Strategize to Take Advantage of Staggered Black Friday Deals

PHOTO: A crowd of shoppers wait outside the Target store in Lisbon, CT., before the store opens for Black Friday, Nov. 25, 2011.

Despite all the hype and hustle, Black Friday really is the best bargain shopping day of the year, according to Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org, and an avid bargain hunter himself. Retailers have long considered the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) the official launch of their critical holiday shopping period, so they go all out to get shoppers excited and lure them in.

But this year there's a twist, with stores sprinkling their so-called "door busters" across different time periods. "Black Friday now starts on Thursday," explained Dworsky. "If you don't read the circulars carefully, you may show up at the store either hours early or hours late." For example, Walmart is offering some deals as early as 8 and 10pm on Thursday. Sears will let people in at 8pm Thursday and again at 4am Friday.

Dworsky is a guy who actually spends his time studying these things --a benefit to us all-- so here are his top tips for a golden deal on Black Friday.

1. Read the ads in advance:

Dworsky suggests previewing the Black Friday sale circulars NOW at bfads.net. You can search by category and see deals at all stores side by side at blackfriday.gottadeal.com. For those that the corporate spies haven't ferreted out, be sure to go retro and read your local paper on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday itself. If you're in hot pursuit of something pricey, also try signing up for retailers' email clubs and scanning their Facebook pages.

2. Try for "Triple Plays"

To save even more, combine sale prices, with coupons that give you a percentage-off or a set number of dollars off. And finally, look for items that also have a cash back rebate. Veteran shopping gurus know what novices don't: that you can often combine these offers, because some are offered by the stores and others by the manufacturers.

3. Go early.

On Thanksgiving -- yes, Thanksgiving-- many big chains will open early. Plot your route from one to another and if you are hoping to score at more than one, dispatch different family members to different stores. Here they are:

Best Buy: Midnight Thursday

Kohl's: Midnight Thursday

Kmart: 8pm Thursday

Macy's: Midnight Thursday

Sears: 8pm Thursday

Target: 9pm Thursday

Toys"R"Us: 8pm Thursday

Walmart: 8pm Thursday

Most others: 5am or 6am Friday

4. Go even earlier.

Some stores may make their Black Friday deals available to "members" days early. For example, Dworsky says Sears is letting its reward club members buy some door busters starting on Sunday, Nov. 18. You may also be able to order some Black Friday sale items online on Thanksgiving Day or extra early Friday at JC Penney, Kohl's and other department stores.

For other Black Friday savings strategies for the truly advanced --and obsessed-- you can read Dworsky's full list of recommendations here.

And here's a bonus tip from another consumer guru of mine: Chrissy Pate of BeCentsable.net reminded me that since many stores, such as Walmart, will price-match their competitors, if you miss out on a killer door-buster deal at one store, see if the identical product is available elsewhere and whether that store will honor the deal.

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