If you are one of those people who likes to get up in the dark on the Friday after Thanksgiving and go stand in line, here's some survival tips for getting the most out of your shopping experience:
1) Get online before you get in line: Stop and think of the myriad benefits - no crowds, no lines, no need to change out of your pajamas. It might be a weird way to spend the wee hours of the morning, but you’re guaranteed not to get scratched, kicked or trampled. More retailers are going to offer online “doorbuster” deals this year, and you can take advantage of the time difference if you pay attention. Keep in mind that online deals take effect actually 3 hours earlier if you live on the West Coast. If there's something you really want to snag, snag it with the East Coasters at 2 a.m. instead of waiting until 5 a.m.
2) Check out the stores open on Thanksgiving: Honestly, Thanksgiving is a day for families to be together, not shop. But if you lack such reservations, check out the deals as more stores try to get your money early. This year, Sears, K-Mart and Toys'R'Us plan to open on Turkey Day and Walmart will open at midnight.
3) Don't kill yourself to be the first in line: Sure, stores want to see you scramble madly at the crack of dawn for their doorbuster deals but don’t give up if you don’t get up in time. By 8 a.m., many of those earlybirds have gone home and crawled back into bed. Meanwhile, the later shoppers are just getting dressed and preparing to hit the malls at 10 a.m. If you wait until 8 a.m. or so, you can find empty parking lots and walk into empty stores, where there are still plenty of deals to be found. Take advantage of this short window of opportunity.
4) Shop with a detailed list: There is no error for messing around here. You need to have your strategy in place. I know this tip sounds so obvious it’s stupid, but really we’re all so busy with Thanksgiving, you might forget to detail out the list. You’ll feel more in control and focused if you head out with a list of the people you’re shopping for, the gift ideas you have in mind for them and the target price range for each item. Otherwise, a shopping day like this one could be so overwhelming that you might fail to accomplish as much as you had hoped. Plus, the last thing you want to do is be grabbing things that you don’t even need or want. So have that list in front of your face and stay focused despite the frenzy of people pushing and swarming around you.
5) Get the Thanksgiving day newspaper: Again, this is a time for strategizing! You might be surprised to notice how many of the ads are time-sensitive — as in, deeper discounts may apply if you shop before 10 or 11 a.m. or noon. Other ads will let you know what time certain stores plan to open and close. It’s also crammed with discounts, deals and coupons that can help you create the aforementioned list. Remember to bring the ads with you. This way you will avoid any disputes over how much an item is supposed to cost on Friday. Having the ad also could come in handy at stores promising “lowest-price” guarantees – especially if you find lower prices elsewhere. Not sure if this works but it's worth a try - If a store is sold out of an item, take the ad to a competing retailer and see if they’ll match the price.
6) Be a savvy shopper: You can rise above the Friday fray by doing some homework in advance about products that really interest you this year – especially if they’re big-ticket items. Visit sites such as ConsumerReports.org — (if you don’t have a subscription, get one … it’s worth it!) —and About.com to gather intelligence and read product reviews before the big day.
7) If you must brave the crowds, be prepared: Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. This is not a fashion show, this is a dog fight for deals. Also, bring snacks. You don’t want to waste any precious shopping time looking for something to eat or drink so have some power bars and a drink in your purse. They’ll prevent you from having to endure low blood-sugar levels, dehydration or congested food courts.
8) Scope out the floor plans in advance: If you are really serious about wanting a particular deal, then it might be worth your while to find out exactly where it’s located ahead of time. That way, you don’t waste time bumbling around in a confusing big-box retailer like Walmart. Especially keep this in mind with Target and Walmart who have been remodeling a lot of stores lately to add more food.
9) Keep your receipt: A lot of retailers are now refusing to accept returns without a receipt, so don’t chuck it in the trash!
10) Have fun! You chose to do this so make the best out of it. Don't bring your kids. And choose your shopping buddy wisely. Think hard who is actually crazy enough to get into the spirit of shopping like this. To pass the time more quickly it never hurts to make friends with the people next to you in line. 'Tis the season to be merry!