Tips For Safe and Stress-Free Holiday Shopping

This Thanksgiving season, over half of all Americans will be shopping during Black Friday weekend, which means plenty of crowds, traffic and frustrated shoppers along the way.

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but those heading out during Black Friday may want to consider some safety precautions to protect themselves and their family. The American Automobile Association suggests some handy tips to make the holiday shopping season a positive one.

Use the buddy system: Bring at least one shopping companion to help ease the inevitable frustration of navigating large crowds and brutal traffic.

Keep a sharp eye on little ones: Stores will be packed, which means plenty of chances to lose a loved one among the crowds. Plan ahead and pick a spot in every store to reunite in the event of separation.

Hide all purchases when leaving items in the car: Place all items in the trunk if possible so snooping burglars aren’t tempted to break into the vehicle.

Keep cash and credit cards hidden: Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other shoppers creates a solid chance of losing money or personal belongings. Keep all payment methods inside a purse or wallet until it’s time to pay the cashier.

Take note of your parking spot: Take a photo with a smartphone or write down the parking number to avoid wandering aimlessly around a parking lot with heavy shopping bags.

Beware of Cyber Monday scams: When purchasing items online, always ensure the website is legitimate by looking for a padlock icon somewhere on the browser screen and check that "https" precedes the URL address of the current site. Never respond to requests for personal information verification as trusted sites will never ask for this.

Be prepared: Check ads and websites for current deals and bring along coupons and copies of ads to ensure the correct price. Create a budget and stick to it to avoid falling down a slippery spending slope.

Keep all receipts in a safe place: Make sure unwanted gifts can be easily returned and credit card charges are correct for both in-store and online purchases.

Get plenty of rest: For those planning to shop on Black Friday during late or early morning hours, getting plenty of rest beforehand will help prevent frustrations and provide much-needed fuel to brave the shopping crowds.

Still deciding whether shopping on Black Friday is worth the effort? Although it may seem daunting, it's also a great way to spend time with loved ones while saving a bundle. Oftentimes, many items reach the lowest price points of the year and product rebates can render some items practically free.

Peruse retail ads online and know that oftentimes the same discounts can be found on the store's website. Keep these tips in mind and make sure to relax, have fun and enjoy the massive savings.

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