The holidays are coming up, which means that a lot of us are about to enter full-on shopping mode.
Whether you’re planning to brave mall madness or hunt for online deals in your PJs, we’re here to help with your Black Friday game plan. To kick things off, we asked some of our own Nerds to tell us how they survive — and make the most of — the biggest shopping day of the year.
What kind of Black Friday shopper are you? I like Black Friday shopping online and have transitioned to more of a Cyber Monday shopper. I also like to find travel deals that come out over the holidays. Those can be really fun.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen during Black Friday shopping? My sister and I woke up at like 4:30 a.m. when we lived in D.C. and drove to Best Buy to be there when it opened. Our target purchase: “Guitar Hero” and a flat screen. We got both. My sister stayed home “sick” with “Guitar Hero” fever a couple of days that winter.
Do you think shopping on Black Friday is worth it? Not particularly. You can find savings and maximize things like cash back on your credit card so that you don’t really need to turn up exactly on Black Friday anymore. Plus, most retailers will run specials after that weekend is over. If you’re after a big-ticket specialty item and don’t mind crazy “Walking Dead”-type crowds, then Black Friday can still yield some good pickups.
Do you have any holiday shopping regrets from previous years? Buying too much. I now focus on giving one gift per person to members of my immediate family.
How can shoppers make sure they don’t go into debt during the holidays? Don’t spend more than you have. Do not, I repeat do not, overspend and go into debt. Shop on your own level, not a Kardashian level.
What advice would you give to people who are planning on shopping this Black Friday? Make a list. Check it twice. Make sure you’re not naughty but nice to your credit and your personal balance sheet. You don’t want to be paying for Black Friday for years to come.
What kind of Black Friday shopper are you? I’m a Cyber Monday shopper. In all seriousness, I mostly look for deals online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I might drop by the stores later in the day, after the early morning carnage. I don’t think it’s worth it to get up early for very limited offers which will mostly be gone unless you’re one of the first in line.
What’s the best deal you’ve gotten during Black Friday/holiday shopping? I once found a leather briefcase on Amazon, normally priced at about $200, going for $30 after applying the right set of discount codes. To this day I still wonder if the folks selling it just didn’t realize the cumulative effect of combining all their discount codes.
Do you have any holiday shopping regrets from previous years? I once got a great deal on a suit at J. Crew Factory, but I don’t have that many occasions in my life right now that call for a suit, so it was a while before I got to use it. When I finally put it on for the first time, I found that I’d gained a few pounds and the pants no longer fit.
What kind of Black Friday shopper are you? I consider myself a bargain-hunting online shopper. So I do most of my shopping online, including on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen during Black Friday shopping? A friend of mine left our Thanksgiving dinner early to drive to the Gilroy outlet mall and spent an hour waiting to get into each store. She came over for appetizers, skipped Thanksgiving dinner and ate a Subway sandwich at the mall. The rest of us continued to enjoy our lovely dinner. She got home at 6 a.m. tired and frustrated that she wasn’t able to get the best deals.
What’s the best deal you’ve gotten during Black Friday/holiday shopping? A few years ago, I bought a pair of Cole Haan winter boots, suede with sheepskin lining, for $79 plus free shipping, and the regular price was $499. That was 84% off. I was able to take advantage of a big Black Friday discount and combine it with an additional 15% off from the email sign-up.
Do you think shopping on Black Friday is worth it? It really depends. There are a lot of end-of-season sales before Black Friday, so you have to pay attention to how prices are dropping to make sure you’re really getting a good deal. Sometimes it’s better to wait until the weekend when retailers do a big push to get rid of leftover inventory.
Do you have any holiday shopping regrets from previous years? Not really. Thank goodness for free returns.
How can shoppers make sure they don’t go into debt during the holidays?
What advice would you give to people who are planning on shopping this Black Friday? I’ve found great deals online with combined discounts and saved myself a trip to Strip Mall Nightmare Street. Do your homework. Compare prices and sign up for email newsletters to get additional discounts. Maximize rewards. Not only look for the best deals, but also try to maximize the points you’ll get from your credit card. Take the additional step to go through your credit card rewards website before you reach your retailer of choice. That way, you’ll be accumulating points both from your credit card spend and from going through their website. It’s a double win.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen during Black Friday shopping? A total frenzy over boots at Macy’s. I was walking through the women’s shoe department at Macy’s about 10 minutes after they opened on Thursday evening, and there was one section that was sheer madness. It looked like a field that had been picked over by locusts. There were boxes strewn everywhere — even a few just being thrown in the air — and tissue paper all over the floor. Since most of the boots were gone, it was a real dogfight for the last pairs in reasonable sizes. I saw some folks lay hands on one box at almost the exact same time, and neither of them looked like they were going to give in. I’m not sure how they resolved that one.
