Black Friday is Coming.

Guest Author Cory Matthews writes about the all-American shopping nightmare that is Black Friday--that day after Thanksgiving where sales, bargains and long lines at checkout counters rule the day. Are you ready for this season?

Ah, Black Friday. It’s a day that makes you simultaneously cringe and leap for joy. It’s imagery of low price tags and people leaping over shopping carts to fight for the last item in stock. It’s tradition and the only reason you’d ever get up at 3AM both wrapped up in freshly shelved Christmas wrapping paper. Ah, Black Friday.

Now, that might be a slightly dramatized version of Black Friday, but if you plan on participating in the American consumer’s favorite shopping past time, we have some tips, especially if you don’t want to end up like this:

 Or this:

1). Plan Ahead 

This really can’t be stressed enough. The weeks before you should be scouring the hundreds upon hundreds of ads and catalogs that stores put out with Black Friday deals. Pick out the items you want to get your hands on. Find out what time stores open. Make a budget (and stick to it!) Impulse buys can set you back a few hundred, so we really recommend that last one. Be sure to check newspapers on Thanksgiving Day as well. A lot of stores post last minute deals that can really make a difference in price. Lastly, make a timeline for yourself. You know what you want and when stores open, so make a game plan for when you’ll go where based on priority purchases and stores’ opening times.

2). Use The Internet

The Internet is your best friend. There are tens of websites out there that collect info from hundreds of stores for deals on items and then categorizes those items. These are great for rummaging through what seems like endless amounts of deals. You can find comparison charts for some of the most popular items and scanned ads from stores’ Black Friday catalogs. You can even subscribe to mailing lists on some sites to get updates everytime a new ad is posted. We recommend these sites: Dealnews.com/black-Friday, Bfads.com, Blackfriday.gottadeal.com, Black-Friday.net, Blackfriday.info. A recent trend in Black Friday deal hunting has been tweeting. You can follow such users as @Blackfriday, @Blackfriday.net, @blackfriday_fm, @verified codes to find out about deals. Lastly, if lines, crowds, and fighting overzealous shoppers aren’t your thing, Cyber Monday is a fruitful alternative. You can even find better deals on things like cameras and camcorders. Utilizing Cyber Monday also requires strategy. Be sure to cross-compare website to find the best deal on an item. You can also check online coupon websites for great Black Friday deals. Verified Codes will have an abundance. 

3). Know Your Hot and Coveted Items

Consumer electronics typically have the best, most discounted products.

Tablets and eReaders

Apple’s iPad is obviously the most popular tablet available, but don’t expect any deals. There could be price drops on older models now that the new iPad mini has been unveiled. There is also a potential for Apple to bundle new products with things like iPod shuffles. The new Google Nexus and Kindle Paperwhite will also probably go without deals. Your best bet will be finding inexpensive Android tablets.

HDTVs

Now that 3D TVs have been on the market for a while, you might finally see prices drop. However, we believe the best deals will be on smaller, lower-end HDTVs. Wait until mid-December to purchase bigger, higher-end HDTVs. Prices will be lower then. 

Laptops and Desktops

Probably one of the most traditional black Friday electronic deals is on super cheap laptops and desktops. Decide what features you need—screen size, weight, battery life, whether or not it can burn DVDs (RAM and memory can be upgraded later so they’re not super important). It’s tempting to go in on what seems like an unbelievable deal only to find this laptop or desktop doesn’t fit your needs. 

Computer peripherals

Expect deals on things like external hard drives, flash drives, and mice/keyboard sets. A 1 TB hard drive could be as low as $49. Printers are also great to purchase during Black Friday. 

Smart Phones

There could potentially be price cuts in older iPhone models with the iPhone 5 now out, but we expect the best deals to be with Androids and Windows smartphones. These will probably be very cheap or free with a 2-year contract.

Cameras and Camcorders

These can probably be found cheapest online, so we suggest waiting until Cyber Monday. Many people these days are switching to higher-end digital cameras, so expect deals to be for cameras falling into the “pro-sumer” category. 

Video Games

The new Wii U is undoubtedly going to be the hot video game must-have this year, having been released just 5 days prior to Black Friday. Due to limited stock, many stores won’t list it in ads or offer a discount. The deals here will probably be on accessories and games for the new system. Expect the older Wii to be very cheap or bundled with $50 gift cards due to retailers wanting to its clear stock. 

Toys

Toys are definitely one of the hottest items on Black Friday since many are shopping for children’s gifts. Expect deals on more expensive high-tech toys like the LeapPad 2. Also be sure to check toy stores’ Black Friday catalogs for discounts and gift ideas. These catalogs can often be found in newspapers. 

4). Strength in Numbers

Having someone with you can make Black Friday a lot more enjoyable, especially if you plan on standing in line or camping in front of stores. If you have an army at your expense (muahahaha….minions!), then divide and conquer. Send people to other stores to retrieve things, or if a store is exceptionally large, assign people sections to efficiently gather the items on your list. As a last resort, misery loves company, so at least you’ll have a shoulder to cry on when all of the $49 TVs are sold out. 

At its end, Black Friday can be both a catastrophe and a celebration, but we have given you the tools to tackle this unconventional American holiday efficiently and successfully. It’s important to remember that you’re going to be dealing with crowds of people no matter what, so please be calm and courteous to others. Believe us, snagging the last Wii U in stock is not worth going to jail.

Now, good luck and happy shopping!

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