Shopping with young children in tow is a necessity for a lot of families. For many parents, the kids have to come along or the shopping doesn’t get done.
So what do you do on a big shopping day like Black Friday?
Do you wake the kids up early and get in line for the doorbusters? Do you pack distractions to keep kids’ hands busy as you travel from store to store? If you’re buying holiday presents, how do you keep curious eyes from spying their gifts in advance?
I reached out to Rosemarie Groner at The Busy Budgeter, who has two young children, for her advice on what to do. Here’s how she recommends going Black Friday shopping with kids in tow.
Delight and Distract
“If you have an iPad or an iPhone with a kid-proof case, this would be a great time to break that out,” Groner told us. An all-day shopping trip becomes much more fun when kids are given rare access to unlimited screen time.
It’s also a good idea to pack small toys to keep kids entertained, and Groner suggests packing special toys that kids don’t usually get to play with.
It’s also possible to buy new toys to increase the delight/distract factor, but make sure you keep those toy purchases within your budget!
Packing your kids’ favorite snacks is another great way to delight and distract. The kids get their favorite goodies — and yes, this is the time to pull out those special-occasion treats — and you also save money by not having to buy snacks at the food court.
“Packing a cooler full of drinks, sandwiches and portable snacks like Go-Gurt, trail mix and chips can help you avoid the high cost of eating out,” Groner explained. It’ll also help you keep the kids happy, fed and hydrated so you can keep shopping.
How do you do your holiday shopping when your kids are within eyesight? Here are Groner’s suggestions:
“For younger kids, you can buy holiday gifts with them right next to you using the distraction method: ‘Whoa! Look over there! Balloons!’ Then slip the toy into a store tote bag.
“When you get to the checkout, asking the cashier to discreetly check out while you keep the kids occupied can help you keep the presents a surprise.”
Of course, it’s a lot easier to shop for holiday gifts if your kids are asleep.
That’s why Groner advises parents to “Pack blankets and pillows to put in carts and strollers.” Kids can take a nap when they get tired, and you can keep hunting down those Black Friday bargains.
Skip the Doorbusters
While we’re on the subject of sleep: Should you wake up the kids at 3 a.m. so you can stand in line for doorbuster deals — or camp out in front of the store overnight to be the first ones inside?
Groner says no: “Unless I could save several hundred dollars on something I would have bought anyway, I would skip the frustrations involved in that. I can’t think of anything that I could get to make camping outside of a store with kids overnight worth it. Not even for a free iPhone 6.”
If you’re disappointed to be missing out on doorbusters, Groner suggests looking for Cyber Monday deals instead. You’ll often find great deals on electronics, home goods, holiday gifts and more — and you can shop without having to get out of bed!
Work in Teams
If you’ve got another parent, relative or friend available to shop with you on Black Friday, use the power of teamwork.
“It’s a great idea to team up with another adult,” Groner told us. “That would give you both a chance to break away for a few minutes kid-free to grab something while the other handles the kids.”
Having two adults present helps the shopping go more quickly because you can cover more ground. One of you can hit up the Electronics section while the other one visits Toys, for example.
With two adults, you also have someone available to take kids to to the bathroom, sit with them as they eat a snack and help entertain them when they get bored.
Of course, if you have two adults available on Black Friday, that also gives you another option: Have one adult babysit as the other one shops.
As Groner puts it: “An even better way to team up with another adult is to have her watch your kids from her home while you grab her shopping list of bargains for her.”
Your Turn: What are your tips for shopping Black Friday sales with kids? Share your suggestions and your stories in the comments.
Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life and Boing Boing.