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Last year I made up my mind that I would join the crazy crowds and catch some outrageous door-buster deals on the biggest shopping day of the year: Black Friday! I had never braved the day-after-Thanksgiving madness before. My husband thought I had completely lost my mind but supported me as long as HE didn't have to join me!

As a novice to the Black Friday scene, I quickly realized that I had much to learn before I could really be successful in my Black Friday shopping adventures!

RESEARCH. Probably the ONLY thing I did right the first time around was do my research and devise a plan of attack. I began my research several weeks before Thanksgiving. Sites like bfads.net and Black-Friday.net make it easy to compare prices and see what kinds of door-busters are being offered. (You can follow updates via Twitter and Facebook from these sites and others, too.) I checked the store websites for opening times. I even called my local Kohl's and Target to make sure those particular stores were participating in the advertised sales and door-busters. I brought my store circulars and a detailed shopping list with me.

PRIORITIZE. Different stores open at different times on Black Friday.  I discovered that it really pays to be there, waiting in line first, so it's absolutely crucial to prioritize! The most important items I wanted to save on were TOYS for my kids and my many nieces and nephews. Toys’R'Us was my first stop because they had the best deals on the toys I wanted to purchase. The store opened at midnight, hours before other stores in my area, so it was really a no-brainer to shop there first.

BE EARLY. When I arrived right as the doors opened, hundreds of hungry shoppers were already shuffling through the doors. By the time I got to the department where I would find the items on my list, the shelves were empty!! I learned that on Black Friday ONLY the earliest birds get the worms! I was able to nab of few items I wanted, including a humongous electronic toy crane for 60% off that my youngest son had practically begged Santa for. While I waited in line for hours to get to the checkout lane, I reminded myself that it was all worth it. Needless to say, this year I'm going to be one of those early birds waiting in line BEFORE the store opens!

TEAM UP. My biggest mistake as a Black Friday virgin was going solo. It didn't take me long to realize that it's smart to have a partner, or even a team, when you're hunting down bargains before dawn! I met a very sweet Mother-Daughter team while I was waiting in line at Kohl's last year. As my achey feet stood in line with my re-usable shopping bags full of pillow pets and kitchen gadgets, I watched them in awe! It was a simple system: One stood in line while the other shopped. The mother, an experienced Black Friday shopper, shared some of her tips with me while we waited… and waited. As soon as they arrived at the store, one of them got in line to hold their place. (They arrived early enough to grab a shopping cart, too. I was so envious!) Then the other one hunted down the products, returned to the line to drop them in the cart and set off again. I noticed lots of people were implementing the same system!

Even though I stumbled along the way, I managed to get some super deals… Newborn Baby Dolls and Furreal Friends for my nieces and a Toy Story Snuggie for my son ($5 each) and Pillow Pets for $10, just to name a few. I even grabbed some nice new bath towels for myself for a couple bucks a piece! I returned home after about 7 hours of shopping with a trunk full AND well under budget!! I would estimate that I got about 80% of my holiday shopping done that morning. I spent only a fraction of what I had spent on gifts in previous years!

So you'd better believe I will be out there on November 25th, sporting some comfortable shoes with a travel mug full of hot coffee in my hand…. and I've already recruited my sisters to join me!

This has been a guest post by Kimberly from Maricopa, Arizona
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