Yes, the day after Thanksgiving will have some great sales. How do you find them? And, is it really a good deal? I'm awesome at shopping this day, and if you are looking at scoring some good deals that day, I hate to say it, but you are starting too late.
There are two main ideas that guide my shopping:
1. It's not a deal if you are buying something you don't need.
2. Your time and money are finite resources, so you may need to sacrifice one for the other in limited quantities.
The first step is to figure out what you need to buy. Make a list of everyone for whom you will need to buy something in December. The list should be exhaustive. Include people at work, hostess gifts for parties, and neighbors in addition to the usual suspects. I would start making this list in September for two reasons - first, if you have kids, syncing your holiday plans to the school year is natural, and second, setting aside money from each paycheck for 3 months will give you the cash you will need without having to resort to credit cards or layaway. Otherwise, finish this list on November 1. The date you should not start is Thanksgiving. You will probably forget someone, or worse, you will start planning purchases for someone you have already bought a present for.
Already bought a present for? This is step 2. If you raided the Day After Christmas sales last year, drag out the box. Did you really buy that candle set for your aunt, or did you want it for yourself? Could that lotion basket really be given to your boss, or would it be a better hostess present for your old college roommate's ugly sweater party? Did you buy knick-knacks on a business trip to Cincinnati for your brother? Where did those go? Or, were you going to treat someone to an experience - take them out to dinner, get sports tickets? Help them move? Step 2 is to pare down the list to just those people for whom you still need to purchase a gift. Remember Rule 1: It's not a deal if you are buying something you don't need.
Step 3 - Figure out where you will be shopping. Are you going to be at your aunt's house on Thanksgiving and will be swinging by the KMart on your way home? Will you be staying within a 10 mile radius of your house, or will you be making a special trip to a regional shopping area? The importance to deciding on where you will be shopping is to figure out which stores are in that area. Perhaps you will change your plans based on the deals that you find, but 90% of the time, altering your plans within a few days of Thanksgiving will violate Rule 2 - sacrificing one deal for another, or adding more time to your day to save $5.
Step 4 - Research. Find the ads as soon as they are leaked, and go through them with a fine-toothed comb. Sure, look at the big ticket items, but also keep track of the smaller things, like memory cards for cameras, warm winter accessories, wrapping paper, and ribbons. Write down anything and everything that's going to tempt you, along with the times by which you will need to buy them. Hint: Anything on the first page will sell out in 5 minutes, and you may need to be there 6 hours before the store opens. Then... are these really deals? Can the items be found in the first week of November for the same or similar price (she says... writing on her netbook that she bought for $197 on Nov. 6 that has more memory and a larger screen than the one that will be at Target for $157 on the day after Thanksgiving).
Step 5 - Plan A and Plan B (and Plan C and Plan D). After figuring out what the best deals are, start assigning deals to people. This is where you need to keep Rule 2 in mind. You cannot be at all stores at the same time. Prioritize the big deals for the big recipients. Come up with back up plans. So, if you want to get a digital camera for your brother at one place at 4am, have another idea just in case you show up too late to cash in. If you can get that camera elsewhere for $10 more, but also get a deal for your sister, then you need to sacrifice that $10 to get both deals... or...
Step 6 - Divide and conquer. Get a buddy, divide the list, reconvene for coffee at 7am post-shopping. I like to go shopping with Mom. I'm at Sears, she's at JC Penney. Make sure you have your exhaustive lists ready with extra gloves and wrapping paper and cheap socks. It's less crazed if you check out once at each store, not once for the doorbusters and another time for the good deals, etc.
Step 7 - Sleep in. Not finding deals? Then stay home! If you are planning on making gifts, you don't have to go out! If there's nothing you can think of for your gift list, stay at home! If the total savings on the list is $40, then stay home! I personally enjoy finishing my list on the Day After Thanksgiving, mainly because there is a festive energy without the hurried sense of despiration that comes with weekends in December. But, if you can't find what you are looking for, then you still have a month to make something happen.