Take the stress out of shopping this Black Friday. Photo: flickr user llimllib.

If you intend to head out into the cold this Black Friday in the hope of finding a basketful of bargains, then now is the time to give your strategy some thought. Every store from Wal-Mart to Macy’s will be offering plenty of deals to entice you in, but in these tough economic times it’s more important than ever to spend your dollars wisely.

Here are our tips for making the most of the Black Friday deals without breaking the bank – or your back – in the process:

Tip 1: Be prepared. If you’re heading out early on Black Friday morning – or, indeed, on Thanksgiving itself – then make sure you’re prepared for the queues. Temperatures can drop dramatically at this time of year once the sun goes down, and there’s every chance that it will get much colder than you anticipate. Wrap up warm, bring some food, and make sure you’re comfortable. And remember – most stores have great deals happening all day long, so there’s no need to risk hypothermia in the cold just to save a couple of bucks.

Tip 2: Do your research. Make sure you know what time the stores in your area open and close. There’s nothing worse than turning up at 5:00 pm only to find they closed an hour earlier. If you’re shopping for specific gifts, check out the stores’ websites in advance, as well as the many Black Friday websites online (our own Black Friday Guide is a great resource for this). You don’t want to buy that Pillow Pet for $15 only to find it elsewhere for half the price.

Tip 3: Shop your favorites. It’s tempting to jump from store to store during the shopping frenzy that is Black Friday, but you’d be better served by sticking to the brands you know and love. If you usually do all your clothes shopping at Macy’s, then you’re unlikely to find that perfect sweater at Old Navy. If you spot a great deal online then you might decide to make a special trip to grab it – but your time would generally be better spent in the stores you already trust.

Tip 4: Resist the marketing campaigns. You know the ones. They’ll be spread across the front of the store, offering you scarves for a dollar, or Zhu Zhu Pets for $5. They seem like a great deal, but often the stores are eager to shift these items for a reason. Ask yourself whether it’s really what you want, and if you’re at all uncertain then look elsewhere. You’d be better off spending $10 on a gift someone will love, than $5 on something they’ll throw straight in the trash.

Tip 5: Remember Cyber Monday! Black Friday may seem like your one opportunity to grab a deal this Christmas, but it really isn’t. There are plenty of online deals already happening prior to Thanksgiving, and there will be even more come Cyber Monday. Many stores discount heavily in the last week before Christmas too, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for then save your dollars for another day.

Most of all, be safe, be warm, and spend your money wisely this Black Friday!

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