Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 6: Black Friday Shopping Tips

This picture has NOTHING to do with Black Friday shopping, so don’t waste your time trying to find an intelligent correlation. Instead, spend your time appreciating the beauty of this picture (and Josh’s flower drawing skills). This is from when Nola had her “lady parts” removed a couple of years ago. We couldn’t resist decorating her cone, since she was forced to wear it anyway. Isn’t she the cutest little post-op puppy ever!?! (I also posted this picture because I decided every post needs a picture, whether related to it or not.)

**Check out the previous parts in this twelve part series here.

***Sorry for the late post, folks.  To say I have been busy today is an understatement:  I have been on (and off) hold with the gas company for the last 2.5 hours today, and in case you’re wondering, if the previous tenant of the unit you are living in passes away without paying his gas bill for two years, that might result in you having your gas turned off, even if you have paid your bill.  The moral of the story is keep good records!  The only reason they’re turning my gas back on today is because I have a bill from my previous residence proving I lived there and not here with the previous tenant.  Seriously.  Crazy times.  I’m exhausted. 

Ok, ridiculous stories aside, I am so EXCITED!  Why?  Well, aside from being able to use my oven and stove again (very soon), this is a very exciting week in the world of penny pinching!

No, not Thanksgiving… though I like that, too.

Over the course of the next week, you can take advantage of….   (drumroll)

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday!!!

(Oooh…. Aaaah…..)

Oh boy, oh boy!  Right?!  Today I’ll address the crazy (and slightly intimidating) magic  that is Black Friday; I’ll leave Tuesday and Wednesday for the rest.  Don’t worry, you’ll be fully prepared for bargain hunting nirvana.  I’ll make sure of it.  :)

Black Friday:  It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and it’s considered the “official” first day of Christmas shopping (though if you’re smart GPP readers, you’ve been doing the Christmas shopping thing for a while now).  The term first came into use in 1966, and it refers to this specific day when retailers turn a profit or are “in the black” (as opposed to “the red”).

Typically, retailers open their stores at 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m., though some will open as early as 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m..  Very recently, some retailers have even pushed it back to midnight.   As in, while you are eating your Thanksgiving dinner, stores are getting ready for soon-to-arrive customers.

This opening at midnight stuff has been met with much frustration, and one Target employee even started a petition against this plan, garnering over 190,000 signatures.  It gets worse:  Wal-Mart is opening their doors at 10:00 p.m., with most employees being requested to arrive at 8:00.  Gross.

Clearly, I’m not the biggest advocate of the midnight sales, and I still believe you can get AMAZING deals by just going early in the morning.

That said, here a few tips from a veteran Black Friday shopper, i.e.,  ME! 

1.        Pre-Black Friday sales:

As someone who has worked in retail, I know that at some stores, Black Friday sales actually begin the Monday or Tuesday before.  Seriously.  One such retailer that has always done this in the past is the J. Crew Factory store.  Random tip, I know… but you’re welcome all the same.  :)  This means if you don’t feel you’ll have the necessary game face ready for Friday… or if you are working or otherwise unavailable, you can still get some great deals RIGHT NOW.  It’s totally possible.  (In fact, my mother and I usually go Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving, where she does the majority of her Christmas shopping.  She refuses to be a part of Black Friday and “all those crazy people” as she says.  I guess she forgets that I am “one of those crazy people.”)

2.        Get up early!!!

This really does make a difference as a lot of retailers, particularly department stores, have “doorbusters” or “early bird” specials that are only available before 9:00 or 10:00.  The crowd can be a bit crazy, but it will totally be worth it if you get a great deal (genuine leather Etienne Aigner boots for $40?  Ok!).

3.       Eat breakfast.

Many irrational decisions can be made when you’re hungry.  Don’t let it happen to you (more on this in a future post scheduled for December).

4.        Stay hydrated.

This is in the same vein as #3, but seriously, very important.  Piggybacking on this concept, go ahead and bring your own water bottle, too.  You may think you can just buy something somewhere if you’re really thirsty, but I promise, everyone else will think that as well, and while Black Friday is a big day for retail, it’s also a GREAT day for the restaurant business (read: a day for CROWDS/LINES everywhere).

5.        Pack lightly and dress even more lightly.

Nothing is more frustrating than carrying a too-heavy purse when you’re on a serious Black Friday shopping mission.  Just pack what you need, i.e., wallet, sales fliers, water bottle, a snack, and a first aid kit (just kidding… or am I?).  The “dress lightly” part:  Perhaps equal in frustration is having to carry around a coat or scarf while also trying to carry shopping bags and push through the crowds.  Wear something where you think you’ll be comfortable both inside and outside (hopefully, you’ll be inside most of the day and it won’t matter beyond the trip you have in walking to your car).

