5 tips to get the best Black Friday deals

PHOTO: A woman is pictured holding shopping bags at the mall in this undated stock photo.STOCK PHOTO/Shutterstock
A woman is pictured holding shopping bags at the mall in this undated stock photo.

Thanksgiving is just four weeks away, and, as any good consumer knows, so are some of the year's best deals.

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Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is one of the most popular days of the year to shop, and according to RetailMeNot shopping expert Sara Skirboll, this year the average person will spend about $800 buying for themselves and others.

But what's the best strategy to employ?

Skirboll shared her inside tips and tricks with "Good Morning America":

1. Make your gift list early: Skirboll said the first thing to do is to figure out for whom you're shopping, what you want or need to buy, and how much you're willing to spend. "The best part of starting early is that you can plan your budget," Skirboll said. "You don't want to spend all [your money] in December and get a crazy credit card bill in January. Spread out your spending."

2. Don't necessarily wait for Black Friday sales: Yes, retailers slash prices on Black Friday -- and then again, in some cases, on Cyber Monday -- but Skirboll noted that there are other sales happening leading up to the big day. Don't ignore those, especially if you're looking for a popular item that might sell out within the next few weeks. In many cases, she added, stores will match lower prices that may crop up later. However, "there are categories that you should pay attention to," she continued. "It's not a myth: Electronics are the best deals of the season. [On Black Friday] you'll find 40 percent off things like TVs and small appliances."

Just be sure to read the small print, Skirboll added. Some sales are final, some are tied to a restocking fee, and others come with a limited return window, making it tricky to give those items as gifts to persnickety friends or family members.

3. Keep tabs on your favorite retailers: It can be difficult to know in advance when your favorite stores will launch their sales, so Skirboll recommended signing up for email newsletters and following them on social media. "Brands will reward you for doing so," she said, adding that some stores will offer an additional 10 or 15 percent off to their email subscribers or last-minute flash sales to their followers.

Other money-saving techniques Skirboll recommends include buying discount gift cards for personal use, finding coupon codes or cash back offers, and using browser extensions that automatically find the best deals available. RetailMeNot's version is called Genie, and Honey is popular, too.

4. Don't feel obligated to go to the stores themselves: Though door-buster sales do exist for those who choose to shop in person, similar deals will be online later in the day or the day after. "So something might be 50 percent off at the store and it might be 45 percent off online," Skirboll said. "There are deals. I'm not going to say [they don't] exist. It's just a matter of how much they mean to you."

"Some people enjoy the thrill of [waking up early to shop] and it becomes a family affair," she continued. "In that case, I say go for it!"

5. Wait to buy certain items -- if you can: Though Black Friday and Cyber Monday present some of the year's best deals, Skirboll recommends waiting on a few items. "Don't buy furniture. They get new models, new inventory at the beginning of the year and that's when they mark down what's in the store," Skirboll said. "And toys. Toys are a hard one because you want the toy to be available, but you're not going to get the best deal on Black Friday. The best deals are in mid-December, but it's a catch-22!"