How do you get the best Black Friday deal? Here are our 14 best shopping tips:
• Beat the early birds: Some stores start selling items at Black Friday prices as early as Wednesday. For instance, in the past, clothing stores such as Express have offered early-bird discounts to loyalty customers. Stores may allow you to shop at the same price without being a member. Shopping early allows you to get a better selection and avoid crowds.
• Do a price comparison: Check the price of what you intend to buy before you get caught up in the Black Friday frenzy in stores. Websites such as ShopAdvisor.com, PriceWatch.com, Shopping.com, PriceGrabber.com and ShopSavvy will allow you to see the cheapest prices online right now and compare them. The BuyVia app allows you to search for local deals for a specific item and will look for coupons.
ShopAdvisor will tell you the price trends so you can see if you may be better off waiting. PoachIt.com lets you set up alerts as the price drops on a product you want.
If Black Friday savings are only a few bucks, it might not be worth it to struggle through traffic and line up in the cold for an item that may sell out by the time you get there. You also may be able to get the same deal online instead of venturing to the store.
• Get your favorite deals: Have a favorite retailer? Consider signing up for email alerts or check the retailer's Twitter or Facebook accounts. Many offer exclusive previews of their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and/or special rebates for consumers on their email lists.
• Check reviews before you buy: A low price on a lousy product is no bargain, as Consumer Reports points out. Many retailers, including Amazon, BestBuy and Walmart, let buyers review products on their websites. If you're buying electronics, check out tech site reviews. Some Black Friday deals are exclusive buys.
• Even door busters may not be a great deal: If the product was in the store a few weeks ago, it may not be that great of a deal. And some of the deals may be "recycled" — exactly the same as last year and the year before.
• Price match: A few retailers, including Walmart, will match competitors' prices on specific products. Some stores have online-only promos but may be willing to give you the same price in store if you ask nicely.
• Check prices in store: Did you stumble on something in store that looks like a good deal, but you're not sure if it is? Use an app to scan the price to find out. RedLaser and PriceGrabber will help.
• Get exclusive coupons: With most Black Friday ads already leaked online, you may not need newspaper inserts to tell you what's on sale. But newspaper inserts still contain extra coupons, so they're worth browsing.
• Beware of mail-in rebates: Some deals will feature prices after mail-in rebate. They may be a good deal if you actually send in the required rebate form, but studies have shown that as many as 60% of consumers never get around to that. It may be cheaper for you to buy an item at a slightly higher price at a store that doesn't require you to mail in a form than it is to assume a rebate you'll never claim. Some stores may allow you to submit your mail-in rebate information online right away so you don't forget.
• Shop with cash or a credit card: Target experienced one of the biggest data breaches in history during Black Friday. By shopping with a credit card rather than a debit card, you limit your financial liability in case of fraud to $50. With a debit card, your liability could be as high as $500, depending how quickly you discover fraudulent charges.
• Make a budget: Tempted to buy more than you should? Making a budget ahead of time can keep you from overspending or adding stuff that wasn't on your list or isn't a good deal. You also could leave your credit card at home and shop only with cash.
• Check out stores'return and exchange policies, especially if you shop online. Some have restocking fees, shorter return deadlines and other terms and conditions. This may affect where you decide to shop.
• Remember to ask for a gift receipt if you plan to shop for other people. That can make it easier for the recipient to return the item.
• Missed a deal? Give it a second try: Was the top Black Friday deal you hoped to score sold out when you arrived? Go back to the store later in the day and look again. Many consumers get caught up in the frenzy of "deals" on Black Friday and buy items they later decide they don't want. Some come back to return the items as early as the same day, so check the "go back" carts.