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The Tip Jar: Getting the Black Friday sales right

Full disclosure, I don't like Black Friday.
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Full disclosure, I don't like Black Friday.

I'm a big fan of Christmas, I love everything about it, so I find having this giant, all-consuming shopping holiday a month before overshadows it somewhat.

But ... for all my misgivings about its existence, the money-saver in me can't help but partake in Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Some of the discounts particularly on electronics are just too good to pass up.

While everyone has their own plans for the biggest shopping period of the year, here are a few of the tips I stick to when planning my purchases.

Prepare early

If I'm not careful I can fall into the trap of impulsive buying, and Black Friday/Cyber Monday are designed to make you feel "Wow, that thing I didn't know I needed suddenly has a huge discount."

Have an idea of what you want to buy and do your research. Ask yourself as well if you truly need to buy more stuff, seeing as the best way to save money is simply not to spend unnecessarily.

Check out what prices are like now so you get an idea of how good a discount is when it goes on sale. And prepare to shop earlier, seeing as most retailers start their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving and even sooner.

Retailers release their Black Friday deals earlier and earlier, so keep an eye on websites like, which posts leaked and released ads as they become available.

Target is among the retailers that have released their ads already.

Don't go to a store

I'm not judging anyone who does, but you ain't getting me out at 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving in sub-zero temperatures, no thank you.

Sure, you can get some doorbusters that either are unavailable or in a limited supply online, but it's not as many as you'd think – Forbes says 70 percent of Doorbusters can also be found online.

Personally I prefer to be inside and warm, on a computer where I can scour multiple retailers to find better deals, rather than getting up early and putting all my eggs in one basket by picking just one store to shop from.

Know what to buy – and what not to buy

Given the way it's marketed, you'd think Black Friday is the best time to make literally any consumer purchase, but that's not the case.

Nerdwallet says the Black Friday weekend is the time to buy older Apple products, gaming system bundles, travel deals, household electronics in general, videogames and DVDs, and large appliances.

But if you're in the market for winter clothing (wait till the end of winter), outdoor furniture (Labor Day), toys (December) and bedding (January sales), Nerdwallet suggests you wait.

DealNews also suggests holding fire on fitness equipment and jewelry till January, tools till December, and high-end laptops till July and September (it's a good time to buy low-end laptops, though).

It should also go without saying that you should hold off on buying new holiday decorations till after Christmas.

Keep an eye out for discounted gift cards

You'll find gift cards are more heavily discounted during December, but keep an eye out for any gift card offers on Black Friday as they can give you instant savings on your purchase.

PennyHoarder reported last year that Macy's was offering 12 percent off its $100 gift cards, costing you just $88 that could immediately be used to buy other Black Friday sale items.

So be sure to look for any retailer offering discounted gift cards you can use immediately, otherwise you can check out sites like and GiftCardZen that re-sell unused gift cards at discounted rates.

You should also take a look at sites like Groupon and for other usable discounts.

Or ... enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend and wait till Cyber Monday

Thanksgiving is a time for family, after all. I'm not an American myself but I can't help but love Thanksgiving dinner, followed by eggnog, beer, pie, football and Christmas movies.

Why would I want to spoil that by sitting at my computer spending money? 

With online retailers offering more deals on Cyber Monday (and most Black Friday sales end up being extended to Monday anyway), why not enjoy the weekend and leave your spending till then?

RealSimple notes that CyberMonday tends to see more retailer-wide discounts than product-specific deals on Black Friday, so if you're a fan of one store in particular that's the time to shop.

Retailers sometime offer even steeper discounts too, particularly if they have a lot of stock left of an item that didn't sell well on Black Friday.

At the same time, you do risk losing out on deals that are popular on Black Friday but have sold out by Monday.

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