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‘Be prepared’ is the motto of Black Friday

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As seasons transition from autumn to winter, Americans and cross-border travellers are gearing up for the Holy Grail of shopping days.

Black Friday is the day after U.S. Thanksgiving and marks the beginning of Christmas shopping season. While not officially a holiday, many employers give staff the day off to extend Thanksgiving into a long weekend. This results in the busiest shopping day of the year.

The term ‘Black Friday’ has been used in different contexts since the 1800s. It was first used in association with Thanksgiving in the 1960s and ’70s, and referred to massive downtown traffic jams and packed sidewalks. This year, Black Friday falls on  Nov. 23.

Getting caught up in the bustle of the day is an annual tradition, and thousands of Canadians cross the border in droves to take advantage of the bargains. If you’re going yourself, be prepared. Know in advance what you want to buy and do some research online. Have a list,and know where you need to go. Map your route. Plan your attack.

Stores typically open Friday morning at 4 a.m. – that is, the ones that don’t open at midnight – for door-buster specials. Just as on Boxing Day, these specials are on limited quantities of  exceptionally low-priced items. If you really want something, line up, wait for the doors to open, and be among the first into the store. Only early birds will get the tablet, laptop, e-reader and television at the bargain bin prices.

More generally, smart shoppers should make themselves aware of a store’s price-matching policies and whether they have current coupons, or apps with special offers. Stay on top of news and ‘shopportunities.’ Find out if they offer further discounts with store credit cards. If you set up a credit account, you can often pay it off with cash before you leave town.

Allocate in advance how much you want to spend, and set your your ceiling on particular items. Comparison shop before you get there so you’ll recognize a good deal when you see one. If you’re okay at sticking to a budget, make all purchases on a cash-back or other incentive credit card. If you don’t trust yourself, use strictly cash.

Decide if you’re going to go it alone or in tandem with a friend. If you have different shopping styles, split up and meet at a predetermined place and time.

Get into the spirit of the day with the sights and sounds. Music will be in the air, and the atmosphere will be sure to put you in the holiday mood. If you enjoy the people around you, the day will be much more enjoyable, and lineups and crowds more far more tolerable.  Take snacks, stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes. Keep all receipts in one place.

If you don’t feel like travelling south, many Canadian retailers have adopted the Black Friday tradition, so look for equally good deals north of the border.

And if you end up not getting what you want, don’t sweat it. There’s always Cyber Monday.

RoseAnna Schick is an avid traveller who seeks inspiration wherever she goes. She likes shopping on any day. Email her at rascreative@yahoo.ca  

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