Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Your Black Friday survival guide

Don't just shop harder, shop smarter. Black Friday will be hectic, so here are some tips to ensure that your holiday shopping goes as smoothly as possible.

By Money Staff Nov 22, 2013 1:18PM

This post comes from Kyle Woodley at partner site Investor Place.


InvestorPlace on MSN MoneyWe've got it pretty good for Black Friday. You and I get 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent off gifts for friends and family (and, OK, occasionally ourselves), and all we need to give up in return is a small piece of our sanity.


Jewelry store © Baerbel Schmidt/Getty ImagesI kid, I kid … but Black Friday can be a pretty hectic day filled with stress, and even a little bit of danger.


So your smart play heading into the biggest shopping day of the year? A little bit of mental preparation, plus a little bit of awareness while you’re out and about.


To help you out, we've thrown together a Black Friday checklist to run through -- one that will help you save the most money, score you a little extra time, ensure your safety and keep you from tearing your hair out for the holidays.


Before you leave

Dress for success: Some of us will be shopping in sunny California, and others of us will be trudging through snow-covered parking lots to get into the mall. Either way, once you're indoors, it'll be nothing but plenty of walking or standing in cramped quarters. So wear comfortable shoes, and also make sure to dress light under your coat, unless you want to shop in a sweat bath. (Also check the weather -- if it calls for it, you might be looking for your most comfortable boots, not shoes.)


Know your friends/family: Whether you ask for lists ahead of time, or you know you want to surprise your friends, have as many specific ideas on paper as you can. Black Friday is a grab-'n'-go affair, and you don't want to be hemming and hawing while others are snatching the last 80 percent-off pea coat off the rack. Also, know clothing sizes in advance – the best Christmas gift is one you don't have to return.

Watch the clock: Compare sales papers (or for the technologically inclined, sales PDFs) ahead of time. Now that Black Friday is spilling over to create Black Thursday, retailers are throwing different "events," meaning a deal good at 6 p.m. Thursday won't necessarily be in effect once the 8 p.m. Thursday bonanza begins. Make appropriate notes on your shopping list and plan accordingly.


Identify the doorbusters: The devil’s in the details -- specifically, the fine print that says "ONLY 2 PER STORE" right underneath the giant, bold print that says "60-INCH HDTVs FOR 50 CENTS." Determine what deals are the most important to you ahead of time, and if they include any of these limited-quantity deals … well, start dragging the camping supplies out of the attic.


Case the joint: Because no one has created an infinite-capacity storeroom, there's technically going to be a limited quantity of everything. Improve your chances of success by knowing the layout of the stores you plan on hitting up for Black Friday, especially if you're going after doorbusters and other limited-quantity deals. It's hard enough to find what you want without having to peruse through human walls.


Plan a route: If you're not beholden to doorbusters, you can save yourself a little traffic hassle by planning out your route. Try to hit stores in a line, and use a paper map or GPS to suss out back-road routes. Time spent driving is time not spent shopping or relaxing.


While shopping

Save those receipts: If your gifts are 100 percent perfect year in and year out, then more power to you. But if you occasionally whiff, ask for gift receipts everywhere you go – then save them in a single bag or box. Save yourself the hassle of rifling through piles of shopping bags -- or worse, realizing they’ve been thrown out with the trash.



Keep tabs on your wallet/purse: No one is browsing on Black Friday, and ne'er-do-wells know it. Stay mindful of whether your wallet is still in your pocket. If you have a clasp or zipper on your purse, use it, and always keep it in sight while checking out or grabbing a bite to eat in the food court. You might consider RFID blockers to thwart more technologically advanced thieves, but keep in mind that Consumer Reports and other reviewers have pooh-poohed most RFID shields' efficacy.


Be ready: Have your credit card or cash ready to go by the time you're up at the register, and whatever you do, don't gab on your cell phone or get lost in texting while you're on deck. Yes, you're bored. Yes, you've been in line for an hour. But so has everyone else, so don't hold up the queue. (This is less about survival and more about courtesy, but if everyone did this, Black Friday would be a little more tolerable.)


If you're going to eat, eat early: Surprise, surprise -- when the whole world is out shopping, restaurants tend to fill up in a flash. If you think you're going to get a seat right away at noon, I've got a bridge you might be interested in purchasing. If you're even getting remotely hungry by 10 a.m., figure out who opens at 11 and be there at 11. Otherwise, you'll be enjoying that bench by the door.


Outside the store

Lock your car: Thieves take the path of least resistance. Much like simply locking your doors and windows at home can deter crime, so can locking your car. Of course, some criminals are brash enough to pull off the smash-'n'-grab, so …


Don't leave presents in sight: If you're looking out for the five-finger discount, are you going to break into the barren Jetta or the minivan with Macy's bags piled up to the headrests? If you said the latter, congratulations, you've got a criminal mind! (Just kidding.) But seriously, keep as many of your gifts -- especially the more expensive ones -- in the trunk. If you have a heavy shopping list, stow other gifts under seats, or throw a coat over a bag or two.


Watch out for black ice: A Three Stooges-esque spill in the parking lot might kill on YouTube, but it can also kill in real life. Many retailers don't take care of parking lots like they should, so just keep an eye on the ground to keep your keister from landing there.


Pay attention behind the wheel: Seems like common sense, but that's one thing people find themselves awfully short of during the holiday shopping rush. You will encounter more cars and people on the road and in parking lots than almost any other day of the year, and the last thing you want from Christmas is a fat insurance claim or date in court. Get yourself, your children and your husband's new iPad home safe.


