Braving Black Friday

By Kate Riley November 21, 2009

One thing I have never done is gone shopping on Black Friday.  Yes, it’s true.  Traditionally, my family is recovering from the tryptophan, and then we manage to consume another round of leftovers, only to “drag” ourselves to a few wineries on Friday afternoon.  I typically do most of my shopping locally or online, especially when I see those words “Free Shipping”.

This year will be a little different.  We are entertaining some out-of-town family next week, and they really want to go to Union Square in San Francisco on Black Friday to shop Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and see the annual lighting of the Christmas Tree.  I’ve always been a little afraid to brave the stores the day after Thanksgiving, despite the amazing savings available. However, there is no escaping it this year. 

When my friend Amanda over at Serenity Now mentioned that she always goes shopping on Black Friday, it prompted this guest post.  I’ve picked up a few helpful tips from Amanda on life, mothering, and now Black Friday shopping.  I hope you will too.

Here’s Amanda:

Hi there! My name is Amanda, and I write a little blog called Serenity Now to hold onto the thin sliver of sanity that I have left. I hope you might stop by to say hello. I stay home with my two cutesy little girls; but I love being crafty, reading, thrifty decorating (bloggers like Kate are helping me in leaps and bounds in that department), entertaining, my DVR, and shopping.  Due to family politics, I can’t tell you where my family will be spending Thanksgiving this year, but I can tell you what I’ll be doing the day after Thanksgiving. I will be frolicking with the bargain-happy masses, participating in Black Friday shopping.

What’s Black Friday?

Please, let me enlighten you. The day after Thanksgiving is usually a huge day for retailers, who tend to bend over backwards to get customers in their doors so they can make a profit, or be “in the black.” Some people love to shop on Black Friday to save money on Christmas gifts. While that’s certainly a plus for me, I tend to fall into a state of complete and utter bliss when I survey Target’s finest wares and hear the cheery Christmas tunes they pump out over the loud speakers. I’m a sucker for commercialism, it seems.

Here are a few tips to get you through the day if shopping isn’t your favorite thing to do and you’re braving Black Friday out of necessity. If you’re a shopaholic like me, who doesn’t mind the crowds, then these ideas will just be icing on the cake to help you have a successful day.

Have a Game Plan– I keep a printed list of family and friends I want to purchase gifts for in my wallet, with ideas for each person. As I purchase an item, I cross it out (making sure it’s still readable when I wrap gifts later on).


This is especially helpful on Black Friday, so you aren’t caught in the accessories aisle at Macy’s wondering, “Didn’t I already buy Aunt Mabel a green scarf?”

I was trained by some of the finest shoppers the retail world has ever seen, but the thrifty side of Christmas shopping sometimes eludes me, so I deferred to my friend K, who is an expert. Keep track of sales and coupons the week of Thanksgiving, either by perusing your local stores’ circulars, or doing what K recommends and checking out websites like or  

By comparing circulars to the sites’ listings of store sales, you can make a good effort to find things on your list for excellent prices. Some people don’t think it’s worth it to shop the day after Thanksgiving, but K told me she saves a minimum of $200 each year! I found some of the best deals on holiday décor at Target last year.

Not into the big box stores? That’s okay, Wal-Mart sometimes gives me hives too. The area I live in has a beautiful “Olde Towne” with cute little boutiques lining the main street.  Local shops like these have to compete with the big guys, and they often offer free gifts with a purchase or some other incentive for shopping there on Black Friday. At best, you’ll come away with some distinctive finds. At worst, you’ll miss the mad rush on the Barbie Jeeps on aisle 15 at Toys ‘R Us.


What Not to Wear- I love to dress in my cutest ensemble when I leave the house sans children, but Black Friday is not the day to debut your fabulous, yet painfully uncomfortable purple ruffle booties…unless you want to pop Motrin all day. That said, you don’t have to look like your three year old stylist dressed you. Wear something you know you’ll be confident and comfortable in. Nice jeans, a sweater coat, a cute pair of flats, and some statement jewelry will go a long way.

