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Skip The Hype and Snag The Best Black Friday Deals

Black Friday may not be what it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it has become completely useless for deal hunters.

Shoppers stand with their bags at Macy's on 'Black Friday' in New York City.
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Shoppers stand with their bags at Macy's on 'Black Friday' in New York City.

If you’re planning on heading out the day after Thanksgiving, here are a few things to keep in mind that will help you save money and give you a better idea of when and where to buy.

  • Finding the best prices on HDTVs — Black Friday typically has the best prices of the year on TVs – even better than the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. But what few people realize is that the models on sale are specifically made for Black Friday. Manufacturers have found new efficiencies in models that cut their manufacturing costs. This allows retailers to offer the best prices of the year on this day. The downside is the sets aren’t exactly top-of-the-line.

“Black Friday is not a day about getting a good TV, it’s a day about getting a cheap TV,” says Dan de Grandpre, CEO of Dealnews.com.

  • Finding the best prices on high-end HDTVs — If you want a top-end HD set, you’re better off skipping the Black Friday crowds and waiting until a couple of weeks before Christmas to find the best deal. That’s when retailers really begin slashing prices on the high-end equipment, in part because manufacturers are preparing to introduce new sets in January at the Consumer Electronics Show.
  • Saving through social networking — Recognizing that their Black Friday ads are inevitably going to leak online, many retailers are using social network sites like Facebook and Twitter to have some control over when customers learn about their big doorbusters.
    Staples , Sears and Toys R Us are just a few of the companies who have announced big sale items to their online fans and followers. (Staples, for example, tweeted that they would be cutting the price of a 21.5-inch monitor by 50 percent on Nov. 27.)
  • Thanksgiving is for eating, not shopping — In recent years, as retailers began to realize the threat of the Internet to their Black Friday gold rush, some began offering 'pre-Black Friday' sales on Thanksgiving itself. While there are a few deals to be had there, they’re usually not extraordinary and hardly worth interrupting your holiday to pin down. The prices offered during Thanksgiving Day sales will almost always be repeated later in the season — and often topped.
  • Think outside the box — It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that certain stores sell certain things, but as margins fall, many retailers are branching out beyond their core competencies. For example, need TV cables? You may find a better deal at Home Depot than Best Buy . (You might even find a better deal on the TV itself at select locations.) If you’ve got questions about the product or want a wide selection to choose from, this strategy won’t work, but if you know specifically what you’re looking for, you could find a deal.
Customers wait in line to pay for their items on Black Friday at KB Toys in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
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Customers wait in line to pay for their items on Black Friday at KB Toys in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
  • Don’t wait until Black Friday — Black Friday is no longer a 24-hour event. Retailers, hoping to pry money out of tight-fisted consumers’ hands have started offering doorbusters that are on par with the day after Thanksgiving deals much earlier this year. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can spot some very aggressive pricing.

“It’s really turned from just a single day event to almost a month long or four-to-six-week type phenomenon,” says Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis for the Consumer Electronics Association. “Wal-Mart and Sears have really upped the ante this year.”

  • The online advantage — Don’t want to stand out in the cold and fight for the limited selection of in-store items? While many doorbusters aren’t available online, some are, and shopping on your PC could earn you a few extra hours in bed. Better still, you can have them delivered directly to your house — or often to a store near you —for free, letting you pick them up when the crowds are a bit more manageable. Note, though, that you’ll still have to wake up early to buy the items, since you’ll still be battling others for a limited supply. You’ll just be doing it in your PJs.
  • Use your bargaining power — While many stores tout price-matching services, those low-price guarantees can get a little fuzzy when it comes to doorbusters. Store managers often have a certain amount of discretion, though, notes Mike Baker, an analyst with Deutsche Bank. Talk to them, show them the printed ads of competitors and try to consolidate your Black Friday shopping to a single location. It will get you home that much quicker.
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