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Your Black Friday shopping cheat sheet

Black Friday (shopping)Toy IndustryE-Commerce IndustryTarget Brands, Inc.Kohl's Illinois, Inc.Chicago TribuneBest Buy Co., Inc.

It's go time, people. Your turkey may not be in the oven yet, but if you are hoping to score the really great BlackFriday deals, you should actually start now. Here's a cheat sheet to help you know when and what to do to save the most on Black Friday deals or Cyber Monday deals, either online or in the store.

PLAN

1. Read Gregory Karp's Chicago Tribune article, "Make a Black Friday Battle Plan" for tips on how to plan your outing or online shop. I especially like his tip of seeking out stores that won't be as crowded, like Staples instead of Walmart if they're both offering the same item at a similar price.

2. Determine your budget. See The Thrifty Couple's Black Friday budgeting tips here on Frugalista.

3. Read the Black Friday ads that have been released online for stores such as Best Buy, Walmart, Target and Toys R Us.

4. Research top deals on Web sites like Slickdeals or DealNews. I especially like DealNews' list of the top Black Friday deals in categories such as TVs, video games and kitchen stuff. And if you are trying to compare items in a specific category, check out the blog Couponing to Disney's Black Friday price comparison lists for electronics, movies, toys and video games.

5. Make a shopping timeline. The blog Couponing to Disney has a list of major stores' crazy early opening hours. Amazon is running Black Friday deals all week (They mean it. I just bought a popular DVD for $3.99 -- sorry, it's gone already but more deals are coming up all the time.) BestBuy says it will sell its Black Friday deals online Thursday, including doorbusters. Walmart, Sears, Kmart, Target and Toys R Us are open with Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving. Drug stores CVS and Walgreens are open Thanksgiving with their Black Friday freebies. Gap opens at midnight Thursday night and is selling everything in the store for half off through 10 a.m. Kohl's opens at 3 a.m. Friday. Mir has tips on figuring out when online retailers will post their deals.

ASSEMBLE YOUR SAVINGS TOOLBOX

1. Purchase gift cards or codes for discount to stores where you know you'll shop -- I got this and other BlackFriday toolbox tips from Miriam Kamin of Wantnot.net. It's too late to buy discounted gift cards online, but try your local grocery store to see if they have any deals. Or, buy a Groupon -- I have the Nordstrom Rack Groupon, which is still available for purchase, and Nordstrom Rack is having a 30% off sale, so I'll try to use my Groupon there on Friday.

2. Bookmark the Web sites that will help you find deals. Frugalista, of course, should be your number one bookmark! I'll post some hot online deals and any other deal intelligence I find on Friday. But you should also follow Wantnot.net. Mir Kamin of that site will be shopping online in her jammies, pointing out the hottest limited-time lightning deals as they pop up, and giving you coupon codes to sweeten them.

3. Gather your coupon codes or coupons. If you are shopping online, visit RetailMeNot or Ebates.com and make a little list of coupon codes you'll use on Black Friday. If shopping in the real world, clip coupons from the newspaper ads, and don't forget that department stores sometimes "hide" their coupons in the regular newspaper sections and not in the ads.

4. Follow your retailers on Twitter and Facebook. They might send out an unexpected coupon or sale just for their followers. While you're at it, follow The Frugalista @carriekirby on Twitter. And here's a list of other useful Twitter streams to follow on Black Friday.

5. If you have a smart phone, install a barcode scanning price comparison app like ShopSavvy for Android or iPhone, or Amazon's Price Check for iPhone.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Don't let the retailers' hype get you all twitterpated. There will be lots of good deals out there for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but there will be plenty more opportunities for bargains before the holidays get here. If you just want to spend this weekend with family or you're stuck on the road, relax and think of all the great Amazon Lightning Deals coming in the next month.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Black Friday (shopping)Toy IndustryE-Commerce IndustryTarget Brands, Inc.Kohl's Illinois, Inc.Chicago TribuneBest Buy Co., Inc.
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