I step outside and take a deep breath of the crisp, cool air. I am prepared and ready. I’ve done my homework and have my gear ready. It’s time for me to take the field. Football? No, I am a Black Friday shopper.

I used to scoff at the hordes of people that would march out into the cold and push, grab, and even tackle to come home with the best deal, only to stand in line for hours to pay for their holiday presents. I felt this way UNTIL I went for the first time. Now, I’m hooked.

If you’re curious enough to give it a try, here are some tips that you may wish to keep in mind.

START EARLY & PLAN YOUR ROUTE

Most retailers will have their ad leaked before it is actually distributed. There are a handful of "Black Friday" websites that have scans of these ads. They will also notify you when new ads are posted. As ads are posted, start a list of the stores where you’d like to shop. You will want to note :

  • Time of the sale.
  • Prioritized items that you wish to purchase.
  • Any special conditions such as items that must be purchased on store card for discount.
  • Review the stores with the sales that you are most interested in.
  • Develop a plan of action for the sales that you plan to attend and the start times.
  • Download floor plans of where items will be located if your retailer offers this.

There is no worse feeling than showing up to the one store that you are most excited about only to see a two hour wait just to get in the doors. Chances are the “limited quantity” items will all be gobbled up.  Most stores will start their sales at similar times. If you can't live without the deal that ToysRUs is offering, then it would be a good idea to start your shopping there.

LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME

This seems like common sense. Yet every year, I come across tired eyes and tantrums wearing cute little pajamas. Is saving $25, $50, or even $100 worth dragging your children out in the middle of the night? I think not. If there is truly no option of a sitter or relative where your children can spend the night, consider these alternatives:

  • Many retailers have begun honoring their Black Friday sales online or having online sales on Cyber Monday.
  •  Wait to leave and go shopping until your children wake up at normal time.

BE NICE

We all want essentially the same thing: to save some money on our Christmas shopping. Yet we’ve all seen the horror pictures of Black Friday sales gone wrong. My dear husband waited over two hours for one of ten Thomas the Train deals offered that year. As the sale started, a woman flew up and struck my husband in the back with her cart to get him out of the way. As luck would have it, he didn't fall. He then proceeded to hand out the other nine sets to people who had waited patiently. Christmas is a time for us to celebrate the human spirit. Please do not open cases before it’s time, cut in line, or curse at random strangers.

 DRESS APPROPRIATELY

Where I live, Thanksgiving night is usually not warm. If you plan to wait outside for stores to open, put some thought into your dress.

  • Dress in a combination of breathable layers. You want to be warm outside, but not passing away from heat stroke later when you are in the store.
  • Remember the hat and gloves.

TEAMWORK

On my first Black Friday experience, I arrived at the Toys R Us at 9:00 a.m. with my 9 month old. I wasn't purchasing any of the frenzy items, so I thought most of the frenzy should have passed. In reality, it took 20 minutes to find a parking place, and there were no carts available. While still holding my 25 lb son (who felt more like 100 lbs), I kicked my purchases to the back of the line. The group in front of me was made of four or five women. They took turns waiting in line and leaving the line to shop. They were also unable to acquire a cart, so one of the women waited in line for returning carts. She returned with two: one for her group and one for me. I am eternally grateful for that woman's act of kindness. These are the lessons I learned from that trip:

  • Shopping with friends or family is key to a successful Black Friday.
  • Many stores offer limited quantities. Station yourself in line for the various items that you need. You can get extras for your friends, and they can do the same for you.
  • Divide and conquer. Split the store between your group.
  • Have one person with a cart get in line immediately after getting in the store. They can wait for you while you gather your items. It cuts down dramatically on your checkout time.

Black Friday is a time of the year that I sometimes look forward to more than Thanksgiving. I love the thrill of the hunt and shopping for the ones t I love.

This has been a guest post by Dusti from Granite City, IL
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