$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 Smartphones and laptops may be outdated technology.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.

Contact Digital Workshop


    Get the best of CNBC in your inbox

    To learn more about how we use your information,
    please read our Privacy Policy.
    › Learn More

Ask the Car Chasers

Off the Cuff

Big Data Download

Selling the American Dream

Death & Dishonor: Crisis at the VA

  • A pedestrian walks past the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) headquarters in Washington, D.C.

    The Veterans health care system has come under fire as officials reap big bonuses while patients suffer. CNBC's Dina Gusovsky investigates.

  • America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and that opens up the door for companies to have a captive market -- literally. One of those companies is JPay, which provides electronic money transfers and other services to about 70 percent of state prisons. But in order to get that lucrative state prison contract, the state takes a commission as well. Critics argue all the costs are passed down to families and inmates, often burdening them financially. CNBC's Dina Gusovsky Reports.

  • This photo shows the aftermath of the accident, including the burned out shell of a truck. The Lindner minivan was so crushed its wreckage cannot be seen.

    Fatal truck accidents happen nearly 11 times a day. CNBC looks at the causes, who's to blame, and why it gets little attention.