An Action Plan for Black Friday

Tips to help you brave the crowds and get the best deals

I don’t plan on getting up at the crack of dawn on Friday—or not going to sleep Thursday night—so I can line up in front of a big box store with the hoardes of people to save a few bucks on a TV. But if you must, here are some tips:

If you plan on being one of the estimated 134 million people who will shop this Friday, Saturday or Sunday, having a shopping strategy.

1. After you’ve hit the Web for your favorite stores’ ads, get your local paper and go through those ads. There might be some deals advertised locally that aren’t showing up online.

2. Do your homework. Research the big-ticket items you’re interested in. Check out ConsumerReports.org or other sites for product reviews.

3. Make sure you’re really getting a deal. Is waiting in line for hours worth it if you’re just saving $20 on a TV? Visit Fatwallet, Walletpop, BizRate, and similar sites to get an idea of what your prized item normally costs.

4. Have a list and stay on budget. Don’t go rogue and try to buy everything you see. Know who and what you’re shopping for.

5. Pick the right shopping friend. You want someone that is like-minded, will talk you out of buying junk just because it is on sale and is supportive. Leave the kids at home, recommends MSNBC.

6. Dress accordingly. Dress for comfort. Wear sneakers, bundle up if you’ll be outside, and ladies, wear a cross-body purse or backpack to keep your hands-free. Keep an eye on your wallet and keep it tucked away so Sticky Fingers Charlie won’t ruin your day.

7. Stay calm and treat others how you’ll like to be treated. As a veteran NYC sample sale shopper, I’ve had people snatch items out of my hands, deliberately cut me off as I’m walking to an item, and generally forget their manners. However, I refuse to behave in that way. I always say please, thank you, and excuse me. I am extra polite in these situations because it enhances my shopping experience and I hope rubs off on others. Don’t lose your head—or dignity—over a bargain.

If I shop at all I am going online Thursday, Friday and for CyberMonday, which is just another shopping scheme to get me to part with my money. I am spending Thanksgiving in the very cold northeast in a hamlet of just 1,200 people and there is nothing that can drag me out of my warm bed the day after chowing down on Tofurky and stuffing.

Just so you know, many retailers are offering many doorbusters online Thursday and Friday. Don’t forget to fan/follow retailers on Facebook and Twitter because they often post special offers on those sites, says Michelle Madhok, founder of shefinds.com. Check out your favorite retailers’ site or the aggregators and have your debit card handy.

What’s your shopping strategy? How much do you plan to spend this weekend? Follow me on twitter and share your Black Friday shopping tips and dispatches from the shopping trenches.

Deborah Creighton Skinner is the editorial director at BlackEnterprise.com

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