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$ave Me: When aren't Black Friday deals a bargain?

Sale ads? Check. Running shoes and a warm coat? Check, check.

In the final countdown to Black Friday, it's easy to get caught up in the deal frenzy. After all, some 140 million shoppers are expected to crowd stores over the holiday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. Many of them will be aiming for the same deeply discounted products.

But to score the best deals, it helps to plan out purchases before you hit the stores. Don't assume that just because an item is in the Black Friday circular, that it's at its best price. Compare online. Deal hunters have found that some advertised products have been cheaper than in Black Friday ads. Or another retailer may have a better Black Friday price for the same item.

(Read more: Why it may pay to skip Black Friday)

Read a few consumer reviews, too. Sale TVs often have fewer features than higher priced sets, and may be lesser-known brands. Smartphones and laptops may be outdated technology.

By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant. Follow her on Twitter @kelligrant.

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