6.        Check out Black Friday deals BEFORE Black Friday.

Thanksgiving day is THE day to buy a newspaper if you want a tangible copy of the sales fliers, but if you’re wanting to plan even earlier – perhaps before you slip into a turkey induced coma – there are a few websites that feature the “leaked” deals, so you could know as early as NOW!  Here they are:

The Black Friday

Black Friday @

Yeah, sensationalized is an understatement…

 7.       Make a list.

If you don’t have a battle plan going into Black Friday, you could fall victim to over-spending (eesh!) or overwhelm-edness.  With the crowds and the general state of frenzy, it can be easy to just say “This is too much – I don’t need to shop this badly.”  But… don’t do that, silly!  Because… again, this is both the busiest shopping day of the year AND the best if you’re looking for great deals.  For real.  It’s not just mass hysteria  (though it is that, too).  Make a list, know what you’re looking for and where you’re looking for it, stay tough, and make me proud :)


Hope these tips help!  Yes, Black Friday is a CRAZY day, but if you come prepared to do battle (I’m only sort of kidding in my tone), you’ll be fine (and maybe even slightly surprised to discover it’s not even as crazy as I’m making it out to be).

Good luck.

And, as always, please pass along any other tips you may have for Black Friday shopping in comment form below!

Coming up this week…

Tuesday:   Cyber Monday

Wednesday:  Small Business Saturday

Stay Tuned!


Blind Taste Test: Cheap “Champagne”

(The Ginger Penny Pincher wants readers to know that no “champagne” was wasted and no animals were harmed in the making of this blog.)

September 16th, 2011 marked the seven year anniversary of my first date with my husband, and we thought:  “What better what to celebrate than with . . . ‘champagne’?”

Three champagnes, one winner.

And . . . being the over-achieving penny pinchers that we are, we thought:  “What better way to celebrate than with a blind taste test to determine the best cheap ‘champagne’?!”

(In reality, the taste test had been planned well before we realized this day was our date-versary, but we thought it was a lovely coincidence, so . . . just pretend you didn’t read this parenthetical aside.)

Now, you may be wondering “what’s up with all the quotation marks around the word ‘champagne’?”  Well, for those of who don’t know, the word “champagne” refers to one very specific thing:  a sparkling wine made from grapes found in the Champagne region of France.  Fin.  The end.  Nothing else.  You may see the word “champagne” on various bottles in the U.S., but the majority of these are nothing more than sparkling wines.

The word “champagne” is so sacred, in fact, that its use has been protected by law since 1891.  Furthermore, this law was reaffirmed in 1919 in the Treaty of Versailles.   (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?  It helped to end World War I – it was kind of a big deal.)

However, while it may be law in Europe, this law has never applied to the United States because the U.S. never ratified the Treaty of Versailles!  (This choice obviously had nothing to do with champagne.)  Therefore, the word “champagne” can be used for . . . well, anything:  sparkling wine…grape juice…my dog’s middle name.  Whatever.

Not surprisingly, American vineyards took advantage of this for a little while, labeling most sparkling wines as “champagne.”  However, this practice has died down quite a bit in recent decades and most sparkling wines are now called exactly that:  sparkling wine.

The Taste Test Task Force!

OK, so history lessons aside, I used only sparkling wines in the “champagne” taste test seeing as how REAL champagne is not Ginger Penny Pincher-friendly.   Our neighborhood has only ONE liquor store, and it just so happened to be closed on Saturday, but our friend Maria came through by bringing two different types of (cheap) champagne, one low-cheap and one medium-cheap. Josh and I already had one bottle of champagne that was on the higher priced end (for cheap champagne, that is), so we felt we had a good range.

Now, this was not a perfect experiment because we tasted two Bruts and one extra dry, but this was all we really had available to us, and we thought the findings were still useful enough for them to be blog-worthy, so here goes.

We sampled:

  1.   Andre, Extra Dry, $5.99 (however, out of NYC this champagne may be as low as $3.99)
  2. Jaume Serra Cristalino, $7.99  (though the internet tells me it usually retails for $6.99, but that’s NYC prices for you)
  3. Freixenet Cordon Negro, Brut, $20.99

We uncorked all three, or in the case of Andre, removed the screw-top lid.  Classy, right?  Then, we filled three glasses with a little from each, and Josh and I left the room while Maria labeled each class with a folded up piece of paper that had the identity of the contents on the inside.  We were really high-tech about this.

Maria is responsible for the drawing of the blind person. Those who are offended can direct their outrage to

The original plan was to actually blindfold Maria and hand her the glasses to sample, but she did such a great job at scrambling their order that she had already forgotten what was what by the time Josh and I returned (thus the lack of zany blindfolded pictures).  We sampled each, and in a super-sneaky-snake-post-it note ballot, we cast our votes for favorite, second favorite, and least favorite.

The results were unanimous!    Wanna find out which cheap champagne prevailed?

