My “Reverse” Black Friday

This pre-Thanksgiving year is the time in which the internet seems to be abuzz with what various retailers are going to have on steep discount on “Black Friday” in order to get people in the door.

For those not from the United States, Thanksgiving is a national holiday that occurs on the fourth Thursday in November, roughly one month before Christmas. “Black Friday” is the nickname given to the day after Thanksgiving, which many people take off of work in order to travel and enjoy time with family. Because so many people are off of work and the holiday season is approaching, that day is often seen as the “kickoff” for Christmas shopping and many retailers offer steep discounts to get their holiday season sales numbers off in the right direction.

Several times a day, I have an email from a PR firm telling me all about the latest Black Friday deals. As I browse across the web, I see countless articles telling me all about the things on sale on Black Friday.

And, frankly, I don’t care all that much.

Yes, I utilize Black Friday for part of my holiday shopping, but I do it in a way that’s essentially the “reverse” of all of this.

My first step in the process actually started long before now. I drew up my Christmas list several months ago and put some thought into what each person would like for a Christmas gift. What sorts of things would this person actually like? I actually wound up making a small item list for each person on my list.

At that point, I started watching for sales, making homemade gifts, and slowly eliminating (or partially eliminating) people from my list. If I had a complete gift for them, I crossed them off. If I had a partial gift for them, I eliminated some of the items on their list.

At this point in the year, I only have a handful of potential things that I might actually buy, which is where Black Friday comes in.

Starting with my list, I scan the Black Friday ads using online services like BlackFriday.com.

An example: someone on my Christmas list has a very high likelihood of receiving the Toy Story 3 DVD/Blu-ray combo as a gift this year. Knowing that, I start searching the Black Friday ads for Toy Story 3 until I find that some retailers are selling it for as low as $9 on that day.

Another example: I’m helping someone look for an Amazon Kindle as a Christmas gift, an item I might be contributing a small amount to. Thus, I can use Black Friday ads in advance to find which store is going to have the best bargain on a Kindle, saving $40 or maybe even more.

This doesn’t work for everything, of course, but it works for enough items that I’ll likely save a significant amount of money on Black Friday, either out in the stores or on the ‘net.

Why do it this way? There are several reasons.

First, by starting with the list, I’m thinking of the person first. If I look at a Black Friday ad without any goal in mind, I’m quite prone to convincing myself that someone on my list will want “sale item X,” which they may or may not want at all. By doing it the other way around, I’m ensuring my list contains items that will actually bring joy to the recipient, not just ways to make Black Friday fun for me.

Second, since I have a list of items already, using the Black Friday flyers in this way is basically the same thrifty technique I use for weekly grocery shopping. I have a list, I hit the flyers, I develop a plan, and then I shop – with a shopping list in hand, of course. This process works because it makes you do all of the decision making (or almost all of it) outside the store before you even go inside and be tempted by the sales and displays and marketing.

Here’s a tip for you all: make your Christmas list before you even look at a Black Friday ad. Come up with gift ideas you think people will really like – or even several ideas per person. Then, hit the ads and see if you can find any matches which will enable you to save some cash this holiday season.

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