7 Black Friday Tips to Know Before You Go

Editor’s Note: We asked Jenny from Formerly Phread to share with us her best Black Friday shopping tips because she goes every year. Yes, really. Originally from Western New York, Jenny’s famous for schooling BlogHer conference attendees in the Single Ladies dance, completing triathlons, and for making humans. Jenny leaves 5 kids snug as bugs in their beds in the wee post-Thanksgiving hours to hit the gladitorial shopping arenas in her rocky mountain home. 



In all the planning you’re already doing for this week, don’t forget to prepare for Black Friday.

You have to prepare?

YES. (Seriously, you guys. People die from Black Friday.)

I’ve experienced Black Friday shopping for many years and I have to say, there are certainly some things one should know about this adventure, whether it’s your first time, or an annual tradition.

One of our favorite comedians, Maria Bamford for Target's Black Friday



Many of your favorite stores will let you know extra early what the deals will be on Black Friday. Simply check out their websites to see if you can sign up to get the fliers via email, or if you can get the inside scoop via text.


Send someone out on Thanksgiving morning to pick up one copy each of any newspaper (yes, they still exist) you can get, both local and national. These will have several store ads with Black Friday deals, many of which will not be announced any earlier than Thanksgiving Day. Take the time to thoroughly sort the ads and set aside what you want, placing the duplicate ads and the newspapers directly into your recycling bin (you do NOT want the mess of strewn newspapers to distract you from your very serious studying and planning). Clearly mark the items you intend to buy from each of your saved ads, and prioritize them.

Make your plan: will you stand in line at the store which opens at 6:00 am to get that one thing you really want? Or will you first go to the store which opens at 4:30, get some great deals there and then have to take your chances on not getting into the 6:00 am store as soon? Know that people line up hours before the doors open, and you’ll have to decide if standing in the cold to secure your place in line is worth it.

If you do decide to wait in the cold, remember: it’s COLD. Bring blankets, hand warmers, cocoa, a book . . . standing outside of a store is exactly as exciting as it sounds.

**New this year: some stores are opening at midnight. This is a game-changer, and I’m eager to see how it plays out.


Especially if you’re going to multiple stores, make a list. You’re buying the television at Target and the luggage at Kohl’s, not the other way around, and if you forget these details you’ll waste time. Make your shopping list a combination of product priority and efficiency with how you’ll move through the store; if you’re not familiar with the layout of the store you’ll be attending, go a few days earlier so you don’t waste time trying to maneuver through aisles you should avoid.

Be familiar with what deals are available at which stores, even if you might not be purchasing the items yourself (see below, ‘Be Kind And Alert’). Doorbusters are deals offered to get people to enter the store early, but be aware: quantities are limited. Sometimes rainchecks are available on certain items. Read the fine print on any ads.


This might seem obvious, but it might be the most important part of your shopping experience. If you take your time you could find yourself, as I did one year, waiting two hours to reach a cashier. Obviously, the sooner you’re into the store, the sooner you could be out of the store, but hurry before the lines start forming and reach the back of the building (and beyond). This is why it’s so important to plan ahead and know what you’ll be looking for at each store you enter. In your hustle, however, don’t lose your head: a few years ago, I was the third person to be checked out at a register at Target and found that the woman in front of me, in a hurry to get to her next store, accidentally left her debit card behind. Don’t do that.


Can’t figure out the logistics of being at two or three different stores at once? Team up with some friends. You can each go to a store with each others’ lists (give your friends a break, though, if they couldn’t get every single thing on your portion of the list), and then arrange to meet at your favorite breakfast place at the designated time to share stories and divide up the merchandise.


In my history of Black Friday shopping, I’ve been shoved, pushed, had things pulled out of my hands and out of my shopping cart, had grown women climb over my shopping cart, and had some pretty fierce swear words thrown my way. I find that the best way to respond to any of these behaviors, perhaps especially the swearing, is to look the offender directly in the eye, and offer a cheery and bold, “Merry Christmas!” in their face.

If you overhear someone lament that they just can’t find the Connect Four they saw in the flier, and you passed it on your way in, let them know, and point them in the right direction. Store employees will (hopefully) be readily available to direct you to the item you’re looking for; be certain to thank them for their help. Thank the cashiers, too.

And speaking of the cashiers, be efficient in the check-out line: don’t talk on your phone when your order is being scanned.


To some cocoa and a nap.


What are your Black Friday tips?

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Comments (16)

  1. Pingback: I Do My Christmas Shopping Online « « TodaysMama TodaysMama

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  3. Jen Galan 11/23/2011 at 10:25 am

    I went once. With Jenny. I am still in counseling for the PTSD.

