Black Friday: Ready, Set, Spend (or Save)!

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Black Friday has earned something of a black eye as a day of excessive consumerism. Still, the fact remains that there are some mighty good deals available. And if you’re lucky, you just might land that Kindle priced at $55 from midnight to 1 a.m. only.

If you’re going to brave the crowds, we recommend a few tricks to make it easier. Read on to save yourself some hassle and money…

1. Research the deals

Is every store selling HDTVs this year? Look through an assemblage of Black Friday deals and you’ll find massive amounts of consumer electronics supposedly available at rock-bottom prices. If you compare offers before you hit the stores, however, you’ll find not all sales are created equal. Check out this Roundup of the Best Black Friday Deals to decide where and how you should spend your money.

2. Read the fine print

Those fliers stuffed into your Thanksgiving Day paper are filled with itsy bitsy print explaining there are only three doorbuster-priced iPads available at each store. Or you may find the price is based on your applying for and receiving a rebate (not always an easy thing to accomplish). Make sure you know the terms before adding an item to your must-have list.

3. Pay in cash

Establish a budget and withdraw only enough cash for that target amount. Leave your credit cards at home to avoid impulse buys. Don’t forget to apportion some cash, however, for a late-morning coffee to keep your engine stoked.

4. Make a list

If it’s good enough for Santa, it should be good enough for you. Make a list, check it twice, then stick to it when you hit the bricks.

5. Use your apps

Download an app like RedLaser, which lets you scan the barcode of an item and instantly learn where it’s selling cheaper. The Coupon Sherpa app gives you instant access to hundreds of coupons for everything from Target to Office Depot. Shop Savvy has a price-drop feature that notifies you when a product goes on sale.

6. Be social

In addition to mobile apps, checking Facebook and Twitter updates from your favorite merchants will keep you in the know about special promotions and other important information, both before Black Friday and during the hustle and bustle.

7. Work as a team

Recruit friends and family to help you cover more ground quickly. If lines are long, have one person stand in line while you shop. If you’re hitting a mall or central shopping district, plant a sentry in a central location to watch over packages while you continue shopping. This person also can hold onto your water bottles, snacks, and extra clothing layers.

8. Avoid checkout aisle items

Stores know they have a trapped audience at checkout, so they place tempting products directly in your line of sight. This ploy is designed to separate you from an extra $3 to $10 before leaving the store.

9. It’s not over till it’s over

If you missed Black Friday sales or just couldn’t handle the crowds, you still have two more opportunities to take advantage of great deals. Cyber Monday is scheduled for Nov. 28 this year and Free Shipping Day, on Dec. 16, allows procrastinators to shop online from more than 2,000 merchants offering free shipping and delivery by Christmas Eve.

Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. Visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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