Black Friday can be pretty stressful if you are out early morning – or Thanksgiving night – to take advantage of sales deals. You have to push your way into stores, elbow frantic shoppers and hope that when you arrive at the shelves all that time and effort pays off, and the deal you wanted is patiently waiting for you.
You don’t even have to wait till Friday to take advantage – stores like Disney, Sears and Kohl's are offering Black Friday deals few days before.
"It's no longer Christmas creep. It's Christmas crush," said Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at NPD Inc., a market research firm, referring to the bevy of Black Friday deals that shoppers will be able to buy early.
Many are targeting smartphone shoppers with apps that make it easier to shop the deals. Macy's shoppers using the department store chain's new Black Friday app will even get alerted to special unadvertised deals while they're in line at the store.
But don't get caught up in the shopping madness. A smart and measured approach to buying will preserve your holiday budget.
"You need to keep your wits about you," said Jodi Furman, author of a blog called Livefabuless.com. "You can't allow the urgency and overwhelming excitement to carry you away."
Here's how to do Black Friday the smart way:
Research the deals and compare prices
Start mapping out a strategy now. Make a list of what you want and how much you want to spend. Check out decide.com, which uses data to help you decide the best time to buy a certain product.
Brad Wilson, an online deal expert and founder of Brad Deals, thinks stores are staggering sales events throughout Black Friday week to create a "lot of noise" and make it difficult for smartphone-toting shoppers to compare prices.
A few years ago, it was easier to make "quick and imperfect decisions," he said. "Now, the tables have turned and consumers have a transparent view of the landscape."
Use social media
Follow your favorite stores' Twitter feeds and click the "Like" button on their Facebook pages. Stores will use their social networks to update shoppers on deals and store hours, says Carey Rossi, editor-in-chief of ConsumerSearch.com.
Walmart Stores Inc., for example, already unveiled its Black Friday deals on Walmart.com, its Facebook wall and mobile app. Those who sign up to get e-mail, download the app or "Like" its Facebook page will be among the first to get early access to special Black Friday store items to buy online and via the mobile app.
Meanwhile, Kohl's Facebook fans will receive exclusive savings during the holidays through Friday flash sales.
Spread out the shopping
The hoopla isn't just limited to Black Friday anymore. It's further creeping into Thanksgiving. But what's new this year is that a number of stores are allowing shoppers to actually buy early-bird specials even earlier this week.
Macy's, Kohl's Co. and Best Buy Co. will open again at midnight following Thanksgiving. For the first time, department store chain Lord & Taylor is opening on Thanksgiving, starting at 10 a.m. New this year at Kohl's: Its online shoppers will be able to buy all early-morning specials Wednesday, and like last year, all day on Thanksgiving.
Sears Holdings Corp. said its Sears stores will open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving and will stay open overnight until 10 p.m. Friday. For the first time, Sears will allow members of its free loyalty club called Shop Your Way to buy some of the early-bird specials online as early as today.
Walmart will start its first Black Friday sale at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year. It then will have two more rounds of sales events, including a 10 p.m. sale on electronics and another sale at 5 a.m.
Walmart is also guaranteeing shoppers that it will have three of the most popular items if they are in line inside the store between 10 and 11 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. The three: an Apple iPad 2 with Wi-Fi plus a $75 Walmart gift card for $399; an Emerson 32-inch LCD TV for $148 and an LG Blu-ray player for $38.
Use your Smartphone or tablet
For the first time, Macy's, through a partnership with eBay, has a Black Friday app that will let customers browse and shop for specials specific to the local store. Customers can already view Black Friday specials on their mobile devices and create personal shopping lists they can edit and share.
Starting Monday, Walmart will again have a Black Friday local store map available to view and print on Walmart.com and its local Walmart Facebook pages. But this year, customers can view an interactive local store map on the Walmart mobile app and click on items to see the price, product description and location in the store.
Keep your receipts
With a growing number of stores such as Target Corp. offering price matching with certain online rivals like Amazon.com, you may find a better deal later and will have an easier time returning the more expensive item.
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