Tips to Avoid Black Friday Disaster

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Even for the most veteran shoppers, Black Friday can be overwhelming.

With brains still addled by gallons of gravy, brave shoppers rise in the predawn hours and ready themselves for battle. For the savviest have learned that going without a game plan can be disastrous.

Those with no list, no plan and no reinforcements are bound to fail. Those are the people who are tired, frustrated and sitting on a bench at the end of the day.

If you don't want to be one of them, follow these tips for a successful Black Friday.

Not surprisingly, I'd advise you to start preparing now.

** Dress appropriately. Wear the most comfortable shoes you own and a good pair of socks. Wear a watch. Don't wear bulky coats or heavy garments. Malls and stores get hot in a hurry when they're crowded. Wear layers if you can, and try to leave your coat in the car. You will be glad you don't have to carry it around when you're on your fifth hour of shopping.

** Things to pack: Along with your cell phone and the numbers for your friends who are shopping with you, consider taking: hand sanitizer, a snack, a bottle of water and a larger bag for holding smaller bags.

** Travel light: Despite the fact that I just told you to pack all that stuff, try to take only the things you will need. Use a smaller purse that you can position across your body so you don't have to worry about losing it (and it's more secure from would-be purse-snatchers, too). Do not carry all your credit cards. Take just what you will need for the day.

** Have patience. Remember that this shopping day is among the busiest of the year. Retailers are open nearly 24/7. It's true that people can and will be really rude. But take the high road, and avoid having to call your Aunt Bernice to bail you out of jail.

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STAY HOME:

Of course, it's also becoming easier to participate in Black Friday without ever leaving home. Shopping online can be a great way to score some Black Friday deals without ever getting out of your pajamas.

** Sign up for e-mail lists and see if you get any special offers in your inbox.

** Check sites such as RetailMeNot.com or CouponCabin.com for online savings codes and passes.

** Look at sites such as UPromise.com and Ebates.com to see if you can actually get some of your money back from your purchases made online. (Note: You will want to sign up for those sites and create an account before Thursday so that you are in the system before you do your shopping.)

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