Survival of the Savviest: Black Friday and Cyber Monday Edition

Photo Credit: Weliton Slima. Used with permission. 

As soon as Thanksgiving is over, many of you will immediately whip out a white board and start plotting your own Mission Impossible: THE BLACK FRIDAY.

But before you don your incognito gear and prepare to drown yourself in copious amounts of caffeine for that super-new-mega-big screen TV that will probably come down several hundred dollars in a few months, I have some advice.

My shopping style is defined in two words you would never expect to see in the same sentence—compulsive but economic. I believe you should never have to pay more for something if you don’t absolutely have to. A dirtier word for this would be a minimalist.

My grand advice is don’t do it, it meaning Black Friday. The reason is two phrases: Black Friday online and Cyber Monday.

In the past five years, these two phrases have become my secret weapons during November. I no longer need to go out into the bitter cold and willingly become the poster child for walking pneumonia.


  • You won’t need a tent.
  • You’ll be drinking something hot because you want to, not because you have to and out of a thermos the size of a five-gallon Gatorade bucket.
  • You won’t have to undergo months of rigorous training all so you can do the limbo or slide into home plate to get that last Bratz doll or Transformer for your little cousin.
  • You will not need the police.

You will need

  • A computer: $200-$3000
  • Some Internet:  $100 <
  • Your green friend Benjamin: As many of him as you’re willing to part with

Getting what you want on Black Friday without concussions or hospital visits: PRICELESS


May be subjective according to shopper.

Even though Black Friday deals literally make people go crazy, the online deals are even more ridiculous. Which is probably why it’s a good thing that you can take care of it in the comfort of your own home—away from people.

Stores fully cater to the consumer. They want you to shop (which is why some stores are opening as early as eight o’ clock Thanksgiving Eve) and set aside inventory so that you beat the masses. Picture the lines on Black Friday, then picture yourself ahead of thousands of people. You are basically beating out hundreds of store shoppers by just clicking a few keys.

You can even set Google alerts on your computer for items you really can’t live without until the next Black Friday.

Online Black Friday happens the week of Black Friday, and you’ve probably already received emails and seen the TV ads. Sometimes Black Friday deals happen three or four days before the in-store event. It depends on the store.

Cyber Monday is like experiencing Christmas early. Some stores still have inventory to get rid of, so they lower the prices even more. It’s like Willy Wonka gave you a golden ticket and hid another one on the other side of the Wonka bar.

Companies like Overstock, Amazon, and Ebay also have too-good-to-be-true (but are) deals. They participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

Mainstream stores are a little sour about this, so stores like Target and Best Buy are offering price matching, or even price beating, incentives. You win either way.

I am an advocate of stress-free shopping. We all have too much else to worry about. The holidays are a time for family, tranquility, and truck tons of good food. Black Friday has always been hectic because people are concerned about giving their loved ones exactly what they want. Which is truly heart-warming except when it turns into something on the five o’ clock news.

Now you can enjoy Black Friday (twice) as well as Cyber Monday. I realize some of you may have some nostalgia about that day, or maybe it’s a tradition for you. So if you miss the adrenaline rush, the drama, the crying, and the car chases, I have a few parting words:

  1. If you must go, for the love of your liver bring a life vest! It will protect you from elbows and gift-guarding dogs.
  2. Drive by all of the stores you plan to frequent the day before and plan an escape route. No seriously.
  3. If you pick something up, do it with all of your fingers and hold it as close to your chest as possible.
  4. If you take little ones into the melee, form a perimeter around them and equip them with walkie-talkies and GPS tracking.
  5. Do not, under any circumstances, separate.
  6. If you’re about to grab something and someone snatches it right when you’re grabbing it, do not engage. They will injure you (especially if it’s electronic).
  7. Remember the cardinal rule: All people are good at heart…except for today.
  8. Bring a few blankets and cover your purchases if you leave them in your car.
  9. That superpower you’ve always wanted but never had time to develop? Now is a great time.

