Black Friday 101: How to survive the biggest shopping day of the year

Black Friday shoppers doing their crazy, Black Friday thing.
Black Friday shoppers doing their crazy, Black Friday thing.

Ah, the blessed holiday known as Black Friday. It's the day we celebrate what it means to be an American consumer. The doors to most stores will open at the crack of dawn and the deals will roll out, giving shoppers unbridled access to cheap stuff that will become our holiday gifts to our friends and family.

But as with all holidays, there can be a dark side. Just like slurping up too much of that congealed cranberry stuff that is served in the shape of a tin can on Thanksgiving, shopping Black Friday can get really extreme, really fast. To combat the potential exhaustion and insanity, we've compiled a list of tips and tricks that will keep your shopping bags full and your brain locked in chill mode.

See also: I'm an idiot, and other misconceptions about retail employees

10. It's called Black Friday, not Black Thursday for a reason Take this time before the shopping madness begins to enjoy a day off. Even if you're a giant ball of stress because you're in charge of cooking the turkey (or cooking a vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free/paleo-friendly turkey alternative,) take the time to be with the people around you and do not, under any circumstances, go shopping. Seriously, there is something really gross about shopping on a day that used to be reserved for time with family and friends. And though some professions require folks to work when the rest of us are pigging out, don't make retail employees endure the insanity that they face the rest of the season.

Curious as to which big box chain stores are violating their employees' time off/sanity? Here's a list of the offenders, plus a list of companies observing the holiday -- so you can give them your business on Black Friday, like a normal consumer. If you just can't stand the idea that you may be missing out on the "sweet deals" of an early Black-Friday-happening-on-Thursday sale, take a walk around the block. Chances are, that nervous energy is just your body wanting a break from all the food and holiday bickering.

Mouse Trap A.K.A. the West deck parking garage at Cherry Creek Mall.

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9. Give yourself plenty of time Shopping on Black Friday in Colorado means driving. A lot. Unless you're a one-stop shopper, you're probably going to hit any number of consuming destinations like Park Meadows, Belmar, Flatiron Crossing or Denver Pavilions in a single day. Remember, road rage does no one any good. And even on a regular day, I-25 is always a mess, 6th Avenue is a joke and Speer Boulevard is undriveable. Black Friday traffic is no different. Taking deep breaths is key to surviving the never-ending circling you'll do inside the massive and confusing Cherry Creek Mall West Deck Parking Garage (seriously, that thing is built like Milton Bradley's Mouse Trap except it isn't fun and doesn't involve a bath tub.)

8. Get some rest No, really. Stress is caused by all sorts of things, and there are ways to stop it in its tracks. Shopping should be fun -- I mean, the point of all of this is because you want to buy your loved ones gifts to show how much you adore them, right? Get a good night's sleep -- the tryptophan in the turkey from Thanksgiving should help -- and you'll wake up refreshed and ready to buy stuff until you drop.

7. Pack snacks Yes, like camping or music festival-ing, shopping on Black Friday can become an eighteen-hour endeavor. If you get "hangry" (that's when you're so hungry you're angry) in the middle of your retailing expedition, everyone around you can sense it. Do those people and yourself a favor and be conscious of your blood sugar levels. If you're prepared, that mall staple, the Cinnabon, won't even be able to call your name -- and really, do you need to pack all of your calories and carbohydrates (not to mention double the daily recommended amount of saturated fat) for one day into one bun? Keep some high energy, portable snacks like nuts and dried fruit in your bag and you'll be set!

6. Stay hydrated Did you know that some scientist somewhere figured out that sometimes when we think we're hungry, we're really just thirsty? True story. Carry water with you on this shopping adventure and your body will thank you. Treat shopping like exercise and you'll be able to cram in some extra cardio and weight-training while using the stairs instead of the escalator, and then you'll really need water. Plus, if you've been wondering how to truly fit in here now that you've moved to Colorado permanently but aren't ready to commit to buying a Subaru, you can get a Nalgene bottle for your water with a handy carabiner that allows you to attach your refreshment to your purse or pants -- like a real native.

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