Despite the chaos, I love going shopping on Black Friday. It's a tradition I've kept up for around 10 years now.
I first started braving the Black Friday crowds in high school, when my mother and I would head to our local mall to buy Christmas presents for underprivileged families. Even after I left for college and started living on my own, the warm memories of spending time with my mom while helping those in need made the pseudo-holiday one of my favorites.
Although my Black Friday shopping habits haven't stayed quite as altruistic as they once were, over the past decade I've learned several tricks to take advantage of the deals without getting overwhelmed by the pandemonium.
My No. 1 tip for a stress-free Black Friday experience: Don't get there early.
Unless you're trying to buy an item on massive sale that you know will be under-stocked, there's no need to be the first person in line. In my experience, nearly every retailer features the same discounts throughout the day, and those are available whether you burst in at 6 a.m. or stroll by around noon.
Getting a later start allows me to take advantage of nearly all the same sales, only with more breathing room, because by the time I arrive, my favorite stores have cleared out a bit.
Here are three other ways I make the most of the day.
The past few years, my best friend and I have spent Black Friday at one of the largest malls in the country. It's easy to get lost and even easier to become overwhelmed by the vast layout, so the first thing we always do when we arrive is map out the best route for hitting every store on our list.
While I'm still free to pop into any retailer that catches my eye, taking a few minutes to plan out a clear path from store to store helps me avoid the extra frustration of pushing through endless crowds in search of where I want to go.
Before I leave my house, I jot down a few notes in my phone about what I'm on the hunt for: a new winter coat, a birthday present for my brother, Christmas cards. Knowing what I'm looking for ahead of time helps me focus in on the deals that are relevant to me and block out the noise.
I always remember the adage, "You'll go broke saving." It holds especially true on Black Friday. Just because something is deeply discounted doesn't mean it's worth my money.
Having a clear idea of what I'm looking for keeps me from falling victim to impulse purchases simply because items are in front of me and on sale.
Attitude is everything. I've found that if I treat Black Friday like a fun day out, rather than a grueling exercise, it's far more enjoyable.
Stopping to sip a cup of hot tea or indulge in a few pieces of candy keeps me in the right mindset to appreciate the fun of shopping without getting overwhelmed by the massive crowds and long lines.
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