Black Friday's claim to fame is that it is the busiest shopping day of the year, with results that put stores in the black, meaning they make a profit.
I tried Black Friday shopping about 15 years ago with my mother, mother-in-law and sister-in-law. We started with great intentions of getting the Black Friday deals — those that are available only on Black Friday and are supposed to be really great deals.
Let's say our first mistake was not being organized. And we should have read the sale fliers more carefully, particularly the fine print that clearly states, "supplies are limited."
But just because I was unsuccessful doesn't mean you'll be.
Here's my advice for Black Friday shopping:
■ Have a strategy. I know that makes it sound as if you're going to war, but in some cases, those instincts might be what snag you that great deal.
I don't want you to think that in every store there are groups of people ready to pounce when the doors open. When we went, I spent too much time trying to figure out what I wanted and then losing out on the deal. When we were finally finished, we stood in line for about an hour, waiting to check out.
■ Do your research. Some deals might not be as good as they are advertised. Prioritize where you shop. Decide which store has the most items you want, go there first and get there early.
■ Take a buddy with you. Some stores require you to stand in a different line within the store to get a number to get a certain item. If you stand in line for one really hot item, it might keep you from the rest of the deals in the store. Your buddy can grab the other deals. It also helps if your buddy can rein in your spending by questioning what you're buying and asking if you really need it. And speaking of that ...
■ Don't let the euphoria of one good deal overrule your otherwise rational thinking. I know that when I shop and save as much as 90 percent at Kroger, it is a blissful feeling. I can imagine that getting that TV-advertised deal at Wal-Mart or any other Black Friday deal has got to be a happy event. But remember that you don't have to spend money on Black Friday; buying something you don't need isn't a good deal, and credit card bills will arrive in your mail eventually.
■ It's called marketing. Remember what the stores are trying to make you do on Black Friday. They want you to spend money. It is every marketer's dream to create frenzy about a certain toy or gift. Past dream gifts have been Elmo dolls, Playstations and the Wii. Will your child survive if he or she doesn't receive one of those items as a present? Yes.
■ And then there's Cyber Monday. If you miss that door buster deal on Black Friday, don't forget that on Monday, the Internet will have its busiest shopping day of the year. Many Web sites offer free shipping. Many offer great discounts. There's great shopping to be found online.
■ Take a deep breath. Just because you missed a great deal on Black Friday doesn't mean another deal won't be coming again. Every store is competing for your business. Don't be afraid to wait.
■ Try to enjoy it. Holiday shopping doesn't have to be a mad rush to get the best deal. When you go shopping — whether it's to a mall or downtown or to a strip shopping center — don't forget to look around you. Some of my fondest memories of the holiday season are of enjoying window displays and beautiful holiday lighting exhibits with my family.