Bring Reinforcements- The conquest is so much more fun with friends or family. I loved shopping with my sister-in-law last year. We laughed at the frantic people standing in line outside of Target at 5:30 a.m. while we sat in the toasty car and planned our morning. That being said, some members of the family are best left at home, and by “some members”, I mean husbands and children. Unless you plan to do some shopping for the kids with your significant other, have mercy on him and let him stay home and watch football while your kids trash your living room. Listening to my children beg for crackers and Barbies and trying to keep them contained in a stroller or shopping cart as they try to escape isn’t really my thing, but if you’re up to it just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

kids collage Fuel Up– Black Friday shopping is an excellent excuse to indulge in some Starbucks (may I suggest the Peppermint mocha?) or a lunch out somewhere that does not have a playland outside the dining area. If stopping for coffee is not in the budget, bring your own in a travel mug with a snack or two in your bag. Just be sure to keep your energy up so you don’t pass out in the check-out line. Speaking of check-out lines….

Strategy– You can be more efficient with check-out if one person stands in the never-ending line reading the latest issue of People and the other scans the shop for any last minute purchases. Take turns so nobody gets bored. Another time saver? Instead of driving aimlessly around town and fighting traffic, plan ahead of time which stores you’d like to visit. If your shopping list contains “must-purchase” gifts, you may want to decide ahead of time which stores to hunt for those specific items. If you’re familiar with the area, try to steer clear of heavily traveled roads and take short cuts.

With a little bit of planning, you can survive Black Friday Shopping, and maybe even enjoy yourself. I’ll wave if I see you sampling lotions in Bath & Body Works.


Happy Shopping!

Finally, I wanted to say a special thanks to Kate for allowing me to post on her fabulous blog (no editing, Kate!). Her graciousness, creativity, and good taste make Centsational Girl one of the first (and favorite) links I click on each day. I’m honored to have her as a blogging friend!  I hope you’ll join me at Serenity Now soon. Coming up: a Christmas/Blogiversary Giveaway, Holiday Home Tours, Christmas crafts, recipes, and amusing stories of the things my children do to torture me.



A big THANK YOU to Amanda for taking the time to jot down her tips on surviving Black Friday.  She’s a pro!  I’m not so anxious now, having read her advice. 

Tell me, do you do any of your shopping on Black Friday?  Do you hit the big store sales or do you shop locally ?  I’d love to hear your opinion, and any great strategies you use to save money when shopping for your holiday gifts. 



  1. Embrace it!!! My sister and I have been going out on Black Friday for about 5 years. We’ve agreed to not touch a flyer (even early ones) before Thanksgiving night – when everything has been cleaned up and we’ve recovered and we’re waiting for the craving of a turkey sandwich. We fall victim to the crazy frenzied feeling, but it’s mostly an enjoyable day. As long as you’re not banking on that super deal for the one “must have” item of the year, it’s fun!

  2. This post made me smile — I’m one of “those members” of the family who doesn’t join in on the shopping. My sister and daughter LOVE LOVE LOVE black Friday and they will be in line at Target EARLY that morning. It’s a great tradition and one I’m glad that my daughter has with her aunt, but I don’t care for the crowds and the frantic buying. :o) Since they love it I’m best left at home so as not to crimp their style.

  3. I never shopped on black friday until I married my husband…his mom and sister are ALL about that day of shopping and finding great deals. It has become more fun then any of the money we have saved…and I will tell you this…had it not been for my mother-in-law with her “black friday shopping skills” and serious elbows, I never would have walked away with my cricut, extra cartridge and pull carrier for $100 3 years ago…she’s amazing!

    Have fun on your first time out…and if you are feeling overwhelmed…just stand back a minute…look around…and have a good laugh at the crazy people who are way too serious about it all!

  4. Cute post, I love it!! This year all the girls in my family are driving about 4 hours south to hit up a fab outlet mall for two days – the weekend after Thanksgiving! This post will definitely come in handy, I have no doubt!

  5. I have yet to brave the crazy crowds, lack of parking and general “Bah Humbug!”-ness that seems to dominate that day. My favorite time to shop is the after-Christmas sales: my family knows I can’t afford much, but my dollar stretches farther when the stores just want everything out of their stores…and it stretches the Christmas gift-giving time too, which makes the little ones happy!

