By Kelly Baughman

It’s no secret that Black Friday is the biggest retail shopping day of the year, but what might come as a surprise to some people is the notion that it’s possible to plan ahead for the chaos.  Certainly, long lines and lengthy bouts of madness can come along with those low prices.  Many have experienced a few elbows thrown their way at 4 am from a giant purse wielding soccer mom, but if you take heed to the following tips, you’ll have a much easier time braving the crowds in search of those stellar sales that only come around once a year.

1. Get there early

When I say this, I don’t mean be the jerk that shops on Thanksgiving Day keeping workers from their families on a holiday.  It’s bad enough that they have to get up before the rooster crows.  Don’t make it any worse.  However, it still makes sense to get in line hours ahead of time if you’re interested in taking advantage of door-buster deals on items such as electronics.

It’s important to keep in mind that most of those extremely low-priced goods are loss leaders that help to bring people into stores so that they can buy other things. For that reason, there may not be dozens of those dirt-cheap sale items available for purchase, so if you’re late to the party, you’ll probably miss out.

2. Make a shopping list of Black Friday deals before heading out to the store

It’s best to do your research in advance.  That way, you can make a list of the stores you want to hit up first due to door buster deals, freebies, and items you’ll need a ticket for in order to purchase.  You should also map out store locations and try to make a game plan so that you are not back-tracking all over town for deals.

3. Shopping carts can be a detriment

They’re useful during a run-of-the-mill grocery shopping trip, but they tend to get in the way during a buying frenzy.  Unless you are either a complete glutton for punishment in crowds or a psycho who intends to use the cart as a wrecking ball of sorts, just leave it behind.  Instead, take a shopping partner with you who can help you take your haul to the register allowing you to get in and out of the store quickly.

4. Price-matching is the savvy shopper’s best friend

Instead of driving all over town to score the best deals, check with the stores to see if they will price match their competitors advertised sales.  Not every retailer is participating in price-matching programs this year, and you might have to stand in a lengthy line at the customer service counter, but it’s worth it if you can show an ad to an associate instead of motoring across town.  

5.  Stay home and shop online

If all else fails and you can’t get everything that you want in-store, many stores have the same deals online that they do in the store.  Sure, you may have to pay for shipping, but that’s a small price to pay to stay warm and cozy in your pajamas while skipping the madness that lurks outside your door.  Also, don’t forget about Cyber Monday, the online rite where Internet retailers offer customers profound discounts.

In any event, if you take heed to these tips, you should have a fantastic Black Friday shopping experience.  Just remember the golden rules we all learned in elementary school; treat others as you want to be treated, keep your hands to yourself, and if all else fails and you miss that one deal you were dreaming of, feel free to cry it out in a hissy fit….just don’t do it in the store.

It’s just shopping people.