14 Black Friday Shopping Tips: How to Beat The Insanity and Come Out on Top

Black Friday isn't just about waking up at the crack of dawn to score some sweet deals on Best Buy electronics anymore. No. It has also become a day defined by increasingly daunting holiday retail stakes and a crowd that's ready to wage a Hunger Games-style rebellion against you if you have something they want.

This post-tryptophan (please, please whatever you do, do not start your shopping spree on Thanksgiving Day. Is nothing sacred?) wake-up call shouldn't be a chaotic free-for-all; it shouldn't be tinged with buyer's remorse; and most importantly, it shouldn't deliver any elbows to the ribcage. To ensure you get the most out of this year's best Black Friday doorbuster deals, we're fool-proofing your impending experience with 14 "hacks," the kind that will be your savior come November 29 and throughout the entire holiday shopping season.

  1. Set your budget. This rule goes hand-in-hand with every other form of its "know your limits" counterpart. Be honest with yourself, and determine way before you walk out the front door what your maximum spend amount is and stick to it.
  2. Do the research. If there are certain items — especially big-ticket items — you are keen on snagging come Black Friday, make sure to compare, compare, compare beforehand. Knowing your best price options will not only get you the best deal, it will also help to narrow down the finalized shopping route. Which brings me to my next point...
  3. Go straight to the source. Major retailers, like Target, Macy's, and Bloomingdale's, preview their respective Black Friday sales in advance. Consider this an extension of "do the research" and as far as extensions go, this is a great one.
  4. There's an app for that. No, seriously, there's an app (or 20) for the Black Friday set. These handy applications provide customizable shopping lists, up-to-date information on sales held online and locally, new store alerts, and a price comparison tool. If you're an iPhone user, try the Black Friday App; for the Android user, try Shop Savvy; or if you'd rather do a little web browsing, go here stat.
  5. There's also a thing called social media. Use it. Brands are taking to Twitter and Facebook (although, Pinterest isn't out of the question, either) to share the latest Black Friday sales. And in some cases, exclusive discount codes and offers are only accessible via these channels — making it a no-brainer, money-saving route for social media addicts everywhere.
  6. Make a list. Now that you've done the research, scanned every feed you currently follow, and set your budget, it's time to see which retailers makes the cut. Make a list of what you're looking to get, who you're buying for, and where to go to find it.
  7. Dress comfortably. You're going to be on your feet a lot. You're also going to be popping in and out of stores with some regularity. Translation: looser layers and flats are key.
  8. Know the return policy. Have an idea of where you're shopping on Black Friday? Be sure to read all the fine print regarding its Black Friday markdowns, that includes everything from actual sale requirements to knowing if the store even offers returns to its customers.
  9. Don't go It alone. First off, it's safe to say most experiences are better when shared, and Black Friday is one of those times you really shouldn't do the whole "party of one" thing. Instead, bring a friend — or a group of 'em — for the sole reason of dividing and conquering. Less time scouring the aisles, more time to lounge when it's all over.
  10. Pack snacks. There's no telling how long you'll be without proper non-fast food sustenance, so bring a couple snack options to tide you over. The Awake Chocolate bars and coconut Health Warrior chia bars taste like dessert, but are simultaneously packed with the necessary essentials: caffeine, natural energy-inducing ingredients, Omega 3s, and a hint of sweetness.
  11. Shop local. Want to bypass much of the insane winding lines and hysteria that comes with? Make a concerted effort to steer clear of big businesses and instead, support your local vendors. These days, smaller businesses are offering prices that directly compete with Amazon.com, so it's not as if you're spending exorbitant piles of money to shop locally.
  12. Size 'em up. If you plan on buying clothing for friends or family members, know their sizes ahead of time. Minimal think time, less chance of incurring a brawl over that $13 cashmere sweater, you know?
  13. Bring cash. During the height of crazy shopping times, some stores will create a cash-only lane for those not using a plastic card. Inevitably, those with cash on-hand can take full advantage of a temporary express lane.
  14. Bonus for good karma. For the sake of your soul, and the shoppers around you, lead by example: be really, really nice to the salespeople.

Image: dave416/flickr