Happy November ladies!  What do you think of when you think November?  I think brrr it’s cold, Thanksgiving is almost here, and I need to start thinking about Christmas Shopping – not necessarily in that order.  I hate waiting to buy gifts until last minute and we try to shop sales whenever possible to avoid totally going over budget.  Before I was married I NEVER went shopping on Black Friday.  My parents thought that standing in lines to buy things was a total waste of time and we often had relatives from out of town visiting so it wasn’t really an option.  My husband however comes from a family who had no problem getting up at 4am to go shopping to get a good deal.  I got my first taste of Black Friday shopping a few years after my husband and I were married.  We had just moved and needed a power drill and driver to install some curtain rods in our new place.  It just happened to be in November so we decided to give Black Friday sales a try.  I’m proud to say that we came home with what we set out to buy, got a great deal, and did not have to get up at 6am (or earlier) to do it.  Since then, my husband and I have been black Friday shopping each year including the last two years when my son was a nursing infant.  Want to try shopping on Black Friday without totally losing your mind?  Here are some tips:

Photo Courtesy of: America-retail.com

1. Be Realistic:

Black Friday ads can be notoriously misleading.  Stores love to advertise astronomically good deals on electronics and gaming systems only to have a ridiculously small inventory available for purchase.  For example, one year a local store was offering a ridiculously good deal on TV’s but when we got to the store we were told that they had less than 10 available to sell in the first place and of course no longer had any when we arrived.  Why do stores do this?  They do it because it convinces people to come to their store looking for the item and their hope is that consumers will buy other products instead once they are in the store.  It’s OK to be interested in these “hot” items but be aware that unless you are willing to be the first one in line at an ungodly hour, your odds of getting some of these “hot buys” are low.  Have back up plans in mind or shop online.  Sometimes a slightly higher price outweighs frustration.  In the past year online Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals have also been good and in some cases – equally good as the in store prices.  Check to see if the item you want is listed online at the same price and if so, buy there since you won’t run the risk of arriving at the store only to find out the item sold out.  Best of all?  In many cases you can shop online Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving after the little ones go to bed.

2. Have a list and a shopping plan:

In other words, plan ahead and do your homework!  The first thing that we do in my family is make a list of possible gifts for each person on our list.  This helps us stay organized and also gives us ideas of what to look for when we are shopping.  After you compile your “wish lists” check out the flyers for all of the stores that you are interested in ahead of time and gather any coupons that they may be offering.  As you go through the flyers, make notes on your wish list sheet about which stores have sales on the items on it.  The next step is to plan out what order you will visit each store in.  I know this may sound obvious and to some over planned but with Black Friday lines and traffic the last thing that you want to do is to spend time trying to decide where to go next or driving around in circles.  Start with the store that you want to go to the most or which has the item that you want the most.  Then, try to plan out which stores you will visit in order according to priority and proximity.  The last two years, my husband and I went shopping in Massachusetts even though we live in Connecticut because we were visiting family.  Last year, my aunt kindly drew us a map from each of our stops to the next making notes of back roads and ways to outsmart traffic around the mall.  I laughed but I have to admit that her insider info was really valuable and I totally saved that map!!  You don’t have to go to the extreme of map drawing but my point is that having a plan is a good idea.  Some flexibility may be required but at least you will have an idea.

3. Plan your nursing stops:

Again, this may seem obvious but having a plan is really helpful.  Try to gauge how long you may spend at each store keeping in mind your baby’s nursing schedule.  Sometimes the best laid plans can be messed up if lines keep you longer than expected but at the very least make sure that you have an idea of when or where you might nurse.  This will cut down on the anxiety that you may feel about fitting in nursing sessions. Will you nurse or pump in the car?  Are there stores on your list with designated nursing/pumping areas?  If so, you may want to consider that when you make your plan and even take this into account when you plan out the order in which you will visit each store.  Make sure that you make time for your own needs as well as your baby’s.  Shopping can make time fly so be mindful that you are drinking enough water and making time for lunch.  No deal is worth a drop in milk supply or a screaming infant while waiting in line because he or she is hangry.

