Gearing up for the holiday season can get stressful, and I don’t mean just Thanksgiving. 

I’m talking about Black Friday. 

That’s right, for others, like me, Thanksgiving is not just about turkey and family. It’s about epic Black Friday sales worth losing hours of sleep over.

Over the years I have developed a routine for planning out my Black Friday experience. This planning I speak of happens before, during and after Thanksgiving dinner. I usually visit my parents in New Jersey, who have already collected every circular known to mankind, and also purchased the newspaper to really make sure every circular is accounted for. 

From Target to Zales, Sam’s Club to Walmart and, my favorite, Kohl’s, I start to separate my circulars by which stores have the best deals right on the cover. Keep in mind, I’m not only doing Christmas shopping – I’m shopping for myself.

The next step in my madness is to flip through each and every circular I have identified as worthy of my time. My initial scan of circulars allows me to get a sense of what’s on sale and how much I can save. 

I usually tend to throw out a couple in that initial read-through. After careful, page-by-page examination, I pull out my Sharpie and start to circle the items I must buy. Through the years, that has included $10 Old Navy Jeans, a $65 paper shredder from Staples and a Food Network Panini Grill from Kohl’s for $89, with a $20 rebate after purchase. 

The additional rebate is always a nice incentive.  

Once all the items I desire are circled and sometimes even transferred on to an additional list – broken down store by store – it’s necessary to evaluate which stores are opening at what time. You see, if Radio Shack and Game Stop both have a 5 a.m. sale, there is no way to be at both places at the same time, unless you’re more of a planner and involve others in your shopping madness.  

For the last few years I have ventured out alone. Once you know when stores open it’s easy as pie. Last year I started at Old Navy at midnight, headed over to Kohl’s for their 3 a.m. opening and then made my way over to Target at 5 a.m. – only to make it to Lowes by 6 a.m. 

I was done shopping and back in bed by 7:15 a.m., and that’s only because I drove into Manhattan to drop off my purchases at my apartment and then headed back to my parent’s house in Jersey.

A few essential tools to successful shopping include keeping the circular in your hand, scoping out the store days ahead if possible – so as to not waste time looking for items – and making sure if you’re picking up large items you have a way to carry them. In those types of situations I carry around my own hand truck. It makes moving items like a five-piece ottoman real easy.

One last important item to have on you is your Smartphone and/or other Internet-connected devices. This makes sharing your crazy waiting-in-line stories and fabulous finds via Facebook and other social media outlets possible. 

You’d be surprised how many of my friends were up at same ridiculous hours doing the same exact thing.

While Black Friday shopping has become an all-night event rather than an earlier riser, there’s no better satisfaction after waiting three hours in line in the rain than getting the last Pyrex Set or Coffee Maker for a fraction of its original cost. 

It’s quite addictive. Year after year I think to myself, I won’t be doing that again. Yet I’ve already called my parents to make sure they don’t throw any circulars away. 

From one shopper to another I wish you readiness and a solid game plan for your Black Friday experience.

Anamaria Flores is a freelance writer based in Manhattan. She can be reached at floresan21@gmail.com.

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