I admit it. I am one of those crazy people who LOVES Black Friday. My mom and I have made it a tradition now to go shopping on Black Friday, and now Thanksgiving night. I don’t love that more stores are open on Thanksgiving and wish they would go back to 5 a.m. Black Friday hours (and that is plenty early for us!), but we eat early, so we do shop Thanksgiving evening, sleep, and then usually hit up a couple other stores in the morning. I do a lot of my Christmas shopping throughout the year, so Black Friday is my time to pick up a few last gifts and items to donate to shelters or to people we “adopted” for the holidays. I love a bargain, and if you do Black Friday (and beyond) right, you will certainly find a bargain. But how do you know if it’s a bargain, what to get and where to go?

The Basics:

  1. Plan way ahead. Scope out the ads well in advance. Stores publish them early on their websites and there are lots of Black Friday sites that post the links to the ads once they are available. Compare ads at each store to find the best deal for the items you want.
  2. Do your research. Once you find something in the ad you want, especially big ticket items, be sure it is actually a good deal by price checking a couple sites before Black Friday. Also be aware that some stores are able to offer those low prices on TVs and computers because they strip off some of the extras you would otherwise get on that model (at a higher price) that you may or may not need, so be sure to check the details carefully.
  3. Make a list and plan. Once you’ve scoped out the ads, figure out where you want to go. Check the hours for each store. Some stores stagger or limit the hours for their big deals, so be sure you are going at the correct time. Some stores also start their deals online early, so you may be able to score a deal without even leaving the house. Plan your trip out so you can get to the stores you really want to go to as close to the opening time as you can. Get there plenty early for big ticket items as many stores actually give a ticket or wristband to people in line to guarantee the product until they run out. Write down all the things you want at each store and take the ads with you so you can ask employees direct questions about the locations of the products. If you go with someone else, perhaps plan together to divvy out the shopping list to get in and out of stores more quickly.

So now you know how to do it, where should you go and what should you get? Well, of course it depends what you need and want, but these are my favorites every year.

  1. AmazonAlright, not a brick and mortar store, but Amazon does do many awesome sales around Black Friday and often ends up matching prices some of the big box stores, so it’s worth scoping out. A lot. Find a couponing/deal blog you like, and they will often post the hot deals. 
  2. Pharmacies: Yes, I know this may strike many people as odd, but CVS and Walgreens are my favorite around Black Friday. You can get items really cheap or even free after rewards they offer. Even if it’s not items that you typically need, they can make for great items to donate to various organizations in need all year, like the Humility of Mary Shelter or the Riverbend Foodbank. They often have good toy deals to pick up for Toys for Tots. Some of their big deals actually start a few days before Thanksgiving. 

    I only paid for the iTunes gift cards two years ago at CVS and Walgreens! Everything else was free after coupons and rewards!


  3. Walmart: I know Walmart is the place of Black Friday horror stories. But honestly, the Quad City stores seem to have their act together and I’ve had no problems, but I don’t usually go for big ticket items. What I love about Walmart is some predictability; I can count on Walmart for awesome annual deals on bed sheets, towels, picture frames, kids pajamas, movies, video games and CDs. This year Walmart is increasing its online inventory and is pushing more usage of the Walmart app.
  4. Target: Well, Target is my favorite store any time of the year, so Black Friday is just a bonus. They offer free gift cards when you purchase some of the bigger ticket items, which is nice to have for shopping later. Check out their kitchen and household items for some nice offers. Target also seems to extend their Black Friday hot sales for a couple weeks by offering free shipping during the holiday season, awesome daily Cartwheel 50% off select toy deals, and a 10% discount on Target gift cards. 
  5. JCPenney: If you love wearing boots all fall and winter, you have to check out JCP on Black Friday. They offer great deals on all kinds of boots as low as $19.99, and I buy a pair almost every year for myself for my birthday. JCP bonus for me–my birthday is right around Thanksgiving, so I always get a $10 reward coupon for my birthday, plus JCP usually offers a coupon worth at least $10 when you come in the store, so I can get at least $20 off! JCP also usually has some good small appliance deals after rebates. 
  6. Kohl’s: Out of all the stores we go to, Kohl’s always has the longest lines. I’ve heard if you go in the wee morning hours, there isn’t much of a line, but we don’t pull all-nighters! Kohl’s Black Friday ad is always HUGE. From toys to clothing to electronics and small appliances, you really can find something for everyone at a great price. Plus, Kohl’s often has other coupons they mail out to valued customers that you can stack on top of the great prices! Become a rewards member and/or credit card holder to get the biggest perks. And, for every $50 you spend, you get $15 Kohl’s Cash to spend later, which is perfect to pick up some other gifts for free! 
  7. Bath and Body Works: Black Friday is the only day during the year that you can stack coupons at Bath and Body Works (meaning you can use several in one transaction as long as you meet the requirements of each coupon). If you are a regular BBW customer, you know they send plenty of coupons out in the mail and give them out in the store. I already have a few coupons I can use for for Black Friday on top of their awesome sale prices. I always buy enough foaming hand soap to last several months. They also have a V.I.P. tote with popular products for a low price.
  8. Menards: If you have some men to buy for on your gift list, you can’t go wrong with Menards. As one of the stores that continues to remain closed on Thanksgiving, you can score some awesome deals on Black Friday. They have great prices on tools and home improvement items. They also have several random deals that you don’t typically find there, like recliners and character comforter sets.   
  9. Small Business Saturday: Don’t forget to support local businesses! There are lots of local places who are taking part in this annual event. Check out their websites and Facebook pages to find good deals, as well as the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce Small Business Saturday Facebook event page.
  10. Cyber Monday: If going out and fighting the crowds isn’t your thing, then shop online! Many of the stores do lots of online sales in the days leading up to Black Friday, with another big online push on the Monday after Thanksgiving. So if you didn’t find what you needed already, now is the time to shop online with many stores offering free shipping.

Now start making your plan to find those Black Friday and beyond bargains!

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