UNITED STATES─It is almost here America, the happiest time of the year for most Americans, including myself. No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving or Christmas, I’m referring to Black Friday. Some people might be living under a rock when it comes to Black Friday. The term was coined because it was a reflection of the one day during the year where retailers who were in the red drew such revenue that it placed them in the black. Hence, the term Black Friday!

I will admit we have seen serious adjustments to the big shopping day over the years. How so? I recall maybe some 20 plus years ago, most of the retailers would open their doors around 7 or 8 a.m. Then we had things turn dicey where retailers started opening their doors at 4 or 5 a.m. in the morning. That later changed to retailers opening their doors at midnight. Now, we’ve reached the point where retailers have opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day, most between the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Yes, I can understand the uproar about some feeling the businesses are more concerned with making profits than caring about their employees spending time with their families. With that being said, I worked at a grocery store for years. Guess what, we were always open on Thanksgiving Day and no one championed the battled for us? I mean the only day we were closed was Christmas Day, the other 364 days of the year we were open to accommodate consumers who needed to buy food or waited till the last minute to grab a few items. Retailers really only see a mad rush for 2 months out of the 12 months in a year, and that’s around the holidays.

So while I feel sorry for them, the stores are not staying open 24-36 hours like some have done in the past. This time around, they open a few hours for the major doorbusters then close those doors to recoup. I think its genius and smart because it helps to restock the shelves, items and help employees and consumers to recharge their battery. In addition, the crowds are much smaller than the stores opening at a specific time on Friday and staying open to the wee hours of the night. Yes, it’s Black Friday, but nowadays it’s better to call it Black Thursday. With my big rant over, let’s talk about planning for the biggest shopping day of the year.

First, you have to have a budget. It might sound crazy, but not having a budget can place you in a financial mess. You’ll be buying things just to be buying them, and you don’t need them. Set a budget and do everything in your power to stick to it. You’ll appreciate this advice later America. With that being said, you then have to decide perhaps the most important thing: cash or credit. Yes, you don’t want to mix the two when it comes to Black Friday shopping. If you’re paying with cash stick with it, because once those funds are gone, they are gone, which means you can’t spend what you do not have.

With credit you still need to set a budget otherwise you’ll max out your credit cards and all might seem well until that statement comes into the mail and you’re stunned at how much you spend. Pick a choice of payment and stick with it. Second, you have to choose who you’re buying for. I used to be that person that overdid it for family, now I’ve stopped that. The focus is on kids and immediate family. Trying to buy gifts for EVERYONE will break you and I’m not trying to be broke this Christmas. I used to feel guilty, but considering more than 75 percent in my family never get me anything, so I no longer feel bad.

Place a budget for those people on your list and stick to it. I used to try to buy multiple gifts, but NOW I put a price tag, rather its $10, $15 or $20, I have a budget for all and I stick to it. With that being said, you should scour through those ads. Most of the retailers have released their Black Friday ads or they have at least leaked onto various websites and it helps you determine your game plan. Which stores you absolutely want to visit, which stores you want to stay away from and those that are in between. I used to be that person that wanted to hit every store, but the older I get the more I realize I just don’t have the patience for people, massive crowds or stupidity. It’s great to get a deal, but I’m not about to lose my life to get one; it’s not that serious people.

Once you know your budget, who you’re buying for, the amount you’re spending and what retailers you plan to visit, then you create that list. Have a list of the items you want to purchase. Be aware, just because you make that list doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. So review your list a second or third time and decide if there are some things listed that are not absolute must haves for you. It’s ok to remove things from your list if need be.

Written By Zoe Mitchell