7 Must-Know Shopping Tips for Black Friday

Sarah Vantassel/Demand Media

In the world of semi-professional shopping sports, Black Friday is every “Big Game” rolled into one. It's a no-holds-barred battle of wills. It's a madhouse of winding lines, stuffed shopping carts and stampedes of deal-seeking shoppers. It's a triathlon of store-to-store sprinting, shakedowns and shopping. Only serious bargain hunters will survive. So if you count yourself among this legion of die-hard shoppers, armor up with these seven Black Friday tips so you enter the battlefield with a well-designed plan of attack.

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1. Decide on a Game Strategy

A rookie shopper heads out on Black Friday without a plan. A veteran player knows the deals well in advance, has picked a few buddies to help play the field and has made a list, an agenda and a budget. Compare retailers' ads—typically available weeks in advance on comparison shopping sites—and solidify your gift list, making sure to note the retailer and sale hours. Then, visit the store a day or two before to map out an efficient route through the aisles.

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2. Pick a Team

Teamwork is essential when planning an efficient Black Friday attack since multiple shoppers means you can hit multiple departments at once. The more the merrier, but even a single teammate is better than no team at all. It means you can divide and conquer the sales floor, give each other honest appraisals and help pinpoint especially hard-to-find items. Hold the team together using an app like ChatON, which features free text, voice and video messaging, group broadcast functionality and real-time location sharing.

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3. Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Subscribe to Black Friday blogs, social network profiles and RSS feeds, and then use your smartphone to keep abreast of new updates. Load up an app like RSS Newsreader, for example, so you're notified of newly-published posts even when you're not at your computer. Keep an eye on your social networks, just in case friends are posting about local deals or changes to door-buster inventory. You might get lucky and score a special coupon or find out about an unadvertised insider special.

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4. It Doesn't Always Pay to Get the Ball Rolling Early

If you have your heart set on a door buster, it's important to remember these items are often limited in supply. Be prepared to invest a great deal of time in line, and if you're seeking a spot at the front—especially at big-box electronic retailers—you're likely looking at sacrificing Thanksgiving dinner. Make sure the gifts you're buying at your first location are worth the time investment. And, remember to set your smartphone's alarm if you plan on hitting the sack for some pre-shopping shut eye.

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5. Sideline it Online

If you have your heart set on a particular product but can't fathom ditching dinner to wait in line for it, check for similar prices with online retailers—even if it means waiting a few days to score the same deal on Cyber Monday. Differences in final costs are often negligible enough that a few additional dollars spent are worth the sanity saved. Consider multitasking, as well, since you can always shop from your mobile device while you're waiting in line at another retailer's store.

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6. Scan for Better Options

Some products are marked down especially low to entice shoppers into the store, but that doesn't mean it's the best price, nor does it ensure it's the best quality. Retailers often door bust lower quality brands while coveted models garner much smaller discounts. To prevent a punch-drunk purchase, read product reviews and check regular prices ahead of time. If you're in-store and wondering, use an app like Barcode Scanner to locate the item's price and reviews online—and maybe even score a better deal elsewhere.

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7. Know When to Throw In the Towel

While the adrenaline can keep a true contender going all night and day, don't overextend the hunt simply because you feel as if you have to get that item on Black Friday. If you've missed the early bird sale or inventory is cleaned out, ask a manager about discounts on a similar item. If that proves unsuccessful, just walk away. Forget everything you've ever heard about winners never quitting and throw in the towel—until Cyber Monday, that is, when the chaos starts all over again.

Photo Credits: Sarah Vantassel/Demand Media

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