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Black Friday strategy: Shop, or sleep

There are two types of people: Those who wait all year for Black Friday, and those who sleep in.
Image: Shoppers wait in line
Shoppers wait in the check out line during a Black Friday sale at Nebraska Furniture Mart last year in Kansas City, Kan. Charlie Riedel / AP

There are two types of people: Those who wait all year for Black Friday, and those who sleep in.

Terri Strickland falls squarely into the first category.

Strickland, 28, and her sisters and cousins will head out as early as midnight after Thanksgiving in search of deals she has been researching online and in print ads for more than a month.

“It’s just something we look forward to each year,” she said.

Matt Zielke is a sleeper. He’ll let his wife deal with early morning-after-Thanksgiving insanity, then he’ll head out in the afternoon, once the crowds have cleared.

Scott Drake has no plans to hit the stores at all on the busiest shopping day of the year. He says he can usually get as good — or better — deals later in the season.

“There are bargains before Black Friday, and if you wait long enough there will be bargains before Christmas and then after Christmas,” Drake said.

Silly memories, bonding
For Strickland, 28, it’s about the bargains, but also the memories.

Strickland, who lives in Gaucier, Miss., looks forward each year to scouring the ads for deals, then heading out with female family members. She’ll get most of her holiday shopping done that day.

“It’s just a fun time with my sisters and cousins,” she said.

Over the years, they’ve created plenty of memories. The family still refers jokingly to the time her sister got pushed around in the hubbub for the latest gadget as “the year of the GameCube.”

Strickland, a teacher, hastens to add that her family was not among the aggressive ones jostling for the Nintendo game console.

“We’re not kickers,” she said. “We’re very nice people.”

Sleeping in
Zielke, 34, of Anaheim, Calif., is content to let his wife be the one who gets up early, scours for bargains and picks up the toys and other gifts for the family.

He prefers to sleep in and head out to the stores late in the afternoon.

By then, he says, the early rush is over and he can avoid the crush of people, but there are still deals to be had on movies and other things he likes.

“It’s a crowd thing with me,” he said.

Staying away
Drake, 51, has been one of those 5 a.m. Black Friday shoppers in the past — but not anymore.

“I’ve done it, I prefer not to and in the last couple years I’ve seen no reason to whatsoever,” the Philadelphia resident said.

These days, he thinks he can get as good, if not better, deals later in the season, when retailers start discounting even more. The weak economy also has him thinking more carefully about what he buys, rather than impulse shopping or spending more than he anticipated on gifts.

“It doesn’t go on the credit cards anymore,” he said. “I’ve got to be able to afford it and feel good about it.”

Many other readers wrote in to share their strategies for embracing — or avoiding — Black Friday, which is typically the busiest shopping day of the year and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. Here are some of their stories:

Robin Teague, Oregon City, Ore.: Check the sales, make a shopping plan, plan a driving route, go early (4 a.m. for some sales), and take a friend with a cell phone — that way one of you can get in line, one of you can do the legwork, or split up if necessary for retrieval of specific items. Go out to eat and congratulate yourself on some serious savings!

Mike Melancon, Houston: Plan, plan plan. We map out our list after gorging on turkey. After we get the No. 1 items, we cruise the stores looking for unadvertised items.

Allen Fisher, Somerville, N. J.:My strategy is to basically stay home. I've never seen a good enough sale to want to go into a crowded store.

Desiree Baladez, Wellington, Colo.: I've never been a Black Friday shopper, and neither has my husband, but two years ago we started our own Black Friday tradition. We go out not to shop, but to gather ideas for gifts to make for our friends and family. If we see something we might buy for someone, we try to figure out how it was made and see if we could make one ourselves. Our last stop is Hobby Lobby, where we gather up our supplies. Then we head home and spend the rest of the weekend listening to records, eating leftovers and having a blast together making gifts.

Mike Griffith, San Diego: I skip all the hassle of overzealous shoppers, waiting in line for hours, and driving around town and just do all my Black Friday shopping online. Just about all the deals are the same (some even better than in store) and you can get free shipping on a lot of orders too. Also, the online store rarely runs out of the hot-selling products.

Dan Niemczyk, El Paso, Texas:My strategy for Black Friday shopping? Not doing it. I don't "need" anything that badly that I'm going to fight all those rude, greedy people.

Antone Clark, Layton, Utah:Carefully evaluate wants versus needs from the various ads, which we begin to consider before they ever come out on Thanksgiving. Once the priorities are set, then we plan accordingly. Normally that means waiting in a line at Target or at Staples. We never go to the early rush in Walmart. [We] find places like Walmart and Home Depot and Lowe's are easy to navigate an hour or so after the initial rush, with plenty of checkers and space to find what you might want. Never let the lure of one particular item become so big that you anticipate getting it. In cases where there are stores with long lines, like Kohl's, one of us gets in line immediately upon entering the store and the rest shop, dropping off items to the person waiting in line.

Michael Liebmann, Atlanta:Black Friday? My shopping is done. I finished it in September. I won't willingly go to a mall until well after Jan. 15, 2011.