Black Friday 2014, done very quickly.

thOur Black Friday has come and gone, a reprise of last year’s experience at the loneliest drugstore in the world: Two of the stores we visited were practically tomblike.

The third, Play It Again Sports, held the possibility of new skis for DF at 50 percent off. However, it also held googols of optimistic winter sports enthusiasts (we have maybe a quarter-inch of snow on the ground) and determined-looking hockey parents. We backed off quickly due to our shared Claus-trophobia.

But at the other two? We walked in, bought what we wanted and walked back out. No pushing and shoving, no pepper spray and no buying things we didn’t need.

(Well, I did buy one thing I don’t need. More on that in a minute.)

That’s the kind of Black Friday I prefer, especially since a study from NerdWallet bears out what a lot of us already suspected: that those BF “deals” often aren’t as good as they’re made out to be.

Some are the same items/same prices as last year – or even this year, such as the Craftsman floor jack at Kmart for $49.99 (“lowest price ever!”) that was on sale for the same amount just a few weeks ago.

Others base their “savings” on an inflated suggested retail price, or on a sale price plus rebate. (Hint: Plenty of people never quite get around to filling out the paperwork, or they do it wrong and don’t get the cash.)

DF had his eye on a snowblower, a Consumer Reports Best Buy model from Troy-Bilt. A couple of weeks ago Lowe’s ran a pre-Black Friday ad showing this model for $499 (regularly $669). Being a cautious sort, he’d consulted a Lowe’s manager to make sure this machine would be available in Anchorage – and he kept the circular.

Good thing he did. The deal wasn’t repeated in the real Black Friday ad and the item initially rang up at the non-sale price. He pointed this out and a manager corrected the cost.

It wound up costing us $460.31, because I’d had time to order some discounted gift cards. Not quite as good as saving more than $100 on the shed/greenhouse, but not bad, either.

That ship has SAILED

And the item I bought that I don’t really need? Tampons. Boxes of them, even though I’m happily post-menopausal.

That’s because Walgreens offered eight-packs of a house brand for free after rebate. By “free,” I mean that I got scrip good for more Walgreens purchases. Since this offer began on Thursday (and continues through Saturday, if you care), I was able to go to a couple of Walgreens stores yesterday in addition to the one today – and this morning DF got a box, too.

The products will go to Clare House, a local women’s shelter. So will a bunch of other free-after-rebate items from both days: dental floss, antacids, toothpaste, throat lozenges, and some “Urgent RX” single-serve powders to treat pain, heartburn and allergy. Each had its own Walgreens scrip attached, which I used to pay for more “free” items, which produced credits of their own.

I’ve still got $8 worth left, so maybe I’ll stop at yet another Walgreens on my way to the show tomorrow. One of my great-nephews and I will be reviewing a musical production of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.” But unlike DF, the 13-year-old would probably rather fling himself off a bridge than be seen purchasing tampons. Even if they’re for a good cause.

Readers: Did you shop, online or off? Any truly epic deals, or was it mostly “NerdWallet was right!” for you today?

(And if you’re planning to shop on Amazon? Feel free to access it through one of the widgets on my site. As I’ve said before: A solvent blogger is a happy blogger.)

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  1. Carolina Cooper

    I did NOT shop Thanksgiving or today, Black Friday, neither online nor off. But, I did take a Christmas season job at a certain national shoe store chain in the local mall. I had never been out shopping on these days, since I have always planned ahead. Wow! Was working last night until midnight an eye opener!!! Who knew that after a day of turkey and trimmings that people would be lined up to buy shoes and boots at 11 pm at night? As I am (or WAS until yesterday) retired, this little part time job money is going into the “Talkeetna 2015 or Bust” fund.

  2. Ro in San Diego

    I shopped for “free” items at the drugstores that are also earmarked for charity. I bought the same tampons at Walgreens. The only real shopping was for a set of luggage for myself and a rice cooker to accommodate a visiting Asian student houseguest next month. After rebates and store cash I bought both for $25. I spent about as much at one of the drugstores. I think I did okay and have lots of great stuff for donations.

  3. Tina in NJ

    I tried to buy a big gift for my son yesterday, but learned today they were out of the color he wanted. Today I did a lot of shopping for me at sewing sites that only have sales this weekend. Most will be used to make stuff for me and for others.

  4. i shopped at Hamricks and Big Lots. Big Lots had tons of Christmas bags and paper for pretty cheap. I have several items loaded to amazon want list to see if they go any cheaper in the next few days.

  5. My husband ran out to the grocery store for paper towels and mayo. I had a vague thought about hitting the hobby store to see whether they had any great deals on yarn – I’m making scarves for Christmas – but we were headed out to a potluck/social at some friends’, and didn’t really have time for the side trip. Or I wasn’t motivated enough to fight the crowds. One of those, anyway…

  6. I stayed nice and warm (and safe) at home and didn’t spend a penny. #blackfriday was a success for me for sure!! 🙂

    The videos of the fighting and arguing over sub-standard electrical products which were £199 reduced to £169, which are popping up all over social media in the UK, are making me VERY glad that I took the approach that I did!

  7. Black Friday’s importance for the women in my family is as much about tradition than savings. I found myself making a quick visit to a local department store Tuesday evening for a fantastic deal on one family member’s gift (about 60% off pre-BF) and allowing myself to be talked into applying for and accepting their store charge card for the pure benefit of getting 15% off EVERYTHING we all bought there today. Did I need one more charge card? No, but having it won’t cause me to overuse it (I’m not particularly fond of shopping) and we all got some really great deals there today, thanks in part to that new card. More importantly, we enjoyed one more Black Friday with my 83 year old mother, who thankfully has recovered from a stroke she had in May. Helping/being with her is the real reason we’ve done this for ten or so of the last 30 plus years and we try to keep it lighthearted. We’ll have some fun memories for the day when our help is no longer needed and I know my sister (who hates shopping esp. on BF) and I will mutually agree to just stay with our one specific Christmas craft sale Saturday.

