Black Friday has become a holiday all in itself. How did it get its name and is it really worth the hassle? I’ve scoured the Internet and being the Black Friday Veteran that I am, I’m sharing some ideas that will make your Black Friday shopping more rewarding and less painful.

Black Friday – Why is it called this? It’s called Black Friday because that’s the day that companies traditionally were finally “in the black” for the year, meaning they were finally making a profit, and therefore they can give discounts.

Is it worth it? – Yes and No. In the late ’90s, Black Friday was a day that one would get up at 8 am and head to the local big box stores to find deals on Christmas decorations and gifts. Today, more than twenty years later, Black Friday is a sport. In fact, as the Christmas creep has spread even closer to Halloween, Black Friday has turned into Brown Thursday. I’m not proud to admit this, but I’ve even cut out on Thanksgiving traditions to stand outside Target or at the local outdoor shopping mall, bundled up with scarves and gloves waiting for the deals, but you know what….it’s not always worth it.

I’m all about saving money, but in order to make pushing away from the turkey dinner early, there are a few things to consider:

• Are the items on sale what my loved ones really want? It’s easy to get over-excited about $4 movies and $1 fuzzy socks, but if your loved ones don’t really want or need these things, then you’re just buying stuff just because it’s on sale. Trust me, I’ve been there. I have opened up the bag of “stuff” I’ve gotten for my kids — getting ready to wrap presents — and realized they don’t really even want or need it…and I’ve over-bought…again…after promising it wouldn’t happen this year.

• Are you invested in making it happen? A lot of the sale items are in very limited supply. So if you are wanting the top items — usually electronics — you have to commit and be first in line to ensure all your effort actually pays off. If you’re not “in it to win it,” you might as well not go at all, as only the first in line will get the best deals.

If you are ready to be a Black Friday warrior, then here are the tips you need to know:

• Scout out the goods the day before – Wednesday is usually a Thanksgiving food prepping day, but it can also be a checking-out-the-merchandise day. It’s like window-shopping, but gives you and your kids a chance to check out to see if these items are what they really want for Christmas and where they are located in the store. This was really helpful for me when Target had their clothes 50% in the last couple of years. I would have the boys go with me on Wednesday and try on clothes and pick what they liked. That way, during the Black Friday sale, I already knew what fit and what they liked. This year Target is not having their 50% clothes sale (sad!) but Old Navy is. Find the stores that you would like to shop with and scout them out ahead of time. Also, I let my kids use my phone (or their own) and take pictures of items they wanted. It’s like an updated-Santa wish list. Of course, they snapped a million pictures, but they had a fun time, and it helped me understand better what they were looking for. We let them look through the pictures at the end of the day and do a little game of “would you rather get x or y for Christmas?” to help narrow down the list.

• Fill your online cart ahead of time – Speaking of 50% at some stores like Old Navy this year, do your online shopping ahead of time to. Be sure to create a login for the store to ensure they save your items in your cart. Add the items in your cart and wait for the big day of 50% to come. Right now Old Navy is having a 40% off sale, but starting Wednesday morning, it will be 50%. Of course, if you’re worried an item or size will run out, you might want to take the plunge and buy it early.

• Be committed – Like I mentioned earlier, if you’re willing to go shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, then you need to really commit and make sure you are one of the first people there. Dress warmly, bring snacks, games or a book and be prepared to hunker down.

• Shop around and price compare – Make sure the Black Friday deal is really a deal. This year my youngest is hopping for a first-generation iWatch. I looked at all of the Black Friday ads, and only Target has a deal on the first generation iWatch at $180. But, in order to get this deal, you need to be one of the first ones at Target. As much as I might want to stand in line around 3 pm on Thursday, my family would protest about having to eat Thanksgiving dinner early, so I just might not get this deal. I did some research, and it looks like most places are selling the 38mm 1st generation iWatch for $250 (Best Buy, Amazon, Target, Apple and pretty much the entire Internet). A bit steep…No one seemed to have a deal on it. Then, by chanced I checked Walmart’s current price….and it was $200. While not $180, $20 more might be worth it not to leave Thanksgiving early and stand out in the cold. The kicker, they don’t have too many of these left, so I went ahead and bought it before Black Friday. My prediction is that as the years continue, we’ll see more and more of these pre-Black Friday deals, so don’t be afraid to open your pocket book before the big day.

And if you’re willing to buy an “open box” item, Best Buy has some deals on electronics that have been opened or returned. These have to be close to you (they won’t ship these) and they list the condition of the item — such as “excellent” or “fair” — next to the description, so you know what you’re getting.

Also, I’ve noticed the last couple of years that Target has deals on games leading up to Black Friday. So if you’re a family of board gamers, check out Target before Black Friday.

• Bring a friend as a line holder – Having a friend to stand in line with will make the minutes (okay hours) go by quicker. Also, having a line buddy is advantageous in case you need to hit up the bathroom or need to take a break to warm up in the car. But, the best tip about having a line buddy, is to have someone to go stand in the check-out line, while you shop. Big box store check-out lines are notoriously long on Black Friday. If you’re lucky enough to bring your hubby with you on Black Friday, maybe he wouldn’t mind standing in line while you go shop for deals. Then, when you’re ready to check out, he’s already close to the front and you can head home (or to another store) quicker. Sure, it sounds like the “place holder” is getting the bum deal, but some husbands might rather stay in the line playing Candy Crush or watching cat videos than be in the craziness of the racks.

• Look for unusual Black Friday deals – My favorite time to buy clothes, sheets and blankets, is on Black Friday. Since most people are there for the tech and toys, the sheet and clothes aisles are usually empty, and easy to manuever through.

• Ditch the cart, bring a shopping bag – Big box stores like Target and Walmart, tend to bring in pallets of Black Friday items and place them smack dab in the regular merchandise. This, along with the increase in the amount of customers, makes for a lot of gridlock. If you’re pushing a cart, it’s even harder to get through the crowds. Bring your own fabric shopping bag and easily get the best deals and quickly get through the racks. Sure, if you’re after a big-screen TV, this might not work, but for most people looking for medium to small items, a shopping bag is the way to go.

• Buy discounted gift cards to shop with – Check out sites like GiftCardGranny or CardPool to buy or trade gift cards for stores you want to shop at Black Friday. Use those gifts cards to pay for your items. You’ll need to check these out ahead of time so you have them in time for shopping on Black Friday, but there’s a great way to save a buck.

Another tip I learned from a Target worker….whenever you get a gift card from a Target shopping deal, save it for Christmas. It’s an easy way to save up cash for Christmas.

• Be kind to other customers and to the workers – The old saying is true….”You catch more flies with honey.” No sale item is more important than other people, so be kind and courteous. I try to be extra kind to the retail workers. As a daughter of a retail store manager, and a former employee myself, I know that the workers are anticipating a crazy day. Why not sympathize with them and thank them for showing up. For many of them, they’ve had to cut their holiday short as well. A smile goes a long way.

So there you have it. Those are my tricks and tips. I hope they help you this year. If you’re headed out this year, I’d love to hear some of your tips that help you get the best deals while not losing your mind.