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How to find gems (while avoiding duds) during Black Friday

Black Friday can get overwhelming with the onslaught of offers, but with these tips, you should be able to find the gems and avoid the duds.
Black Friday can get overwhelming with the onslaught of offers, but with these tips, you should be able to find the gems and avoid the duds. (BestReviews)

Black Friday kicks off one of the most exciting purchasing events of the year. Now is the prime time to buy special gifts at highly discounted prices, not only for others but also for yourself.

This shopping extravaganza is not for tepid buyers or the easily influenced. It can be hard not to get caught up in the massive discounts and hot new products, and impulse buys run rampant during this particular event. But Black Friday shouldn't change your interests and needs -- it should cater to them.

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Look for things you know you already like or that you've had on your wishlist; in other words, buy what you'll actually use, don't buy just because it's on sale. Here are our takes on what's worth it and what's not, so you can be equipped to shop your best on this Black Friday.

Fashion

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Worth it: Always side with the trusted names: Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, and others with a good reputation that offer quality items. For example, we love these Levi's 720 High-Rise Super-Skinny Jeans that are discounted $40. For men looking to keep cozy and fasionable, something like this Gordon Lyons Sweater Knit Jacket that's 25% off from The North Face is a worthwhile deal from a top brand.

Not worth it: Unknown, obscure brands may offer something cheaper, but that doesn't mean it's of any quality. Getting something at half price isn't worth it if the piece won't last long. It's also harder to corroborate so-called sales on such brands; chances are these are items always that cheap, tricking you by claiming that they were once available at a much higher price.

Worth it: Buy essentials, such as socks, underwear, and any other undergarments that aren't necessarily fun to shop for but are things that are regularly worn and always needed. Calvin Klein, among others, offer a sale on men's underwear, while women can check out this multipack of underwear from Fruit of the Loom.

Not worth it: A deal isn't a deal if you're buying something you won't wear often. Avoid the impulse to buy inexpensive items in the hopes it will become part of your style.

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Beauty

Worth it: Only aim for makeup and skincare products that are at least 20% off. Quality items tend to be rather expensive, but if you can find a good deal with a trusted brand, go for it. Ulta will be running a Black Friday sale that will include significant discounts on products from Revlon, Kiehl's, Urban Decay, Mario Badescu, and more.

Not worth it: Don't jump at products or brands you've never really heard of. This is no time to venture from your norm or develop a new beauty routine. Finding the right products for your body can be tricky, so don't opt for something you haven't tried, however great the deal may seem.

Toys

Worth it: Big names that offer a wide range of toys that are popular with kids are the way to go. Disney, Funko, and LEGO rarely disappoint. Ahead of another Star Wars film, we like this discounted Star Wars LEGO Porg. Keep an eye on Black Friday toy discounts at Target, which is already offering up to 40% off games and 20% on select LEGO sets.

Not worth it: Children's interests can be fickle and arbitrary, and they can change swiftly and drastically. It's not always easy to discern a passing fad from a long-lasting passion. Avoid accumulating toys that may end up as junk that's littered around the house, and opt for what's likely to be enjoyed in the months and years to come.

Worth it: High rated toys and games are good investments. Something like Exploding Kittens, a quick and colorful card game that comes from a trusted company and is widely enjoyed, offers family fun all year round.

Not worth it: Like fashion, avoid those items from companies you're unsure about. There are countless opportunities online and in stores to buy heavily discounted items that may be knock-offs or off-brand content that will neither satisfy your children's desires nor be of any lasting quality.

Home and kitchen

Worth it: Black Friday is a good time to upgrade and enhance your home. If you're looking to turn your lighting situation into a smart one, Philips Hue Smart Light Starter kit is already on sale and is the best option on the market.

Not worth it: Only replace appliances if they're truly on their last legs. Don't jump for things that you weren't planning on getting. That's especially true for home and kitchenware and appliances that can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Worth it: Look for items that will make your life more convenient and efficient. Amazon's Echo Dot is on sale to offer a virtual assistant, Alexa, which can play music, share news, and organize a smart home.

Not worth it: Always know exactly what you're getting and how it will incorporate itself into your day to day life. Be wary of items that don't fit into your lifestyle or that you will never end up using to their fullest potential.

Bed and bath

Worth it: This Hampton Hill 8-piece comforter set is on sale for 50% off -- and that's the mark you want to hit. Quality linens can be quite expensive, and anything half off is a solid deal. Especially look for sales on sheets, towels, rugs, and mats. They are essential home items that are worth having backups of and will always be used.

Not worth it: Come January, you don't want your latest holiday purchases to find their way into drawers and closets. Avoid trinkets and décor that, however well-intentioned, will simply create more clutter.

Electronics

Worth it: Buy familiar items from names you trust when you see things on discount. They should also be things you've been wanting to get but holding out for because they've been too expensive. If it's time to upgrade your sound system, for example, check out the Bose Home Speaker 500 with Alexa while it's $100 off.

Not worth it: New fun tech and electronics should call for some research before buying. Also, don't forget that companies are regularly releasing newer generations of items, and their goal is to get you to keep buying the latest model. So that means you need to judge how important the new feature really is to you. If it doesn't matter that much, save some money and go with last year's model -- most won't notice.

Office

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Worth it: When it comes to your home office, you're looking for efficiency and effectiveness. Seek deals that enhance your work output, like this Samsung 4K Monitor, or an ergonomic keyboard so you're more comfortable at the computer.

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Not worth it: Avoid those items that don't quite fit into your style of work. Stand-up desks are trendy and useful for some, but if you've never tried one, now might not be the time for an investment.

Worth it: Buy the boring essentials. It's not the most exciting gift, but chances are most people need a printer. This Brother All-in-one Inkjet Printer is on sale: it's not glamorous, but it's a terrific tool that won't let you down.

Not worth it: Avoid extras and frills or anything flashy that will ultimately be unnecessary. Don't clutter your desk with unnecessary organizers and extras.

Video Games

Worth it: Go for those games that have been on your list or those from trusted companies and franchises that are now on sale, like The Outer Worlds for Xbox One or The Legend of Zelda for Nintendo Switch.

Not worth it: Don't buy video games at full price. Prices usually drop by 25% within a few months of their initial release, and then random sales here and there.

Entertainment

Worth it: There's no shame in giving new services and products a try; in fact, it's wise to test the waters to see if it's right for you. Trial subscriptions offered around Black Friday, some of which are free, are a savvy way to see if a product or service is right for you.

Not worth it:

When you sign up for a trial, most companies will automatically set you up for the full service, so make sure you cancel in the proper amount of time, or it might quickly become a “not worth it” situation.

Anthony Marcusa is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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