The Toy Section at Target

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, the holiday shopping season is about to move into high gear. In the past, I’ve consciously steered clear of holiday shopping, and especially of Black Friday. I’m not fond of the frenzied zeal with which Americans spend their money at this time of the year.

For more than a decade, I’ve elected to observe Buy Nothing Day. I choose not to spend a single penny on the day after Thanksgiving. And, as you know, Kris and I have always done our best to share homemade Christmas gifts instead of buying things for our friends and family.

Note: Strange but true: I first learned about Buy Nothing Day in the late 1990s from an issue of Adbusters, the magazine (and organization) that is now the driving force behind Occupy Wall Street. Go figure.

Having said that, I know that a lot of GRS readers enjoy holiday shopping, and especially like the deals and discounts that can be had between now and the end of the year.

This year, rather than ignore Black Friday, I’m giving in. If you’re going to shop, I want to help. To that end, today’s Ask the Readers column is a chance for you to share your tips and tricks for finding bargains at this time of the year.

My top tip? If you’re going to shop on Black Friday, shop with a list. That is, base your buying decisions on a plan, and don’t get swept up by the sales. This is the best way to approach all shopping, of course, but it’s even more important when you’re intentionally putting yourself into a shopping frenzy. At times like this, you really need to beware of shopping momentum.

One way to plan your shopping is to visit BlackFriday.info, where you can find lists of all the holiday sales and ads. Using your list, you can check to see which stores have the things you want at the best prices.

But, as I say, I’m not a holiday shopper. I don’t have much experience at this, and I can’t give a lot of advice. That’s where you come in. What advice do you have for finding great deals during the holidays? Is Black Friday really the best time to buy? Or is it better to wait until closer to Christmas itself? And what about waiting until after Christmas? Have any of you ever held your family gathering later in December so you could take advantage of post-holiday sales? Tell us how you beat the high cost of Christmas!

Addendum: Here’s an insider’s guide to Black Friday bargains from my friend Flexo from Consumerism Commentary.

Note: In general, Black Friday is centered on huge retailers like Toys ‘R’ Us and Best Buy. It’s a madhouse at the mall. Here in Portland — and possibly in other cities around the U.S. — the smaller stores are looking for a piece of the action. They’ve created an alternative shopping even they’re calling Little Boxes, which encourages people to shop at small, local businesses. If you know if a similar program in your city, please share it.

Photo by Matthew Simoneau.

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