You may not know this, but I grew up in the Midwest. I was born in Wisconsin, moved to Minnesota when I was six, moved to Iowa after high school and then three years ago my husband and I moved thousands of miles away from our family to a place called Yakima. Where I grew up Black Friday was serious business and you had to be a careful planner willing to do unthinkable things to get electronics for a steal.
Some of my favorite memories are of my mom, sister and I standing outside Best Buy in the middle of the night, bundled up (we were in Minnesota, after all) waiting in line. They used to hand out Geek Squad t-shirts, Krispy Kreme donuts and Caribou coffee to the faithful. Since this took place before cell phones we each had a walkie talkie and a game plan. When those doors opened we divided and conquered. Our family got our first DVD player on a Black Friday sale! My dad used to ask my mom how she could stand in the freezing cold in the middle of the night just to get a deal and she turned right around to ask him how he could sit in a deer stand in the middle of the night in the freezing cold just to get a shot at a deer!
As an adult I have continued the tradition, going out in the wee hours of the morning to stand in line in the freezing cold to score a deal. My husband even got into it one year when our son was only a week old and there was a video camera he really wanted. He had no choice but to go because I definitely wasn't! When we moved to Yakima I faithfully got in line outside Target our first year here to score the deals I wanted. In the three years I have gone out on Black Friday in Yakima I have gotten everything I wanted and then some. I don't think Black Friday here quite meets the insanity I grew up with (unless you're going to Toys R Us...that place is ca-razy the day after Thanksgiving). In fact last year I woke up in the middle of the night to buy a blu-ray player from Walmart.com. Our second son was only a couple of months old and I didn't want to get up in the early morning and stand in line at the actual store because I was so tired. I got the blu-ray player ordered and in the morning our family headed to see what was left at the West Valley Walmart. We were shocked to see an entire stack of the exact blu-ray player I had ordered sitting in one of the aisles. I could have avoided ordering online altogether and just picked one up!
Many of you are wondering if the deals are worth it, what it's like out there and which stores to go to. There are other bloggers who feel very differently than me and don't think Black Friday is any kind of savings at all. Angela from The Coupon Project is especially vocal on this topic. She has a lot of great points but I find Black Friday to be overall worthwhile and I'll tell you why now.
It is very possible to get snookered into buying something you don't need for a price that you can't afford which is why you have to be extremely careful when making decisions. The AWESOME thing this year is that many stores are voluntarily releasing Black Friday ads far in advance so we have some real time to plan instead of sneaking around and reading leaked copies of the ad online. Make a plan to purchase things that you have already been planning to buy and make sure that it really is a rock bottom price. At this moment there is a 13" Daewoo television sitting in my living room. No, this isn't a joke and you can stop laughing any time. We have a Bible Study that meets in our home and 12 adults are trying to watch a video series off of the 20 year old television that used to sit in my grandparent's motorhome. If that isn't a good reason for a new TV, I don't know what is! We have been watching TV prices for a couple of months now and feel confident that the Black Friday prices are going to be the absolute lowest we can get. KNOW what you're getting and stick to your list so you don't spend more than you should. Have a budget and be ready to put something back if you know it will cause you to go over.
Things aren't too crazy in Yakima. Stores will definitely sell out of the most popular items at the best deals but if you get to the store before they open I think you're likely to get what you went for. A reason many people don't feel Black Friday is worth it is because you don't know if you'll come home victorious. I think this is only a problem in our area if you try to come a little while after the store opens. This is going to sound crazy but the further you get from downtown, the less people shop at those stores on Black Friday. If there is another location of the store you're going to, try to stay to the west in town.
You have probably heard people heralding the ability to shop online now and stay in the comfort of your home. I tried this last year since my son was so tiny and not only was it confusing, I had to pay shipping! There are exponentially more stores online and it's hard to keep tabs on which one is the lowest for each item you're getting. Many stores don't release the sale until the middle of the night and the prices change on sites like Amazon and eBay. Not to mention the fact that if you go to the store you're fighting a crowd of dozens whereas online you're fighting a crowd of...who knows how many. Thousands? Millions? Especially if you're shopping a big box store's website. They sell out so fast, a slow Internet browser may cost you the ability to get your item. I like the idea of buying locally, even if it is at a national chain store.
Black Friday gives you the ability to save up. If you know that you're going to go out on Black Friday annually, you have the year to save ahead and plan. If an item goes on a great sale in the middle of the summer you might not have the funds to purchase it but if you're saving and budgeting throughout the year, you can shop guilt-free and without that plastic stuff come Black Friday.
So the sum of my advice is...if you're looking for a big ticket item, pay attention to prices and if the lowest is on Black Friday, make the trek to your local store while it's still dark out and take your place in line. And make it fun! Every year I'm on the phone with my mom and sister (who now do Black Friday two hours ahead of me) and get to hear the spoils of their quests while I'm waiting. It's a tradition, you know?
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