Black Friday Money-Saving TipsBlack Friday is so named because it’s the day stores take their budget from the red into the black. The key question, then, is how you can shop for all the best deals and keep your budget out of the red. Here are a few general tips to help you make a plan and keep your budget on track.

Go in with a Plan

Knowing what types of holiday gifts (or, let’s be honest, items for yourself) you’re looking for helps keep your budget in order. Look for things you know you’ll use, and gloss over the rest. No matter how good the deal is, not everyone needs a 65-inch flat-panel LCD TV. If you do, you should know it going in.

“You absolutely need to make a list, do your research ahead of time, and know what stores you’re going to hit,” said Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com “All pretty obvious stuff. The thing that isn’t as obvious, but incredibly important when it comes to saving money, is knowing what products are a smart Black Friday buy and what stuff isn’t.”

James said fall clothes are a smart buy on Black Friday because retailers are trying to close out this year’s stock. If you have kids, you can buy a size or two up and find bargains. He also said tablets and Apple products are good buys. Just make sure to buy them at retailers other than the Apple store. These retailers will often offer a gift card with the product in order to entice shoppers.

Among the bad Black Friday deals are TVs, which are typically off-brand with questionable quality. James also cautions to avoid new appliance purchases, as you’re typically getting a deal on last year’s model.

Hit the Web

Sites like BlackFriday.com and DealNews.com can help you navigate the sales and find the good deals. Sales will also be featured at the top of retailers’ websites.

Andrea Woroch, who blogs on money-saving tips, said consumers can use websites to save them money both in-store and online this holiday season.

“Buy discount gift cards from sites like Gift Card Granny for the stores you plan to shop at to save an additional 10 to 25%,” she said.

If online gift card shopping isn’t your thing and you have a membership to one of the big discount warehouses, you can get deals like $100 worth of gift cards to various establishments for $80.

Another thing to keep in mind is that retailers in recent years are starting their deals earlier and earlier. Wal-Mart and Target started deals the first week of November to keep up with Amazon.com, whose lightning deals started November 1. Expect other stores to follow suit. A savvy shopper should be able to find deals throughout the season.

Sign Up for Email Alerts

Sign up for email alerts for the stores you frequent to be among the first to find out about the deals. Definitely sign up for any stores that carry toys so you can tell Santa where he can supplement his elves’ production.

Get the App

Download apps that alert you to deals on the items you’re looking for. Target has a special app specifically for the holiday season that allows kids to save and share their wish lists. After that, parents can choose any day before November 26 to save 10% on any item on their child’s list. Target’s Cartwheel app will offer daily deals and 50% off a toy every day starting November 2 and running through Christmas Eve.

Be a Social Butterfly

Following your favorite brands and retailers on social media can help alert you to their Black Friday specials whenever they start. A company that’s really on top of it may even contact the local stores for you to find out how many of a particular item are left in stock.

Shop Your Favorites

Many of the major retailers have loyalty programs that allow shoppers to get deal notifications early. In many cases, there are exclusive discounts for members of the loyalty program.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

It’s important to remember you’re playing the long game here. Not all the best deals will be occurring on Black Friday, says Kara Kamenec, editorial director for Faveable.com.

“If you see a great deal on Black Friday, then by all means make a purchase, but don’t be lured into buying something just because it’s Black Friday,” Kamenec says. “Remember that Cyber Monday (December 1) is just a few days away, and that deal price you see on Friday may drop even lower come Monday.”

A 2012 Time article found that many of the toys on the 2011 Hot Toy List from Toys R Us were marked down by 50% or more in the second and third weeks of December.

Have the secret to getting good deals? Share tips with your fellow shoppers in the comments.

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