People shopping in New York during winter holidays, USA

There are many great reasons to participate in the annual tradition of Black Friday, from exceptional sales to the opportunity to finish your holiday shopping early.

If you still love the thrill of the chase and the camaraderie that comes from standing in endless lines or even if you just want to get some steps in after one too many servings of sweet potato pie, Black Friday is an exciting way to save money while still crossing plenty of items off your holiday shopping list. Unfortunately, sales on big-ticket items can lead to spending too much, and debt can be harder to shed than a couple of extra pounds come January.

Avoid the urge to gobble up more than your wallet can gulp by following these budget-friendly tips.

Plan Ahead

When asked about her top Black Friday tips, Karen Hoxmeier Murphy, founder of MyBargainBuddy.com, recommended doing a quick Google search on the items listed in Black Friday ads that have caught your interest. How does the price compare to the going rate online? Be sure to read the reviews, too. “A TV that is junk is not a good deal at any price!” Murphy advises.

Pair Up

Friends can help make your Black Friday experience fun and fast. Hit the stores in pairs and then split up. Have one person stand in line while the other grabs the sale item, and then switch positions, giving each person’s legs a rest from racing for the best bargains. Start early and decide how long you’re willing to wait for each of the items on your list. “Remember, time is money,” says Murphy. “If you spend three hours waiting in line to save $20, is it really worth it?”

Chase Your Checklist, Not the Crowd

In a podcast in which he shares Black Friday tips, 2 Minute Finance blog author Bobby Lee discussed those unbelievable doorbusters that seem to get so many people up early on the day after Thanksgiving. These are the big-ticket items, typically electronics like TVs, iPads, tablets and videogame consoles, that businesses showcase to get your feet in the door. According to tech journalist James Willcox, the lowest-priced deals aren’t always the best. Be aware that models created specifically for Black Friday generally have fewer features and different specs than the same manufacturer’s typical products. Don’t be distracted by the hype around hot items – it’s always a bad deal if it breaks your bank account.

Scan the Competition

Save money and avoid stress by downloading a price comparison app before the big day. Armed with barcode scanners and deal aggregators, you won’t have to second-guess your savings.

Pay in Cash

According to Tracie Forbes of PennyPinchinMom.com, the one foolproof way to stay in the black this holiday season is to pay in cash. It’s a lot harder to hand over money than it is to swipe a piece of plastic. Plus, the physical sign that you’re running out of bills helps keep you on track.

Cut Costs Even Further

For serious savers, even Black Friday department store sales aren’t considered spend-worthy. National thrift store chains, such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill, and sometimes local thrift stores as well, also offer Black Friday sales, often cutting 50% or more off the price of their already low-priced used clothing and goods. Some thrift stores are also connected to a good cause, allowing you to satisfy your holiday wish list and your budget while helping others. Enter your zip code here to find the thrift stores in your community.

Just Stay Home

Following the lead of the handful of stores that are opting out of the Black Friday frenzy is always a sure way to keep your budget in the black. But if you’re intent on checking off your holiday gift list early, then remember that you can still sleep through the tryptophan hangover and spend Friday in your pajamas while snagging savings online. You don’t have to wait until Cyber Monday to cash in on internet deals. An analysis of online shopping trends by Adobe Digital Index discovered that the greatest discounts for many products were actually offered on Thanksgiving Day.

According to Heather Lovett of DealNews.com, the best offers occur throughout Black Friday week. “For four years now, Turkey Day has boasted more top-tier, Editors’ Choice sales than Black Friday,” shared Lovett in a brief interview. The Washington Post has compiled a helpful guide on the best times to act on purchasing clothing, toys and other goods according to trends from past years.

So if you do decide to brave the Black Friday blitz, keep your budget safe by sticking to these and other saver-savvy strategies. As Fobes says, “The holidays are not a reason to go into debt.”

What are your essential tips for surviving Black Friday? Share with your fellow Zing readers!

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