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How to Save on Black Friday Black Thursday Black Friday Week 2014

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Top 10 Tips to Bag a Bargain

shopping bagsWith the best bargain hunting days of the year nearly here, shoppers are advised to adjust their shopping habits to the reality of Black Friday's new sale schedule. Some of the best sales will likely begin the weekend before Thanksgiving or even sooner.

"Black Friday is starting earlier and earlier," explained Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org. And some stores are staggering the release of their doorbusters at different times. At Walmart, it is at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday. "If you don't read their circulars carefully, you could show up on the wrong day or the wrong time," cautioned Dworsky.

Consumer World offers these holiday shopping tips to help bag the best bargains:

1. Read the Ads: Preview the Black Friday sale circulars now and get a list of sale items at all stores by category, such as all HDTVs or digital cameras, at bfads.net. Check local newspapers on Thanksgiving Day. They will be chock-full of circulars and last minute deals. Friday's papers will include additional sales. Get on retailers' email lists, check their websites for additional "hidden" bargains, and look for deals and coupons listed on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

2. Evaluate the Deals: Not all Black Friday advertised items are the best deals. Some great sales have already occurred. Others will become available the weekend before Thanksgiving, on Cyber Monday, or in December. To separate the ho-hum from the good deals, use several pricing tools, such as the Price Checker at ConsumerWorld.org (to compare prices at many online stores instantly), and shop.pricespider.com (to compare today's price for an item to what was charged over the past year). If shopping online, find out the total price including shipping and tax (if any), and what the reputation of the seller is using BizRate.com or ResellerRatings.com .

3. Research the Right Product: A low price on a lousy product is no bargain. Check websites where professionals evaluate products, such as Consumer Reports, Steves-Digicams.com (for cameras), PCMag.com (computers), best/worst toy lists, etc. Check the user reviews posted after most product descriptions at Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, Walmart.com, and other retailers.

4. Save with "Triple Plays": To save the most, combine the primary ways to save: buy items at a good sale price, use percent-off/dollars-off/bonus points coupons offered by some stores to lower that price even more, and look for items that also have a cash back rebate.

5. Be an Early Bird: In most states, on Thanksgiving, Kmart opens at 6 a.m.; Toys "R" Us and Best Buy at 5 p.m.; and Macy's, Sears, Target, Staples, Walmart and Kohl's at 6 p.m. Plot your route from store to store to arrive before opening, since quantities of the hottest deals are very limited -- some items are as few as two per store. Walmart is offering rain checks if certain doorbusters sell out in the first hour.

Look for better "doorbusters" including: assorted small kitchen appliances under $10 after $10 rebate (Macy's, JCP, Kohl's; Kmart/Walmart [no rebate] ); Samsung Galaxy S5 cellphone $1 or less with 2-yr contract (Best Buy, Target, Radio Shack, Sam's); Panasonic 50" HDTV $199 (Best Buy); San Disk 32-gb thumbdrive $7.99 (Best Buy); San Disk 16-gb/32-gb microSD cards $5/$10 (Walmart); 25 - 28 cu.ft. Whirlpool/Samsung/Kenmore French door refrigerators $999 (Best Buy, Sears, Home Depot) 50% off select toys (Kohl's, Toys "R" Us); $10 off $25/$20 off $50 coupon (Macy's); $10 off $10 coupon (JCP); Target gift cards 10% off; 4-burner gas grill $99 (Walmart); Fitbit wristband $69 (Walmart); Roku 1 streaming player $28 (Walmart); Keurig K145 coffeemaker $60.99 net after coupon/rebate card (Staples); Prepaid LG Volt for Boost or Sprint $39.99 (Radio Shack); Everything 50% off (Old Navy); Everything 20% off Friday (Bed, Bath & Beyond).

6. Beat the Early Birds: Watch for pre-Black Friday sales before Thanksgiving. To plan for the real Black Friday, scope-out key retailers the day before Thanksgiving to learn each store's floor plan in advance. Some stores offer diagrams of where sale items will be located. Avoid the crowds by ordering online since some Black Friday deals may be available on Thanksgiving Day right after midnight. Be warned, however, that stores are generally terrible about indicating which items will also be available online.

7. Check the Return Policy: Before buying, find out the store's return policy. While many stores have extended their return deadlines into January, others online may impose restocking fees on certain categories of items. Some retailers use a blacklist database or returns tracking system to deny refunds to returns abusers.

8. Get a Gift Receipt: Make returns easier for gift recipients by asking the store for a gift receipt and include it in the gift box. Without a receipt, a refund may be denied outright, or may be limited to only an equal exchange, or to a merchandise credit for the lowest price the item has sold for in the recent past.

9. Use the Right Credit Card: Certain credit cards offer valuable free benefits. For example, don't be pressured into buying a service contract when you can get up to an extra year of warranty coverage free just by using most gold or platinum credit cards. Ask your credit card issuer what length warranties qualify for an extra year of coverage, if any. Some credit cards also offer a return protection guarantee (they will refund the purchase price within 90 days if the store will not), or a sale price guarantee (they will give you back the difference if an item goes on sale within 60 days of purchase).

10. Save More with Price-Match Guarantees: Keep checking the prices of the items you buy. Since many stores offer a price protection guarantee, you may be entitled to get back some additional money if the seller or a competitor offers a lower price before Christmas.

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Consumer World®, launched in 1995, is a public service, non-commercial consumer resource guide with over 2000 links to everything "consumer" on the Internet. Edgar Dworsky, an avid bargain hunter, is the founder of Consumer World, editor of MousePrint.org – an educational site devoted to exposing the fine print loopholes in advertising, and a former Assistant Attorney General in the Consumer Protection Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office.



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