  6. A TIP: If you’re braving with others, and your strategizing around the store, cell phones are great, but be prepared for the towers to be full/blocked. Use text messages and walkie talkes to ommunicate. LOL – if you use walkie talkies, be prepared to share a channel, and text messages will be on a delay, as they’ll get sent when the you can get out for that split second.

  7. Kate, I have to say I’m a bit jealous…For the first 25 years of my life I spent EVERY Black Friday in San Francisco! It is beautiful and a great way to get into the Holiday Spirit…especially if you don’t have a list of “must-haves” to purchase, but rather can go and just enjoy the busyness of that beautiful city. (I’m a little partial, as San Francisco is my FAVORITE city in North America!) Our holiday travels to my husband’s family don’t allow me this indulgence anymore, but I hope you’ll share pictures upon your return…I can live vicariously through you. Happy shopping!

  8. When my kids were still living at home, we went to Chicago every year for the weekend after Thanksgiving. Sometimes we would go up Thanksgiving night after our family meal at the in-laws. It was wild, crazy and the most fun. There used to be not only good prices, but just fun “extras” in the stores…cookies, autographed books, fabulous decorations…so fun. I don’t like stores like WalMart, KMart etc. on Black Friday…but the “good” stores…fun! It is the parking that sucks.


  9. Cute post…I love the craziness of shopping on Black Friday and all the weekends before Christmas too!

  10. Great post! Historically, I’m not one to brave the masses on Black Friday, either. However, there are a couple of things that I’ve been wanting for a long time (Dyson vacuum, new laptop), and I’m willing to give it a shot this year if it means getting a great deal. (And maybe I’ll even pick up some gifts for other people, in addition to myself. :)

    Good luck with your Black Friday endeavors!

  11. We go black friday shopping every year. This year, Target has the Dyson animal I’ve been wanting for years on sale for 200 dollars less than retail. Just don’t go to the Target I will be at, because I will throw some elbows for it! :)

  12. Yep! That’s the truth. I’ve shopped a lot of Black Fridays and I’ve worked a lot of them too. I prefect shopping…or staying home. There are great bargains. Just be ready for crowds and traffic. Go early, girly!

  13. God go with you, Kate! : ) I have never and will never shop on Black Friday. One year, not even thinking of the day, we went to an outlet mall not far from us ~ we couldn’t even get in the parking lot! We turned around and went home. There may be other reasons for going with family or friends other than the “great deals”, but I’m not a mall person to begin with and would rather shop in my PJ’s sitting on my couch and sipping my coffee.

  14. I love Black Friday shopping! And lucky for me, it’s a paid day off at my job. We pretty much do the same thing every year… head to the mall for JC Penney at 4 am and once we finish in the mall, we head to Target. My mother in law started at an outlet mall at midnight last year and then met up with us. Crazy!

    I get any and all coupons I have and could possibly use for any store I may visit that day. I keep them all in an envelope.

  15. i love black friday!! i’m usually not interested in the super super deals (the TVs, laptops, etc) as they’re just not right for my relatives, but i LOVE to hit the stores (especially Target) around 10 AM – noon. the earlybirds are already home, and the lazy folks are still in bed or sleeping off the turkey. :)

  16. Thanks again for the feature, Kate! :) Black Friday is not for the faint of heart. This year, I’ll be happy to find some bargains, but I’m really just looking forward to having some time in some stores without my children in tow. I’ll really be able to browse. :) It’s all very exciting to me.

  17. Not having sisters nearby (Waah!), a friend and I often shop Black Friday – but we don’t really TRY to get a bunch of Christmas gifts. We go out and enjoy the bustle, shop for ourselves, and have girl time. When you don’t feel pressured to get such and such a something from some where for next to nothing, it takes the stress out and leaves only the fun!

  18. My mom and I used to go out for Black Friday, but only to small boutique style stores or the mall, never to Target or another “big box” store. It really was fun and we enjoyed the hustle and bustle. If it was too crowded somewhere, we moved on. Enjoy your day with your family!

