Are you one of the 138 million Americans that storms the malls and big box stores on Black Friday? If you can't resist, at least apply a method to your madness.
Here are 10 strategies to make the most of this frenzied American tradition.
1: Arrive early for hot items.
There are usually no rain checks on Black Friday. When an item is gone, it's gone. So if you absolutely positively must have it, prioritize it. WalMart and Home Depot are offering specials to save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
2: Remember that most advertised sales are loss-leaders.
The stores aren't offering discounts to be altruistic. They are counting on you to get sucked into deep discount pricing, so they can sell you their high-margin items at regular prices.
3: Download the app and ditch the circular.
Practically every store has an app now, and they have scannable coupons and discounts. Before you hit the stores, load your apps so you're scan-ready upon checkout.
4: Be mindful of restrictive return policies, especially if you're buying gifts.
GOBankingRates ranked return policies from 50 major retailers. You will find the best return policies at Nordstrom, L.L.Bean, Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples, Zappos, Sephora, Macy's, Bloomingdale's and J.C. Penney. NerdWallet also weighs in on difficult return policies.
5: Stick to your list.
What's worse than food shopping when you're hungry? Going Black Friday shopping without a list. Do you really need the foot massager? Or the same sweater in 4 colors? Or another fleece blanket?
6: Do your research, especially for electronics and other big-ticket items.
Low price should not be your primary decision factor for an expensive item. Take time to find the highest quality product you need, and stick to that model. Often, a store will offer a model that is close what we want. Sometimes there are big differences from one model to another, so know exactly what you need before changing direction.
The Consumer Reports Holiday Gift Guide provides product information and reviews for thousands of products.
7: Follow your favorite retailers.
86 percent of social media users follow retailers. The number one reason is to receive deeper discounts and follower-only promotions. Like and follow your favorite retailers on all of the social media platforms for additional social-only specials.
8: Divide and Conquer with a Strategic Shopping Partner.
Pick a strategic shopping buddy, and split up if necessary to conquer an aggressive shopping list. While shopping is a great bonding activity, Black Friday shopping needs to be purpose-driven and goal-oriented. This also means shopping with someone that matches your stamina, energy, and patience.
If your significant other hates crowds and shopping, it's probably best to leave them at home. (However, for the sake of your relationship, it's best to agree on a shopping budget before you hit the sales.)
9: Pack Fuel for Recharging.
The food lines are going to be long. Bring along bottled water, energy drinks, and smart snacks like trail mix, nuts, granola bars, and protein bars to fuel you throughout the day. Otherwise you're going to default to the easy-to-grab garbage.
10: Remember Small Business Saturday!
Finally, reserve some purchases for Small Business Saturday! Remember that our financial prosperity and economic engine is built on entrepreneurship and small business. Small businesses are ready to serve you, and they need your business. Besides, don't you want a unique holiday dress from a local boutique for your upcoming parties, rather than pulling one from a rack of 100?
And, a few last tips to ensure success:
1: Remember your parking location. Have everyone in your party write it down.
2: Designate a meeting place in case people in your group get separated.
3: Be nice! We're all in this together!