How to Score the Best Black Friday Deals
You don't necessarily have to wake up in the wee hours or battle the crowds to get the best deals on Black Friday. In fact, you might not even have to step foot in a store the day after Thanksgiving to get the lowest prices on the items on your holiday shopping list.
If you're trying to snag a limited-quantity item at a deep discount (such as a doorbuster item), you'll need to get to the store early to get a good spot in line. But if one of these items isn't on your list, there are several other strategies you can use to make the most of Black Friday sales.
Check leaked ads. Plenty of Web sites, such as dealnews.com and BFAds.net, publish Black Friday ads before they appear on retailers’ Web sites or in newspapers. You can use these leaked ads as a starting point for planning your purchases and comparing prices, but realize that the information isn't confirmed. Most legitimate ads aren’t published until a few days before Black Friday.
Sign up for e-mail alerts from your favorite retailers to get updates on Black Friday store hours and sneak peaks at their Black Friday ads. Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch recommends setting up a new e-mail account to receive these alerts so that the account you regularly use doesn't get clogged with retailers' messages.
Follow your favorite brands on Facebook and Twitter to learn about their Black Friday deals and to get exclusive coupons.
Shop online first. Not all the best deals are in the stores on Black Friday. Dealnews.com found that 70% of the in-store deals that it checked on Black Friday 2011 were also available online. And some retailers start offering Black Friday deals online as early as Wednesday night or Thanksgiving morning. Amazon.com is having a Black Friday Deals Week, starting November 18. Michael Brim, founder of BFAds.net, recommends shopping online first to see how many items on your list you can purchase at a discount. Then you can decide whether it's worth your time to go to the stores on Black Friday. If you can get discounted items shipped for free, you'll come out ahead shopping online than in stores because you'll save on gas and parking costs. See our 15 favorite sites for finding deals online.
Don't wait until Black Friday to shop. Many stores start offering Black Friday deals on Thursday. For example, Walmart, Kmart, Toys R Us and Sears will open their doors at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Target's sale starts at 9 p.m. November 22. Also, look for sales leading up to Black Friday. Brim says that these sales do not usually compete fully with Black Friday but sometimes feature select items at their Black Friday prices.
Use your smartphone. You can scan barcodes with Amazon Price Check (Android, iPhone), Google Shopper (Android, iPad, iPhone) or RedLaser (Android, iPhone, Windows Phone) to compare the store’s price with online offerings. And you can use apps such as Foursquare and Shopkick to "check in" to stores and receive in-store coupons and special offers. Coupon Sherpa is another good app for in-store coupons. Many stores also have their own shopping apps (as well as Facebook pages and Twitter feeds) that provide exclusive discounts and coupon codes. Dealnews expects the number of these promotions to rise this holiday season. For example, the Target app lets consumers scan QR codes for its Top 20 toys in stores, print ads and TV then purchase items at the advertised price and get free shipping. (Hold off on toy purchases, though, until December -- see Best and Worst Buys of November).
Buy discounted gift cards to use for your own shopping to score additional discounts. For example, buy a $100 Macy's gift card for $90 (instant $10 savings) and use it in the store or online. You can find discounted gift cards at sites such as Plastic Jungle and Gift Card Granny.
Stick to your shopping list. If an item on your list already is sold out by the time you get to the store, don't "buy whatever is in arm’s reach just to get something,” Brim says. "Chances are that something is not discounted and will be cheaper later on in the holiday season."