  8. I, too, got EXACTLY what I wanted at CVS & Walgreens but VRY early Thur am. Then I came home & on Fri ordered a magazine online for DGD1 for Christmas and bday gifts for the 3 spring birthdays from Amazon.

    I’m done w/gift shopping until the 1 summer bday and that grand is of an age where experiences are more interesting than stuff. I will be watching local deals for concerts/plays/……for her.

  9. I love the way you and your man navigate large purchases… that was a deft bit of consumer advocacy, dealing with what was essentially a bait & switch price! And I’m sure your thoughtful charitable contributions will be greatly appreciated, as not many women fleeing their homes for safety stop and think “Wait, did I pack the tampons?”

    Our consumer spending yesterday was limited to taking advantage of our local movie theatre’s “Buy a $50 gift card, get a $10 card free” offer (some of which we used immediately to get tickets to a favorite holiday movie), a 10-ounce reusable cup from the bar at the local live theatre (to avoid getting a new plastic cup with a lid and a straw every time we ordered a drink), and taking advantage of the code for free 8X10 prints at Walgreens (BIGPICFREE, good through the end of today) to print a couple of photos we’ll be giving as gifts to loved ones.

    Our gifts, this year and every year, will be homemade from our kitchen. For the first time, we’ve decided to forgo the usual gift of toys to the children, and instead make an extra contribution for each niece and nephew into the 529 plans we keep for them…. They’ve each got a dozen relatives buying for them already, and the kids are always exhausted before they’re halfway finished opening gifts! Oh, and a few photos and photo books gotten with free codes, for those that will appreciate them.

    Thank you for your inspiration, and Happy Holidays!

    • Donna Freedman

      I used to give homemade jam and cookies to certain people (including some business associates). Now that I have fewer fresh-fruit options, I’ve switched to making peanut brittle and sea-salt caramels, both of which are pretty easy to make but which taste expensive. They also go a long way: One recipe of caramels equals more than two pounds of candy, and they’re so rich that I cut them small.
      Nobody ever complains about homemade peanut brittle, either. Or the moose calendars.
      Good for you for putting money in their 529 accounts. They’ll have enough toys to keep them busy, but when it comes time for college or trade school they’ll be mighty grateful that their parents and other relatives were thinking ahead. (DF is putting money in his granddaughter’s college fund for birthdays and Christmas, since she has plenty of other doting relatives to give her toys and clothes.)
      Happy holidays to you — and to all readers — as well.

  10. I hate shopping with a passion, and my “DF” and I have a ‘no gifts’ policy year round, so I never left the house yesterday. Great for you and your DF on the snowblower; very smart to have saved the circular, called ahead to make sure it would be in your area, and the gift cards made it even sweeter. Clare House must love you; those items will be much appreciated by many.

    • Donna Freedman

      DF and I also have a no-gifts policy. We already have the things we need/want. Well, a gift is permissible as long as there’s a stirring tale of thrift involved (e.g., I found this on the “free” shelf at the library).
      We try to remember Clare House all year long, but the additional freebies sure help. When I lived in Seattle, during the height of the coupon/rebate craze, I used to take a grocery bag of free toiletries to a social services agency or to the youth shelter every month.

  11. Cathy in NJ

    I have two tales of frugality. The first is that I got last year’s cell phone model, Notes 3 for 96 cents. After researching I found the new model, Notes 4, didn’t have any newness upgrades I cared about.

    The second is a local library sells gently used books. I picked out a Christmas present book for my niece at a great price and the library benefits.

    As always I enjoyed the experience of getting up early going out to breakfast and shopping together as a family.

    • Donna Freedman

      Clearly, you kick butt. May I assume that at least some of your frugality is in anticipation of future travel plans? 😉

      • Cathy in NJ

        You betcha:) My frugal goal is save where I can so I can spend on what I really want a trip to Alaska this summer.

  12. Since I have a cat and a dog who allow me to live in their house if they are fed regularly 😉 I spent plenty on them — Wednesday. Our local PetsMart is in the mall, and I flat refuse to go anywhere near that part of town from Thanksgiving through Christmas. So, I stocked up on a month’s worth of critter food and stayed home happily Thursday and Friday.

  13. Punkin Pye

    Well, I was not going to shop on Black Friday at all. Unfortunately, I am nursing a bad sinus infection and our inhaler died. I bought the Thursday paper because my mother-in-law enjoys the ads and low and behold, there was a 30% off coupon for CVS. My beloved husband ran out to CVS and, with the coupon, got an inhaler for only one dollar more than the lowest free shipping internet price I could find.

  14. DW and I ventured out to the “outlets” Friday AM and I “wasn’t feeling it”…There just didn’t seem to be the bargains out there that there were in years past. It seems the prices were raised to accomidate the 40%/50% off sales. And the prices at Harry & David’s were just down-rite scary. I guess it comes down to…”how much fleece-wear do we really need”?….

  15. Personally I dislike crowds and Greedfests, so I tend not to shop on Black Friday. But from what people say, stores were less crowded than expected here, too. As for saving $$ on Christmas gifts, summer sales provide nicely for that. Buy things that can be stashed away, and voila! No crowds, no headaches, and no last-minute rush.


  1. Winter salsa. - Surviving and Thriving | Surviving and Thriving - […] free-after-rebate section of the Walgreens Black Friday ad (I got a lot of items for the women’s shelter that…

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