Black Friday shopping traditions using 20 years of experience. The best stories, tips and tricks for black friday shopping

Deconstructed Black Friday Traditions

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I remember going Black Friday shopping with my parents as a kid. It was the tradition. We’d go have family Thanksgiving dinner. Then, after we were done eating, it was time for cards (cribbage or euchre) and reading through all of the sales ads.

Everyone had their own notepad and we’d sit in sort of an assembly line1. Just look through each store’s ad, write down anything you might want – including the price and the store – then pass the ad to your left. Find the same item you already wrote down? Is it cheaper at this store? Cross that item off your list and replace it with the new info. And share with the group. No sense in anyone else having the same issue.

After everyone had been through every ad, we’d stop and compare notes to generate a master list with the items for each store, who wanted them, when the store opened, etc. Now we had a master plan, and could divide and conquer.

It was fun. There were several challenges2, it was a practical optimization problem3, and it sort of felt like a game or competition. In any case, we came to win.

Things changed over the years. Looking back there’s one year that stood out as the peak consumption. I it was in 2010. After Thanksgiving with family, future Mrs. Kiwi and I joined some of my close friends from high school and went out shopping in the wee hours of the morning.


There was a sale at Target for 48″ TVs. I think they were $400 each, and there were limited quantities (so hurry in!). We went out to Target around midnight (they opened at 4AM). I’m not sure how I convinced my two friends to come, but I did. It was probably 20℉, lightly snowing, and windy. Windy along the side of Target in the dark snow and wind isn’t very fun.

I think I had promised everyone that we could bring folding chairs, play cards, and that it would be fun4. I wanted to buy four of these TVs (one for a gift, one for our apartment, and two to my family as my contribution to the master list5). Someone suggested that they’d come if we could bring a box of wine and a deal was struck.

We got to Target, set the chairs up, and immediately realized there would be no playing cards. It was way too windy and folding chairs are terrible in the cold/wind. Before we literally froze our asses off, we decided to take the seats out of the mini-van we drove to Target 6. It was a much better idea. But still, no cards. Way too windy and cold to have bare hands out to handle the cards, and they kept blowing away. So, the activities consisted of being cold and drinking boxed wine.

I was the driver and didn’t drink (plus I haaaated wine at the time). But the guy who suggested the wine? Oh yeah. He had wine. Between the three drinkers the box was gone by 3AM.

At one point in the night/morning, my sister actually drove by. Burger King had been giving out free coffees. So my sister, who was also out with her portion of the master list, was super nice7 and decided to bring us some. But when she got to Target she couldn’t find us8. She said she saw “some idiots sitting in chairs from a van. I think they were drunk,” she errantly assumed it wasn’t us and left.

Around 3:30 we tried to wake drunky up (he napped in the van for a bit). He was having none of it, but we needed him to come in so that we could actually get the four TVs (Limit one per person! Such a limited offer!). It took some serious convincing, but he eventually got up… and proceeded to throw up all over the car next to ours. We got the seats back into the van and were mostly ready when the doors opened at 4AM.

We had a plan – each grab a cart and bolt to the TVs. We made it into the store okay but when the store wasn’t allowing carts9, drunky got confused and just turned around in the crowd. I don’t really know what happened to him after that. Mrs. Kiwi and I stayed on task10 and got to the TVs. Luckily my other friend stayed back to help the drunker one find us. In the meantime though, there Mrs. Kiwi and I are – trying to hold onto four TVs (twice as many as we were allowed!) while people started to try to physically take them from us.

One of the store employees confronted me after a guy started raising his voice and told me I couldn’t have more than one per person, I said I was just waiting for my friend to catch up with a cart, she more-or-less yelled no carts, yadda, yadda. It got tense. Fast. I was surprised at how prepared I was to just yell that these are my TVs now (I saw them first!).

Black Friday Shopping Escalated Quickly

But luckily my friends showed up right then, and we each had a TV, and the situation de-escalated just as quickly. While we were waiting in line the more sober of my friends was talking to this shopper about our overly-inebriated friend.

“Yeah, he’s so drunk he threw up on someone’s car just before we came in.”
“Aw jeez. What kind of car?”
“A Chevy Cobalt11.”
“No way! I drive a Cobalt! It better not have been my car!”
“Oh. What color is your car?”
“It’s blue.”
“Oh good. This one was white.”
Ron Howard: It was blue.

black friday it was blue

Good thing this guy was behind us in line. All we had to do was get to the car before him. Which we did.

I’m not really bought-in to Black Friday shopping anymore. I imagine most of you aren’t either12. Stores started opening earlier (which disrupts Thanksgiving for us and store employees). Ads leak early online (planning isn’t a community effort anymore). 75% off some new gadget started to look like paying 25% the cost of some crap I wouldn’t have been at all interested in if it didn’t feel like a “good deal.” Maybe I feel bad for being a jerk13 to strangers to get more than my fair share of TVs and creating a situation where someone ended up with puke on their car. And maybe corporations have decided to flex their muscle just a little too far and now I feel like a product rather than a customer too often. I dunno.

