Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – is the biggest shopping day of the year and marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Consumer Reports has some Black Friday shopping tips to help keep you focused and get the best deals.

First, a little history. The term, Black Friday, got its start in Philadelphia in the 1950s, but, had nothing to do with shopping. It was used by police to describe the chaos created when shoppers and fans flooded the city the Friday after Thanksgiving for the Army-Navy football game.

In 1961, Philadelphia merchants began using the term to promote sales and it slowly spread throughout the country. By the late 1980s, retailers across the nation began offering big sales under the Black Friday banner. Every year since, millions of shoppers hit the stores in search of holiday bargains.

Now, those Black Friday shopping tips from Consumer Reports:

      1. Be Prepared – Study online and print ads the week before Thanksgiving. Check bestblackfriday.com, gottadeal.com and theblackfriday.com for updates leading up to the day. Not all Black Friday sales are super bargains. Before heading out, have a checklist of stores and gifts you’re seeking to buy. Doing a little homework and preparation can make the Black Friday shopping experience less of a hassle.

      2. Compare Prices – If you find a great deal at one retailer, compare it at such sites as FatWallet.com, PriceGrabber.com, Google Shopping or Shopping.com. You may find a better price elsewhere. The cheapest isn’t always the best. For example, a low end TV can be a great bargain, but the picture and sound quality can be disappointing. An extra $100 could be worth it to get a quality item.

      3. There’s an App for That – ShopSavvy and BuyVia are apps that allow you to scan bar codes to compare prices, get discounts and store coupons. Many retailers have their own apps that allow you to scan prices in their respective stores and shop online. A warning – be aware there are fake apps out there that appear to be a major retailer’s app.

      4. Be Loyal – Many stores have loyalty programs that give members the first look at sales and promotions. Members can even earn rewards on purchases. Sign up for Black Friday shopping alerts about promotions, coupons, and discounts. Loyalty members can be notified whether products they want are in stock or eligible for a buy-online/pick-up-at-store option that saves shipping charges.

      5. Be Social – Check the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite retailers to find out about deals and promotions. Customers who “like” them or follow them are often rewarded with special alerts to Black Friday discounts and incentives. Social media posts, tweets and texts are great ways to share Black Friday shopping info with your friends.

      6. Check Store Polices – Make sure you know a store’s return and price-match policies. Some stores may suspend price-match deals during the Black Friday weekend. Also, check stores’ return policy.

Following these Black Friday shopping tips will help get your holiday shopping off to a great start!