I hope your next Black Friday is stress-free and that you do something fabulous with the extra time, like beat everyone to getting a great Christmas tree.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Alexandria Harris, known to the reading world as her alter ego A.L. Harris, lives in Wisconsin but secretly wishes her closet traveled to Narnia or Middle Earth. When she isn’t reading, drinking some kind of caffeine, or getting adrenaline rushes from online shopping, she serves as the Marketing Director for Harris Storefront Realty and writes for its Haus Rules blog. She also tweets regularly as @_ALHarris.

What’s in a Name?

By Alexandria Harris

Unlike Romeo, I’m going to cut right to the chase and tell you—everything. Before people even see your face, your name causes a certain bias. Your resume, business card, or direct mail piece might as well be your face. And this face can either say “Hello, I can see this is the beginning of something wonderful” or “Nice to meet you.” With the second option, I’m sure you’ve determined by now that it’s because the person has quickly moved past you to the next person with the normal-sounding name. Humans are creatures of comfort, if not anything. 

Naming your work, especially if it’s a book, is like naming a child. You want to take care with what you’ve put a lot of tears, sweat, and face palms into. Having your baby judged like a Harlequin romance when it isn’t is embarrassing.

I messed up and got it wrong.

Thankfully, naming your work can be easily remedied while naming your child…well let’s just say the first time for everything in this instance should be your last.

 I have no shame spending hours on baby name websites and name meaning generators to find the perfect name for my characters. They are going to breathe life into your story, so they definitely deserve a lot of time. Spending that time to make them all they can be is essential. 

My original book title was FORBIDDEN FRUIT. Besides the fact that at least seven other books have that title, my other hesitation was guiding my mainly young adult-intended audience to topics that may seem reprehensible by the title.

I had to go back to the drawing board and to square three. Square one was out because I’d already established a theme. My sequel is called GARDEN OF SOULS, and the third THE GRAPES OF RAGNAROK, so the title of the first book was especially important. It couldn’t just be anything. 

Some authors go through their book and pick a phrase they think was especially clever of them to write and pick that as a title. Others pick a concept or intricate detail. There is no rule of thumb. It actually depends on how much you can get the person reading your title to wonder about it or be awed. Your title should have a similar effect to pouring a bucket of ice water on someone.

I wracked my brain. I was in a bit of a pinch–I had to have my cover design updated and all the associated marketing materials by the next day. I suppose that’s what you get when you decide to change your title and you’re three months away from publishing your work.

After five hours of thinking, my brain felt like a sweat-caked marathon runner. 

The problem is that every title needs to be unique. Besides the cover design (and the back cover copy), it’s the most important thing that will influence people to buy your book (or other work). I hadn’t done my research, and that’s why I was in this conundrum. 

The good news is that little sisters can be accommodating when you promise to do their make-up for Homecoming. 

Going through the dictionary, thesaurus, and reading back through the book stressed me out—panicking, trying not to get it wrong. The fate of the world, or fate of how well this book will do, depended on how well I could command the English language. 

No pressure.  

So like Frodo looking for Mount Doom with Sam for back-up, I went with my sister Morgan through the paths of knowledge and memory to find a suitable title. It had to go where no title had gone before. An epic story demands an epic title.

I also had a little mystical help along the way—the Everchanging Book of Names, which sounds like it should be in a Harry Potter book or at least an epic fantasy novel. The software is amazing, featuring names for characters and locations in different languages. Some are old languages and some are new, but it will help you if you’re stuck under the villainous writer’s block. 

But in the end, how epic something becomes is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes simplicity can pack a larger punch than all of the long-winded, epic sounding names we can come up with. 

After two days of heavy thinking, I decided on THE GOLDEN ASHFRUIT for my title. With another month to go before publication, I’m banking on the title hold its weight and do some of the marketing for me.


Finally, I have some advice on naming. Do the research. If you do a web search and your current title is already being used for twenty other books, don’t use it. No matter how tempted you are, it isn’t worth starting from the bottom and trying to fight your way to the top of all the SEO madness. Also, Google Keywords is your best friend. The kind of best friend you want to hang out with all the time and consult for all your naming decisions. Lastly, be clever but not crazy.


Take your name where no name has gone before, but remember not to go wild and have it resent you for the rest of its (hopefully) long-lived life.