It’s almost here, the day when people gather to share and overindulge. No, not Thanksgiving, the next day … Black Friday.

If you’re not prepared, your budget, and sanity, can take a serious hit next week. Here are a few tips to come out ahead.

Create a Budget
Don’t let yourself get caught up with the drama and excitement of the day. The thrill of the hunt can be very exciting and expensive if you’re not careful. The best option is to devote a certain dollar amount for this day and stick to it. Remember there are still a lot of shopping days until Christmas and more bargains will be offered.

Develop a Plan of Attack
Do your homework on what, exactly, you are looking for. And, have a backup item identified should you be too late for a particular bargain. Check all the ads ahead of time in order to expedite the process. Clip coupons and be ready. Crowds will be large, unruly and motivated, so come with a plan and you will have more success.

Identify the Stores You Will Shop At
Prioritize and map the stores out. What are your “must have items?” What store will help you cross off more items?

Bring the ads with you. Try to find out ahead of time which particular stores will honor other competitor’s ads. This could save valuable time on a hectic day.

Be Prepared for the Crowds
Not only will there be a crazy number of people out shopping that day, many will lose all respect for their fellow man. Be prepared for rudeness, shoving and a general loss of manners as many shop in the name of giving. Just remember to breath, count to three and purchase a backup item if necessary.

Purchases
Again, do your homework ahead of time and find out if any discounts are offered for using particular credit cards. Only charge what you can payoff within the grace period before interest accrues. This is very important! Take full advantage of the discount if possible, but only to the extent that the entire balance can be paid in full immediately. If no discounts are offered, utilize one card to pay for the day. This will keep it simple and easy to track. And, whatever you do … stick to your budget!

Gift Receipts
Always get a gift receipt. This is very important to the folks who will need to return the toaster they got 5 of last year, or to exchange the sweater that is 2 sizes too small. Gift receipts are convenient and make the process much easier for everyone.

Cyber Monday
Don’t panic if you don’t get everything you intended to buy. Cyber Monday is right around the corner and often a much easier way to purchase items you may not be able to buy in person.

Steven Shore|EVP