My Very Serious Holiday Tradition …

Leading off with 3 things …

Current song in my head: I’ve been listening to lots of Chris Stapleton this week – you can’t go wrong with Traveller. My work fuel this week has been lots of random YouTube shuffling starting with Chris and dipping into Adele. It’s not that big a leap, check it out:


I’ll forever be indebted to my boy Anthony Lewis for turning me on to The Steeldrivers a dozen years ago.

Recent CBus adventure: I’d have to say this is a toss-up between driving to Target in the dark 2 weeks ago (I don’t see very well in the dark, people! This traffic is scary!!) Or taking LifeBarre class last week – which was super fun and just hard enough.

West Virginia fun fact: ‘Tis the season to spend lots of time in the car, so you may need some entertainment. I saw a list earlier this week of the top podcasts to listen to right now. The list is a little old, but it includes “Death, Sex & Money,” a podcast hosted by WV native Anna Sale – who I used to listen to on WV Public Broadcasting – which is also home to several other great podcasts, including everyone’s favorite, Mountain Stage!

So, listen. I’m not even going to take time to apologize for the huge gap (again!) in my blogging. I’m practicing this whole self-love thing where I take it easier on myself, and I’m thinking if this is an occasional blog … well, it’s already been more prolific than that awesome podcast Chad and I put together (which we almost tried to rebirth while we were together in Nashville for a weekend wedding last month). Let’s all just enjoy when I do manage to blog 🙂

And now I will jump in on this timely topic: BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING!

My dear former work wife Kim Freda reminded me last week of some super-fun TV segments I did back in 2014. The news director asked for some fluffy holiday pieces, and I mentioned that I was something of a professional Black Friday shopper. This led to me doing several short shopping tips (we filmed in a morning & I edited in an afternoon!) that aired during each newscast the day before Thanksgiving.

So this reminded me, I really have some Columbus weight to lose, but also I should BLOG some Black Friday tips for y’all!

A little history: Black Friday shopping started for me I think in 2007, 2008. Both my brothers and their amazing wives had moved to the Cranberry Township suburb of Pittsburgh. This was the first time any of us had access to shopping that wasn’t 25 minutes away. After family dinner with my parents in Moundsville (which is usually a big, late lunch) I went to my sister-in-law Rebekah’s parents’ for evening Thanksgiving dinner (yep), because I was going to ride up to their Pa. apartment to spend the rest of my weekend with them. This was a typical holiday for me back then: Drive from Charleston to my parents in Moundsville, spend a night or two, then head north again for  fun with the Pittsburgh family.

When we got to our oldest brother’s house in Cranberry that night, my sister-in-law Kim was looking over the ads and debating a few big sales happening early the next morning. It didn’t take long for us to reason that Best Buy, Kohl’s and Target were just a few minutes away. Why not? So we got up in the middle of the night, huddled together with leftover pumpkin bread and got in line.

People, it was so much fun. Now, granted, my 2 sisters-in-law and I can have fun together doing just about any damn thing. But we didn’t really experience much, if any, pushing or ugliness. The staff at Kohl’s handed out chocolate while we were in line. The ladies got my brothers some SiriusXM receivers. I got myself clothes, and we all got super soft $5 fleece blankets, along with some other great finds. And our tradition grew from there. The next year, my oldest brother went with Rebekah and I because they were after a TV and he wanted to carry it, so Kim stayed home with the kids. After a few years, we started to wonder if we should ban my brother Matt because he hates people and was a little bit of a damper on our fun. (Sorry, dude, we love you, but you hate people and crowds). We formed alliances to grab things that were in limisted quantities. And it was awesome for me to be able to grab toys for my nieces and nephews while their parents were right there to give me a thumbs up or down. Maybe I’m more vain than I realize, but it’s kind of awesome to feel like you’re saving Christmas when you get the iPad for the young’erns at a deep, deep discount. Or when you stumble on that sweet, sweet Nerf machine gun that wasn’t on anybody’s list but definitely hit the spot back on Christmas 2009.Christmas 2009 012

Over the years, our shopping has tapered off. There isn’t always something we HAVE to go out and get. Sometimes you’re better off shopping online. I’ve gone with my parents recently, now that Walmart is about 2 minutes from their house, and I’ve gotten my husband in on the game. We went on Thanksgiving night a few years ago, and he thought it was fun.

For folks who think it’s appalling to shop on Thanksgiving, let me just say this: My family’s big holiday meals are always mid-day. So by evening, we’re good to move on to another activity. And, yes, I feel for people who have to work and are not able to spend time with their families on those days. But as someone who’s worked in news for a long time, my husband and I both have spent Thanksgiving and Christmas away from families and each other several times. Emergency responders have to work, too. My feeling is that’s just the nature of some jobs. And I’m a huge, huge fan of shopping local year-round. Just because I buy a toy at Target does not mean I don’t also spend plenty of money with independent shops, artisans and other small-business owners.

So – on to the tips! All of these are on YouTube for your enjoyment, but here’s the short list:

1 – Plan. This is a big one. Look at what you’re really after – what’s the one big thing on the deepest discount or most limited quantities that you must have? Where is the best place to get it? When does that store open? Have a game plan of which stores you’re hitting and when.

2 – No browsing. This is not the time to poke around. Know what you’re after and git ‘er done. But, caveat: Be flexible once you’re in the store. You may stumble on a great find you weren’t expecting. (That’s how we ended up with all the $5 fleece blankets!)

3 – Know when a deal is a deal. If you can get something online at the same price and without much hassle, go for it. If that’s the same price you’ve seen at other times during the year, save it. And take your ads with you so you know you’re getting the right make/model at the right price.

4. Dress the part! Comfort and warmth is good – Try to avoid the big heavy coat if you can, because once you get inside and move around, you’ll get hot. I’m a fan of the puffy vest. A cross-body bag is great, so you have both hands free – and please don’t get a shopping buggy unless you have to. Ain’t nobody got time (or room!) for that on Black Friday. And if you pack a snack, you’ll probably last a little longer.

5. Have fun. This one should be easy. Take a friend. Keep your cool, be nice and don’t rush to join a crowd just because you see one. No Tickle Me Elmo is worth a fist fight.

6. Check the map. Things aren’t always where they should be inside the store. A lot of times electronics are in the shoes or other strange areas because they need the space for people to line up or just to hold a big pallet. One year, mid-Walmart shopping, we realized we needed some plastic spoons to take later that day to our WVU-Pitt tailgate (that was a long, long day!) and the store employees would not let us in the aisle to get the spoons because they were setting up some limited-release video game. Grrr. But grab a store map online ahead of time if you can, or as soon as you get in the store. Look around and look up – pay attention to any balloons or signs to get to the right spot for your item, and you may have to get in line in a totally different spot, too.

7. Prepare for checkout. You’ve made it this far, and if you bought something electronic, you’re probably going to get asked if you want to add a warranty. You may also need something special to get a rebate, if that’s part of the deal you’re after. Don’t get caught off guard, and ask your cashier questions if you need to.

So now you have all my best tips for hitting the aisles this weekend – I haven’t drafted my shopping plan just yet, but share your success stories with me, I want to hear them!


Author: AskAnnAli

I'm a former journalist and political commentator learning to love living in the Columbus, OH area after spending my entire life in West Virginia. I'm a wife, a cat mom, Rotarian, Type A Pittsburgh enthusiast.

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