  4. Betsy Trusel 11/23/2011 at 1:25 am

    This was a great post. I know Formerly Phread has been doing this for a number of years and has it mastered. Thanks for the hints.

  5. Erin Oltmanns 11/22/2011 at 9:10 pm

    That photo of Jenny is so lovely and these tips are awesome.

    I worked at The Gap in high school and college. Every Black Friday, I get up and thank my lucky stars that I no longer work in retail. 🙂

  6. Blue 11/22/2011 at 2:26 pm

    I have honestly never done BF before. Every year I just can’t get my head around the concept. But I’m considering it this year, so I’ve been looking online. Some stores (eg: Walmart) have a “Black Friday Store Map” on their websites…with dots to indicate where various specials will be during the sale. This is because they’re not always in the department that you’d normally find them in (guess they have to spread out the electronics into less-popular areas). So you’d want to know that in advance if you’re gunning for a popular item that’s going to go fast.

    Once my sister waited in line all night with two other adults for a cheap laptop. They handed out numbers so that there couldn’t be any cheaters/line cutters…and only one laptop per number. I don’t know if they do that elsewhere.

    Another thought that I wish I were savvy enough to have thought of: Last year on Black Friday, while we were all enjoying leftovers, my BIL mentioned that he and his wife had gone out at 4am and purchased up a bunch of hot shows that had recently come out on DVD. These were shows that were very popular, sold as boxed sets. Normally they were quite a bit more expensive, but apparently Target was having a great sale on a bunch of them, and there was no limit to how many you could purchase. So while everyone else was getting trampled trying to buy a laptop or TV, he pretty much had the DVD section to himself, and was able to get a whole cart full of these different boxed DVD sets.

    He came home and listed them on eBay, which was a breeze to do, and then every few minutes that day, he’d get a little alert telling him another one had sold. By the time I was having my leftover turkey sandwich, he’d made hundreds of dollars, totally risk-free because any that he didn’t sell he could just return to Target.

    Don’t know if that’s a helpful idea or not, but just thought I’d share it in case you can apply some variation to your own situation. Buying to resell with no risk on returning unsold items could be a key to making some money to purchase things you actually wanted to get this year.

  7. Carly 11/22/2011 at 2:18 pm

    I love your tips Jenny and I appreciate how seriously you take black friday! I usally go but am finding myself chickening out this year.

  8. Josh 11/22/2011 at 1:48 pm

    If you have an Old Navy credit card, you can get all of the black Friday prices ($15 denim, $10 sweaters, $5 fleece) on Wed (tomorrow!) or Thurs. Get the deals, avoid the mayhem.

  9. Sara 11/22/2011 at 12:15 pm

    My tip: I always ask a store worker, “What is the best deal you are offering?” I’ve been surprised at some of the answers and I’ve made quick decisions that have altered Christmas morning, always for the better!

  10. Steph 11/22/2011 at 10:56 am

    Jenny is pretty much my hero… for all reasons… Black Friday shopping included.

  11. Lucky Red Hen 11/22/2011 at 10:34 am

    When you’re done, plan a group wrapping party at a house where the children aren’t present. Do this the same day while you’re hopped up on the adrenaline from saving so much money.

    My mom would write a code on the bottom of the gift in pencil (usually on the tape, harder to see) for each of us then tag them Christmas eve after we went to bed. One year she mixed up the codes and I opened my brothers Transformer boxers and he got my Barbie training bra. Oops!

  12. Victoria @obSEUSSed 11/22/2011 at 10:30 am

    Great tips. I’ve braved it a few years. I was inside Fashion Place mall helping the media one year when they were the first to open at midnight. It was scary. We had to hop up on the wall in the food court to get out of the way of people running, screaming and pushing chairs and tables over. Now I prefer staying up until midnight and shopping online but I’ll send my husband out for the early morning deals. Someone has to stay home with the kids – although I have seen parents dragging their babies and toddlers out at midnight and early morning, standing in the cold for hours just to get the deals – crazy!

  13. Amy 11/22/2011 at 10:22 am

    You may also want to give your credit card company a head’s up too. i’ve had “holds” placed when I’ve been shopping online at 4 am, then in 3 stores far apart.

  14. Rachael Herrscher 11/22/2011 at 7:28 am

    My husband goes out all night long on Black Friday. His whole family gets nuts — all the while I’m snug in my warm toasty bed! I’m too scared that I might die on Black Friday! 😉

    • Shannon 11/23/2011 at 12:16 am

      Dude, that is the way to do it. No 4am for me, I am a midnight or bust!! You have to be rolling in at 4am, not rolling out!

  15. Shannon 11/22/2011 at 1:38 am

    Love these! I have headed out with girlfriends the last two years and am planning on doing it again. We have the best time!! Love Black Friday!!