Shop ’til you drop!

The holidays are coming soon and ’tis the season for eggnog lattes and home cooked meals, not to mention great bargains! Set your alarms for 4 a.m., grab your coffee, and get ready to save, because here’s everything you need to know in order to survive the Black Friday madness (that is, if you dare brave the crowds)!

If there’s one thing I look forward to every Thanksgiving, after the turkey and Macy’s Day Parade is all said and done, it’s Black Friday. And I’m not the only one! According to marketing statistics, apparently 212 million shoppers went deal-digging over the holiday weekend last year. That’s a lot of competition. But have no fear, ladies! With a little pre-planning and smart budgeting, you can cash in on some of this season’s biggest door-buster discounts!

Plan Ahead.

If it’s the week or two before Black Friday, you’re already late to the game! So get caught up on your research now by doing a simple Google search for “Black Friday 2011” and you can take a look at websites like theblackfriday.com, blackfriday.info and bfads.net for scanned copies of virtually all the big store deals. You can use these leaked ads as a starting point for planning your purchases, and while you should realize that most legitimate ads aren’t published until the Sunday before Black Friday, it doesn’t hurt to get a leg-up on what deals are circulating out there. If you want to plan even more, once you’ve decided what stores you plan on shopping, take a walking tour through the aisles to get a layout of the store. Websites like the ones mentioned above can even do this work for you by providing spreadsheets detailing store openings and routines. This will come in handy when the doors open on Black Friday and you don’t know which way to go for the electronics department.

Make a List, Check it Twice.

While you’re monitoring this year’s deals, compile your holiday shopping list: a pendant necklace for mom, a watch for dad, a video game for your little brother. Writing a budgeted list and sticking to it, keeps you focused from being dazzled by awesome, but unnecessary or even sometimes still bank-breaking deals (I know it’s killing you to walk away from those half-off pumps, but it’s time to move on).

Team Up With Your BFFs!

Your BFFs will be a huge part of your Black Friday shopping strategy: find a band of sorority sisters or friends from back home for your Black Friday shopping spree. Different girls (or guys) in your posse can focus on different departments or aisles in a store or go to different stores at the same time. And don’t be afraid to enlist the help of boyfriends (they can push carts and reach high-standing shelves), just be sure to shop for his gift ahead of time.

Get Ready, Get Set… Save!

It’s safe to say you want to get there early. Set your alarms ahead of time and swing by a 24-hour Starbucks for coffee if you need to, but those door-buster deals won’t wait. If you’re a hardcore Black Friday shopper, you’ll need to set up camp the evening before and wait out the night (just remember to bring hot cocoa and layer up!). When the doors open and the crowds start to pour in, get ready to elbow some people. You might not need to get into a fistfight with the guy who tried to nab that flat-screen t.v. before you, but on Black Friday, being overly polite can make you a push-over. A rule of thumb is never to spend more than 20 minutes in a store. Go straight to the items you came for, then rush to the checkout line. The longer you spend in a store after the door opens, the longer you’ll have to wait in line and that can mean missing more deals at other stores!

And Don’t Forget About Cyber Monday!

Black Friday is just the opening day to great holiday deals! Cyber Monday is the perfect alternative if you’re not the type who likes to wait in line for hours out in the cold, or fight large crowds. The best deals on clothing usually appear on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, which falls on November 28 this year, or at the end of the year when retailers try to clear out inventory before Christmas; and the best deals on TVs and other big-ticket luxury items appear in early December. Check out cybermonday.net to get a peek at some of the upcoming deals.

What are some of your Black Friday shopping tactics?

♥AUTHOR: ALEXANDRA CHURCHILL