Do you think shopping on Black Friday is worth it? Yes, if you enjoy the chaos, but no if you’re just a casual shopper looking for a good deal. Black Friday shopping is worth it if you really enjoy the thrill of the chase, going out into the chaos, and you have some friends and family with you who enjoy the hunt as well. Black Friday deal shopping is kind of like coupon clipping or credit card churning. It takes a lot of time and effort to score the big deals you’ll hear folks brag about, but if it’s something you enjoy doing and have fun sinking the time into, be happy that your hobby saves you money instead of costing you cash.
How can shoppers make sure they don’t go into debt during the holidays? Make a plan for how much you’ll spend on yourself and others. It’s fine to bend your rules a little bit in the thrill of deal-seeking and if you find some have-to-haves during the holidays. But making a plan is an absolute must, because without one you’re totally flying blind. It’s like Eisenhower said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
What advice would you give to people who are planning on shopping this Black Friday? Make sure it’s something you enjoy, and make sure you’re still spending all the time you can with your family. The happiest Black Friday shoppers are the ones who really enjoy going after great deals, no matter the time and energy cost, and draw a lot of enjoyment from the chase. If that’s not you, stay home instead of fighting the crowds. And if your friends and family really enjoy hitting the stores, well, there’s nothing better than a little family fun.
What kind of Black Friday shopper are you? I’m a very lazy Black Friday shopper. I never go the night before to camp out or really early for the deals. However, I do like to be part of the ruckus, and I often go later in the day to see some of the deals.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen during Black Friday shopping? Nothing too out of the ordinary, but since there are crazy, crazy lines, most people aren’t able to try on the clothes they want in the dressing rooms. I’ve seen lots of people desperately attempting to try on clothes over their clothes in the middle of the store. Often, people are fighting to get to the mirrors in the store and just for space. It’s crazy.
What’s the best deal you’ve gotten during Black Friday/holiday shopping? The best deals, in my opinion, are actually after Christmas. I got a handful of formal chiffon BCBG dresses that were originally $500 for $50. They were 50% off the week after Thanksgiving and then an additional 80% off the week after Christmas. It was a steal, and they were such good quality.
Do you think shopping on Black Friday is worth it? No, I actually think the best deals are after the holidays and at other random times of the year when stores send out special offers. It’s better to sign up for rewards programs for special coupons and to know when their crazy sales are happening.
How can shoppers make sure they don’t go into debt during the holidays? First, look through your closet and see what you actually need. Then, make a list. This way you won’t have too many impulse buys. After that, create a budget and stick to it. You want to calculate how much you can spend on yourself and how much you want to spend on each person. It’s important to keep $100 of flexibility in the budget in case things don’t match up 100% or if you find that perfect pair of shoes that are just a little bit — or a lot — extra.
What advice would you give to people who are planning on shopping this Black Friday? I’m a very picky shopper, and I believe that if you don’t love it in the store, you shouldn’t buy it. You’ll never wear it once it’s in your closet. Also, don’t buy something that you were never going to get originally just because you want to spend a certain amount to get a discount or just because it’s on sale. You’ll end up spending more money and not actually doing anything with the item.
What kind of Black Friday shopper are you? Somewhat skeptical. I always do my research ahead of time to make sure I’m getting the best deal. Not all “deals” are worth your time — and time is money.
Do you think shopping on Black Friday is worth it? Only certain deals are worth it. Many are repeats from either the previous year or a different shopping holiday. That’s why it’s important to do your research by comparison shopping.
Do you have any holiday shopping regrets from previous years? I tried to go shopping on Thanksgiving last year for a TV deal. We got there maybe 10 minutes after they opened and the line wrapped around the building and extended into the parking lot. #FAIL.
How can shoppers make sure they don’t go into debt during the holidays? My grandma once said, “Don’t go broke being generous.” But seriously, it’s not worth it to spend all your money to make your friends and family “happy.” I’ve seen so many people go into major debt during the holidays. Your family will be much happier if they don’t have to lend you money down the road. Also, don’t underestimate the value of spending quality time with your loved ones.
What advice would you give to people who are planning on shopping this Black Friday? Do your research and shopping plan to make sure you’re buying at the right time in stores and online. Create a budget and really stick to it. Also, compare online deals versus in-store for items on your list to determine if it’s really worth sacrificing quality time with loved ones for waiting in long lines in the cold.
The article Black Friday Shopping Tips From Your Friends at NerdWallet originally appeared on NerdWallet.