black friday sales done rightWe’ve all heard horror stories about Black Friday. Fights breaking out among adults for the last toy on the shelf. Getting to the store at midnight only to be the next one in line when they run out of the toy your child absolutely wants more than anything.

But I think these stories miss the point, because they focus on presents for your kids. I think the focus should be on what Black Friday can do for you.

For the past few years, my husband and I have gone to Toys"R"Us on that sacred day. My mother and brother, who live out of town, spend Thanksgiving night at our house and watch the kids in the morning while we shop. We don’t get there at midnight, but we do get there by 7:30 am, courtesy of my 5-year-old who comes bounding into our room every morning at 6:45. True, the biggest-ticket items might be sold out by then, but your kid will survive if he doesn’t get this year’s Furby by Christmas morning (sometimes you can reserve it online—and then your kid gets a nice surprise in February), and you will likely survive if you end up buying it for $10 more than you could have. It might mean that he ends up with fewer toys in order for you to stay within budget, but then he gets a good lesson in priorities.

Every year we’ve gone, we’ve ended up missing some big sales but being able to take advantage of many others. And we’ve never had to fight for the last toy on the shelf (though I bring along a bottle of pepper spray just in case… kidding!).

Here’s what we DO get out of it:

  1. A total rush. After saying “no” repeatedly to our kids’ requests for toys throughout the year, it is so much fun to wildly throw toys into the shopping cart, cruising through the aisles together like a couple of kids ourselves. Most purchases are straight from their lists, but we always throw in a couple of wildcards that we think they’ll like, which makes it even more fun. The lines are long but organized, and the line time gives us the opportunity to go through the 45 gifts in the cart and narrow them down to something more reasonable. (Tip: Use the calculator on your Smartphone—or bring an old-fashioned one along—to make sure you’re staying within budget. You’ll have time to add everything up, because the line will be long, but guess what? You don’t have any whiny kids with you, so who cares?)
  2. All our kid shopping done early and in one shot. It’s nice to not have it hanging over your head for a month.
  3. Quality time together. Doing the shopping is fun, but then my husband and I go out for breakfast, which is really fun. We’re giddy with excitement, and happy to be together just the two of us, especially on the heels of all the Thanksgiving preparations. If you’re a single mom, or if you don’t particularly want to spend the time with your spouse (hey, I don’t judge), see if one of your friends will go with you—perhaps a fellow single mom? Take advantage of the flood of relatives who are in town and get one to babysit. (If Grandma’s not available, perhaps that perennially strapped-for-cash 16-year-old cousin would be game for a small fee?) The important thing is to hit the stores with someone whose company you enjoy.

Who says date night can’t be at 7:30 in the morning?