The Fru-Gal

The Fru-gal: Tips for making your 'Gray Thursday' experience more pleasant

with stores opening earlier than ever, have a plan and stay focused

Contributing columnistNovember 27, 2013 

Everyone arrives at your house on Thanksgiving Day. They take in wonderful smells from turkey roasting in the oven and pies cooling on the counter. Your guests take their seats at the table, say grace and dig in to dinner. When they are done, everyone helps clean the table — and then gets their coats on to go shopping?

Is Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, becoming the "New" Black Friday? Is this a good thing?

When you think about stores' merchandising policies like Valentine's Day cards going up right after Christmas or Christmas displays soon after Halloween, why not shopping on Thanksgiving?

Many people are upset that during this holiday, some retail employees must go to work and shoppers are choosing to leave their family celebration early.

But Black Friday is still the busiest shopping day of the year. So why not offer even better deals on what's being called Gray Thursday to get a jump on those year's-best sales figures?

Many retailers will join in this new practice and open on Thanksgiving, including Best Buy, Kohl's, JC Penney, Kmart, Macy's, Sears, Target, and Walmart.

Kmart will be open all day with deals starting at 6 a.m.; Big Lots will get going at 7 a.m. Later in the day, Best Buy opens at 6 p.m., the same time Walmart starts its deals. JC Penney, Kohl's, Macy's, Sears and Target are holding out until 8 p.m. Check other flyers and advertising supplements for times and specials that are offered only Thursday.

Here are some tips for navigating this new shopping landscape.

Strategize: Whenever you venture out, don't let your shopping experience overwhelm you. Be organized with a plan.

Lots of stores are holding sales during certain hours of the day, making it easy to get trapped in a store for an entire day. Have a list of exactly whom you need to buy for and how much you want to spend. Stores are going to want you to buy more than what you had planned by offering additional "unbelievable" deals in store. Keep to your list.

Focus: Don't think that you need to go to every store; instead, pick one or two and focus on their sales.

Take a friend: Have a shopping buddy with you to doublecheck you are not getting anything you do not need.

Get something in return: Giving is heartwarming but getting something for you in the process is an added bonus. Here are some suggestions for how to do that.

■ Determine what stores you are visiting; they might have unique ways to be rewarded. For instance, if Macy's is on your list, go to Kroger and buy a Macy's gift card that will give you four times the fuel points when you use your Kroger Plus Card at the pump.

■ Check out the stores you plan to visit and sign up for any of their loyalty programs.

If Kmart or Sears are on your plan, sign up for their Shop Your Way Rewards Card, giving you up to 3 percent of your purchase in points to buy something for yourself.

Toys R Us has a membership program that enables you to earn up to 2 points per dollar at Toys R Us and Babies R Us.

Target recently launched a smartphone app called Cartwheel that offers unique discounts and turns couponing into a sort of social media game.

Go small: Local, independent shops most certainly will not be the zoos that major retailers turn into. Through a program started by American Express, Saturday has been dubbed Small Business Saturday. Shoppers are encouraged to patronize local stores, most of which offer gifts that you won't find in big stores. American Express cardholders have the chance to get $10 back on purchases at participating retailers. Go to Shopsmall.com for more information.

Wait until Monday: If you miss or skip the Gray Thursday and Black Friday sales, consider Cyber Monday.

Many online retailers will offer highly discounted deals. Some of them have already begun. Amazon.com started its deals Sunday. HomeDepot.com has been touting early discounts. Walmart.com is being aggressive in its discounting to already match the discounts that other retailers won't launch until Friday. Even flash shopping site Rue La La has started its deals early.

Don't start your online shopping without signing up for Ebates.com. This site lists promotional codes for more than 1,000 major retailers and issues you a check quarterly based on your purchases made through the site.

Slow down: However you shop this season, take time to appreciate what you do have. Spend time with a child making a homemade gift instead of going to the store. Visit elderly friends and relatives or friends who might be alone this holiday. Do some volunteer work. Holidays bills in January are not a gift you want to give yourself. You cannot put a price on a gift from the heart.

Deborah Morris' column, The Fru-Gal, can help you get through these economic hard times a little more easily. It publishes every other Sunday.

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