Black Friday is just a few days away. Although I’ve never been the Black Friday shopper who awakens at 2 a.m. and braves the freezing temperatures while standing outside a big box store, I know that there’s a method to the madness. And from what I’ve learned from various family members and friends, the prepared Black Friday shopper is the one who returns home with their goods of choice. So following are ten ideas to help you plan your Black Friday Shopping Extravaganza – which could start as early as today:

1. Start with the basics. Look through online and print advertisements to identify the Black Friday deals that are right up your alley. Sometimes stores offer pre-Black Friday specials that yield more money savings than on Black Friday itself, so you may find yourself heading to the mall today.

2. Make a list. As always, lists can be very helpful in keeping you organized. Jot down the top items you seek and the stores that are selling said goods. Then note the hours during which these stores are open.

3. Coordinate a group. Sometimes joining forces and splitting up as need-be is the way to go.

4. Beware of different stores’ return policies. Before making your purchases, confirm whether there are special restrictions on returning Black Friday sales items.

5. Bring store ads with you. Some stores match competitors’ advertisements or coupons. And in some places, the hard copy advertisement may be the reminder the clerk needs to ensure the store’s deal is honored.

6. Creature comforts and Black Friday don’t always mesh. If you really want to purchase something, be prepare to wait outside in the cold before the store opens. If you’re joining forces, feel free to bring a tent, blanket, pillow, and portable radio. That way some group members can shop when the store opens while your other group members take the creature comforts back to the car. If you’re flying solo on Black Friday, leave your tent at home. You’ll be glad you did.

7. Eat before you leave the house, or bring snacks and water with you.

8. Wear comfortable shoes and plenty of layers. You’ll be grateful for your outer gear when you’re waiting for the store to open. You’ll be thrilled to shed your layers once you’re indoors.

9. Curb unnecessary spending by sticking to your list. You’ll be glad you did – especially when your credit card bill arrives next month.

10. If you are unable to purchase what’s on your list, or if you change your mind about making a purchase in the middle of this shopping frenzy, that’s entirely okay. At the end of the day, it’s just “schtuff,” folks! No matter how good of a deal a special product is, we both know that your joy and sense of purpose don’t come from owning the latest electronic whoozeewhatsit.

Although it’s portrayed in the media as being focused on greed and getting as much “schtuff” as possible, you can participate in this shopping frenzy with a very different mindset and a thoughtful approach. The Black Friday shoppers that I know plan out their purchases and do preparatory things, and they make a point of being courteous to retail employees, fellow shoppers, and drivers in mall parking lots. Not surprisingly, they’ve experienced plenty of joy along the way while getting a head start on their holiday shopping.

Wishing you a great Black Friday shopping experience! Cheers!

* Image by Robert Linder