  19. Well, up here in Canada we don’t have black Friday, but I usually do try to get out on Boxing Day (our retail equivalent).
    I often head out the day before and scope out my “must have” items. I want to see if there are enough to make it worth my time to go there the next day (if there’s one left, probably not).
    Its also good to know people. If you have friends working at a particular store you can sometimes get them to put aside items for you. Or heck, if you happen to work at the store you can (as a previous Starbucks employee I have taken advantage of such a thing. Perhaps not company policy, but I was often the first person in the door anyway).
    I also plan my route, or plan it around the main stores I want to go to. Here where I live, we have West Edmonton Mall, which boasts around 800 stores, so I can likely find everything I want in the one place. We also have a large outlet mall, so I generally go to one or the other, rather than just one individual store.
    I love the rush, and heck, you can’t beat the prices! Have fun!

  20. I am always going to at least one store on Black Friday for something. I try and get there when they first open if it’s a HOT item. I make my list by store so I don’t forget to get anything and I can get in and out quickly!

  21. I’m with Amanda…Black Friday is a tradition for me and my 3 sisters. I love the hustle and bustle and crazy Christmas atmosphere of it all. I already have my list ready to go. the black Friday sites where you can view the ads early are awesome…I highly reccommend making your list and game plan ahead of time!

    Happy shopping

    p.s. the other Amanda is one of my besties…her blog is awesome and hilarious and you don’t want to miss out on the fun you’ll have there. so check her out!

  22. I love shopping BF it’s the best! but only if you go with people you like. alone it sucks! We go and hope we get what we want have fun watching crazy people (because of course we are not crazy) and then go out to breakfast afterward! And you do get quite a rush for “getting” that good deal!

  23. You know, I typically work on Black Friday. I work at Wal Mart. This year, they didn’t schedule me until 4 pm!! I think I’m going to brave the masses and go out this year. There’s really not too much that I need…I’ve been shopping since June! AND I’m making a LOT of my christmas gifts this year. The hubby is the only one I’ve got left to shop for, and Wal Mart is putting a TON of their DVD’s/Blu Rays on sale…so I’ll be snatching some of those up. We’ll see if I survive, being a customer, this year! :P

  24. My mom and I always go shopping on Black Friday. This has been a tradition of ours for years. For the past few years, we’ve planned ahead and gone to sites like (great for non black friday ads too! great Target clearance area!) to get our list started. Amanda had great advice. Put simply, plan ahead and be prepared to wait. :) Hope you have a blast!!!

  25. In my teens and early twenties while making my way in life I worked as a cashier at Mervyn’s, JCPenney’s, and Macy’s. I have witnessed women actually coming to fisticuffs over a purse, couples screaming at each other and their children, thiefs knocking down grandmothers to take their purses all while “Silent Night” played sweetly in the background. It took everything I had to remind myself what the spirit of the season truly was.
    But the number one reason I make a tremendous effort to have my shopping done by the middle of October is that I can recall at each and every store I worked at that we would reticket the merchandise by raising the price oh 25~35%. Yep, big savings for you.
    So this black Friday I will once again steer clear of the mayhem and say a sanity prayer for all the brave workers one of whom will be my daughter. And of course the shoppers.

  26. I won’t be shopping this Friday but thanks for all the tips just incase I wonder out. It is suppose to be cold and some snow flurries so I don’t think I will be out of my pjs that day. Have fun.

  27. My husband and I got up at Way Too Early and shopped Black Friday once. Never again! Too many amitures out on Black Friday. It was like the running of the bulls, I barely escaped with my life and a breadmaker.

    I stay home and shop the on line deals. Then I justify paying the extra to have them wrap it and have the item shipped to out of town relatives instead of to me, so I can turn around wrap it and ship it to them. Easy!

    I also shop year round. If not for actual items, then for ideas. I found out one family lives down the street from their city pool which is being renovated into a mini waterpark. They’re getting a membership as a family gift. Score!

  28. I went to my first BF with my sister to Toys ‘R’ Us just after it had opened (I didn’t know about getting there early). I will NEVER go there again on BF. The line was wrapped completely around the inside of the store and frantic mommies were everywhere – we were 18 and 20 at the time so it was pretty scary ;-)

    I don’t know yet if I’m going this year. My husband’s family got me started a few years ago, so I go with them. We assign each other locations within a store and one person stands in line. A list is definitely needed. And for all the Starbuck’s fans, they opened at 3am last year so you can get your early energy fix.

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