Are you ready for the hustle and bustle of Black Friday shopping? It can be one of the most exciting and budget-friendly events of the year. But it can also be stressful, manic and overwhelming. Here are some of our top tips to make the most out of your shopping extravaganza this year. Good luck!

Be prepared. Yes, research matters. Check out both printed and online ads to see who is offering the best deals. Map out your shopping plan in advance, and keep all related coupons and store details in one place for easy access. Use comparison sites like FatWallet, ShopZilla and PriceGrabber (there are many more) to make sure you’re getting the lowest prices, but be aware that it takes time – and it can be overwhelming. Just do enough to steer you in the right and most cost-saving direction.   

Create a budget. Yes, it sounds so boring during the holiday season, but having a specific spending budget is important. After all, once you’re out and about, it’s easy to get caught up in the Black Friday buzz and spend money on things you don’t need or even want. Decide ahead of time on how much you want to spend, and stick to it. If you tend to get reckless with credit cards, leave them at home and take only cash for your shopping spree. Or go with friends and help keep each other accountable. 

Be loyal. Lots of your favorite and most-frequented stores reward loyal customers with special sales alerts, promotions and points. Keep an eye out for notifications in the days ahead of Black Friday to see what deals your favorite retailers are offering.

Phone it in. Take advantage of apps and sites that are specific for Black Friday. You’ll be able to track and compare sales and deals by category, retailer and schedules. Some examples are TGIBlackFriday and RetailMeNot.

Shop at home. According to retail analysts, 70% of Black Friday deals and door busters are available online – even if briefly – on the store’s website. So if you’re not in the mood for long lines and packed parking lots, do your holiday shopping online. But plan ahead by visiting store websites ahead of time to find out when deals will be offered, and for how long.

Hone in on electronics. When it comes to electronics – some of the best bargains of the year happen on Black Friday. But know exactly what you want beforehand, especially when it comes to specific video-game titles, editions and requirements. And with bigger purchases, like flat screen televisions, remember that cheaper isn’t always better. Take the time to read expert reviews before purchasing a big-ticket item.

Know the rules. When it comes to clothing, bargain experts say that Black Friday isn’t necessarily the best time to score deals. In fact, clothing is typically discounted the most in August, September and January. So a general rule of thumb is to only purchase clothing, accessories and shoes that are around 40%-off.  Online, look for 30% to 50% off plus free shipping. And if you’re visiting stores in-person, keep an eye out for those that discount everything in stock, rather than just a few items just to get you in the door.

Earlier is better. Even though the thought of standing in line before sunrise to get the best deals might make you cry, the fact is that the longer you wait, the higher the chances are that your desired items will be gone. You’ll have more choices and better inventory at the beginning of the sale.