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12 Ways to Prepare for Black Friday Like a Pro

Know the ads, double-check deals with apps, and watch out for final sale items.
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Black Friday deals

Black Friday is an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming. If you don't have a strategy in place, you could miss the best deals.

That's why we've come up with 12 strategies to ensure you have a smooth Black Friday experience. Read on to see when you should start watching for deals, how to keep your budget intact, and how to avoid disappointment.

Make a Budget (Now)

First things first: decide how much you can afford to spend on the holiday season. Figure out your must-haves, like gifts or household purchases you've been saving up for. And definitely calculate the maximum amount you absolutely can't go over. Don't forget to account for holiday incidentals like office parties!

SEE ALSO: When Do All the Black Friday Ads Come Out in 2017?

Once you've figured out how much you're willing to spend, make a list of all the people you're shopping for. That'll help you dole out appropriate amounts for each gift. Then, get an idea of what you'd like to buy for your recipients. It can be as vague as "clothes," or as specific as "Amazon Kindle Paperwhite."

Check the Ads

Familiarize yourself with the Black Friday ads. Check the circulars for your favorite stores first, but don't ignore the ones from places you might not normally shop! It's easy to buy a new Echo device from Amazon, but stores like Staples or Best Buy could have better savings locally. Make note of any restrictions, including deals that only run until a certain time or on a certain day.

Online vs. In-Store Shopping

If you can't take the crowds in-store, staying online might sound like the perfect alternative. But online shopping can come with a few drawbacks. Watch out for short-lived deals that sell out fast, a lack of inventory transparency, and website crashes (or outright refusals to load). Additionally, price comparisons are an absolute must.

If you can, look at both in-store and online prices. A store's website might start Black Friday sales earlier than the physical store, helping you get a better price. Or it might just match store prices. Even if the latter is the case, you'll still avoid fighting over parking spaces if you shop online!

Braving the crowds to get an exclusive deal? Black Friday shopping in-store can be a test of anyone's patience. While crowds might not reach mythical levels, you can still expect longer wait times. However, only stores in highly populated areas will host huge crowds. Your local retailers may only have a rush when stores open.

Black Friday deals

Craft an In-Store Game Plan

If the idea of hitting the stores doesn't fill you with dread, don't think you can just plunge into it blindly. You still need to craft a game plan. Check the ads for your most wanted items and find the retailers that have the best deals. Then note store opening hours and how long the discounts run — doorbusters are usually available for a limited time.

Then you have to prioritize. Pursue items based on whether they'll be on sale for a short amount of time, or if they're in high demand (and likely to sell out quickly).

You have to prioritize. Pursue items based on whether they'll be on sale for a short amount of time, or if they're in high demand.

If your game plan involves creating a dream team of friends and family to help, try to coordinate your lists. Assign your team members to different stores to maximize your doorbuster coverage. You can meet up later to swap items and pay each other back.

Start Shopping on Thanksgiving... or Sooner

Savvy Black Friday shoppers know that the best deals aren't only found on that day. Often the best deals are found on Thanksgiving. Many retailers are rolling out deals even sooner, from the beginning of November onward. That doesn't mean they're all worth it, but you should be keeping an eye out.

Prepare to Stand in Line

No matter what time you shop on Black Friday, you're bound to encounter at least one notable wait. Make sure you have some entertainment on hand, lest your boredom lead to impulse purchases. Think about adding a new playlist or audiobook to your phone (and remember to take out your earbuds before dealing with any associates). That said, focus on the essentials. Don't haul anything that's likely to become a pain to carry around while shopping.

SEE ALSO: Thanksgiving Will Top Black Friday for Deals (Again)

Download Apps for Extra Savings

Standing in those long lines is a great time to double-check that you're getting the best deal. If you actually do find a better price, the store might match it. Alternatively, you can order online and head to the next store on your list. Either way, we suggest downloading the DealNews app in order to stay on top of the latest deals on the go.

Stay Away From Impulse Purchases

There's a variety of items to avoid on Black Friday, and impulse purchases are definitely on the list. When you're saving a lot of money on Black Friday, it's easy to feel like a couple extra items won't matter. This kind of thinking will destroy your Black Friday budget! Avoid the knick-knacks near the registers or by the door.

Watch Out for Final Sale Items

Before making any purchase (especially a big-ticket item), know whether or not it's marked "final sale." Those products typically can't be returned. Even the ones that are returnable could still come with restocking fees that amount to 15% or more — especially electronics. Get familiar with the store's return policy before you buy.

Black Friday deals

Stay Organized

Black Friday is a huge opportunity for discounts in the form of mail-in rebates or store credits. In fact, retailers prefer these offers for big shopping days. They get to advertise significantly discounted products, but still rake in the full price for those items. It's a win-win.

Redeeming those offers can be a bit tricky for those who aren't well organized. We suggest tucking your receipts and rebate forms into a special envelope or section of your wallet. When you're home, create a spreadsheet with all the pertinent details for each offer including the product, store, dates the offers are valid, and anything else you might need to scoop those savings.

Be a Social Media Butterfly

Whatever your favorite social platform might be (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or something else entirely) start following your favorite stores now. Keep a close eye on these accounts, as coupons, sale previews, or even Black Friday ads can appear there. These can net you some serious savings, or help you find a bargain you wouldn't have seen otherwise.

SEE ALSO: Thanksgiving & Black Friday 2017 Store Hours: Know When to Go!

Additionally, be sure to check these accounts for coupons before you hit the stores. Look for promo codes from manufacturer's websites, store websites, or right here on DealNews. And if you're headed in-store, check your local paper and online circulars for printable coupons to take along as well.

Be Kind to Everyone

Please be nice to sales associates. True, some retail employees absolutely jump at the chance to earn holiday OT by working on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. But they still have to face long lines, temperamental customers, and probably coworkers who have zero desire to be there. You won't be able to control the people around you, but you can definitely be a bright spot in someone else's a stressful day. (Things could be even worse if stores opt to hire fewer seasonal employees this year.)

In fact, be kind to everyone. It's not worth it to argue with someone over the last item in a pile. There is always another deal.

Excited for Black Friday deals? Consider subscribing to the DealNews Select newsletter to get a daily recap of all our best deals; you never know when a Black Friday price will be released! You can also download our app, visit the Black Friday Hub for the latest ads, or check out all our blog articles for more buying advice.


Staff Writer

Julie joined DealNews in 2015, after many years of becoming well-versed in technology issues as a communications professional for a software company. She first entered journalism in college, reporting on issues facing frugal students for CollegeCandy.com. Julie lives in DealNews' hometown of Huntsville, AL.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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