One man’s quest to spend and save on Black Friday

After four hours of Black Friday shopping across the North County, I’m not sure which is more sore: my credit card or my left shoulder.

I think I’ll have to go with the credit card, because a mere hour after, my prime bag-carrying arm is feeling better, while the pain from the day’s purchases won’t really begin to hurt until the bill arrives in a couple of weeks.

Nevertheless, it was a successful morning outing. Here are some observations from Friday, focusing on the many ways I found to save even while spending more than I expected.

Shopping solo

First, let me say, it is much more efficient to brave the biggest shopping day of the year alone, without kids in tow.

I take the big chain stores the way Marines storm a beach: I move quick, strike fast and don’t eat.Savings: At least two hours and however much it would have cost to buy lunch for two kids.

Where to start

Before I fell asleep last night, I had already mapped out my initial strategy.

That was to hit Dollar Tree in Atascadero first to buy a few extra copies of The Tribune in order to score some more $10 off coupons. Sometimes, you gotta spend money to save money, so shelling out $3 for some newspapers I already had at home in order to get another $30 worth of coupons is a good deal.

Savings: $1.50 off the cost of three Tribunes. The little-known secret here is that not only does Dollar Tree sell day-old Thanksgiving newspapers, they also sell them for 50 cents cheaper.

In search of tech

If you’re wondering where the best place is to find small electronics, head to Staples.

The first reason is that hardly anyone thinks of going there, so it’s always totally mellow.

Second, they have some of the best doorbuster deals, including an Olympus Stylus Tough-3000 camera that can shoot high-def video underwater ($149), a 750 GB Western Digital portable hard drive ($69) and a nifty Brother label-maker for less than 10 bucks.

Savings: I don’t even know, but probably close to $100.

Warm her heart

The next tidbit comes with a spoiler alert, so Stephanie, if you stumble upon this column, stop reading now.

Last year, I tried to get Mrs. Animal Doctor a propane patio heater from Home Depot, because she tends to prefer those kinds of things to, say, diamond earrings, but when I arrived at its spot on the aisle, all that greeted me was a gaping bit of empty floor.

So I was particularly pleased to find the same $99 deal again in this year’s ad, even more so when I discovered boxes upon boxes of the things stacked up in the middle of the aisle like building blocks.

Savings: You can’t usually find these things for less than $150 or so.

The big deal

My last major stop of the morning was at Kohl’s in Paso Robles for clothes and toys.

If possible, I would do all my shopping of any kind at Kohl’s. In fact, if Kohl’s is looking for a spokesman, they should give me a call. I could live on the coupon deals the way Jared does on Subway sandwiches.

Anyhow, the key here is stacking discounts, from The Tribune sticky notes to the clearance prices to the Early Bird deals to the regular sales to the 15 percent discount for using my Kohl’s card.

Savings: Kohl’s says $258.77, but that’s assuming I bought everything at regular price, which would never, ever happen. Ignoring the regular sales, it was probably around $100.

OK, now you have all my secrets. You’ll probably find more opportunities this holiday season to use them.

Go forth and multiply your savings.

Joe Tarica is the presentation editor at The Tribune and writes the Joetopia blog at http://sloblogs. thetribune Reach him at jtarica@thetribune or share your comments online.