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Black Friday shopping team

Have a shopping partner for Black Friday to score the most deals, like this mother-daughter team, Maggie Hensler and Laura Hensler.

My favorite shopping day is almost here: Black Friday. If crowds aren’t your thing, then Black Friday in-store shopping should be avoided, but you can still shop online. I like going to the stores, and I’ve never experienced any crazy customer behavior. I know that some stores have made Black Friday controversial by opening on Thanksgiving, and I do wish the stores would go back to opening at five in the morning, but I understand stores are looking to increase sales. My family eats early on Thanksgiving, so my mom and I continue our tradition of shopping Thanksgiving evening and Black Friday morning. After years of this tradition, we have figured out how to make the most of our shopping trip. It does take some planning, but it’s worth it to save big money.

1. Plan ahead

Start now. Make a list of some things that you know you would like to find. This year, I have a TV and a laptop on my list. Most years, I’m not in the market for those “big ticket” items, so I know I have to plan carefully. Many stores have already posted their Black Friday ads online, and the others will come in the next couple days. Once you have your list, start scouring all the ads for deals on what you want, and list the store and the price so you can find the best price and option. You really do want to look through all the ads because some stores stock products on Black Friday that they do not usually carry, so you never know where you might find a deal. As you look through the ads, also make a list of other items that you’d like to pick up for yourself, or for gifts. You’ll want to prioritize your lists from must-haves to nice-to-haves, so you know where to start your shopping.

2. Research now

Once you’ve figured out what you want, start looking online now to compare Black Friday prices and models. You want to make sure you’re actually getting a good deal, and that you’re getting what you think you are getting. Some of the really low-priced computers or TVs may not have all of the features that you want because the features have been removed to sell it at that low price. You won’t want to waste all your time standing in line only to find out the item is not what you really wanted and have to return it later.

3. Make a plan of attack

Lists are your best friend on Black Friday shopping, so also make one of when all the stores open. If you have a big ticket item in mind, you’ll want to be at that store prior to their opening time. Some stores will hand out tickets to guarantee those hot items to people in line to keep the chaos under control. I’m definitely not someone who will camp out for hours, so I’ll just take my chances and hope it’s available when I get there. Also look carefully at the times the store is offering the deals. Some stores stagger their deals, so some items might be on sale at opening, and some might not be available for a few more hours. Most stores also have a “doorbuster” sale end time on Friday morning or afternoon, so you definitely want to get to those stores prior to the sales ending. Some stores are starting their Black Friday sales online early in the week or after midnight Thanksgiving Day, so you might be able to cross a store off your list if you find what you want online.

4. Strategize

Black Friday is not the time to browse around. The more time you spend looking for items, the longer the lines will get. On Thanksgiving Day, make sure you pick up the special edition newspaper that has all of the ads in it. Bring the ad with you in the store so you know exactly what you are looking for. If you can’t find it easily, you can ask an employee and show them the picture. Shop with a friend if possible to divide and conquer. Either split your lists up and meet up at the checkout line, or if the checkout line is already really long, one person can wait in line with some of the stuff, while the other person grabs the rest of the items. Just be sure your cell phone is fully charged and the ringer is on in case that line goes faster than expected so you can get back to your shopping partner quickly.

Now that you have some ideas on how to plan and prepare, start making your lists, and read next week’s column for some store specific details.