday shopping.  Bring a small notepad or use your smartphone/PDA and jot down the total amount after each transaction, keep a tally of the remaining spending amount you have left and you’ll have an idea of how much is left in your budget as you visit the next store.

Map Out Your Routes Before You Head Out

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In the age of GPS, map applications on smartphone, planning and mapping out your route should be less of a chore.  By planning ahead, you can make life easier by avoiding specific traffic choke points (think busy highway exits), save time, and save money on gas.  Other factors you should consider when you’re mapping out your shopping course is the store operating hours and what type of items you’ll be purchasing at the particular store.  For example, if you’re buying a big screen TV, you may want to make that particular buying trip first or last, depending on how far the store is to your house, how much space the TV will take up in your car, or heck, if you even want to risk leaving a TV in the car through-out an entire day of shopping.

Eat Before You Go Shopping

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Don’t forget to grab a light breakfast before you head out.  It’ll be a long, dreadful day (kidding!), so making sure you’re packed with energy can be important.  Plus, you’ll save time and money by avoiding the crowded mall food courts or retail eateries.  Here are some on-the-go breakfast ideas: string cheese with whole wheat crackers, a banana and your favorite yogurt, or a bagel with milk/juice.  Need more variety, here’s a list of 12 other breakfast ideas.

Wear Comfy Shoes and Bring Bottles of Water

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You probably don’t need to be a master at parkour for Black Friday shopping, but staying hydrated and having comfy walking shoes can definitely make the long shopping day easier.  For bottles of water or canteen, consider light size ones that’s easy to carry, store, and refill.  Having comfy, toe-covered shoes will let you bare the pain of standing in line just-a-little-bit-longer, and help you avoid the pain in the inevitable event that someone steps on your foot.

Avoid Store Branded Credit Cards

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When at the check-out aisle, you should do your best to avoid signing-up to store branded credit cards.  Yes, everyone can probably use the extra 15% off from the purchase, but if you don’t pay your purchase in full, get ready to immediately face 22% or higher interest rate on your purchase.  Store branded credit cards have a long history of bad reps with shady payment scheduling, usury-level interest rates, and poor customer services.  Avoid future headaches by avoiding store branded credit cards, your sanity will thank you.

Make a Gift List So You Don’t Forget About Grandma

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Gift list may seem corny, but unless you have photographic memory, a gift list will ensure you don’t forget about that special, “important” someone.  Planning out gift ideas earlier can also make the shopping trip much easier as you limit the stores you visit to only those that you’ll actually make purchases at.  If pen and paper isn’t your style in making a holiday shopping list, there’s (of course) an app for that.

Stock Up on Small Gifts In Case You Forgot About Grandma

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Let’s face it, sometimes there are just people that you’ll accidentally forget.  I personally hate it when I receive a gift for the holidays and the only thing I can give back in return is an awkward “uh, oh wow, thanks…”  Avoid being a loser like me and stock up on small gifts for those friends and acquaintances you may have unintentionally forgotten about.  You can try the tried-and-true candles, chocolates, snack baskets, stationary sets, and any other types of gender-personality-neutral gifts that everyone can use (or eat).

Have Backup Gift Ideas Ready

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Surprise, surprise, things “occasionally” go out of stock on Black Friday.  If you have an eye out on a gadget you saw in the Fry’s / Best Buy Black Friday advertisement, be prepare to have another gift idea on the list for that special someone.  If both the primary and back-up gift ideas are sold out, have no fear, you can give Cyber Monday when it rolls out the following week.

Know The Clothing Sizes Before You Buy

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If you’re buying clothes for close friends and family, have a general idea of their sizes before you buy the sweater, hoodie, jacket, jeans, or corsets.  A friend of mine bought some nice unmentionables for his wife and got a prompt reply of “Is this the size you think I can fit, or the size you wish I can fit in?”  Avoid potential you-really-think-I-can-fit-this stares and hassle of returning the gifts by buying the right size on the first try.

Wrap Your Gifts at Home

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Save yourself some time (and money) by avoiding the gift wrapping lines at the stores.  Although many high-end stores will have free gift wrapping, expect long lines during Black Friday.  Worst, you may be stuck with left-over wrappings that are just out-right ghetto looking.  Certain stores will take rain-check for gift wrappings, so that may be an alternative if you don’t mind swinging by on a later day.

Pick Another Day to Go Shopping (Seriously)

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The surest way to survive Black Friday shopping and avoid the long lines, headaches, and frustrations is to go shopping on another day.  Seriously.  With free shipping an increasingly common practice for online stores, shopping physically at the stores is just so 1999.  If you hate dealing with the pushing and shoving, plan your shopping for another day or check out the Cyber Monday deals.

Be Happy and Spread the Holiday Cheer

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Try as I may, I couldn’t leave this one tip out.  (Because I’m a pretty grumpy guy, my fellow shrinkers forced me to leave this tip in for the holiday season — with threat of Chinese water torture if I don’t comply).  Black Friday can be a pretty frustrating shopping experience.  The malls and stores will be crowded.  The lines will be long.  Pack a bunch of time-sensitive holiday shoppers, add in some inexperienced seasonal employees to the mix and you have the perfect makings of raging fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu.  But take a step back and remember that this is the holiday season.  I kid you not, but when you’re nice to someone, they will usually reciprocate the cheerful mood.  So if you see someone having trouble opening a door because their hands are full with gifts, help them out.  If you’re walking out of a store, check if someone is behind you before you let go of the door.  Black Friday can be a more pleasant experience for yourself (and others around you), if we all just remember to uphold a little bit of common courtesy.

Not sure what to buy on Friday?  Check out this list of top deals to watch for on Black Friday!  Got your own sensible Black Friday survival tip, please feel free to share.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben November 25, 2009 at 11:16 am

Call and see if you can pay for your item over the phone or online. Last year my wife got a really good deal on a dryer on black friday and never entered the store. It saved us a trip and the hassle of going out of black friday which I don’t do.

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Liz November 25, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Another tip – Keep your finger on the pulse of all emailed Black Friday news. All I do is visit http://bit.ly/65Tyg. Saves me from having to clean out my inbox and opt out of these things whenever I don’t need them anymore.

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Pablinho November 25, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Very nice list.

Too bad here in Canada we dont get ‘Black Firday’ … but we get ‘boxing day’ the 26th of december !!

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Dr. Waller November 25, 2009 at 4:48 pm

PROTIP: because in a bizarre sense of logic, this wasnt mentioned: RESPECT the people working on this day. if a place is out of something, accept the fact that you didnt get there in time. please do not take this out on the employees, they have nothing to do with it.

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Clamsack November 25, 2009 at 6:05 pm

This lady has the right idea = http://bit.ly/74nZut

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deyeyr November 25, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Antoher tip to survive from crazy Black Friday Crowd:
Stay at home and Shopping online. You can go to retailmenot find the best online coupons, learn the hottest deals from slickdeals.net. If you don’t want to waste time on searching
several different sites to check different prices, sales, discounts, and finally to another website to get coupons, I highly suggest you visit followsales, which collects all those information.

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