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Here's the thing about Black Friday: You don't have to do it. There are plenty of other days to get good holiday deals. And that's not necessarily Small Business Saturday. Or Sofa Sunday (a thing.) Or even Cyber Monday. Retailers roll out attractive prices pretty much from Halloween to the week after New Year's. Having said that, here's a crib sheet for Black Friday shoppers. (Psst: Most of 'em work all year round.)
Webroom. Research online to find the store with the lowest price on your target purchase.
Check store hours. Some retailers open on Thanksgiving. Others don't. Some open at midnight on Friday; some keep normal business hours. Know before you go.
Read the circulars. That includes the fine print, which usually outlines exclusions, restrictions or caveats.
Bring ads with you. Some stores price-match if you prove there's a better deal out there.
Give a retailer your email. Many chains reward you with a digital mega-coupon, like 20% off your next purchase.
Create a special email, if you're worried about data breaches and/or a derth of spam.
Click carefully. Beware unsolicited emails in your inbox, even if they look legit. Phishers are good at what they do. If you're interested in the deal, go looking for it on the retailer's website.
Install a coupon aggregator. Browser add-ons, like Honey, find coupon codes for you at checkout.
Use a rewards credit card. Might as well earn points on those gifts. Plus, some credit cards offer extended warranties or price protection.
Use credit card rewards. Pay for presents with points or cash back. Better yet, trade them in for discount gift cards. (Some issuers sell, say, $30 gift cards for $25 in points on their website.)
Set up spending alerts so you don't wind up over budget ... or your credit card limit.
Have a budget. There are apps to help with that.
Download. There are shopping apps out there, too, that aggregate digital coupons or send deals via push notification. See Shopular, ShopKick, SlickDeals or Flipp.
Stick to a list. It'll keep you from impulse purchases.
Know who ships for free and when they'll do it. Sometimes you have to hit a spend threshold.
Get social. Retailers often promote special deals via their Facebook page or Twitter.
Showroom. A good trick if you like to see what you're paying for: Scope out an item in-stores, then comparison-shop on your smartphone. It could be cheaper elsewhere.
Research return policies in case you wind up with a bad case of buyer's remorse.
Keep your receipts. Pre-pick a place to stuff them. Or opt for a digital copy. Get gift receipts, too, so your loved ones can return anything they're just not feeling.
Skip the gifts. Or consider DIY presents, like tins of baked goods or homemade ornaments. Seriously, it can be done.
Stay safe. Holiday shopping is stressful and Black Friday, in particular, gets intense. Keep purses close and wallets closer. Drive safely in parking lots, lest you risk a car accident. And avoid fights over the last Hatchimal.
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