The Black Friday Bible: 6 Tips on navigating the chaos and getting the most for your lack of sleep

The busiest day of the year will soon be here again and you need to be prepared. Black Friday is not for the faint of heart! The fierce competition, extremely slow cashiers and lack of sleep all have the potential to combine in the wee hours of the morning—causing your head to explode. Here are some helpful tips on how to make your shopping experience more enjoyable and how to prevent your fist from meeting someone else’s face as you wait in line for Old Navy to open.

1. Check out the ads before you head out: We know you’re busy whipping those potatoes and basting that turkey, but if you’re planning to head out for Black Friday, take a minute or two to browse the ads (or make your spouse do it—chances are they’re not doing anything useful anyway.) Your local Thanksgiving day newspaper will be chock-full of ads and coupons. It will also help you plan out your day because some stores offer special discounts at specific times to maximize profit. So if JCPenney has a sale at 10 a.m. and Walgreens has a five hour sale starting at 8 a.m.—try hitting Walgreens first.

2. Research your ‘big ticket items’ before Friday: If you’re hoping to get a good deal on a large item, like a TV or a computer, research the deals ahead of time. A bad product is a bad deal, no matter how cheap. A lot of stores will sell you the main item for cheap and then cash in when you realize that you don’t have the accessories that go with it. So you get a great bargain on your TV, but maybe the cords you need are missing. (In this case, at least warn the cashier that a piece of their face will soon be missing.)

3. Compare Prices: This tip goes along with number two. Yeah, that printer might be really cheap at Office Depot, but why is it so cheap? Does it come with the cables and the ink that you need? Or will you have to come back and buy these things at full price? Will Staples sell you the complete package for a few more dollars? Find out before you get there because, if you’re like me, you can’t be in two places at once—and trying to do so gives me a horrible headache.

4. Take a tip from Grandma—shop the early bird discounts: Many stores offer great deals for the early riser—from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. Finding out which stores do this and if they are selling what you need will minimize your stress level.

5. Who says only the early bird gets the worm? Sometimes the Night Owl does too: And you thought insomnia was useless! Internet shoppers can often get an even better deal than the early morning shoppers, just by shopping online. Many retailers post their Black Friday specials starting as early as Thanksgiving evening—and a lot of these have “Web Only Deals” which may help you save more. Another advantage of online shopping is that you don’t have to wait in line, in the cold, and you can pick up your items at your local store later—after police have cleared all the trampled bodies.

6. Bring the ad with you: Another way to save money is to take advantage of the retailer’s “lowest price guarantee.” If you plan to do this, you must have the ad with you to show the cashier the exact product being advertised for less at another store. Also, be quick about it, because the people behind you are bound to be tired of waiting. If you feel like your butt is on fire, it’s probably the heat radiating off of my anger. (I’ll apologize to you later.) Most brick-and-mortar retailers will not meet internet prices, but it can never hurt to try.

Remember, always keep your cool. Black Friday is not worth going to jail over. Remind your loved ones that you love them, even if it doesn’t show on this night. Smile and take a deep breath—you’re getting a bunch of really cool stuff! Together, we can all survive Black Friday 2012.

Contributor—Princy Alexander