Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and, let's be honest, it is not for the weak. If last year's tragic Wal-Mart trampling wasn't proof enough, we're sure there will be plenty more tales of Black Friday mania come next Monday morning. If you're like me, you'll be snuggled in your PJs eating yet another piece of pie for breakfast, but for the fearless shopping zealots, Lemondrop has gathered the best tips and tricks from the people who do it best: shoppers themselves.

maria and christinaThe expert duo:
Cristina, 23, and Maria, 28
(pictured here with middle sister Celia)
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Years of collective Black Friday experience: 10+
Best shopping deal: a gift for mom -- an expensive Crock-Pot for $10


Fueled by just a few hours of sleep and as much caffeine as is legal, some families continue in the spirit of holiday togetherness with an insane day of shopping. (Note: These women are brave.) Sisters Cristina and Maria are out the door by 4:30 or 5 a.m. to buy their Christmas gifts. They're armed with a budget and a battle plan -- and they stick to it. "I only visit the stores in which I need to purchase something," says Maria. "There's no wandering on Black Friday." Good advice.

Another tip: "Take family always," Cristina says. "They can stand in line while you find more stuff."

Read on for some more tips ...

What's your strategy for hitting the stores?
Cristina: I will check the ads first and compare prices. I don't think that I would ever just show up on a Black Friday without being prepared first. That is kind of like walking onto a battlefield with no weapon.
Maria: I look through the newspaper ads and write down what I need to buy from which stores, and then I map out in which order I'll visit each one.

What do you HAVE to have this year?
Cristina: I just bought a scrapbooking machine, and the cartridges for it are expensive. I'm hoping to find deals for it.

Do you look at sites with tips and "leaked deals" online before you go?
Maria: I'm always leery of what I read on the Internet, so I mainly stick to newspaper ads and direct emails from stores.

What's your craziest Black Friday story?

Maria: Jo-Ann Fabrics is INSANE on Black Friday. You'll spend hours in there. The wait is at least an hour to get fabric cut and another one to two hours in line to pay. If the deals weren't so good, it wouldn't even be worth it.