Black Friday: Tips and Tricks to Help You Get Ready!

Here's how to make the most out of the annual shopping pilgrimage -- with the least amount of stress

Oh yes, it's almost upon us: Black Friday. Whether that notion thrills you or inspires bone-chilling panic, there are ways to take control of the infamous after-Thanksgiving shopping day without letting it control you. Here’s how.

First, do your homework. Keep track of the latest sales at your favorite stores by going to their individual Web sites or print ads, or to an aggregator like deal-finding service and email organizer Know the hours for all the stores you want to hit. BFAds, a site that compiles tons of info related to the annual shopping day, has a store-hours guide to help out. Make sure you pack any necessary coupons -- and read the fine print in advance so there are no surprises at the store.

As part of your prep work, make a list -- and intend to stick to it. The items you see in sale advertisements might be great deals -- but they might not be what you need. And if you are shopping for non-advertised items, you could even end up paying more if you buy them on Black Friday. Here’s why: BFAds' founder Michael Brim points out that those great deals you see in the ads are the most sought-after items, and are usually sold at a loss. To make up for those so-called “loss leaders,” retailers have to sell other products at higher-than-normal markups. Waiting until later in the holiday season might actually help you get a better deal on non-advertised items. So don't just grab anything so you can feel you’ve had a productive outing!

Shopping online can also be a great way to help you stay organized -- not to mention sane. Over the past few years, retailers have put an added focus on their online Black Friday sales, kicking them off as early as Wednesday night so that shoppers can participate in both in-store and online sales. Online giant Amazon, for instance, has already announced it will once again offer a full week of Black Friday sales starting Monday, November 19.

While it seems silly that a shopping outing can drive us to mania, we all know it can -- and often does. So make sure you take care of yourself. Bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated -- and maybe even some Aspirin, just in case. And go into the day with nourishment in your system. "Just like preparing for a big test, the worst thing you can do is skip breakfast," says president MaryAnn Bekkedahl. "So as not to be distracted by the food court or waste time at the nearest coffee shop, don’t leave the house without topping off your Thanksgiving dinner with a turkey sandwich and a thermos of coffee."

Another hot tip: Experts agree you can make the most out of the big day by tackling it with a partner.’s Bekkedahl says, “The two of you can cover the store much more quickly than you can alone and your shopping will be done in half the time.” BFAds’ Brim agrees: “No one wants to go into battle alone. Not only will a buddy help keep you sane while waiting in line, they’ll be incredibly useful once the doors open.”

Still feeling overwhelmed? You could wait for Cyber Monday -- but be warned. “The Cyber Monday sales, historically, haven't been anywhere near the quality of the Black Friday sales,” says BFAds' Brim. “Cyber Monday has gotten better, I'll give it that, but if you're shopping online one day this month, that day should be Thanksgiving Day, as that's the day most retailers push their online Black Friday sales live.”

Overall, Brim advises shopping early -- and being prepared to pounce if you see a great deal even in the days far ahead of Black Friday.

“If Best Buy is offering a 42-inch TV for $300 in its Black Friday sale, it's not unlikely that Amazon or Walmart might also offer a similarly-speced TV for $300 sometime prior to Black Friday.” He cites an example from last year in which Walmart put its PlayStation 3 160GB entertainment bundle on sale for $199.99 days before Black Friday. At the $200 price-point, that matched both Best Buy’s and Walmart’s Black Friday pricing.

As for this year’s hot items? Look for laptops, HD TVs, and tablets to top the list of sought-after products.

All ready now? Good luck out there!

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.

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