For better or worse, Black Friday is an American institution.
But despite its runaway popularity - a record 226 million shoppers visited a store or website during the 2011 weekend, according to the National Retail Federation - Black Friday can easily turn frustrating and costly for shoppers who don't plan properly.
These 10 steps can lead to a disastrous Black Friday. The alternative tips, on the other hand, may prove useful if you'd like to avoid the "disastrous" part.
Sure, it's wonderful to sit down to turkey and all the fixings with your loved ones. But this is precious time that could be spent planning your evening attack. Comb every sale flyer you can find for hot deals, but don't worry about doing the math on prices - see step 2.Alternative: Forget the shopping adventure ahead and enjoy some sweet potatoes with your kids. Relaxing ahead of time should leave more energy for later too. Black Friday is about fun … along with consumerism and waste and the attempt to fill the void in your soul with material items - but mostly fun. Everyone knows that counting pennies is not fun, so buy what you want and leave the calculations for later. There are great deals everywhere, so how can you go wrong? Alternative: Calculate precisely how much you want to spend for each person on your list and stick to it - even if it means leaving your credit cards at home. Who better to help you navigate the chaos of Black Friday than your friend who's spent the last year in treatment for her compulsive spending disorder? She knows this terrain, so there's almost no chance those once-a-year deals and frenzied storefront scenes will cause her to relapse, right? Alternative: Seek out your sensible friend - the one who's driven the same compact car since 2003 - to be your voice of reason in the aisles. Average cost of a gallon of gas in the U.S. today? Just under $4. The knowledge that you scored every amazing deal within a 35-mile radius of your home? Priceless.