Hot Deals: Surviving Black Friday

Though retail sales struggle all through the year, especially in the past two or three years, Black Friday officially kicks off holiday shopping season with one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

All we Americans need is a holiday or two, and we somehow jump on the opportunity to spend money we may not even have. The best thing about Black Friday, though, is that you really don’t have to spend all that much money. Perhaps that is what has made this tradition increasingly popular.

So why is it called Black Friday and what’s really the big deal about it? Black Friday originally was a term used to refer to the stock market crash of 1869.

The term shifted in the 70’s, when Philadelphia police used it to describe the traffic and shoulder-to-shoulder amount of crowds shopping in the city. It truly seems that in the last decade or so, Black Friday has reached almost a cult-like following, with bargain hunters planning and finding deals days, or even weeks, in advance.

It is now common to find high-end electronic items and appliances at nearly dirt-cheap prices. From cameras and camcorders, to laptops and accessories, to big screen TVs, and everything in between, you can find many items for up to 75 percent off the original retail price.

Don’t let stores such as Walmart, with their terrible stories of stampedes and trampling deaths, deter you from getting what you can out of Black Friday. In fact, in light of past years’ turnouts, Walmart has decided to stay open 24 hours to prevent a storm of shoppers arriving at any one time.

Here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your black Friday:

Plan ahead. Black Friday is not meant for window shopping or hunting for deals while you’re at the store. Most Black Friday ads are released online up to a month in advance. Or just check out the actual ads that come out on Thanksgiving Day. Find deals on items you truly need or trust that you can resell. Pick out certain stores and note opening times. Keep in mind that people start lining up many hours in advance, so if you’re counting on door buster deals, plan to be there early.

Don’t go alone. With the amount of crowds you’ll be facing, don’t make your task tougher by trying to find the item you want after you get there. Take at least two or three people with you and branch out. Of course, also work out a system of when and how to reconnect once you’ve found what you want to purchase.

Go for the big stuff. Sure, $1 for USB flash drives and SD memory cards is an enticing price, but make sure you only tough out the crowds if you’re truly aiming for a large item. According to pcworld.com, laptops and their newest hot counterparts, netbooks, will see some of the lowest prices ever, dipping below $250. HDTV deals for this Black Friday are seeing prices under $600 for 40 inches, and Target is offering $3 appliances like coffeemakers and toasters. That may not sound like a big deal to our parents, but broke college students could really save all that money we regularly drop on Starbucks.

If you’re not a “crowds” kind of person, stay home. A lot of stores kick off great sales even before Black Friday, so be sure to ad-hunt in the days leading up to it. You can also easily find great Black Friday deals online. Most online sales kick off right at midnight, so you can stay at home to digest that amazingly filling Thanksgiving Dinner and still get some of your holiday shopping out of the way. Also, don’t forget about Cyber Monday. The Monday after Black Friday is said to be the kick off of the online shopping season, and many online retailers will have very cheap Black Friday-type deals.

A lot of the stress of holiday shopping really just comes down to planning. Whether you choose to hunt for deals this Friday or not, having a specific list of gifts or items you are searching for always helps. One of the best things about Black Friday is, if all of that family bonding and drama on Thanksgiving gets to be too much for you, shopping is a great excuse to get out or even get family members to come together as a team to hunt down the best deals! Happy Shopping!