Halloween has come and gone and already it’s time to start thinking about the next holidays. Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, and right on its heels will be the biggest shopping holiday of the year—Black Friday. Can’t you just feel the excitement of those Black Friday deals right now? Avid deal hunters know the true possibilities that await with huge discounts on electronics, toys, apparel, and just about anything you could want or need. The crowds will be thick, the hours will be long, and the labor of it grueling, but the rewards for those who persevere often outweigh the actual grappling climb to get there.

Much of the fun of Black Friday shopping comes from the emotional highs of scoring a great deal amid the heart-pounding crush to get to the store before your item sells out. Seasoned bargain shoppers have a few tricks up their sleeves to help survive the chaos of the day. Here are some top tips on black Friday shopping for the best deals with as little chaos as possible.

1. Start your Black Friday Shopping in your pajamas.

Many stores have embraced the online aspect of Black Friday, sometimes starting deals much earlier during Thanksgiving week. Spend a little time reviewing the deals online during the week and familiarize yourself with the prices and the features of the items you want. This makes it easier to make a snap decision at a different price if your original plan of action is abruptly crushed by stock running out. You might even find a few Thanksgiving deals offered online before Black Friday arrives, so keep your eyes peeled!

2. Create an itinerary for your Black Friday excursions.

Know all the stores you want to hit and all the times they open. Be aware of the distance from one store to the next and use a map program like Google Maps to make sense of the best itinerary if all things are equal. Make sure you have a full tank of gas before you even get started!

3. Assign priority to each store and adjust as needed.

Plan to start with the highest priority store that is open the earliest. Make your best attempt to nab your top Black Friday deal and go from there. Remember that your third priority deal may be other people’s first priority, so nothing is guaranteed.

A woman takes a coffee break from online gift shopping surrounded by wrapped presents.

4. Do your recon before Black Friday arrives.

Scope out all the Black Friday ads and circulars before the big day arrives. Know where you want to go and what you want to get at every store. Be organized down to every detail for the very best chance at hitting as many of your Black Friday sales as possible.

5. Get more for your money by pairing purchases with coupons and discounts.

Stretch your dollar as far as you can by using coupons from your stash if allowed. Entertainment Books and coupon apps on your smartphone may help you to save even more money on Black Friday unless your stores outlaw other discounts that day.

6. Consider camping out a little early.

If you don’t mind the cool early morning air, bring your coat or a blanket and get in line before the sun rises. Some people even bring folding chairs and mugs of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and wait it out. If you choose to do this, don’t forget to pack or pick up breakfast on the way!

7. Try to score discounted gift cards prior to your big shopping spree.

Plan to use up old gift cards that you’ve had for a while if you are going to any of those stores. Be sure to call the number to check the balance and make sure your card is still active. If not, you may need to speak with an associate on the phone to reactivate the card’s balance. If you know where you want to shop, try to score discounted gift cards at Gift Card Granny, Raise, or other online gift card resellers. Again, be sure to check the balance and ensure it’s all there before heading out to the stores.

8. Enjoy some social shopping.

Make the trip more fun with your mom, your spouse, your children, or your friends. Make an adventure of the day and enjoy cramming in a quick meal to go if you can fit it into your jam-packed shopping schedule.

9. Divide and conquer for important items at the same store.

If you are trying competitive shopping as a team sport, head to the same store and split it into two directions so you can have the best luck at getting all of your Black Friday hot deals before they sell out.

Three woman smiling while holding shopping bags

10. Stick to your budget.

For best results, do not give yourself carte blanche with the spending. Set a maximum budget and stick to it, or better yet, take out cash and put it in an envelope that you keep in your wallet. (Do not lose the envelope!) Once the cash is gone, so is your shopping spree.

11. Avoid overbuying and be aware of return policies.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the craze of shopping for such great bargains. Remember to think about your purchases before you make them and be sure you are getting things you want and need and not merely ringing up a hefty bill you’re going to need to pay next month. Scoop up all of the deals on Black Friday without putting yourself in terrible debt.

12. Sign up for in-stock alerts for hard-to-find items.

Many of those hot buys come back into stock in time for Black Friday shoppers to reap the deals. Even if they aren’t out in the stores, it’s hopeful that some of those hot items will become available online in the coming week or so. Sign up for inventory alerts or in-stock notifications on sites like www.zoolert.com.

13. Remember if you don’t get it on Black Friday, you still have Cyber Monday.

Plan to do the rest of your shopping on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, when crazy deals will be clogging up the Internet at every turn. In this case, your best bet is to do your deal recon before the date arrives and make a list of items you still need to buy plus the prices you are willing to pay. Don’t forget to look for online coupon codes for each store as well.

14. Lastly, don’t forget you can hide your great buys in private, secure (s)Elf storage.

No need to worry about your family finding their Christmas presents before the holidays even arrive. Simply stash it all safely out of sight and out of mind in your own private personal storage unit!