4. Babywear:

This is perhaps the best tip that I can offer.  Unless you are lucky enough to have someone to watch your baby while you are shopping (and I totally understand if you don’t even want to consider that option because I’ve been there!) babywearing is an amazing tool for Black Friday survival.  Crowds, messy stores, and lines are not exactly stroller friendly.  Trying to push a stroller though a crowded store with people, carts, and sometimes even merchandise crowding the aisles can make navigating a store nearly impossible.  Not to mention that trying to push a stroller and a shopping cart is a feat in itself.  Babywearing solves this dilemma by allowing you to leave the stroller in your trunk and push only a shopping cart (if you need one.)  In addition to having hands free to shop, your little one will be close to you keeping pushy strangers at bay and keeping baby safe from other shoppers who just plain aren’t paying attention.  Being close to you will also be a comfort to your baby and in my personal experience, your best bet for a shopping nap!  Being close to you, baby will be less likely to notice and focus on all of the activity going on around you and be able to relax enough to nap peacefully while you shop!  Added bonus?  If you practice ahead of time, many carriers are nursing friendly!  This means that you could potentially nurse while you shop and in many cases do so without anyone even realizing what is happening.  Two years ago, I took my son out shopping with a relative who wasn’t super crazy about me nursing in public.  I will admit that I was new to nursing in my carrier so I excused myself to the “ladies lounge” – it was an upscale department store – and latched him on there.  I totally could have nursed in the lounge but I also knew that I didn’t need to isolate myself just to nurse and I wanted to get back to my family.  After latching my son I draped a thin blanket around the outside of my carrier and rejoined my family.  The family member I mentioned before asked me if the baby was asleep and I just smiled.  No one had any clue he was eating!  I was so proud of myself and I felt relieved that I could nurse for as long as my son wanted to without feeling like I needed to rush him.  It was freeing and I didn’t need to be self-conscious about it or worry about someone making a rude comment because no one could tell.  If babywearing and nursing is an option I highly recommend it.  Not sure how to nurse in your carrier?  Check out your local babywearing resource!

5. When in Doubt, Buy and Return:

This is my last piece of advice.  As someone who is terrible at decision making I sometimes struggle with the deciding if I should make a purchase or if something is really a great deal.  Fortunately, aside from online purchases, most items purchased in store –even on Black Friday- are returnable!  And not only that but you generally have until sometime in January – after Christmas- to do so.  In light of this, if you are considering a purchase my best suggestion is to buy it.  You can always return it later if you change your mind, decide you don’t want to spend the money, or find a better deal but if you put an item back and miss out on a deal, you will kick yourself later if you decide that you really wanted it and that was the best price.  I know that returns can be a pain and can also mean long lines but it’s a useful tool and worth keeping in the back of your head.  I know I’m crazy but I will admit that my husband bought no less than two Xboxes last year.  He only kept one and at the time I wasn’t sure I was going to let him keep either one.  It wasn’t an item that we had on our list but after seeing in in person my husband wanted it.  It was on a good sale at the first store we saw it in but we found it cheaper a few stores later.  No big deal, we just returned the first one for a full refund a couple of weeks later.  Had he changed his mind we could have returned both no harm no foul.  But, if we hadn’t purchased it on Black Friday, I would have had to spend at least an additional $150 to buy it for my husband at a later date.  In addition, the one that he kept also came with some “free” extras that were part of the Black Friday promotion.  Definitely worth the hassle of the return line.

 

Overall, if you are okay with having someone else watch your little one while you are shopping that is a wonderful option but if you want to try Black Friday shopping with your baby – it’s 100% possible and you CAN do it without losing your sanity.  It takes a little extra prep but the hassle can be helpful to your budget in the end.  I can personally say that our friends and family have received gifts that we never could have afforded at full price thanks to Black Friday deals and I’m appreciative of that.  It’s always a long day and by the time we get home I am ready to fall into bed but in the end, to our family, it’s worth it.  Do you have other tips for fellow moms other than the ones I’ve listed?  Please share below!  I’d love to hear some other tried and true suggestions.  This year I’ll be shopping with my toddler unless I decide to leave him with family – now that’s a challenge that I’m not sure I’m quite prepared for yet!  Haha.  Happy shopping ladies!  Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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