For those not in the know, Black Friday, or the Friday after Thanksgiving, is the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and one of the craziest shopping days of the year. Retailers across the land slash their prices to entice shoppers to come in and spend like mad. For us college students, that means some crazy deals can be had if you know where to look. So to make sure you’re all ready for the biggest shopping day of the year, here are five tips you should know before you venture out to fight the crowds for that ridiculously cheap TV.

1. Is there anything actually worth buying? – Like GI Joe once said, knowing is half the battle. Don’t go into Black Friday blindly; make sure there’s actually stuff you want before you wake up at 2AM and drive out in the freezing cold! Be sure to peruse bfads.net and blackfriday.gottadeal.net, two fantastic sites that aggregate pretty much every retailer’s ad into a much more readable format. You can filter based on item type to scope out just what you want. For those of you that are more excel-inclined, check out DealsVista to download either the .xls file or view the file via Google Documents.

2. Can you buy it online? – Who wants to deal with the crazed masses of humanity on a cold, dark, Friday morning? Once you figure out what you want, check to see if it’s available online so you don’t even have to leave home! A lot of times Amazon will match many brick and mortar retailers, so also remember to check there to save some hassle and aggravation. For an even more stress-free shopping experience, check out this page of blackfriday.gottadeal.net – you can see which items are already for sale online, letting you get what you want right now while everything’s still in stock.

3. What if it’s in-store only? – Make sure you know when the store opens so you can leave at the right time. Remember that people go crazy on Black Friday and some have lined up two or even three days in advance to snag those doorbuster deals. If you really must have that $200 TV from Best Buy, you’ll probably have to go line up now in order to have any shot at it. It’s important to ask yourself if that money saved (usually only a few hundred dollars) is worth all your time and aggravation (usually, it’s not).

4. Don’t drive across town – Many times, stores have similar deals. Sure, Target might be selling something for $5-10 more than Walmart, but if you have to go out of your way just for one item, it probably isn’t worth it. Consider the cost of gas, your time, and your aggravation for having to find parking, then the item, and then wait in line all over again before you venture out to another store. When you’re figuring out your Black Friday destination, try to find an area where many stores are consolidated – shopping centers are great because then you don’t have to move your car after you find parking.

5. Get enough to eat – Most people probably aren’t used to being awake at 4 AM. Make sure you bring coffee, energy bars, and if you have enough time, eat a good breakfast before you go out to fight the masses. A 24-hour convenience store should be your first stop regardless of where you’re headed if you don’t have time to fuel your body at home.

Do you have any more Black Friday words of wisdom? Let us know in the comments!

[Photo courtesy of tshein. Licensed under CC BY-2.0.]