Recent news headlines suggest Black Friday is quickly morphing into Gray Thursday as big retailers one-up each other's hours. Walmart is the most recent example, announcing it will open its doors at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving, shortly after Sears made the same proclamation.
Black Friday has reached an almost celebrity-like status over the years, with enough buzz, chaos and excitement to rival the latest Hollywood scandal. It's only appropriate, then, to take a "what's in, what's out" approach to the trendiest shopping strategies for the most notorious shopping day of the year.
WHAT'S IN / WHAT'S OUT
IN: Shopping online. Last year, 70 percent of doorbuster deals were available online, according to DealNews.
OUT: Pre-dawn shopping. Frostbite, runny noses and sleepless nights are for amateurs. In addition evening store openings on Thanksgiving, the Internet will help you avoid the harsh, early-morning elements.
IN: Crowd control. Target stores tested a stampede-mitigating strategy last year, allowing only a certain number of people across the threshold at a time. Expect more of the same this year.
OUT: Mob mayhem. Trampling and blunt-force trauma are so two years ago. If you want to relive the magic, check out this video for a montage of Black Friday chaos.
IN: Knowing the best time to buy. Who knew Black Friday doesn't actually offer the best prices of the year? Decide.com knows the right times to shop, and you can too with their app.
OUT: Falling for faux deals. News flash: Retailers can't actually afford deep discounts on all of their merchandise, but they can inflate original prices to make it seem like you're getting a steal.
IN: Using a mobile device. Mobile shopping is all the rage this holiday season, as savvy consumers use devices to shop, save and keep track of their budgets. Download digital helpers like the Coupon Sherpa mobile app to save even more on Black Friday.
OUT: Relying on print circulars or in-store ads. Retailers are increasingly using social media and mobile tools to communicate with their patrons. You're missing out if you're not plugged-in to Facebook and Twitter.
IN: Being thankful. Since most stores will open their doors at midnight on Thanksgiving, it's only fitting you be thankful to all the patient people working the sales floor on Black Friday.
OUT: Behaving badly. Yelling at salespeople, elbowing fellow shoppers and generally creating a scene will definitely land you on Santa's naughty list.
IN: Sticking to your list. Doorbuster deals are loss leaders, getting you in the store at ungodly hours with the promise of killer deals. Stick to your list to avoid going over-budget.
OUT: Getting greedy. Buying a bunch of useless stuff because it was "such a good deal" is not only out, it's unwise.
IN: Locating your car in seconds. It's tough to remember where you parked when you arrived foggy-headed in the wee hours of the morning. Luckily, there's an app for that. Getting out of the parking lot, however, is all on you.
OUT: Failing to find your car. Endlessly roaming the parking lot rows in the bitter cold is more than uncool, it's irresponsible. Didn't you know there's an app for that?
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!