Tomorrow is arguably the biggest shopping day of the year, and if you’re gearing up for Black Friday, do it the right way. That means preparation.

While the holiday season is traditionally a time to be with family and friends, it also tends to bring hectic times that can make any shopper feel harried.

So leave nothing to chance. When shopping during the holidays, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is offering the following tips to consider:

  • Plan ahead – Set a realistic budget and stick to it. Also make a list of the gifts you would like to give. This helps you to avoid buying impulse gifts that may be inappropriate or too expensive.
  • Compare prices and shop carefully – Holiday “sales” and “markdowns” sometimes are not the bargains they appear to be.
  • Ask about refund and exchange policies – Before making a purchase, ask the merchant about its refund and exchange policy. A store is not obligated to accept items for refund, exchange, or credit unless the item is defective or was misrepresented.
  • Know your rights – Be informed about your rights when placing orders through catalogs, mail order, TV shopping networks or online venues. Additional information on mail and telephone order shopping is available from the Federal Trade Commission ( Ask about delivery times, delivery costs and how returns are handled. Contact the BBB to obtain a report on the company.
  • Shop safe on the internet – If you are considering shopping on the Internet, exercise the same care and judgment that you would on Main Street. If you are not familiar with the online merchant or company, contact your BBB for a report. Know the web site’s privacy policy before you place an order. Be sure the website is secure before making your purchase.
  • Be aware of your surroundings – Be on your guard at all times when shopping. Never leave your wallet, credit card or purse on a counter. Do not get overloaded with packages. Survey the parking lot for suspicious persons. Shop with a companion or ask for a security escort to your car.
  • Give but give wisely. If you are approached in person for a donation, do not give if you are pressured or if the solicitor is vague. Ask for written information to review. If the appeal is legitimate, your donation will be just as appreciated after the holidays as before the holidays. Check with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance ( for additional holiday giving advice and information on charities meeting CBBB ethical guidelines.

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