Can you do it? Can you get over that pumpkin-pie hangover and get going? Can you be ready? Can you get moving?

That’s right. We’re talking Black Friday, the day of insanity that kicks off the holiday shopping season. And that means it is time to get serious about gifts.

We’re here to coach you through this. You can survive. You can conquer that shopping list in one day – or at least by the end of the weekend. You just need to bring your A game.

The key, of course, is to focus. Plow through your list of gifts to buy. Do as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. Move quickly. Don’t dawdle or agonize over decisions. Just get it done.

Even if you’re not planning to elbow a kid out of the way for the last $99 digital camera, you can still get some serious shopping done on Black Friday. Here’s how to make the most of your time.

Plan Before You Go

We know. Times a-wastin’. You could be out in those stores “right now,” snapping up deals. But wait! You’ll save time if you stop and think before you go.

Don’t just drive to the mall and wander aimlessly through the stores. This is unwise. The fragrance department of a department store is not the place to start brainstorming for gift ideas – and if you do it on Black Friday, you might get trampled.

So sit down. Have another cup of coffee. And think. Devote half an hour to making a good, solid list of gifts to buy (You’ll get the time back, we promise.). Brainstorm for gift ideas online and with newspaper ads. Then come up with a plan of action: Think through which stores you’ll visit and when, and what you’ll buy when you arrive.

Reserve Your Gifts Online

Got your list? Good. OK, now don’t leave the house yet. Instead, hop online and take care of some business.

Lots of major retailers (Best Buy, the Container Store) will let you purchase an item online and pick it up at the store. You walk in, pick up your purchase and walk out – no aisle-wandering, no card-swiping.

Some stores (Barnes & Noble is one.) will let you reserve an item online. It’ll be on hold at the checkout counter, and you pay for it when you pick it up.

This is a year-round lifesaver: You’ll save tons of time if you can avoid all that aisle-wandering. And you’ll always know that the item you want will be in stock and waiting for you.

Do Your Research

While you’re making your list, do some comparison shopping. Check the ads and know your prices. And do a little work to narrow your choices.

This is where the magic of the Internet will really help. If you see two mp3 players in the ads, don’t just head for the store and eyeball the descriptions on each box. Instead, read some reviews online before you get there. (A good site for product reviews is: A quick scan of reviews can tell you whether you’re about to make a mistake. If you shop without a clue, you will waste time and might end up with the wrong item. (We know. It sounds like you’ll never be able to leave home. But all this advance work will come in handy, trust us.)

Be Organized and Ready for Anything

Shopping on Black Friday is not a nice, leisurely browse. It is all-out warfare. So dress and pack accordingly. Wear comfortable shoes. Take all the junk out of your purse or pockets so you can travel light. Carrying a dozen lipsticks will only make your shoulder hurt.

You will, of course, need to pack a few key items. Make sure you have:

– Your list (and a pen)

– Aspirin for the inevitable shopping headache

– A bottle of water to keep in the car (good shoppers know how to hydrate)

– Snacks for when you crash in the afternoon (a piece of fruit and some almonds will make you feel far better than a food-court hot dog)

– A big envelope so you can keep track of receipts

– The ads and coupons you need

– And think about what you wear. If you wear a coat, make sure it’s one you don’t mind carrying through crowded aisles in stuffy stores.

Start with the Easy Items First

There are some gifts you can buy without a lot of fuss or deliberation: the fancy coffee you always buy for Dad, the bottle of whiskey your uncle likes. Do those first. Then, if you’ve reserved gifts online, pick those up next. You will accomplish a lot quickly, which will give you energy to do the harder shopping.

Just Park Already

Give up on the idea of a good parking space. You will waste serious time driving in circles, waiting for a space to open up, following shoppers who seem to be headed to their cars. (Shoppers hate this, by the way.) Instead, take the first space you find, even if it’s barely in the same zip code. You’ll get inside faster, and that’s the point. On the way in, you can think about how noble you are for the extra exercise. (Just remember the comfortable shoes.)

Don’t Agonize Over Decisions

Black Friday is not the day to be indecisive, so make a rule for yourself: Spend no more than, say, three minutes debating a purchase.

If you’re undecided (Should I come back for this? Or buy it, just in case?), we offer the following handy formula. Consider: (the chance you’ll never be able to find this color/size/style/price again) + (the store’s return policy) – (the likelihood that you’ll lose the receipt). Then factor in: (how much you will HATE returning to this store’s parking lot) x (the chance that you can find it online) / (the probable cost of shipping).

See? Simple.

If you are still in doubt, write down the product information and the price, then get a move on. Don’t let one decision expand to fill an afternoon.


Things are likely to get tense. Black Friday is, after all, the biggest, most crowded shopping day of the year. At some point – probably before lunch – you will decide you hate lines, you despise every other shopper in the country and you never want to buy another gift as long as you live.

This is the time to work on your inner peace. Breathe deeply and relax. Consider repeating a mantra: “I am filled with peace and good will, and buying gifts for my loved ones makes me happy.” Breathe. Say it again.

Regroup at Home

You may have endurance. You may be strong. But, eventually, you’ll have to go home.

When you get there, relax for an hour. Take off your shoes. Eat something.

Then, it’s back to work. Make a list of what you haven’t found and hop online again. In the comfort of your own home, order what you’re still missing. Get free shipping if you can. And – this is important – make a list of which gifts should be arriving and when. After all, Cyber Monday – the online equivalent to Black Friday – is just around the corner. But by then, you’ll be finished with your shopping, free and able to enjoy the rest of the season.