Santa and Mrs. Claus fly to University Mall in a helicopter for Black Friday.
Santa arrives at University Mall in 2012 on Black Friday. (Photo courtesy University Mall)

Black Friday: You either love the shopping extravaganza or you hate it. (Especially if you are bitter about holiday shopping encroaching on Thanksgiving Day.) Last year, consumers spent a record $59.1 billion over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.

If you’re the type who has camping chairs, highlighted newspaper ads and a take-no-prisoners attitude, read on for some deal-scoring strategy. We asked Utah blogger and Brigham Young University graduate Jordan Page, who runs the popular blog The Fun, Cheap or Free Queen, for advice. Here, Page shares the following tips for beating Black Friday.

1. Don’t let door busters make shopping a bust

Who doesn’t want a deeply discounted TV or tablet? These heavily advertised, “extreme deals” are meant to lure people through the door, but they also come in extremely limited quantities, said Page. “If you put all your eggs in the door-buster basket and they are gone before you nab one, you’ll be left high and dry,” she said. Instead, Page suggests looking at all of the best deals and using Black Friday as an opportunity to stock up on all of your gift-giving needs.

2. Do your homework

Long before you set foot in a store (or, who are we kidding, in a line), you should know exactly what you need and where to get it. And make sure to compare a store’s prices with the same or similar items online. “Sometimes stores will mark up their prices before a holiday, so that when they slash them to 50-percent off, it might not be a deal good enough to brave the crowds and lines,” said Page.

Also, make sure to compare advertised Black Friday deals to those of Cyber Monday, the Internet shopping event on the Monday following Thanksgiving. In many cases, Cyber Monday can beat Black Friday by offering comparable or better deals you can score with the click of a button.

3. Think through your entire year of gifts

With Christmas right around the corner, it’s easy to focus on shopping only for that holiday. “But what about birthdays? Baby showers? Weddings?” asked Page. If, for example, a store is offering a rocking deal on a slow cooker, think about squirreling it away for your next wedding gift. Page advises bringing a list of things you will need for family and friends throughout the year with you on Black Friday.

4. Look at value and not just the price tag

“Avoid being what I call ‘sticker-blinded’ and don’t buy things just because the price-tag is cheap,” Page said. For example, she said you might find regularly priced $35 vacuum cleaner marked down to $19.99. That’s a cheap price for a vacuum, but a better value might be the $250 vacuum marked down to $99.99. That item will be of higher quality and will last for years.

5. Go big or go home

“If you are going to do Black Friday, do it right!” said Page, adding that it’s OK to be that person who is first in line for the great deals. If the store you are frequenting has an outdoor lineup, bring camping chairs and hot chocolate, warm clothing, games and a few friends to help pass the time. Once inside, team up with those friends to score the best deals throughout the store. Remember that madness is half the fun of Black Friday, so embrace the noise and chaos inherent in this “holiday.”

For your shopping convenience, shop locally here:

Big-box stores are known for blowout deals, but if you want to avoid massive Black Friday crowds, consider visiting smaller, locally owned stores. Also, here’s a look at the Black Friday hours of the following Utah Valley shopping centers:

 The Outlets at Traverse Mountain

These Lehi outlets will open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night and will remain open for 24 hours. Festivities will include doorbuster giveaways at the customer service desk in the Grand Lobby.

Provo Towne Centre

This mall is closed Thanksgiving Day, but many of its retailers, including American Eagle Outfitters, Buckle and Victoria’s Secret, are opening at midnight for Black Friday (Nov. 29). JCPenney is opening at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, according to the mall’s website.

The Shops at Riverwoods

The Shops at Riverwoods in Provo kick off their holiday shopping with the Lighting of the Riverwoods, a lighting ceremony and concert Nov. 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. All the stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. The shopping center is typically open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., but some stores may be opening early for Black Friday. Contact your favorite shop for more information.

University Mall in Orem

University Mall opens at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, and Santa will make his grand arrival at 9:30 a.m. Stores will stay open until 10 p.m., although hours may vary for stores that have separate entrances outside the mall. As of this writing, Macy’s was set to open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and to remain open until 10 p.m. the following day (Black Friday). Sports Authority was planning to be open from 6 p.m. to midnight on Thanksgiving Day.

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