Survival guide to Black Friday week

Black Friday shoppers rush into Best Buy 2010

The much anticipated Thanksgiving week has arrived. Get the aspirin ready if you’re travelling or planning to shop. Put the scale away and get the beer ready if you’re planning to be lazy and watch some football and eat. Don’t expect the hype over the shopping season to end next week. There’s a lot at stake this year for retailers, so  there will be sales throughout the season.

While we typically think of Black Friday as the shopping day after Thanksgiving, the unofficial holiday is getting redefined. Call the new shopping deals on Thursday whatever you want — Gray Thursday, Black Friday Creep, or Black Thursday.  No matter what you call all these deals, here’s a shopping survival guide:

1. Black Friday is really a week or month-long tradition
Much of the focus is on the Thanksgiving Day sales, but really they start Monday. Many retailers will tempt you with deals leading up to Black Friday aka Thanksgiving, so be on the lookout.

2. Don’t just line up – log in
Just as many amazing deals will be offered online as in the store. If you’re like me and hate the crowds and lines, just log into your computer. Start on Monday and keep looking. The deals online will last throughout the season, but they’ll be big especially this next week culminating with Cyber Monday a week from today.  Don’t forget to check Thanksgiving morning. That’s when many dealhounds grab their discounts.

If you shop online, log into Ebates first so you can earn cash while shopping. Click here to read more about earning money while you shop

3. Expect surprises at Walmart
Protests are planned at more than 1,000 Walmart stores. While it doesn’t appear any are planned in Cleveland at this time, that could change. There is one planned in Cincinnati.

Even if there’s not an organized protest, there may be chaos in the aisles. That’s another tactic being used by some protesters.

I don’t expect massive disruptions across the board, but the protests seem to be gaining momentum so I think there will be some disruption to service at some stores. I don’t think you need to rearrange your shopping plans because of this, but just expect a surprise or two at Walmart. Who knows what’s going to happen.

4. Skip Gray Thursday shopping and shop early Friday morning
I think the turnout for Gray Thursday shopping will be bigger than ever. It’s much easier for customers to shop at 8 PM rather than 4 AM. With the Thanksgiving night shopping, nobody is fighting the alarm clock. People typically relax and eat on Thanksgiving, so by 8 PM people will want to do something and get away from the relatives. I expect big lines on Turkey night and people will shop til they drop.

By 2 or 3 AM, I think the shopping will taper off as people get tired and go home to sleep having spent thousands of dollars already. I think the best time to shop will be between 3 AM and 10 AM. If you don’t want to get up in the middle of the night, hit the stores at 7 AM. That’s a reasonable hour. You’ll have at least three hours to yourself to put a dent in your shopping.

Of course, if you wait you miss out on the doorbusters. Some stores are not even opening until 5 or 6 AM on Black Friday so you may still cash in on deals depending on what you are looking for this holiday.

5. Avoid Best Buy and Walmart if you don’t like lines
A sleeper in all of this holiday mayhem may be Target. The store opens an hour after Toys “R” Us and Walmart which may keep the lines short. Typically, I don’t see people lining up at this store. I think that will be the same this year because shopping begins an hour earlier at other retailers. People will be waiting in line or grabbing their deals at Walmart and Toys “R” Us when Target opens meaning it could provide a stress free shopping experience for you.

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