It's a tradition almost as old as Thanksgiving turkey itself: Black Friday. It's the biggest shopping day of the year. This holiday season, and especially on Black Friday, there are some things you can do to help you protect yourself and your budget.

Why "Black" Friday?

It's really quite simple. It's "black" because it's the day most retailers expect to start tuning a profit for the entire past year. It's their chance to get "into the black." That's an accounting term meaning that profits, which traditionally are recorded in the accounting books in black ink, are greater than losses or debts, which are recorded in red ink on the books.

It's "Friday" because it always falls the day after Thanksgiving, which is always the last Thursday of November.

There may be some connection to another famous Black Friday. On Friday, September 24, 1869, the stock market crashed.

Either way you look at it, the driving force behind today's Black Friday is money, plain and simple. It's the biggest shopping day of the year. Millions of US consumers wake up hours before sunrise and head out to the stores to cash in on all kinds of bargains and savings. Retailers go on huge media and advertising blitzes and often drop prices drastically as they compete for your shopping dollars.

They all want you to spend your money in their stores. Retailers have been gearing up for this for some time now. In fact, some stores, like retail giants Wal-Mart and Meijer, have released some of their Black Friday ads or specials already.

Be Prepared

Here are some tips to help you get through the holiday shopping season and Black Friday with your personal safety and budget intact:

Be patient. One year ago on Black Friday, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death when shoppers rushed into the store when the doors opened early that morning. Some stores, including Wal-Mart, will try to avoid having a throng of anxious shoppers rush into the store by keeping many of its stores open on Thanksgiving and through Friday. If the store you're heading to doesn't open its doors early, watch out for yourself and others by waiting patiently for the doors to open.

How much will you spend? Make a list of the gifts you need. This will help you avoid "impulse" buying. Also, know exactly where the money will come from. It's best to pay cash, that way you don't pay high interest rates on your credit cards. If you're using a credit card, make sure you use the one with the lowest monthly interest rate.

You may also wish to put your items on layaway. This is a popular way to set items aside and pay for them over time, but not on a credit card. Each store's policy differs so be sure to check with them. Be careful about extra fees and charges for the service.

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Tagged as: Consumer Law, black Friday, consumer law lawyer