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The dealnews Black Friday Strategy Guide

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This year's holiday shopping season is expected to be a bargain hunter's paradise. With struggling vendors and a sagging economy, everyone's vying for your dollar. But unless you know how to score the best deals, chances are you can wind up spending more than you wanted. Follow our Black Friday Strategy Guide before heading outside and you'll not only find the best deals, but you'll do so without breaking a sweat.

Start your Black Friday on Thursday
The "big-box" stores will have most of their Black Friday sales online on Thursday. In fact, in years past, we've seen some deals sell out before Black Friday. dealnews' #1 Black Friday tip is to begin shopping online on Thursday, as early as possible (if you live on the West Coast, start Wednesday night).

You should also pre-shop Black Friday doorbusters online. Once you decide on an in-store only doorbuster you want, search dealnews to be sure no one else has a deal on that or a very similar product. Then, use price comparison engines like PriceGrabber or Shopping.com to make sure that the alleged doorbuster is in fact the lowest available price. Still a good deal? It might be worth a trip to the store then.

Shop online on Black Friday too
Major online retailers like newegg.com, Staples, JR.com, and Amazon.com have pre-announced Black Friday sales. Expect to find aggressively-priced electronics from each store, but let us cut through the clutter for you with our updated Black Friday Deals Page, all confirmed and price-checked.

Don't buy Apple before you check Apple
Apple hardly ever slashes its prices, but if you're hoping to pick up a new iPod Touch, look for the Apple Store's Black Friday sale, a tradition that's been running for several years. Apple typically offers discounts of 10% off iPods and 5% off Macs during its Black Friday sale, but rumor sites are abuzz with notions of grander discounts, possibly even on the iPhone 3G. Even if they're wrong, Apple's one-day sale prices are not only better than most in-store Black Friday sales, but they're often unbeaten for the rest of the holiday season. (One possible exception: Best Buy's current Apple sale.

Shop like a snob
If a deal doesn't make you swoon, wait for a better deal later. Many Black Friday deals are matched or beaten later in the season. Most "doorbusters" are on no-name brands, and you probably don't really want a junk TV as your home entertainment centerpiece, no matter how cheap. It's a buyer's market, and prices aren't going up.

Take advantage of the few luxury deals
Luxury retailers typically turn their nose up at Black Friday. However, last year a few luxury retailers embraced the sales. Tiffany.com, for instance, offered free shipping up until Cyber Monday. Saks.com followed suit offering free shipping with no minimum purchase.

Uncover the secret deals
Want to score a deal no one knows about? On Thankgiving Day, retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City are expected to advertise additional Black Friday deals that weren't in their circulars. These "secret" deals will only be found online (e.g., at BestBuy.com), so the trick is to uncover them on the Web on Thursday so you'll know about them when you get to the store on Friday.

Of course, there are some common-sense tips worth remembering....

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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