The day after Thanksgiving, traditionally known as Black Friday, is my favorite way to kick off the holiday season. The day is long and chaotic, but full of bargains if you know where to look. This year, it’s starting on Thanksgiving and looks to be crazier than ever!
That means you need to have a serious strategy if you’re going to be successful. My game plan starts in early November when the sneak peeks of store ads start trickling in to my favorite Black Friday websites.
I start with a list of people I will be gifting and start jotting down ideas. Then I compare my wishlist to the sale items. I include column for the sale price so that I can keep track of my budget and a Store column so I can plan where to shop.
The next part of the strategy is scheduling. Some stores are opening as early as 6am (Kmart), others begin Thursday at 5pm, 8pm, and midnight. You can map out the best route for your shopping based on the sale times and prioritize your most desired bargains so you don’t miss the deals.
Doorbuster items will sell out within minutes so plan to arrive extra early to be in the front of the line. Many doorbuster items are so limited that people will camp out for several days. Some stores will hand out tickets a few hours before store opening, so don’t expect to arrive at Best Buy when they open and take home a laptop.
Be prepared for a long night. I’ll start right after we eat Thanksgiving dinner and won’t stop until breakfast. That means I need a full tank of gas, an empty van (for all my purchases), snacks and layers of clothing, especially when I’m waiting outside for a store to open.
The final part of my strategy is teamwork. I always shop with my mom and sisters, with my brother and his wife keeping touch by phone all night long. This will allow us to spread out, when necessary, to hit more than one store opening. We can also take turns standing in line while the others finish their shopping.
It has become an annual tradition for us and one I have been counting down to for weeks! Will you be shopping this year?
A version of this post originally appeared on November 24, 2008.