Consumer IQ

Top Ten Black Friday Shopping Tips

Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the retail season, is right around the corner and if you are looking to score some sweet deals you better be prepared. After all, you don’t want to brave Best Buy when the doors open at midnight only to walk away empty handed, do you?

Last year, the National Retail Federation reported that 212 million individuals hit the shopping aisles on Black Friday, spent an estimated $45 billion, and more than 60% were done shopping by 9am. Black Friday shopping is serious business that isn’t for the weak.

Follow these 10 Black Friday Shopping Tips to make sure you stay on track and ahead of the competition, aka: your fellow shoppers.

1.  Make a list.

Typically, the best Black Friday deals are in the electronics department. Despite this, the store shelves will still be stocked with lots of pretty, shiny things that are just begging to take up space in your shopping cart. Look away! Stay strong my friends and stick to your shopping list. For more information on the best Black Friday deals of 2011 check out bfads.net, blackfriday.info, blackfriday.org and black-friday.net.

2.  Set a budget.

And hopefully your holiday shopping budget will be straightened out because you’ve been using Mint.com’s online budgeting tools, right? Good. It’s easy to get swept away in the shopping frenzy and end up spending more than you budgeted for. Designate a specific amount for each item on your list and don’t deviate from the plan.

3.  Do research.

Compare in-store deals with the ones online. In the past, several big box stores such as Walmart and Target have offered pre-Black Friday online deals that were the same as their in-store Black Friday ones. Also, some retailers offer online shopping exclusives that you can’t find in stores.

4.  Sign up for email alerts.

Visit your favorite store’s websites and sign up for their consumer email updates. Not only will you get the latest information on new products and upcoming sales, but often times retailers send out coupons via email. Print them out and bring them to the store with you.

5.  Check return policies.

Sometimes an incredible deal comes with strings attached, and Black Friday is no exception. Watch out for no-return policies, shortened return/exchange time frames, and restocking fees.

6.  Know the early bird specials.

Also known as “doorbusters, these hot-ticket items are either being sold at a massive discount, or hardly ever go on sale. These incredible deals are often being sold at no profit to the retailer because they drive traffic to the store. Doorbusters usually sell out right away and consumers are often waiting in line before the store even opens in order to take advantage of the low prices.

7.  Divide and conquer.

Team up with friends or family, make a master list of everyone’s items, and assign each person a task. Banding together will save you massive amounts of time and increase the chances of scoring a great deal. Remember: There is no “I” in team.

8.  Dress comfortably.

It’s likely that this is going to be one of the longest shopping days of your life. Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers. Leave the bulky coats and fussy clothing at home. Keep your hands free and ready to grab that 2 carat, $99 diamond bracelet (JC Penny, in case you were interested).

9.  Bring sustenance.

In between shopping and waiting in endless checkout lines, you want to make sure you keep your energy levels up. Refuel and hydrate as necessary.

10. Have fun!

Black Friday is arguably going to be an insane experience: People will be stampeding towards the Playstation’s and HDTVs, and there will be Barbie boxes and Hot Wheels strewn about. Remember to breathe and smile. If all else fails, you will walk away with some pretty impressive bragging rights and probably a good story or two to tell. Good luck!

Do you plan on participating in Black Friday? What kind of deals are you looking for?

Morgan is a freelance writer and blogger living in Southern California with her two daughters and flock of backyard chickens. You can read more of her at The Little Hen House.