Survive Black Friday

Planning to save big on gifts for friends and family by camping out at a major retailer in the wee hours after your Thanksgiving feast? If so, forget the leftovers, rethink your strategy, and while you’re at it, pick up a bow and arrow set. Yes, I said a bow and arrow set.

From stampedes that have led to trampling, fistfights, and gunshot wounds, Black Friday has become less about the sales than it has become about survival. If one hopes to score major savings in the coming weeks, one needs to prepare for a battle to the death (no pun intended).

Sales floors have started to mirror scenes straight out of "The Hunger Games" franchise, but with my help, along with expertise from Brad Wilson, the founder and editor of BradsDeals.com, a website that publishes coupons and deals from thousands of online and in-store retailers hourly, you'll make it out alive.

Listed below are some tips to help make sure the odds of getting through Black Friday unscathed, happy, and with deep pockets, are in your favor.

Step One: Those who are aspiring to purchase the majority of their holiday presents entirely on Black Friday are aiming too high. The first thing anyone should do before making the trip to a retailer the day after Thanksgiving is draft a list of items you want to purchase the most.

As Wilson explains, shoppers need not fret about missing out on certain sales. He says, “There's always a better time to get deals. December, for example, is the best time to buy toys. It should also be noted that most retailers offer very lucrative deals the last week of the year (right after Christmas) to offload any discontinued merchandise. My advice is to shop early (think Thanksgiving, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday) or shop late (the last week of the year).”

Step Two: Scour the Internet for leaked ads. Weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, sites like BFads.net and BlackFriday.com publish circulars from major retailers. How the websites obtain the ad scans before they’re officially published is a mystery, but for those that want to map out their Black Friday plans early, leaked ads can be a great resource.

Step Three: "Hunger Games" heroine Katniss Everdeen had a partner, Peeta Mellark, and you should too. Arrange for a companion to go shopping with you on Black Friday. This way, you won’t have to wait alone. By the time retail doors open, you and your partner can go separate ways to find products from both of your checklists.

Step Four: Plan to arrive roughly six to seven hours in advance to establish your place in line. While Brad iterates that stores like Best Buy “will always have the door-buster TV that inspires a few die-hards to pitch tents outside the store,” don’t be one of those people.

A tent has to be lugged around and if the tributes of the 74th "Hunger Games" didn't have one, why should you? With some hand and feet warmers, a thermos filled with soup, coffee, or hot cocoa, and good company, time will fly by. With a six or seven hour lead in the competition, you’ll be at the front of the line.

Note that in the past, retailers such as Target, Walmart, and Best Buy have rewarded the first consumers in line with vouchers that guarantee them the ability to purchase certain big-ticket sale items.

Step Five: Keep your eye on the prize. Prior to admission, most retailers will hand out maps marking the places in which the most-coveted items are located. Study this map, know your arena and don’t be deterred by sale items that weren’t advertised.

Step Six: Bring your print ads with you. If you’re willing to venture from store to store on Black Friday, more power to you. If not, most superstores will honor competitors’ prices. Brad says, “Most price matching policies call out Black Friday pricing in very clear and specific terms,” so if you’re unable to get a matched price, it’s surely worth a try.

While you may not escape the crowds or evade the misbehavior of fellow shoppers with the advice of this list, if you’re up for a challenge and are able to rack up the savings on gifts for loved ones or yourself this Black Friday, you’ve surely earned your title as victor of the Monger Games. Katniss would be proud.

For more from Brad Wilson, you can check out his websites BradWilson.com and BlackFriday.BradWilson.com. Find more savings tips for Black Friday and beyond on his YouTube channel at username: BradsDeals.

Follow Mitchell Nugent on Twitter @MitchellNugent

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