In any case it was fun, and I have a good story. I plan on holding my money a little closer and not really buying anything on Black Friday this year. I’ve realized I don’t need anything14. Heck, at this point I don’t even really want anything (which feels great!) (Mrs. Kiwi note – You need some better lights for your new bike). I may go out with friends and wait in line “playing cards.” But it’s not likely.

Instead, I’m planning to repeat our new tradition. For the past two years we’ve just gotten some sleep Thursday night and gathered with our friends at our favorite local brewery early-ish on Friday. They have specialty beer release parties on Black Friday. It’s different, but it’s still a tradition, and I think it better fits my more-grown-up-FIRE-y lifestyle.

And let me tell you; Hazel’s Nuts is an objectively better beverage than Franzia’s Chillable Red.

Oh, and if you want to spend some money, check out our Frugal Gift List! It includes lots of things that have helped us reduce our spending to speed up our path to financial independence.

Do you have any Black Friday traditions?

(This is the second post written by Mr. Kiwi. I hope you enjoyed! And psst, this post may contain affiliate links, if you buy through our links it won’t cost you any extra money. See our disclosures here.)

11 comments on “Deconstructed Black Friday Traditions”

  1. Haha -this is hilarious! I only ventured out for Black Friday once in my life (high school) and between the slush/snow-filled roads at 3 am, the lines, and the fact I really didn’t need anything, I don’t plan on doing it again!

    BTW- you made my day by mentioning cribbage and euchre. My favorites!

    1. Reply

      Playing games is a lot more fun than standing in lines!

  2. That is great! Black Friday and breweries – a fun combination. If anything, it might help take the edge off some of the stress of going out on Black Friday and dealing with some of the overly excited people.

    We typically now avoid going shopping on Black Friday. Growing up though, we did the “Turkey Bowl” – a neighborhood game of American football – on Thanksgiving morning. Black Friday began with an early morning trip to Denny’s (open 24 hours of course) before getting in line outside the stores.

    Balanced Dividends recently posted:

    1. Reply

      The “Turkey Bowl” sounds fun! And yeah! You have to fuel up to stay warm 🙂

  3. You know, I used to be super into Black Friday shopping. It took one jaunt at Kohl’s where I had to fight over a pair of boots, and then I was over it. I’ve “accidentally” gone Black Friday shopping the last two years because visiting family wanted to get out of the house and look at sales on Friday afternoon. I’m trying to not participate so much in Black Friday craziness, mostly because it’s just not my jam any more.

    1. Reply

      Yeah, fighting over stuff just doesn’t feel right. And yes, if family wants to go shopping (especially in the afternoon) we would definitely tag along. Our family still goes in the middle of the night, so we opt to sleep instead of participate.

  4. Oh dear, I remember the hell of Black Friday shopping. The hell wasnt actual shopping, but it was working for Staples for two Holiday seasons. Having to get to work at 4:30 in the morning only to be accosted by people standing in line asking me “Where are the scanners going to be?!?!?”. I can’t believe how insane people are to wait for hours in th cold and middle of the night to save $50. (I also recognize my value of time may have changed since I earn that in about 25 minutes.)

    I now spend my Black Friday mornings drinking coffee and being thankful I can choose NOT to do that and feeling bad for all those working retail. Oh, then there’s the YouTubing Black Friday fight videos by 9:30am!

  5. Reply

    Hey Mr Kiwi, good to see you writing, you should do this more often, your drunken midnight shopping story was def entertaining.

    For us, we prefer to shop online, we are too young to die trying to shop offline on Black Friday 🙂

    Btw, congratulations to you guys for being featured on RSF!

    1. Reply

      Thanks Ms99to1percent! He is the more comedic member of the pack! I definitely fell for him due to his storytelling abilities.

      Online shopping makes it all so much easier now, and I definitely add fewer impulse buys to my online cart!

  6. I remember two Black Friday shopping expeditions: the first was with my best friend in college and I was really only going to hang out with them. I can’t even remember what they bought but we had fun being goofy in the Best Buy parking lot. It’s a lot easier to BF when you’re in SoCal, winter is all of a nippy 55 degrees.

    The second was after PiC moved to the Bay Area and we had Thanksgiving together, just the two of us. The next day we took a walk, wandered into Long’s Drugs and ran across a $7 hair dryer. It’s ten years old and still works great 🙂

    Nowadays we only shop online if we buy anything. I can’t bear the thought of contributing to the retail frenzy in store that store employees have to face. This year I’m debating whether it’s even worth buying then because we’re creating work for people over what used to be a great long weekend for most of us. It’s sad that the stores have gotten so absurd that they open ON Thanksgiving now. That’s what soured it for me.

    That and catching sight of a report that one of the infamous Black Friday stabbings happened in our hometown WalMart. That was so shameful.

    1. Reply

      It is so frustrating that so many stores are open on Thanksgiving. I am so blessed to have a job that allows me to take holidays and weekends off (typically). Black Friday shopping can be fun, when it’s used as time with friends!

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