By Tamara Schroeder

Black Friday shopping tips for Canadians

Black Friday: a day appropriately named for the sense of dread it inspires in my husband when he realizes someone created another occasion for the sole purpose of shopping and spending our hard-earned money.

In actuality, it’s the day after U.S. Thanksgiving and unofficially kicks off the countdown to Christmas. Like Boxing Day in Canada, retailers offer huge sales and customers eagerly line up in the early hours of the morning (or in some cases, hover over their keyboards and practice speedy keyboard work) to snag a great deal.

Because the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holidays are over a month apart, Black Friday is a relatively new phenomenon on this side of the border. American Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday and most people take an extended long weekend, leaving the Friday free and clear for an early morning and crowded malls. However, now that so many large American chains have opened locations in the north, the occasion has drifted upward to our parts.

The great news about the trend is that it usually falls about a month before Christmas and earlier in the winter season than Boxing Day, meaning you can take advantage of huge savings on gifts and cold-weather necessities for your kids sooner than usual.

Here are some tips to take full advantage of the great deals:

  • Sign up for email alerts from your favourite stores and websites. Many promote Black Friday sales and offer additional savings for email subscribers, and you can often get an idea in advance of how good the offers will be.
  • Check your dates and times. Some retailers begin the sale a couple days before Friday, meaning you can shop early and avoid the rush. Others may begin at midnight or open early, so if you have your heart set on the hottest toy of the season, be sure you’ve checked to make sure you aren’t going to miss out.
  • If you’re on a strict budget, make a list of the things you want and need and stick to it to avoid the temptation of overspending. Does your toddler really need four of the same fleece hoodie in different colours? If you know you’ll likely be swayed and make impulsive purchases, have a limit for those extras.
  • Comparison shop. Make sure you know the usual prices for the items you’re interested in buying so you can determine if it’s actually a great bargain or just a mediocre price that might be better in the near future.
  • Inquire about price matches if the identical item is sold at more than one place. Most stores won’t match door-crasher deals, but many will match the cost of other sale items and if they are a smaller retailer, they may not be as hectic as bigger merchants.
  • Be aware of return policies. If there’s a chance you won’t want to keep everything you’ve bought or you might find it for a better deal elsewhere, make sure you establish what items may be final sale and which are eligible for refunds or exchanges.
  • Leave the kids at home! If you plan to line up early or shop at a busy location and have the option for childcare, use it. Bargain shoppers can be a vicious crowd and the last thing you want is for your preschooler to be steamrolled by someone intent on locating a cheap TV or jacket. If you have to bring small children, consider using a stroller and bribing them with an electronic device. They’ll be safer off the ground and you can use the front wheels to clear a path among crazed shoppers.
  • Wear shin pads. Because someone else at the store may have also read this and have the exact same plan.
  • Wait until after the weekend. Cyber Monday is the less popular sibling of Black Friday, but if you have fast fingers and hate lining up and fighting with crowds, many online retailers offer wicked steals and additional savings. Bonus: you’re less likely to have coffee knocked out of your hand. Unless you cyber shop with your toddler on your lap, in which case, all bets are off.

Enjoy the insanity!