Savvy shoppers debate whether Black Friday deals are really the best — some experts say you can find better savings on other days. But even if you think you're saving a ton, it's hardly worth it if you get hurt, or if your credit card gets stolen or hacked.

If shopping is in your post-Turkey Day plans, protect your money, your family and yourself by heeding these tips when you brave the mall.

Don’t go at it alone. Many retailers open their doors in the wee hours of the morning, while it’s still dark out. If you plan to take advantage of early-bird specials, the crime prevention section of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) recommends bringing along a friend. At the very least, have someone drive you to the door and wait until you’re safely inside before leaving.

Be smart when you park. If you can, park in a lot with an attendant or at least in a well-lit spot that’s close to an entrance, advises the LAPD. Make a note of, or snap a photo of, the section or row you’re parked in so you don’t have wander around to find your car later. It won’t hurt to have a can of pepper spray at the ready either.

Avoid getting trampled. Yes, people have been crushed to death in Black Friday crowds. One of the worst such incidents happened at a Wal-Mart on Long Island in 2008, when a temporary employee was trampled by a throng of shoppers who rushed the doors and broke them down. A pregnant woman was knocked to the ground and suffered a miscarriage. Other customers were injured as well.

Follow your instincts. If people are pushing and shoving to get closer to the door, hang back. If you find yourself caught in a stampede of fellow shoppers, hold your arms close to your chest, place one foot in front of the other (in a boxer's stance) and do your best to go with the flow of people rather than against it. Wait for a lull in the surge, then make your move, zigzagging your way to an exit, suggests Paul Wertheimer of Crowd Management Strategies.

Don’t be an easy target. Make it tough for a thief or pickpocket to take advantage of you. Some tips:

  • Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet in a front pocket of your jacket or pants, the NCPC suggests.
  • Don’t stand out in the crowd — leave expensive jewelry and your designer duds and handbag at home. Bring plain brown paper bags with handles to tote pricey purchases in.
  • Don’t buy more than you can easily carry, advises the NCPC. You’ll need to have a tight grip if a crook tries to snatch a package from you.
  • if you want to use cash instead of a credit card, use an ATM inside the mall to get it, and protect your PIN by shielding the keypad as you type it in. The receipt goes in your wallet, not the ATM trash bin.

Related: How to Recover from Holiday Over-Spending

Prep your kids. The best place for young children on Black Friday is home. If you must bring a child with you to shop, the NCPC advises prepping them ahead of time: Make sure they know your cell phone number (or have it pinned inside an item of clothing) and who it's safe to approach for help. Select a place to meet in case you get separated.

Related: How Not to Lose Your Child in a Crowd

Make a quick, safe getaway. When it's time to head home, dig your keys out of your purse before you leave the store or mall, advises the NCPC. Pay attention as you walk to your parking spot — don't bury your face in your phone. Before you get in the car, look inside, including in the back seat, to make sure no one is hiding there. Stash your purchases in the trunk or back of the car as quickly as possible (don't spend time arranging them), hop in, lock your doors and drive off.

Related: 12 Crucial Tips for Shopping Safely Online