The only traffic tie-ups Friday morning were around shopping malls, like the outlet mall in Aurora, where the parking lot was packed by 6:30 a.m.
Before 4 a.m., lines formed around Chicago area stores, such as a Toys R Us on Western Avenue. Inside, staffers braced for the crowd.
"There's no doubt this is the craziest day we'll go through," said the store's Mike McCarthy to a group of employees.
Workers were ready once the shoppers came in, grabbing carts ready for a race to the best deals.
"Consumers have been holding back so strongly that they may have some cash that they can spend on this Black Friday," said George Rosenbaum of Leo J. Shapiro and Associates.
At the Wal-Mart in Niles, deals were the name of the game."They had portable DVD players on sale, kids toys on sale," said shopper Dessie Malone.
"I came in for a bunch of stuff in ads, and didn't have them. So, I got other stuff I didn't need," shopper Devora Turk said.
Some shoppers did actually leave empty-handed. "The prices are low, but people are pushing, and everyone is on wait for everything," Lorimar Sandoval said.
The shops at North Bridge on Michigan Avenue saw steady foot traffic Friday. Many shoppers said they shopped Friday to get the most bang for the buck this holiday season.
"I have eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. So, it's hard," shopper Theresa Kostelnik said.
"We are scaling back some. The dreams and the wishes haven't scaled back any, but we're trying to scale back a little bit," said Greg White.
Others said they'd rather hold off for now.
"The items are still pricey, and I don't think they're too cheap to buy at this time," Ganesh Nagarajan said.
The National Retail Federation estimates 128 million Americans will shop this weekend. That number is down from 135 million this time last year. No doubt, some people are waiting to see how good the deals will become, and some other are simply watching their budgets.