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How to Get the Best Bargains on Black Friday

Today's Black Friday shopper is a money-saving expert who knows exactly where to go and how to get the best deals. Competing against these savvy shoppers often requires the good fortune of finding that elusive gadget on a store shelf, as well as knowing whether that device is a great gift or a bad buy. Consider these shopping tips for the best Black Friday holiday shopping experience.

Know When to Shop 

The weeks before Black Friday usually feature endless commercials on store hours and their extended holiday hours. However, these commercials don't always tell the whole story. Some retailers offer early bird discounts to loyal shoppers or special deals to customers who are on the company's mailing list.
Looking to expand upon their holiday sales, some retailers start the festivities early and have big sales a week or two before Black Friday. Other stores may begin their official Black Friday celebration as early as Wednesday and feature extended hours throughout the entire week and into the weekend. 
Don't show up at the crack of dawn on Friday only to find that all the best deals are already gone. If the store starts its sale at 6 PM on Thanksgiving, that's the time to shop.

Research Before Purchasing

Big box stores like Best Buy, Wal-mart, and K-Mart offer discounts that seem incredible, but getting the best deal doesn't always mean finding the lowest price on a 60-inch television. Electronics manufacturers and other companies that sell popular holiday gifts will manufacture more than one version of their most popular sellers. Some of the versions sold on Black Friday for huge discounts don't come with the newest features. 
For example, a television might not have more than a single HDMI input. A smartphone might only have a few gigabytes of room when other versions have much more storage. Consider looking at the Black Friday deals that aren't at the bottom of the price list. Getting a feature like 3D or Smart technology on television might cost just $50 more and will be well worth higher price.
Tip: Read reviews on consumer websites and forums before settling on a brand or model to purchase. That great deal on a laptop might not be so great with the reviews the device has received.

Use Credit Cards and Debit Cards with Care

The huge data breaches that hit the newswire every few months are evidence that hackers can get anyone's information at any time. Choosing to shop with credit cards so as to take advantage of holiday promotions or awards bonuses is a smart choice, but charge with care.
Credit cards are usually a better option than debit cards because the majority of card companies offer purchase protection when a card is used illegally. Debit cards connected to bank accounts don't always offer that same financial protection.
In addition, use a rewards credit cards to make your purchases. Then, you’ll get to buy your holiday gifts while earning points, miles, or other rewards.

Shop with a Budget and Stick to It

The occasional $2 impulse buy at the checkout stand isn't going to break the bank, but a hasty decision on a Black Friday purchase could put a fair dent into the budget. The man in the big red suit isn't the only one who needs to make a list and check it twice. An important part of a successful Black Shopping expedition is spending only what is necessary and avoiding expensive, last-minute purchases.
While performing research on where to get gifts for the lowest price, it's important to design a list that's affordable and one that will be followed to the letter. For shoppers who have gotten in trouble in the past with excess purchases or heavy spending on credit cards, leaving the credit cards at home is one way to avoid buying too much.

Compare Prices, Haggle, and Bring Coupons

The best deal will always be one that combines a huge Black Friday discount with an extra coupon or mail-in rebate. Check the paper for coupons included with store advertisements, and search online for additional coupon opportunities. Start checking the paper a few weeks in advance because coupons might show up during early holiday promotions.
In addition, never stop or search at just one store to buy gifts, and continue looking for deals even after Black Friday is over. Businesses may have a price match policy that will match prices found elsewhere for identical products. This feature is extremely helpful when one store with the lowest price sells out of an item, but it's still available elsewhere.
Even if a store doesn't advertise a price-match policy, sometimes negotiation may work to get a lower price. Businesses often make a significant percentage of their yearly sales from holiday shoppers, so the end of the year is the best time to negotiate good prices.
Tip: Don't forget to use the mail-in rebate! Getting a great deal with a rebate isn't so great when the form just collects dust in a drawer somewhere.

Never Give Up

Standing outside a store in the freezing weather at 4 AM only to find that the store sold out of their discounted iPhones 10 minutes after opening can put a damper on the holiday season. However, Black Friday is just the beginning of the holiday season, and many more deals may arrive as the season draws to a close.
The week right before Christmas and Christmas Eve often feature even bigger deals than what was available on Black Friday. However, it's probably not a good idea to leave absolutely all the holiday shopping until right before the big day. Great items may show up right before the 25th, but there's no guarantee.
Alternatively, the internet may also help when store shelves seem empty. Sometimes businesses will offer internet-only deals, or they'll have additional stock online. The only caveat is getting the items ordered early enough to ensure on-time delivery. To avoid late shipments, see if a brick and mortar business has in-store pickup for internet purchases.
As with anything in life that requires good timing and research, making a plan of attack helps in so many ways. Get the best prices, know where to shop, and spend the least amount of time standing around in the cold on Black Friday by planning ahead for the biggest shopping day of the year.

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Yael Kent's picture

Yael Kent is a personal finance enthusiast with experience writing about credit cards, credit repair, debt, and more. In addition to being an editor at Creditnet, she has been featured on Yahoo Finance, Reuters, and other financial sites.

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