The day after Thanksgiving is known in retail circles as Black Friday, the most popular shopping day of the year. But it doesn't have to be a day where crowds wear on your nerves and not much gets accomplished.
Experts recommend the following tips for shopping success:
1. Do your researchSure, sales fliers arrive with Thanksgiving Day newspapers. But you can usually find the information online ahead of time, says Kim Danger, founder of Mommysavers.com and the family savings expert at Coupons.com.
Two Web destinations posting deals at particular stores are BlackFridayAds.com, which clearly lists the date and time of any update to the site, and the ShopLocal.com Black Friday Shopping Guide. Both sites offer e-mail alerts.
And don't forget to comparison shop online. Danger advises looking up current pricing of items at sites such as Amazon.com and BestBuy.com.
"What seems like a good deal might not be, and may not be worth standing in line for," she says.
2. Create a game plan
Your research should reveal which stores are worth a Black Friday visit. Driving from destination to destination is no way to spend the day.
Instead, plan to visit locations with multiple stores either under one roof or nearby to avoid a lot of driving, parking and crowded roads.
Speaking of driving, the planning should also involve prepping the car.
"Make sure the trunk is cleaned out or back seats are removed from your van," Danger says. "Top off your tank to avoid wasting time at the gas station."
3. Shop early
Karen Hoxmeier, founder and owner of MyBargainBuddy.com, suggests that shoppers remember to "go early and get done early."
"By 10 a.m., most of the best deals are gone, the lines are horrible and stores are a mess," Hoxmeier says.
If you really want to get a jump on others, try shopping on Thanksgiving Day. Dealnews.com refers to it as Black Thursday, since many of those Friday "door busters" actually become available online up to 24 hours earlier.
If you do wait until Friday, Hoxmeier suggests scooping up limited-time door busters first and limiting your shopping to stores likely to yield the best rewards. Your time is valuable, she says.
She asks: "Is waiting in line for three hours worth the money you are saving?"
4. Bring a friend
Store lines are more manageable with a buddy nearby.
"Send one person to the checkout lanes while the other snatches up the bargains," Danger says.
Hoxmeier refers to this strategy as "divide and conquer." Just don't forget the (fully charged) cell phones in case you lose each other or need to separate and meet up later.
Danger also advocates leaving the kids behind before you head out to hunt for bargains.
"Crowded aisles and unscrupulous shoppers can be a dangerous combination for small children," she says.
5. Wait for Cyber Monday
The explosion of online shopping has created a new big day for retailers -- the first day back to work after the Thanksgiving weekend.
Apparently, plenty of employees are shopping rather than working that day. It's one of the busiest days for online purchases, says Danger.
Many sites have sweetened the deal for Cyber Monday shoppers. Dealnews.com founder and CEO Dan de Grandpre says he has observed "an ever-growing number of online promotions -- free shipping, free gifts, rebates, markdowns -- (that) make cyber Monday an online holiday shopper's bonanza."