The New Yorker's Ultimate Black Friday Game Plan

Black Friday is an intimidating event in any city, let alone in the retail capital of America, where New Yorkers bring an entirely new level of intensity to sale shopping. So, to help you find the best deals on your favorite brands, we spoke with experts and devised the ultimate (and foolproof) Black Friday game plan. Whether you’re an e-devotee or a Black Friday purist, we have three little words for you: Ready, set, shop!
The Get-Up-At-5-a.m. Type
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Be Tech-Savvy
Surprise: Your smartphone is your secret weapon. "I rely heavily on technology," says Lilliana Vazquez, style expert and author of The Cheap Chica's Guide to Style. "Download the Black Friday app (available free for iOS and Android)," she recommends. "It allows you to make a wish list, add items, and then search through its database to find the best deals as you’re shopping. Just don’t forget to have a backup charger handy!"
Do Your Research
Be reasonable about what you need, and be smart when choosing where to go. Door-buster sales tend to be great for one particular item (you know, that big-screen TV you must have), but not necessarily for those who want to browse. "If you are going to go for an in-store deal, aim to get the big-ticket items. Seventy percent off a TV is worth more than 70% off gloves," says Michelle Madhok, shopping expert and founder of SHEfinds.
Be careful, however, that the quality of your product is on par with what you really want, Madhok warns. "Electronics stores will sometimes offer 'deals' on items specially made for the sale," she says. "For example, they might sell a TV with a lower resolution or fewer features that looks the same as the higher-quality one you intended to get."
The Procrastinator
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Be Open-Minded
As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. If you have your heart set on a particular item, there is the risk of it selling out. "If you're looking for something specific, earlier is better. You'll have the best choice of sizes and colors," advises Madhok.
Don’t Panic
As hard as it is to believe, Black Friday is not the only sale day of the year. The truth is most stores will have at least one other serious sale before the end of the year. "There are too many shops and not enough buyers. They have too much merchandise," explains Mark Ellwood, shopping expert and author of Bargain Fever. "Maybe you missed the deal on Black Friday. There will be another one before Christmas, I guarantee."
It Might Be Worth The Wait
"Some items will get marked down more as the season goes on," says Madhok. "This especially happens with clothing like sweaters and slippers."
The Stay-At-Home Shopper
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Start Early
"Cyber Monday is about to be irrelevant because it was created artificially when back-ends on websites needed more time to process orders. We’re now thinking about Gray Thursday," says Ellwood. "If you’re a serious shopper who wants a bargain online, you'll start on Thanksgiving."
To maximize discount opportunities, sign up for newsletters and follow your favorite stores on Twitter now. "Contemporary brands don’t want to mark up their entire websites," explains Vazquez. "They may only offer special sales for their most devoted fans."
Be Smart
Virtual shopping, just like in-store shopping, is all about speed. "When shopping an online sale, start from the bottom up. Hit 'view all' and then start browsing from the bottom up of the sale page," says Madhok. "Everyone else will be shopping top down, so things sell out more quickly at the top of the page."
"Use an auto-fill tool for your credit card and shipping address," she continues. "You can set up tools like RoboForm to remember your passwords on your favorite sites and also fill in shipping addresses to various places."
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Ellwood also recommends utilizing price-comparison tools. "I have two favorite sites," he says. "On Shop It To Me, I can register, plug in any product I want, and it sends out an email telling me when and where it’s on sale. Then there’s PoachIt, which you can install as a button on your browser. It essentially scrapes the Internet for the best deal."
The Department Store Maven
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Plan Ahead
"Buy online, pick up in store. You can almost always take advantage of that," says Vazquez about the city's major shopping destinations, like Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf Goodman, and more, that will be filled to the brim with tourists. "Your stuff is already there, so you can shop the rest of the store stress-free. Or, you can look at what you selected and decide then and there to return it or exchange it."
Stay Calm And Focused
Keep calm and shop on. "There’s a hormone in our brain called dopamine. We normally understand it as happiness, but what it really is is bonus juice," explains Ellwood. "It triggers when we get more than we expect. When you go into your favorite restaurant and they send you a free slice of cake, you get a real big kick. Dopamine triggers when we see bargains. It is very, very powerful and makes it more likely for us to splurge. Fill your iPod with Enya and play it when you start to get overwhelmed, because all that stress will chemically make you want to spend more."
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Also: "Make a list of who you need to buy for, and check off their name when you score something for them," Madhok advises. "This will help you focus, which is necessary when speed is of the essence."
The Small Business Appreciator
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Wait Until Saturday
"I am a huge fan of Small Business Saturday," says Ellwood. "American Express is doing a very appealing promotion this year. If you spend 10 bucks at a local independent boutique, you get 10 bucks back. That’s a great deal."
Think Of Others
"This is the one time of the year you can actually get a sale at independent boutiques," Vazquez explains. "If you’re shopping for holiday gifts, this will make it more special and one-of-a-kind."
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The Outer-Borough Gal:
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Don’t Do It Alone
If you plan on venturing to another part of the city, a little company may be just what you need to get the most out of the day. "Do it in a group," advises Vazquez. "One of the most fun ways to experience Black Friday is to do it with a friend; make it a post-Thanksgiving event. Maybe you’re looking for coats, maybe they’re looking for cashmere — it’s a great way to exchange ideas."
Stay Local
"If you can support your local economy, it’s a better buy," says Vazquez. "Plus, it’s great because a lot of these [smaller] stores never have a sale."
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