The Insider's Guide to Black Friday Shopping (and saving) - News, Weather & Sports

The Insider's Guide to Black Friday Shopping (and saving)

(Toledo News Now) -

It's all about big savings, early hours, and even a few scary shoppers. This year, there are more Black Friday opportunities than ever. But little mistakes can cost a lot of time and money. WTOL 11 talked to Black Friday shopping guru Brittney Borough. Each year, she and her sister-in-law carefully plan out the strategy for the big day. Borough let us in on the secrets that have saved her hundreds of dollars.

Cutting, Labeling, and Envelopes (Oh My!)

Most people have some kind of game plan when they walk into the stores. But Borough says that's not enough. She says it needs to be detailed, thought-out, and organized.

Borough and her sister-in-law keep an eye on prices year-round; that way, they're able to spot good deals relatively quickly. Once the Black Friday fliers come out, they sort through the ads and cut out the pictures of the items they want. The cut-outs and corresponding prices go into envelopes.

That's not the end of it. Each envelope has the name of a store, its hours, names of the people they're shopping for, and lists of special deals throughout the store at specific times. Borough and her sister-in-law stagger the envelopes based on the store hours. Borough says this method helps her stay focused.

"When you go out, there's a lot of different things that will catch your eye," Borough says with a smile. "A lot of things are happening. So it's very easy to get wrapped up in what's going on and not get what you actually want to get. So we've learned now to really go into a store, get what we came for, and then leave – without making any side purchases."

Read the fine print

Many ads will say how many items a store has at a particular price. Look for those numbers – they will help you plan which stores you go to first, and how long you stay at each one.
"If there's only five televisions or five washer-dryers at that price, and you're not planning to get there first thing in the morning, I think you need to be realistic about whether or not that's something you're able to get," Borough says. "There might be a great deal, half off a certain item. But if there's only three of them at that price, you'd better be first in line. Otherwise, your time is probably better spent somewhere else."

Map It Out

"What's weird about Black Friday is that you can go into a store like Target, and things aren't where they usually go." Borough adds. "Items you would normally find in the electronics section, for instance, might be sitting in a pile in the women's clothing section."

Stores are starting to put special Black Friday maps online. Target's map shows the layout of the store, with letters that correspond to different Black Friday items.

  • Explore Target's map here.

"The map tells me iPads are located in section L,"Borough says as she looks at the website. "So I know that when I come in on Black Friday, I go through the front door and straight to the right. And that way I don't have to deal with anything that's going on over there."

Line Strategy

When there are 20 different check-out lines going at the same time, how do you choose?
The answer could determine if you spend the next hour and a half shopping, or waiting.

"One year, we got stuck in an electronics line," Borough says with a laugh. "And we were like, why is this taking SO long?! And we had seen all the other lines were moving. And then some lady finally was like, ‘If you guys aren't buying electronics, you don't need to be here.' "

Borough's hour and a half wasted in line is a lesson to you: Lines are sorted into categories, but you can usually check out in any of them. If you're buying a printer, you can still wait in the home goods line.

Borough says there are restrictions. Some things, like cameras and tablets, need to be taken out of glass cases. This requires help from an employee in the correct line. As long as you know where you need to be, you'll save time.

"You just want to make sure you're not getting into just any line,"Borough says. "You don't want to go in circles around the store. We've seen that happen as well."

Model Numbers

Doing your homework goes a long way. Borough recommends looking up the specific model number of the product you want to buy. Don't stop there; bring it to the store with you. This will allow employees to help you find things faster. More importantly, it will help ensure you walk away with the right thing.

Stores tend to bring in derivatives for Black Friday. Essentially, they're stripped down versions of popular products. The good news: They're cheap. The bad news: They don't have the bells and whistles.

"A printer might be a great deal, but they might only sell the printer and not sell the cable," Borough says. "And now you have to go out and buy the cable where you would normally buy it as a package deal. And then you're not really saving as much as you thought."
So make sure the sale is for the product you actually want.


When Borough and her sister-in-law walk into a store, they split up immediately. Borough will find a line and wait in it. While she holds their place, her sister-in-law quickly finds the items she wants. When she's done, she takes Borough's place in line while she shops for her items.

"It's probably the best use of your time," Borough says. "You tag-team it, and all the while you're progressing throughout the line. That allows you to hit more stores."

If It Looks Too Good to Be True…

It probably is. Borough says she and her sister-in-law look for products and sales that "don't belong."  That's because many stores will bring in items for Black Friday that they don't normally sell. The discounts will be huge, but Borough says she knows people who have purchased those items and sacrificed quality as a result.

"I would be hesitant if they're not typically selling it in the store day-to-day," she says. "If you see a crockpot for five dollars in a clothing store, that would make me wary because the quality might not necessarily be there."

If You Have Questions…Ask.

Borough says there's no shame in calling the store with questions in the days leading up to Black Friday. You're more likely to get a quick response, since they're not as busy.

Employees also appreciate giving people information that will make their jobs easier during the big rush.

They can tell you where things will go, what kind of doorbuster system they'll have, and whether they'll do vouchers, tags, or just a big free-for-all. Best of all, the store employees can give you an idea of how popular they're expecting certain items to be with shoppers.

Don't Ignore the Small Stuff

Many stores will have stations scattered throughout with gift-wrapping materials and small "stocking-stuffer" kinds of items. Walking past those areas could be a mistake.

"If you really think about it, you're going to need to buy those items eventually anyway," Borough says. "So why not buy a roll of wrapping paper when it's three dollars instead of six? Or headphones for that iPad when they're just a dollar?"

Some of those stations will also have small electronics and home goods, so be sure to look closely.

Doorbuster Locations

They're not always at the front of the store. Some of the best deals are at the ends of the aisles.

"The advantage is that it makes it easy for people to identify these deals because they're right here, they're in your face," Borough says.

"But those are the items that will typically go very fast because of that fact. This section of the store can get a little crazy."

Take a Deep Breath

Even the most experienced Black Friday shopper can get overwhelmed.

"If you plan properly, that helps minimize that feeling, " Borough says. "But you know, it's just a lot of people, a lot of people trying to get a good deal. Emotions are running high, and people are very focused on what they want to get.

But just remember that it's the Christmas season, it's Thanksgiving. Be nice to everyone!"

Find Deals Online

Prefer finding Black Friday Deals online instead of clipping coupons? Then this should be home base for cybershoppers - That's the best place we've found on the web with all the Black Friday deals in the same place. 

Here are a few major stores (and their Black Friday deals) -- all found on that site:

Happy shopping!

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