My husband and I have only done the Black Friday early morning gig once in our 20 years of marriage, braving crowds and cold weather with a toddler Katie (who is now 10). The free after rebate items at our local Ace Hardware were just too enticing. David and Dan both got tools in their stocking that year. While we were out and about, we also stopped at Theisen’s farm store for the batteries that would also be free after rebate. Unfortunately, standing in a long line with a toddler means we left that store with a stuffed animal we didn’t need or want. We vowed never to do it again, at least not with a toddler in tow.
I’ve heard the stories that make the Black Friday debacle appealing. My sister-in-law, Julie, goes shopping with her mother every year, getting up early and hitting the stores that offer the free gift cards or the doorbusters that appeal to her. They shop till they drop, then enjoy a good breakfast together. That sounds like fun. Then there are the experiences like my daughter’s yesterday morning: http://tinyurl.com/2w59wul
Our youngest child is 7, old enough to stay with her siblings for the day.
I wasn’t interested in shopping for drastically reduced electronics, half-price cameras, or cheap $3 appliances.
No, I wanted the free-after-register rewards items from Walgreens.
There was no pre-dawn rushing out the door for us. David and I left town at a respectable 8:30 a.m. Before I left the house I used a Black Friday 20% off code and ordered a custom-made box full of Littlest Pet Shop toys from a woman on www.ThredUp.com, the premiere place for bartering clothing and toys. My children are fine with getting used toys for Christmas. In fact, my 17-year-old son still talks about the huge bin of used Legoes I gave him several years ago.
The parking lot of our Walmart was still full when we drove by. Our first stop in Marion was the Salvation Army thrift store. We had the store mostly to ourselves as we perused the racks that were labeled with a hand-written sign “6 for $1.” Yes, the Salvation Army was having an unadvertised sale on both plus size and t-shirts. Thanks to working at my sister’s store, I know what brand to look for: a dozen Vanity and American Eagle tees went into the cart. Plus size was easy too: CJ Banks labels were an automatic yes. So were Lane Bryant and Venezia. Thanks to these sales, I’ll have an entire rack of women’s plus sizes at my next garage sale. Tops I paid less than a quarter for will be snatched up at $1.50-$3 a piece. Some two-piece outfits and jeans (yes, they were also 6/$1) can be priced as high as $5. Books were 6 for $1 too, but the selection was very limited. I did manage to unearth two large books about digital photography, a writer’s resource book, two old readers and some newer fiction paperbacks which will go to HalfPrice Books my next trip there. Last time they gave me $18 for a box of books I’d gotten at Salvation Army that I hadn’t paid more than $3 for.
It was 10:00 before we hit the Walgreens store, and every product that was issuing a register rewards coupon (now called Jingle Cash) was still in stock. The trick was to make sure to use a coupon on each item so that after the register rewards it would not only be free, but I’d be paid to take it out of the store. Some highlights? Colgate Total toothpaste was on sale for $2.99 with a $2.50 register reward. I used a $1 coupon, so netted a profit on that. The Olay body was $3.49, with a $2.50 register reward. The Secret body spray was $3.49 with a $3 register reward. Purchasing the two products together, I could use a $5 coupon, which means I essentially got both products free and, in fact, made money on them! David and I each did an order, paying $24 and $16 for our orders, but leaving with more than $15 in catalina coupons each. After we went to the Hy-vee store for a marked-down breakfast buffet ($3.99 each for scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, sausage, and all the coffee we could drink, normally $6.99 without the coffee) we headed back to Walgreens to use some of our Jingle Rewards dough.
Not pictured? The three Littlest Pet Shop toys that were marked $6.99 each or 3 for $13.98, the $6.99 Scottissue 12-pack, four packages of batteries, and a 2-pack of Phillips Sonicare heads for the toothbrush David’s dentist recommended. The toothbrush heads normally retail for $30 each. David had to add some candy for the kids in order to use several of the catalina coupons (there has to be one item per catalina coupon) After his Jingle cash, David paid less than $15 for all of this, and $3.64 was tax. I did another order of free after rewards items, so now we have $24 in Jingle cash to spend at Walgreens before December 10th.
On the way home I asked my husband if he’d had a fun day. After all, it was really my thing to rummage through used clothing and books for gems, and my thing to fill carts with free merchandise. He mostly follows me around, watching me, and his head starts to spin in circles when I try to explain why I am adding yet another bottle of shampoo to the cart, shampoo that will be 99-cents after register rewards, and free after my $1 coupon. He doesn’t even try to understand my obsession, but he does support it.
“I love watching you do your thing,” he answered, taking my hand in his and squeezing it tightly. “I love being alone with you.”
I knew then that our Black Friday shopping trip wasn’t all about the deals.
It was way more about the company I was keeping and the time spent with my best friend.