The Thanksgiving turkey isn’t on the table yet, but retailers and shoppers are gearing up for Black Friday sales.
1. Start tracking now
Gone are the days when being the person asleep in front of the store at 2 a.m. meant you were the most dedicated shopper. Black Friday is now a month of big deals.
Those prices shift throughout the holiday season, though, so if you really want to judge how good the sales are, you’ll need to track the deals leading up to Black Friday.
The same goes for Cyber Monday, which now stretches into a week of online specials.
2. Get a sneak peek at the ads
If you want to get the best deals, get a look at the ads. You might think they haven’t been released yet, but the retail industry has more leaks than Washington.
You'll find tons of leaked Black Friday ad scans at bfads.net, bestblackfriday.com, dealnews.com, gottadeal.com and theblackfriday.com.
>> Related: Black Friday 2017: Dell announces deals on laptops and more
3. Compare prices
While it’s tempting to grab the last one of a product on the shelf, take a minute and make sure you’re getting the best deal on it.
There are plenty of websites and apps to help you with this. Start with PriceGrabber.com, PriceWatch.com, Shopping.com, Shopzilla, Google Shopping and NexTag.com.
You may not be able to do direct model-to-model pricing, but you can at least see what the best deal available on all the 46” TVs, for example.
4. Figure out your priorities
On the big day, figure out what you want to buy, which store you want to hit first and the importance of each present. This helps put your “must haves” near the top so you’ll prioritize getting those first.
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5. Remember your usual haunts
If you’ve got a favorite retail outlet, you should be signed up for their loyalty program. (But don’t go as far as wearing their colors -- wearing red to Target on Black Friday is like putting their bullseye on your back).
If your store has a Black Friday shopping alert, it will help you get the first word on promotions, coupons and discounts. In some cases, you can even find out whether the products you want are in stock or eligible for a buy online/pick up at the store option. That’ll save you shipping costs.
6. Monitor the social channels
Retailers often use Facebook and Twitter for releasing deals and promotions. They can also give customers who like or follow them special alerts to Black Friday discounts and incentives.
>> Related: Black Friday 2017: 10 stores offering biggest Black Friday discounts this year
7. Put your phone to work
There are few days when your phone is more important than Black Friday, whether it’s coordinating with others in your party or comparison shopping.
Make sure you have some comparison-shopping apps such as ShopSavvy, BuyVia, Flipp, RetailMeNot and SlickDeals. You should also have apps from the stores you're visiting.
8. Stick to your budget
Rule No. 1 of saving money during the holiday season is stick to your budget. But walking into a store on Black Friday is walking into a retail carnival, and impulse buying opportunities are everywhere.
Take a deep breath, focus on your list and try not to let the deals overwhelm you. A popular option is to try buying with cash, so you can see firsthand how much you are spending.
9. Beware the price match
While many stores usually have price-match policies, those can go out the window during Black Friday.
Check the fine print on their price-match policies. Also check the return and exchange policies to make sure that the store won’t charge a restocking fee for any item you bring back.
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10. Accessorize carefully
Those great deals on TVs get you in the door, but there won’t be deals on accessories such as HDMI cables.
If you know you'll need an HDMI cable, look at discount online stores, such as monoprice.com or bluejeanscable.com.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about HDMI cables, but you can get a cable that is much more reasonably priced than the $35 for a 6-foot cable at a store.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution