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Once a novelty shopping event, the latest numbers indicate that Black Friday may outperform Boxing Day. “Five years ago, in 2008, we had a total of 15 deals for Black Friday,” says Jeff Novak, Brand Director at RedFlagDeals.com.“Last year we had over 200…and we expect to surpass that number this year.”

If you haven’t already joined the hordes of shoppers celebrating Canada’s favourite new US import, chances are you will. So pull out your calendars and get scheming because the best deals come to those who plan. And whether you want to start two days or two hours before you hit the stores, we’ve got you covered with this handy Black Friday prep guide.

IN-STORE

24-48 Hours Before You Shop
Survey the pickings: Visit deal sites like RedFlagDeals.com or SmartCanucks.ca to find out what’s on sale and start your shopping list. Conscious spenders should write down their needs before examining the sales and only plan to visit stores that sell the items on their lists.

12-24 Hours Before You Shop
Draft a game plan: “Look for words like ‘limited’ and ‘door crasher’ to prioritize time-sensitive items,” says Jeff Novak, Brand Director at RedFlagDeals.com. He also suggests visiting the RedFlagDeals.com forums, where those in the know discuss previous years’ queues and snafus, and offer strategies for this year. Even if you’re not planning to snag a door crasher, it’s still a good idea to prioritize your list. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, aim to find your top two or three items and consider everything else a bonus. If you hate shopping lists and prefer to browse, we recommend choosing stores based on geographical proximity — to you and to each other. Black Friday gets busy and reducing travel time eases at least one potential irritation.

6-12 Hours Before You Shop
Gather your supplies: Want to snag one of this year’s big-ticket door crashers, like a deeply discounted television? You’re not the only one. Shoppers queue the previous evening for the really big deals, says Novak. If that’s your jam, he suggests dressing warmly and comfortably, bringing a good chair, some hot chocolate, and a friend.

Time to Shop
Breathe: “For general deals, including most apparel, arriving the morning of the sale is fine,” says Novak. He notes that your Black Friday shopathon will be more pleasant if you treat the deals as fun bonuses, not life-or-death necessities. Don’t fight or grab; do get out there and have a good time scoring deals. Visit the stores with your priority items first; otherwise shop in order of descending discounts, with a nod to geography so you don’t crisscross or backtrack.

shopping fight

ONLINE

24-48 Hours Before You Shop
Get your accounts in order: Start by scouring the web for deals, as you would with bricks and mortar shopping, but don’t stop there. “Major shopping destinations can slow down on big sale days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, so it’s a good idea to ensure you’ve got your registrations and passwords in order and know how to navigate the sites you plan to visit,” says Novak.

12-24 Hours Before You Shop
Pre-shop: Lauren Baker, owner of LAB Consignment and an online shopping expert, suggests shopping before you buy. “Spend a proper amount of time going through the whole site and add items to your cart, wish list, or use a ‘save for later’ option,” she says. “This way when you go back on the special sale day, the items are waiting for you and you’ll just be a few simple clicks away from checking out!”

1 hour Before You Shop 
Check your internet connection and open your browser windows to all the online stores you plan to visit. If the Internet’s down, make sure your smartphone is charged and your data plan can handle a shopathon, or head to your nearest coffee shop or library with WiFi. This is also a good time to make sure your PayPal account is in good order and to visit your online bank accounts to confirm you’ve got the money to cover your purchases.

Time to Shop
Get out your credit card and start clicking!

CROSS-BORDER

24-48 Hours Before You Shop
“A crumby exchange rate makes a jaunt to Black Friday’s homeland less desirable than in previous years, but if you live near the border or plan to make a trip of it (the longer you stay, the more you can bring back duty-free) there are still some tax advantages to shopping in the States,” says Michael Powers, Marketing Manager at Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, in Niagara Falls, New York. Prep and prioritize as you would a Canadian shopping trip and be sure all your travel documents are in order, and that you’ve got a big enough vehicle to hold all your loot.

12-24 Hours Before You Shop
“If you’re making a weekend of it, consider visiting on Thursday evening and staying overnight to avoid border lines on Black Friday,” says Powers. Also, if possible, look into multiple border crossings and choose one that isn’t a main crossing point to further avoid the possibility of any border congestion.

2-6 Hours Before You Shop
Check traffic reports, the weather forecast and Canada Border Service Agency’s wait time updates to estimate when you should leave, and which crossings have the best times. And remember, the real frenzies happen over electronics, so stick to clothing and you’ll miss those famous American shopping stampedes. Powers also notes that most Black Friday sales continue until Sunday, so if you’re not seeking a specific item, you can always take a leisurely day trip to browse the sales after the crowds have passed.

Time to Shop
Congratulations – you’re participating in a modern American tradition. Enjoy the cultural experience!

Cross-border shopping