Holiday shopping season

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Don't let shopping drag you down this holiday season
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Survive the holiday shopping season with these simple gift giving tips

The Friday after Thanksgiving is the Super Bowl of all shopping days for holiday shoppers. Known as "Black Friday", this day is a time for every bargain hunter in America to fight their way into retail stores across the country before the crack of dawn. This day is considered to be the start of the holiday shopping season.

I have only participated in black Friday festivities a few times, but I have friends who observe this day just as faithfully as the very holidays that are responsible for this renowned shopping day. They get up at 2am, stock up on coffee, then line up outside their favorite store or mall hours before opening in order to be the first to take advantage of the crazy deals.

If any day can rival the mayhem of black Friday during the holiday shopping season, it's Christmas eve. Many stores offer deals for last minute shoppers who tend to roam the aisles frantically searching for a gift for the relative who popped in at the last minute. Whether you're an early bird on black Friday or a last minute shopper on Christmas eve, you can find tips that will help you survive the holiday shopping season with your sanity in tact.

Black Friday is a marathon from start to finish and, like a real marathon, if you don't pace yourself, you'll end up running out of steam before you reach the finish line. Surviving the holiday shopping season starts with surviving black Friday. These simple tips will help you have a fun and productive holiday shopping season from start to finish.

- Be organized. It's easy to assume you won't get a lot accomplished if you haphazardly show up to a mall at 9am on black Friday. You'll be faced with trashed department store displays and empty shelves that have already been picked clean by the early birds. You need a clear game plan if you plan on getting the bulk of your shopping done on that day. Make a list ahead of time and divide that list into categories such as clothing, accessories, electronics and entertainment. Then find out which stores in your area are offering the best deals for each category. Attempt to find coupons and find out exactly what time these stores are opening. Be sure to make a super store or mall your first stop so that you can cram as many deals out of your first stop at once.

- No browsing allowed. As mentioned before, it's important to have a clearly defined plan. If you are going with a group of people, make sure they have lists as well. This will prevent anyone from getting left behind in the madness. Let everyone know that there will be no time for browsing. Go in, get the items on your list, check out and move on.

- Snacks. Packing a thermos of hot cocoa or coffee can help boost team morale and spirits between store stops. Since it's the day after Thanksgiving, try bringing some turkey sandwiches or a couple of slices of pumpkin pie to keep energy levels up.

- Cyber Monday. If you decide not to participate in the madness that is black Friday, you still have a host of options at your feet. If you're a home body who hates shopping, you can take advantage of "Cyber Monday" deals. Cyber Monday is the internet shopping industry's answer to black Friday. Many online retailers offer great deals and incentives the Monday after Thanksgiving that will keep you away from the crowds and mall parking lot wars.

- Last minute. The holidays can be joyously unpredictable. We've had our fair share of last minute surprise visits from out of town relatives. This situation led us to scattering all over the city on Christmas eve, running from store to store, searching for something to give to the unexpected guest of honor. In order to prevent this, you can stock up on generic gifts such as scented candles, books and board games that you can give to those you may have accidentally left off your list.

It's important to remember that although black Friday is the most popular shopping day, it it isn't the ONLY day of the holiday shopping season. Many retailers will keep deals going all the way up until Christmas, which is why it's important to keep your eyes peeled for commercials and newspaper ads that advertise door buster sales and savings.

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