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How I prep for Black Friday

Trent is making a list -- and sticking to it.

By Karen Datko Nov 19, 2009 12:14PM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.


Thanksgiving will be upon us in a week, immediately followed by Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. Black Friday is often the day that pushes retailers over the line into profitability for the year (from the red to the black), hence the name. Naturally, since it’s the day following Thanksgiving, many people have the day off from work, and many will use it to get started on their holiday shopping.

In order to get customers into the stores on Black Friday, many retailers offer enormous discounts on a handful of specific items. These items are often sold at a loss in order to simply get people into the store, because the logic goes that once customers are in the store, they’re likely to buy other things. Plus, it provides some positive word-of-mouth promotion for that retailer, as people will talk about where they got enormous bargains that day.


As a result, many retailers heavily advertise their Black Friday sales in the week or two leading up to that day. Web sites proliferate online, tracking the bargains to be had.


And, through it all, the big goal is to whip consumers into a buying frenzy.


Such a frenzy is bad news. Getting caught up in Black Friday just to get deals on stuff you and those on your list don’t really want or need is a sure way to watch your money float away.


That’s not to say that Black Friday can’t be useful to someone with savvy. It certainly can.


Here’s exactly how I handle Black Friday.


I carefully make a list before looking at the fliers. In other words, I already have my Christmas list in hand. I know who's on my list, how much I’m spending on each person, and I also have a few ideas for each person to help me shop.


Beyond that, there’s often a specific item or two I’m looking for for myself. This year, for example, I’m looking for a replacement laptop. The ol’ frugal laptop has served me well for quite a while, but it’s suffering from a number of hardware issues. So, my eyes are open for a replacement, probably a middle-tier Windows 7 machine capable of photo editing and a bit of gaming.


Thus, before I even take a peek at a Black Friday flier or Web site, I know exactly what I’m going to be looking for.


Next, I use the Internet to view lots of fliers at once and compare them. My preferred Web site for doing this is, but there are lots of them that provide a similar service.


Why do I do this? First, browsing through lots of ads online -- because they’re usually just lists of items -- cuts down on the impulse-buy possibilities. I’m not sucked in by intriguing pictures of items I’m not interested in buying.


Second, Web sites provide tons of sale lists to me at once. Instead of having to dig through lots of newspapers on Thanksgiving Day, I can just visit a Web site and get all of the details I want in one spot.


I come up with a plan of attack. I’ll usually identify an item (or two) that has a good price and matches something I’m looking to give as a gift. On Black Friday, I’ll get up early and visit only those stores, and when I go, I’ll take a list for each store and get only those items. Everything else is just a leech on my wallet.


I’ll check online retailers a few times on Black Friday. Online retailers, particularly, offer all kinds of sales throughout the day on Black Friday (and sometimes even on Thanksgiving Day). I’ll check these a few times, looking for items that are on my list.


The big rule for all of this is simple: Unplanned buys on Black Friday (or any day) are usually really bad ideas. Step back and think about what you’re buying and you’ll find value on Black Friday. Dive in head first waving your credit card like a mad man and you’ll come out of the day with a bunch of stuff you don’t need -- including some fat bills.


Related reading at The Simple Dollar:

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