More than 225 million people went shopping on Black Friday last year, or more than two-thirds of the U.S. population. Understandably, the day can get a little hectic, or in some cases, downright crazy. As with many things in life, the best defense is a good offense, and on Black Friday that means having a plan. The idea is to get in and out of stores quickly by knowing exactly what you want, where you're going to get it, setting priorities, and preparing accordingly. Here's how to prepare:
1. Research Sales Ads. Since most Black Friday ads have already been posted online, schedule time to review them with a list on-hand of who you need to buy for. Cautiously consider doorbusters, as most sell out quickly, and establish an alternate gift choice for the intended recipient in case they do sell out. Keep in mind, doorbusters may require camping out in long lines before stores open, and be prepared to miss out in spite of that. You may be better off avoiding doorbusters and instead getting in and out of stores quickly once the mayhem has passed.
2. Create a Detailed List. If you haven't already finalized your list, you may get inspired when looking at sales ads. Create a detailed list before you head out or hop online to shop, and ideally you want to set individual spending limits to keep expenses under control. This ensures you can afford gifts for all recipients on your list and won't face devastating credit card bills once the holiday is over.
3. Check Prices Online. Cross-check Black Friday deals against the same items on Amazon and eBay. You may be surprised, but often you will find a better price online, sometimes with shipping included. Many online retailers waive shipping fees after your total purchases reach a certain level. Online shopping can not only save you money but can save you time and reduce stress.
4. Plan a Driving Route. Once you've finalized your gift list and know what you're buying where, plan a driving route to correspond with store openings and must-have gifts. Traffic jams at 6 a.m. on a holiday may seem improbable, but they do occur. Minimizing the time you spend on the road means you'll be able to get home faster and out of the madness. Consider packing snacks and bottled water in the car to avoid paying for expensive sustenance out.
5. Use Apps to Verify Deals. If you own a smartphone, use it to make sure you get the best price on purchases. With RedLaser, for example, you can scan the barcode of any item you're interested in to see if a nearby retailer has it at a better price. If you find a better deal, consider whether interrupting your diving route and game plan is worth the extra savings. RedLaser also conveniently provides driving directions to each deal.
Final Thoughts. The objective is to get in, get out, and get done with as little stress and expense as possible. But that doesn't mean you can't have fun in the process. So consider bringing a friend. After all, waiting in long lines with someone you know is definitely preferable to going it alone.
How do you stay organized on Black Friday?
David Bakke considers himself a smart shopper and always looks to save money on the best Black Friday deals. He shares his experiences and tips on MoneyCrashers.com.