Holiday shopping – and Black Friday shopping in particular – can bring out some wild urges. But with proper preparation and thought, it doesn’t have to get out of control.
Dare we say it? That day-after-Thanksgiving shopping marathon can actually be fun.
“My husband thinks I’m nuts, but I love shopping on Black Friday,” says Chicago resident Joan Manca, who has three daughters. “Me and the girls get an insanely early start and by dinner, we’re done. And I mean done. All of our Christmas shopping is finished.”
Manca says the day isn’t just for shopping. “It’s a day to spend time with my daughters,” says the retired teacher. “We go out for breakfast and talk and catch up. The shopping is a huge part of it, but the entire day is more of a holiday tradition for us.”
Still, Manca says she and her daughters plot out a strategy before heading out to the malls. “There’s no way I’d do this without a plan,” she says.
Kristyn Schiavone, a fashion columnist and author of “Career Chic for Young Professionals,” agrees. “If you go to the grocery store without a list, you’ll probably forget that you’re out of eggs,” Schiavone says. “Similarly, it’s important to do a little research before you leave the house. . . . Look through newspaper advertisements and stores’ websites and Facebook pages for specials and coupons – some are only promoted in one place.”
Map out your Black Friday money
Before you begin, set a firm spending limit for your total holiday shopping. Then, make a list of each person you’d like to get gifts for this season. If you’re not sure what to get someone, listen for casually dropped hints. And there’s nothing wrong with simply asking for suggestions, whether it’s from your gift recipient or people he or she knows.
Remember, though, the budget comes first. “Don’t do it the opposite way, which is make a list first, then figure out how much money you can spend,” says Eileen Gallo, co-author of “The Financially Intelligent Parent: 8 Steps To Raising Successful, Generous, Responsible Children” (NAL Trade, $12.95). Staying within your budget may mean doing a little strategic shopping, which includes using the Internet to research the prices of specific gifts on your list.
National Retail Federation spokesperson Kathy Grannis says Black Friday shopping can be especially effective, given the extended hours most stores offer. Throughout the holiday shopping season, shoppers can take advantage of early openings and late closings.
Grannis also suggests working with store sales associates. “Really, they’re there to help you, and even during busy times, they’re a great source for suggestions and advice,” she says.
The Black Friday Group effort
As the Manca family demonstrates, holiday shopping doesn’t have to be a solitary chore. Bring a friend or relative along to help you choose gifts, or turn a shopping trip into a family event by visiting a museum. “You take a family trip to enjoy the museum and get to make some progress on your holiday shopping,” says Gallo.
As related, the shopping family concept is exactly what the Manca women have been doing for years.
“Of course, it’s fun to buy stuff and get great deals, but you do have to deal with crowds and traffic,” she says. “That’s why it’s important to shop with people who can help you relax and who definitely have a sense of humor about the fact that you’re crazy enough to shop on Black Friday in the first place.”