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FREE DONUTS! Or Penny-Pinching Practice and Pastry Perks (a play in one act)


Or Penny-Pinching Practice and Pastry Perks

A play in one act

By Courtney Foster-Donahue


Courtney:  Protagonist, mid 20’s, redhead, cunning, clever, capitalizes on the bored vulnerability of Dunkin Donuts cashiers by employing her slight Southern accent.  Note: Actress only uses accent out of necessity, i.e., the acquisition of free food. Otherwise, she has virtually no dialect.  Also possesses acumen for alliteration, but employs this skill only when typing.

Josh:  Slightly goofy sidekick and husband to Courtney, mid-20’s, strangely tall, dashing, has a newly found fondness for his Fedora hat.  Quite adept at letting Courtney take the lead in all thrifty endeavors, especially those involving free food, particularly sweets.

Armand: Dunkin Donuts cashier, early 20’s, of nebulous ethnicity.  Easily susceptible to the Southern wiles of Courtney; worlds like “y’all” are a particular weakness.


September 2011, late evening.   New York City, “the City that Never Sleeps,” in a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood that goes to bed at around 8:57 p.m. EST.

Lights come up on a Brooklyn street , a pleasant evening at the end of summer; the kind of evening that makes  lovers yearn wistfully for the days of their youth… and other, overly poetic things Eugene O’Neill would have said in his stage directions.  Our hero and her husband roam Cortelyou Road in search of sustenance.  (A recent cooking malfunction has rendered their oven useless for the time being and with no microwaveable food, they have taken to the streets for their evening nourishment.) 


Scene 1

Less than interesting dialogue ensues as the couple walks along:

Josh:  How about this place?  They look open.

Courtney:  They just closed.

Josh:  (a few steps down the road) Ooh, this one!  There are people sitting down inside.  Oh, but their “closed” light is on.

Courtney:  Schmehhh…..

Josh:  What about Superior Deli?  I really liked that sandwich that one time… Yeah, let’s go there.

Courtney:  Don’t they have a debit slash credit minimum?

Josh:  Oh… yeah.

Courtney:  Do you have any cash?

Josh:  I’ve got a dollar.  (Non-Pinterian pause.)    Do you have any cash with you?

Courtney:  Never.


Courtney:  I think the only place on this street that takes debit cards with no minimum is Dunkin Donuts.

(Sound cue:  Unnecessary honking of car horn on street.)

Josh:  (disinterested)  Hm… How about this place?

Courtney:  That’s a bar…I don’t want to drink my dinner…  (smiles)  This time.  I think Dunkin Donuts is gonna be our best bet.  They have a totally decent chicken salad croissant.

Josh:  (quasi-ignoring Courtney, per usual)  What about here? (realizing)  Oh… they’re closed.

Courtney:  Yeah… (repeating verbatim for effectiveness):  I think Dunkin Donuts is gonna be our best bet.  I mean really, the chicken salad croissant is pretty good.

Josh:  Let’s just go to Dunkin Donuts.

Courtney:  (slightly peeved) Uh huh.


Scene 2

(Fluorescent lights up on a local Dunkin Donuts, shiny, clean, recently opened to the great joy of the Monday-through-Friday-A.M.commuter in the area.)

(Armand, DD cashier of nebulous origin and accent, waits for the ever- approaching closing time.  He is slightly depressed that he will have to throw out the baked goods that were not sold or eaten at the end of the night…  Slightly depressed, but mostly bored.  Note:  He is  unusually polite for a New Yorker.)

(Enter our hero, and her husband.  They have a spring in their step as they approach the counter.  They are hungry and, after all, Dunkin Donuts is the only eating establishment on their street that does not have a debit card minimum.)

Courtney:  What are you gonna get, sweetie?

Josh:  I don’t know.

Courtney:  I’m gonna get the chicken salad croissant.  It really is pretty good, did I tell you I got it one time?

Josh:  Uh huh.

Courtney:  (spies newly hung pumpkin donut sign)  Ooh, pumpkin!

Josh:  Yeah, that sounds good.

Courtney:  Yeah!

Armand:  Welcome to Dunkeen Donu’s, How-are-jou-dis-eveneeng-may-I-take-you-order? (with curiously rolled “r”)

Courtney:  Uh…yeah.  I want the chicken salad croissant and a Diet Pepsi. (Beat.)   Since you don’t have Diet Coke.

Josh:  I want the same.

Courtney: (aside to Josh)  I really think you’ll like it.

(The couple pays and proceeds to sit down, waiting for their order.  Increasingly less interesting dialogue ensues:)

Courtney:  I wonder what they do with their leftover donuts at the end of the night?

Josh:  What do you mean?

Courtney:  Well, you know, most bakeries have to throw away their baked goods at the end of the night if they weren’t all sold or eaten.

