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Your take: Do you Black Friday?

It’s been years since I actually went shopping for Black Friday, but I picture it looking kind of like the illustration above.

According to a report by the National Retail Federation, today 140 million Americans will besiege their local big-box stores and malls like a marauding army, but they’ll be out for deals rather than blood (in most cases [3]).

In my experience, Black Friday is pretty polarizing: You either love it and don’t understand what all the haters are yapping about, or you think it’s ridiculous and the only way you participate is online or by watching the chaos unfold on the morning news.

Personally, every time someone mentions that they’re planning to go out for some Black Friday shopping [4], it makes me want to ask them if they’ll pick me up a sweet new pair of Bad Idea Jeans [5] while they’re there. Retailers wouldn’t do Black Friday sales year in and year out if it didn’t make them giant Death Star-sized piles of cash. They lure you in with promises of great deals but have so few of those “loss leaders” on hand that they’re quickly absorbed by the grasping mob that, judging by the most press coverage, may or may not trample you.

After that, there may be some good deals, but there will also be plenty of less discounted items people will end up buying just to fill out their Christmas lists or simply because it’s there and it looks cool.

On the other hand, I have some really smart, frugal friends who swear that taking care of their holiday shopping on Black Friday saves them hundreds of dollars every year.

Here’s my friend and colleague Katie Doyle [6] on her plan, and why she loves Black Friday:

I heart Black Friday shopping. I have a 2-year-old. She’s awesome and a princess, and I love her with all that I am, but the poor kid was born two weeks after Christmas! So to avoid the dreaded birthday-Christmas combo gift, I scour the stores for every deal in the tri-state area. So Black Friday, and its deal bonanza, holds a special place in my heart.

Here we are, three days out from Black Friday shopping, and I have a spreadsheet of what I want to get her. It has about 30 items on it, no joke. But I am a frugal Fannie, so thank (-sgiving) goodness for Black Friday. Black Friday deals are the peanut butter to my buying-needs jelly. I can knock out most of my shopping list AND save huge bucks. I’ve scoured the corners of the Internets to find deals, so on the spreadsheet, I keep a column of where to find said item at a discount this week! Black Friday sales, I heart you.

Here’s the plan so far: Wake up before dawn. Hit Target, Lilly Pulitzer, Toys ‘R’ Us, Michaels. Kmart, Gymboree, Janie and Jack. But questions remain: How many (Disney, pink, Fisher Price, pink, princess, pink) gifts can I load up this Friday to make a dent in my prissy girl’s gift spreadsheet without making a huge dent in my wallet? And which family members can I drag along to keep the Thanksgiving togetherness alive, while we tag-team the list? (And how will I hide these things from the prying eyes of said girl?)

I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but I have high hopes for hot sales, happy holidays and a happy birthday!

So I’ll put the question to you: Do you Black Friday, and why, or why not?