Never fear, your Guide to Winning Black Friday is here. Check out our best tips for planning, shopping and more, and you'll soon be sailing down the yellow brick road (or the highway to the mall) for some serious savings.
Follow, Download & Stalk1 of 12
First of all, we recommend getting an early start on Black Friday shopping–like really, really early. Why? By following all your favorite retailers on social media, and keeping tabs in the days leading up to Black Friday, you can gather some serious shopping intel. Sure, checking a few store websites is standard, but social stalking will put you at the head of the bargain-hunting pack.
Another genius way to get a jump on the best bargains is by downloading an app (or two or three). Apps including Retale, Shopular, ShopSavvy, DealNews, Flipp and more can be like treasure maps, with X marking the spot where your dream bargains are hiding. They key is comparing which apps feature the retailers and categories of goods that are most useful to you.
Make a List & Check It Twice2 of 12
After scanning through sites and social pages and basically every screen possible, it's time to make your list. Ask yourself, from the giant roster of holiday gifts on your family's wish list this year, which can be found for a steal on Black Friday? Which items are worth the trip to save big, and which are only meager discounts? According to WalletHub, the average Black Friday discount is 37 percent–but many retailers slash prices even more. Create your plan of attack, grouping items by retailer and retailers by neighborhood.
Budget Like You Mean It3 of 12
Next up is everyone's favorite task (not really)–budgeting. And, though it hardly sends the heart racing with wild anticipation, setting a budget for Black Friday is a non-negotiable pre-shopping to-do.
So, put a firm number to the amount you can spend on the big day. If in doubt of your own willpower, withdraw cash and leave your cards at home on Black Friday. Then, stick to the shopping list you created and resist all impulses to stray. Because nobody ever had a merry anything by going over budget and running out of gas money halfway over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house.
Leave the Little Ones at Home4 of 12
Older children can often prove valuable on a big shopping trip, maneuvering through crowded aisles like nimble elves and schlepping extra packages better than a team of reindeer. They can also keep secrets when it comes to holiday gifts. Little ones, however, are best left at home with milk, cookies and holiday movies. They don't see the fun in shopping just yet, and they're highly likely to spill the beans about everything you bought just as soon as you get back.
Fuel Up & Pack Snacks5 of 12
It goes without saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, on any ol' day of the week. That goes double for Black Friday. Before you head out the door, fuel up with a quick and nutritious breakfast like overnight oats, a yogurt parfait or avocado toast. And don't stop there–pack a few power snacks like nuts or granola bars for your shopping team to re-fuel when their tanks are running low. One glance at that mile-long line at the Cinnabon shop, and you'll be glad you did.
Charge Up6 of 12
Remember all those accounts you followed and all those apps you downloaded? You'll want to keep checking and stalking throughout the big day, so be sure to pack a car charger for your phone. Sure, some malls have charging stations, but those lines will be as long as the one to see Santa (and far less jolly). Best to bring your own juice to maintain your shopping momentum.
Clear Out the Sleigh7 of 12
And speaking of your power-cord-equipped car, you'll want to be sure and clear out the trunk and all available interior storage areas. This is especially important if your list includes such popular holiday items as televisions, bicycles, small furniture and awkwardly-sized baby goods. Ever tried to wedge a Pack-and-Play box between a car seat and a training wheel-strapped Huffy? 'Nuff said.
Read the Fine Print8 of 12
Don't let your Black Friday bliss get crushed by buyer's remorse. Before visiting any store, familiarize yourself with its return and exchange policies. When in doubt, don't drop your hard-earned holiday cash on any non-returnable item that might not hit the mark. Because, really, what are you going to do with a pair of hot pink fur-trimmed snow boots that someone just couldn't live without (until they decided pink was so last year).
Don't Forget to Shop Small9 of 12
Hot on the heels of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday celebrates the mom-and-pop shops, indie boutiques and neighborhood gems on every corner. As you're hurtling towards the hustle and bustle of the big day, make a note of any special gifts you'd like to source from a small business the next day (or any day, really). Think handmade candles, scarves, gourmet foods and even notecards from a local press. Not to mention, succulents from your favorite little flower shop are always handy to have on hand as gifts for holiday party hosts.
Save it for Cyber Monday10 of 12
Even the best-laid plans can run aground, and not through lack of trying. Black Friday may bring sold-out stock, unavailable sizes or certain gifts that just don't make it in your haul. There's always Cyber Monday. Like Black Friday, minus the need for gasoline, parking or pants, its deals can be had in a few clicks from the comfort of your couch.
Have Fun (or Cry Tryin')11 of 12
Finally, don't forget to pack a little extra holiday cheer when you head out on Black Friday. Even if you have to carve out some extra space for it next to your helmet, pads and Gatorade. We get it–shopping is a serious sport, and you're in it to win it, but the rules of good sportsmanship still apply. If, at some point, you find your temper heating up faster than a chestnut on an open fire, take a time out. You're only ever a few minutes away from moment of whipped cream-topped (or champagne-spiked) Zen this time of year.