Tales of a Black Friday...

Black Friday. Some people get it. Others don't. I don't mind though. That's one less person between me and the best deal of the year. You're probably surprised that I participate, given my aversion to mobs. And yes, I may get a little cranky because people don't seem to move as fast as I would like. But you may be forgetting one thing. I was practically born in a mall. Shopping is in my blood, and there is nothing my family likes more than a good deal. It's a bit like crack I would imagine--the rush you get from walking out of a store with a bag in your hand an knowing that you saved 50 bucks. And a good bargain hunter doesn't mean cheap, tacky or off-brand. A good bargain hunter knows how to find hot deals on quality product. And a true bargain hunter knows when to make sacrifices. Pre-dawn sales is just one of the many things we will do.

So what did I do? Where did I go? How did I get out alive...

Step 1: Plan Early, Plan Well.
Black Friday is not for the weak. We're talking 50-80% off of regular prices. So if you are going to run with the big boys you've better be prepared. It starts with an early morning thanksgiving trip to the grocery store. Why? Because one paper is just not enough. Every female in my family gets a paper. Including the dog. (Seriously. It's like cooking potatoes...g-ma says one for each person and two for the pot. You never know when someone is going to need an extra coupon.) My mother prefers to sort her ads be store type. This way she can look at all the electronics stores together, all the department stores, etc. Normally I would say she is crazy, but for a day like Black Friday, a little organization can make sure that you find the store with the best price.

Side note: If you are going to go searching for newspapers on Thanksgiving day be sure to turn off the sweet potatoes! We had a near catastrophe when my mom and grandmother left the potatoes on high and went to the gas station for papers. Why they both had to go...I'm not sure. But all of the street newspaper stands were sold out. My sister called me around ten to tell me that the house was full of smoke and the stove was sparking. My dad was in the shower...and she got the flames to go out, but just imagine if both of them had been sleep. The stupid smoke detector didn't even go off. Who knows where the dog was. Lesson here: don't be cheap and try to take two papers for the price of one out of a self-serve newspaper stand. Go to the store. And while you're there pick up extra sweet potatoes, just in case.

Step 2: Build an Entourage
It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes one to conquer the infamous door buster. Let's face it. The laws of physics do not change. You cannot be in two places at once. This presents a problem if you want to get high ticket deals at more than one store. An entourage/posse is the key to success. Last year I went to Best buy in search of some great deal...and was all on my own. I was doing well, stood in line, made it quickly into the store, find my item and then had to wait to check out. That's when disaster struck. My stomach started cramping up from the coffee I had drank at four in the morning. I was in desperate search of a bathroom, but I could not, under any circumstances get out of line. I tried calling for back up but my parent's had turned the ringer on the house phone off so that they could sleep undisturbed. I made it home...but it was not a pleasant situation to be in.

Aside from emergency situations, a companion has many advantages. One, it is a great bonding experience. You stand in line with friends, gossip, people watch...there is always something to laugh at. Once in the store...you send one person to the check out line and one person with the list...to gather the items. If you both go after things, you may have to wait an additional 30-60 minutes to check out and you certainly won't make it to the next store.

If you have a size able entourage, you can tackle multiple stores using this same strategy. The key here is having a list, staying mobile and always relying upon a cell phone. Once my mom and I had all of our packages at Circuit City, I left her in line and headed over to Target. I got her deals and mine and was in line by the time she arrived. With several people small groups can take on multiple stores. They can also give you a status update which can save you money, gas and a serious headache. Instead of having to go to a store that clearly doesn't have the one item you were looking for...you can head straight to the one that does. Even if your friends refuse to get stuff for you, just getting the scoop is priceless. You might find out that the smaller circuit city on this side of town is at maximum capacity and they are letting people in one at a time as others leave. With this in mind you can go to the larger store where everyone is getting though the door.

Step 3: Become Techno Savvy.
With WiFi all over the city, there is no reason you shouldn't tap into the power of the Internet, from finding the best black Friday deals before turkey day, to making purchases online...this is your biggest advantage to date as not everyone is aware of or recognizes the benefit. When I went to buy my plasma TV, I knew all of the deals that were going to be offered this week and thus knew that I could get the TV I wanted on sale last week for the same price and not have to deal with the lines. I also knew that at some places, like circuit city, they will reimburse you for any price decreases within 30 days of your purchase. So I could have gotten the 50 inch samsung TV for $999 last week and been reimbursed this week when the Black Friday sale came out. If you frequent the websites that post the ads in advance you can research your purchase and even buy some in advance.

You can also buy many of the same deals online without leaving your home on Black Friday. I know that many of the Walmart stores were out of a digital camera, but what several people didn't know was that the item was still available online. And now, several sites allow you to check the availability of any product at a given store. I was looking for a video game and I could see that the only store that still had some was in an area of town I did not want to go to. So i don't need to waste my time or feel stressed about visiting several stores in search of this deal. Especially if the store I am in has the product but at a slightly higher price.

So how did I make out. This year I only bought a handful of things. That's because I got the TV last week. I am so happy I did not have to try and fight those crowds today for a TV. I am glad that I knew what I really wanted. I got my TV for $750 and it is 42 inches. With the money I saved I got three new Wii games. What good is a TV if you have nothing to watch.

Bottom line is you can't get angry or depressed because you missed out on a deal. Think of it more as a lottery. Sometimes your odds are better than others. You win and you lose. But if you don't get in the game you will never win. Keep it fun, eat breakfast together. Dress in layers. Make fun of the sales clerk. In a few hours it will all be over.