Turkey is what’s on my mind for the time being, but many consumers go crazy weeks in advance for what has become a holiday of its own for bargain-hunters nationwide: Black Friday.

It may be fun to follow the crowds and compete for door-buster deals at midnight, but there are some steps that the more frugal Black Friday fiend can take to gain an edge on the competition.

Fighting the tide at midnight can lead to some great deals, but there are plenty of risks associated with being around so many people. Although it may not be the first thing on consumers’ minds, there are criminals out there who may do anything from stealing purchases straight from honest shoppers’ arms to picking their pockets in the crowd.

This risk can be averted by taking advantage of online deals. Many retailers offer similar, sometimes better, deals on their websites. Some of these deals in recent years have included reduced or no-cost shipping, although Yahoo Finance reports that some of these still included stipulations for a minimum purchase.

Social networking sites are another excellent online resource. By simply “liking” a retailer’s Facebook page or including a certain hashtag on Twitter, consumers can earn both in-store and online discounts.

To mitigate the risk of criminals for consumers who do choose to venture out, whether at midnight Thursday or throughout the day this Friday, consumers might want to consider bringing cash and locking their wallets in the car.

This does two things. First, it eliminates the risk of consumers having their identity stolen if a thief were to get their hands on their wallet full of debit and credit cards. Second, it assures consumers will be able to fund their purchases.

Card readers do fail, and the sheer number of shoppers may be enough to wear out old or faulty machinery. However, cash will still be accepted in-store, and if a machine does go out, consumers who rely on cash may find themselves at the front of the line with a smug look on their face

Whether in-store or online, it is important to have a budget and stick to it at all costs. Especially with the advents of online shopping and credit cards, it doesn’t take much to get carried away and spend more than intended. For people who suffer from impulse-buy syndrome, they should think about whether the purchase will bring a bout of post-purchase regret.

Finally, don’t forget about Cyber Monday. To promote online shopping, retailers have started offering deals to people who shop the online stores the Monday after Thanksgiving. There’s no point in going out on Black Friday if there will be a better deal on the tech or online product desired three days later, so it is important for consumers to do research beforehand to see which items have the best deals on which days.

Last year, comScore, a leading tech analytics company, reported that Cyber Monday spending had hit $1.465 billion, up about 17 percent from 2011. If this trend continues, I think it’s fair to assume that retailers will keep the deals coming on Cyber Monday this year.

Overall, the best part about Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the great deals offered both days. Consumers who are looking for the best of the best will need to do a little research on competing retailers to compare deals and look for the best discounts.

But equally important as saving money is being comfortable. Online shoppers, keep an eye out for that next pair of bunny-ear slippers, and in-store shoppers, make sure to wear some good walking or running shoes to keep up stamina as the hours inevitably slip by.

As for me, I’ll be most comfortable staying home to enjoy the Macy’s parade, not getting trampled over a discount video game at Best Buy that I can wait to buy online. Did I mention I hate shopping in person?

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