More from InvestorPlace:

Nov 22, 2013 2:44PM

Let me give you the short version of this article:


Shop Online.

Nov 22, 2013 4:37PM
Nov 23, 2013 1:05AM
My survival guide: don't leave the house.

Nov 22, 2013 8:18PM
Watching people when stores open on black Friday, is like watching sheep going through a narrow open gate. Good entertainment from home on TV, while I shop online.
Nov 22, 2013 5:30PM

I have team of well-trained Oompa Loompas to help with my shopping and distract other people with songs and dancing. There is no way I am missing out on the 30th Anniversay Special Edition Chia Pet.

Nov 22, 2013 3:05PM
I do all my shopping for presents the last two days before Christmas and I get great deals without any  hassle.
Nov 22, 2013 6:52PM
He forgot the kevlar vest with a trauma plate and a .40 caliber Desert Eagle.
Nov 25, 2013 11:59AM

I'll be at home, thank you very much! But I would add to the list along with keeping presents out of sight, I would advise people to not stay in the same area once they loaded up the car/SUV with shopping the ne'er-do-wells are watching who goes back into the mall and will eyeball that car until it's time to strike.

Nov 25, 2013 10:49AM
Exactly, just stay home. There is absolutely  nothing under the sun that i need to purchase that is worth getting malled and pushed by a bunch of overweight hippos still drunk on turkey and dressing.
Nov 22, 2013 11:04PM

Here is my Black Friday/entire holiday shopping survival "guide" :

1- Bestbuy: Galaxy Nvidia GT640 pc graphics card model: 64TGF8HX6FTZ - $99.99 VS. Newegg: $89.99 w/$20.00 rebate = $69.99 net cost (free shipping)

2- BestBuy: Galaxy Nvidia GTX650Ti pc graphics card : $164.99 VS. Newegg: $136.99 w/$20.00 rebate & $3.99 shipping = $120.98 net cost

3- BestBuy: Thermatake TR2 600 watt pc power supply $64.99 VS. Newegg: $59.99 (Free shipping)

4- BestBuy house brand (Dynex) 6' HDMI cable: $5.49 VS. Generic 6' HDMI cable: $1.76 & 0.99 shipping = $2.75

5- BestBuy: Haier 32" LED 720p 60Hz tv model: LE32F2220: $279.99 VS. Camera: $239.99 (Free shipping)

6- BestBuy: PNY Nvidia GT630 pc graphics card model:VGGT6302XPB: $74.99 VS. $52.99 (Free shipping  or 2-day Prime shipping)

7- BestBuy: Toshiba Blu Ray Player Model: BDX2400: $79.99 VS. stop shop: $66.99 (Free shipping) *Sources:, & my a$$

Nov 25, 2013 7:47PM
If i had the money i would pass no thanks.

Even if i had a credit card!

Think while shopping before you plaster yourselves with that free spray of TOXIC PERFUME at MACYS!   Then you go out to eat and the POOR person sitting next to you has to endure that FOUL STENCH through out their entire meal!  Or the entire flight!  Some of us  don't like to wake up with the flu the next day because you bought us some HOLIDAY CANDLE or perfume as a gift!  Dead Presidents are nice!  FRAGRANCE causes cancer!  Hundreds of TOXIC CHEMICALS are in PERFUMES and candles!
Nov 23, 2013 12:22AM

The Hebrew Scriptures stated that only Jews can go to heaven and even righteous Gentiles (non-Jews) do not. Jesus of Nazareth was thrown out of the Temple for preaching against this policy and because he was angry that the Temple property was being used as a swap meet and flea market. When Jesus tried to start his own religion that was all-inclusive the other Jews plotted to have the Romans kill him and you know the rest. During his short life, he railed against those who made a living preaching because he felt if you are working for God you should take a vow of material poverty, not spiritual poverty. Today, it is the opposite. There is more Christianity and frugalness in secular Germany than in the whole "Christian" United States. Most Americans live a shallow life...they rarely serve their country, serve their schools, serve their neighbors. Most people don't even know their neighbors. Drugs and self-medication are epidemic. Why are Americans so depressed? I suggest living below your means, frugally, and slowly improving your status without taking on debt. This means zero stress in your life and more time to enjoy the true message of Christmas: that people are so incredibly gullible that they would spend everything to prop up a Jim Jones just so someone else could make life's decisions for them. Barnes and Noble had it right: the bible is the greatest work of fiction ever produced by the British for King James I.

Nov 23, 2013 12:28AM
WWJD? Would Jesus approve of the commercialization of his birthday? Absolutely not! A true Christian serving God in his time was expected to give up his worldly goods and money and take a vow of poverty serving God. Not wear $3000 suits, drive a Bentley and live in a mansion like many of these frauds on television. Retail sales during Christmas are an abomination. Why not a Hannukah sale or a Ramadan sale? Get it? Christians are clueless.
Nov 22, 2013 2:47PM
I have never heard that locking your car door deterred crime.  Most criminals check to see if your doors are locked and then if they find them locked, they smash your window.  My advice is that you should leave your doors unlocked and leave nothing in your car, NOTHING.    Some car burglars don't check to see if the doors are locked and just smash, in which case, it wouldn't have made any difference, and some might have gone away finding them locked, but the point is, that if they found them locked, you end up with a really expensive broken window or jimmied lock.   Why not just follow the simplest rule of all?  Leave nothing in your car.  Nothing!  nothing in the glove box, nothing under the seats, and nothing in the trunk. 
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.