Josh:  Oh, because they might get stale or something.  (recalls:)  Like when we were at Shorter and we would go to Panera at closing time and get all those bags of bagels for rehearsal.

Courtney:  Yeah.  I should totally go ask that guy what they do with their left-over donuts.  You know, in the name of research… for the blog.

Josh:  You should!  But I’m not gonna get in the way of your Courtney/woman magic.  If I was up there when you asked he’d be like “Nooo….”  (Beat.)  But if you do ask, I want a chocolate cake donut.

Courtney:  Ok.

Courtney crosses down stage center (where else?) and moves with confidence.  For reasons unbeknownst to her, she suddenly takes on the speech patterns of a Southern Belle.

Courtney:  (to Armand)  Hiiiii……

Armand:  Jase?

Courtney:  Hey, whaddy’all do with yer leftover donuts at the end of the niiight?

Armand: (unable to stifle a smile)  Oho!  Heard jou talkeeng about duh pumpkeen ones!  Here!  A pumpkeen one for you!

Courtney:  (surprised)  Oh!  Thanks!  Uh… can he have one?  (points to well-concealed husband, sitting in a booth)

Armand:  (As if noticing him for the first time)  Oh… jase.

Courtney:  Great! I think he wanted a choc—-

Armand:  (interrupting)  A pumpkeen one for him, too!

Courtney:  (slightly disappointed) Oh… (Always the gracious penny-pincher:)  Thanks!!!  (testing the waters:)  Hey, do you always give away the leftover donuts at the end of the ni—-

Armand:  (interrupting, while abruptly exiting to the backroom:)  Enjoy it!  G’night!

Josh:  (after a bewildered moment:) Sweet! A free donut!

Courtney:  (while taking a bite:) And it’s really good.  (decides:)  Yay!

Josh:  And it was free:  yay!


(Playwright’s Note:  Any resemblance to actual historical events is entirely intentional and accurate, with the exception of the Dunkin Donuts’ cashier’s name, which remains a mystery.  Josh totally made the “Armand” part up.  Like his name, the DD guy’s ethnicity also remains a mystery. 

The playwright encourages the reader to go out and take advantage of these opportunities, like the one described in this play.  Many bakeries and cafes follow this same policy, either greatly discounting their unused food prior to closing, or giving it away all together. Become familiar with the closing hours of your local bakeries, whether they are chains OR mom-and-pops.

 The playwright also would like to remind readers that IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK.  Who knows? Perhaps you’ll end up with an “Armand.”  And… maybe even a spontaneously generated, yet surprisingly useful Southern accent.)

Okay, but seriously folks, all playwrighting attempts aside, do YOU know of a bakery, cafe, somewhere that doles out their leftovers???  Please comment and let us know! (The “leave a comment” link is below after the tags and it is very small.  Click on it. Then comment.  Then rest assured).)

If you mention a mom-and-pop store, don’t forget to mention the city/state… And of course, SUBSCRIBE! It’s that widget in the upper-right hand corner!

“Welcome frugal friends and bargain hunting brethren!”

I am Courtney Foster-Donahue, the “Ginger Penny Pincher” and as the self-appointed title indicates, I am a thrift thrill seeker and redhead extraordinaire (the red hair having little to nothing to do with frugality, unless you think redheads are magically adept at finding good deals– in the way that leprechauns are magically adept at finding pots of gold — in which case I might agree with you . . .  more on that in a future blog, I’m sure).

I’m a Gulf Coast native, hailing from Atlanta, and having recently relocated to the beautiful borough of Brooklyn, New York City, NY.  When I’m not blogging, I work as an actress, singer, dancer, and choreographer on the stage and screen.

See? I have a headshot -- that proves it!

<——–Check me out!  Website:

Fueled by a frugal fashion-finding fervor, a deftly driven desire for deals, and an all-around excellent handle of alliteration — I mean did you read that sentence? — I started this blog as a way of providing info and tips for those hoping to save money, but not dramatically alter their lifestyle – champagne taste on a beer budget, realized!

In addition to saving money, I will also explore ways to save non-monetary resources through various outlets, including up-cycling, antiquing, re-purposing, and energy saving — Caring: Mandatory; Tree-Hugging: Optional.

Armed only with a starving artist’s wallet and an acumen for savings and style, I look forward to blogging about my penny-pinching adventures while living in one of the most expensive cities in the nation in the midst of a recession!

PLEASE check back as I get this thing off the ground – Bookmark me now!

Upcoming categories:

  • Frugal Fashion
  • A Cheap Date
  • Tightwad Travel
  • Thrifty Thoughts
  • The Re-Purpose Driven Life
  • Courtney’s Kitchen: The Recession Edition
  • Doggie Deals
  • Champagne Taste, Beer Budget – featuring articles on wedding planning, home décor, and more—on the cheap!

. . . And more!

(You read that whole thing?  I like you already!)

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