So You Think You Can Shop? Black Friday Survival Guide

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Black Friday shopping is a lot like high-stakes poker: youre either all in or all out, and in these difficult economic times, more shoppers are expected to venture out on what has traditionally been considered the busiest shopping day of the year.
The term Black Friday came about to describe the day when retailers began to turn a profit at the start of the holiday shopping season, meaning they shifted from being in the red to in the black.
These days, the term conjures up images of crowds skipping Thanksgiving dinner and instead camping out in mall parking lots in hopes of scoring the best deals the next day.
Yes, Black Friday shopping has become a contact sport, so if youre going to do it, you need to be prepared. It is not for the faint of heart, but if you decide you are up for the challenge, here are a few things you can do to make your shopping experience more successful.
Do your homework
Spend Thanksgiving Day enjoying your meal instead of looking at sales ads. Several websites have the Black Friday ads online so you can do your planning ahead of time. Two worth checking out are www.TheBlackFriday.com and www.Black-Friday.net. Several online shopping forums also have some of the best Black Friday deals posted by users who have been doing the comparison-shopping legwork for you. Two of the most popular are www.FatWallet.com and www.SlickDeals.net.
Get organized
Prepare a shopping list and decide which stores you want to visit and in what order. You have a limited amount of time to shop in as many stores as possible so a list of what items you want from each store is essential. Prioritize your list and check the opening times of the different stores. They tend to vary so stagger your stops in order to be most productive.
Be Early
Make that very early. At some Best Buys last year, lines began forming as early as 6 p.m. the previous evening. While thats a bit extreme to most rational thinking adults, know that there will be hundreds of people camping out hours before a stores opening in order to score some of the best deals.
Dress comfortably
Dress for Black Friday like you would for an airport security line; wear simple and comfortable shoes and easy-to-remove layers. Clothing with lots of pockets will allow you to carry some power bars and snacks to help you through the day or when driving between stores.
Choose your partner wisely:
If there are 50 ways to leave your lover, taking them shopping with you on Black Friday is at the top of the list, so leave your significant other, along with young children, at home. But do plan to bring a like-minded adventurous friend to help with a divide-and-conquer strategy or to stand in the checkout lines, which will inevitably be long and move slowly.
Use technology
Most cell phones include web browsers and this is the day to use them to your advantage. Dont be afraid to check prices online while you are shopping to be sure you are getting a good deal.
As you plan your day, know that electronics are the first items to fly off the shelves on Black Friday, followed closely by the hottest toys, so if one of the must-have items on your list includes either of those, head to those departments first to get the best selection.
Despite the difficult economic times, a spokesman for Landmark Mall said that they are expecting a big turnout on Black Friday this year. The mall itself will be open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., with Sears and Macys opening at 5 a.m.
Do you really need to venture out on Black Friday to get the best deal this holiday season? For a very few select items, perhaps. But retailers have already been offering discounts normally seen much later in the holiday shopping season and those deals are expected to continue throughout the rest of the year.
So no need to feel bad if you decide to sleep in and skip the Black Friday minefield. Instead, enjoy a leisurely day and head to Market Square to enjoy the tree-lighting that night knowing that there are still 26 shopping days left until Christmas.

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