UNITED STATES—The biggest shopping day of the year is fast-approaching us. For those not in the know, I’m referring to Black Friday or what has somewhat shifted to Black Thursday. For years, this is the day where those retailers who have struggled all year to turn those numbers that are in the red to black. Retailers can make so much moolah on this day that it can carry them until the following year if things are budgeted properly.

However, there has been a rising concern from many Americans that Black Friday is threatening the importance of Thanksgiving for many families. I have to be honest; I can see both sides of the argument so hear me out. Do I believe people should be forced to work on Thanksgiving? No, however, at the same time if all the retail stores are closed, why can’t the supermarkets, the police stations, newspapers, television stations, hospitals, paramedics and casinos also be closed? It’s like a double-edged sword, because people want certain establishments closed, but never consider those professions that don’t get the opportunity to take a break because if they were to do so lives would be at risk.

I mean I started my first job working at a grocery store and we were ALWAYS open on Thanksgiving Day. We didn’t get that holiday off because people were always on the hunt to purchase last minute items for their feast. Now granted we typically closed by 3 p.m., there were still employees who had to work. With newspapers, news is a 24/7 cycle that never stops, even on the holidays.

So I do feel the pain of those employees who have to work at those retail establishments on perhaps the most chaotic shopping day during the year. It’s been a tradition in our family to celebrate Black Friday for probably the past 20 years, maybe longer. We eat, then we shop. That has shifted slightly because most of us find ourselves stuck working on Thanksgiving, so we tend to host dinner either the day before or the day after depending on our schedules.

I did notice a trend this year, that many of the retailers are opening their doors for a short time frame. Why? It allows them to deal with the mad rush and sell all those hot items and then close the doors to recuperate. This is a very smart strategy in my opinion because by doing so you are able to ease down the panic or crowd overload if all the stores only opened on Friday. By opening just for a few hours which many of the retailers are doing this year, the rush strikes Thanksgiving Day mid-evening, come Friday morning and the rest of the weekend, you still have crowds, but not as big as in previous years.

I tell this to people time and time again be prepared if you’re venturing out on this day; it’s not for rookies. Plan a list and this requires looking at all the ads in advance. You need to know what is on sale, what is a sale, what you want, what you need and what you do not need. You might think this is crazy, but you need to prepare a LIST. You can easily, and I mean easily spend a $100 plus dollars at a single retailer by just picking up items and not realizing why you need them. Don’t fall into the trap that I’ve fallen into in the past; don’t buy just to buy or because it’s a sale, if you don’ t need or it’s not a gift for a person on your Xmas list let it go, no matter how great it might seem.

Decide what store or stores that you want to hit first. This is important because you can’t be in two places at once, but then again you kind of can if you have multiple people in your group. To solve such a problem simply have one person hit this store, another person hit this store and ensure all the items on your list are picked up. This is a rule that some of you may or may not agree with me. Use cash, I’m not the biggest fan of credit cards, I know they come in handy if you don’t have cash on hand, but it helps you stay within your budget and not spend more than you can actually afford.

It is very easy to go into massive debt doing Black Friday shopping if you are not careful America. Set a budget and stick to it as much as you can. If you run out of money you run out of money; don’t feel the need to do more than what you can actually afford. There might be plenty of madness that comes with Black Friday because you’re juggling family, the holidays, food and shopping, but it’s a fun time of year. Be safe, be smart and have fun!