Your Black Friday Survival Guide

Your Black Friday Survival Guide

The temptation of Black Friday sales is hard to resist. But, much like Thanksgiving dinner, it's easy to go overboard (in hindsight, that second piece of pie really wasn't necessary, was it?). To keep your finances in check and your buyer's remorse at a minimum, prepare for the biggest shopping day of the year with these tips:

Go in Armed

With a list, that is. In these economic times, retailers are more desperate than ever for our money, which means deeper savings ... but more temptation. Our personal strategy is to go in with two lists, one with things we absolutely need and another with items we'll pick up if the price is right. This helps us avoid over-spending while allowing us to take advantage of great deals on items we need. We're fans of the free iPhone app Gift Planner, which helps us plan out our gift budget on the go.

Make a Game Plan

Many of the big retailers announce their deals early online and in weekly flyers—some even tell consumers how many of each item they'll sell at the advertised price. Use this information to decide which stores you'll hit and the order in which you'll tackle them. Be realistic. If a store is only selling 50 laptops for $200, is it really worth it?

Stay Smart

Like we always say, it doesn't pay to be broke. A deal on something you don't need isn't a deal. Take this advice from Bruce McClary, an advisor at ClearPoint Credit Counseling Services: If you don’t have the cash to cover the purchases, don’t rush and spend just because. "If you don’t have the cash, digging into debt will ultimately cost more than that 'great deal,' especially after factoring in interest, which offsets the sale."

- There are many websites that gather Black Friday deals. The Black Friday, BlackFriday@Gotta Deal, Black Friday 2009, and Black Friday Info all include sale info for big retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, Kohl's, and Old Navy, including scans of the ads, coupon codes, and pre-Friday sales.

- Check out this article from Mashable.com to learn how to use social media to find the best deals. Follow the #blackfriday Twitter hashtag, in addition to your favorite retailers (like @AmazonDeals) for up-to-the-minute information. Other Twitter feeds, like @BlackFriday and @BlackFridayWeb are aggregating deals, too.

- If crowded big-box stores aren't your thing, November 30 has been dubbed "Cyber Monday," the online equivalent of Black Friday. Some other online shopping dates to keep in mind, from CouponCraze.com:

* December 7: This is the second (unofficial) Cyber Monday. Retailers will offer deeper discounts, but product selection will begin to thin out.

* December 14: This is when retailers slash prices even more, but product selection gets gradually sparser.

* December 21: This is “shipping Monday.” Generally the last day a product can be shipped and arrive on time before the holidays.

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