8 things to know about finding the best Black Friday deals

Here's what you need to know to survive Black Friday shopping this season.
by Katie Jackson / / Source: TODAY
Black Friday Bargain Hunters Hit The Streets
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: People walk past a shopfront on Oxford Street advertising 'Black Friday' discounts on November 28, 2014 in London, England.Getty Images

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Half the fun of Black Friday is planning for Black Friday. It's knowing exactly what's going to be on sale—and when—that gets you up at the crack of dawn while the rest of the family sleeps.

Here's how to set yourself up for success and less stress if you're venturing into the brick-and-mortar battleground.

And if you're ready to get shopping, here are all the 2017 Black Friday deals we've found (so far).

1. Check the model number

They may boast the same brand name, but not all electronics are created equally. “Do a quick Google or Amazon search on the brand and model number to see what turns up,” says Jon Vincent, co-founder of EarlyBlackFriday.com. He admits he’s been duped in the past by a Black Friday deal on a web cam that was an inferior model lacking the standard model’s features. “A hint that it's a Black Friday special model is that it's brand-new on Best Buy's website and it has no reviews from other shoppers.”

2. Review price histories

Is the price really as low as it seems? Or was it that low just a month ago? “Some stores will return Black Friday products to MSRP before the Black Friday sales, so you'll also want to check the item on camelcamelcamel to see the price history on Amazon,” says Lindsay Sakraida, Director of Content Marketing at DealNews. “While Amazon is only one store, it will give you a good sense for whether the item has typically been cheaper in the past.”

3. Use a new browser

“Dynamic (or customer-based) pricing has spread from travel to retail over the past year, and consumers are not going to be on the prevailing side of it,” says Mike Catania, Chief Technology Officer at PromotionCode.org. “A website can detect previous visits and browsing patterns from your cookies and couple those data points against internal records to determine how much it thinks you're willing to pay.” He recommends using Chrome and an incognito window for holiday shopping.

4. Act fast

Don’t let hot-ticket items linger in your online shopping cart. They will sell out. “Buy doorbusters immediately and then browse for other items at your leisure,” advises Andrea Woroch, consumer finance expert. For a speedier checkout, Woroch recommends creating a shopper profile in advance so you don’t have to enter your payment and shipping information during crunch time.

5. Read return polices

Is there an extended return window? Will you be charged restocking fees? Do you need to keep the original shipping box and packaging? Those are all questions Woroch recommends finding the answers to before you click purchase. Otherwise you can end up buried in buyer’s remorse.

6. Shop with discounted gift cards

If you know you’re going to spend at least $50 at a certain store on Black Friday, search online for discounted (anywhere from 2%-25% off) gift cards in advance. Last Cyber Monday, Raise—a website and app matching buyers with unwanted gift cards to more than 3,800 retailers—sold four times as many cards as they normally do.

7. Go scouting on Wednesday

“This is a great way to get a feel for the store’s layout and figure out where the items you want will be displayed on Black Friday,” notes Lauren Gruetman, Savings Expert at Flipp. Cherie Lowe, a.k.a. Queen of Free, even recommends scoping out a spot in a less popular aisle (like cleaning supplies) where you can park your shopping cart. It allows you to dart in and out of the aisles with the best sales while other shoppers are trapped in “cart gridlock.”

8. Don’t forget about travel

“Most consumers don't immediately connect travel deals with Black Friday,” says Evan Crawford, Regional Marketing Director for Hotel Contessa. “But some of the best savings during Black Friday through Cyber Monday actually come from hotel and travel industry.” For example, the San Antonio property is offering 50% off suites starting November 23.

And remember, the most important thing is to set yourself up for success and have fun! We've talked on the show about this year being a 'Gray November' with plenty of early deals to be found before the Black Friday and Cyber Monday rush. Some sites, like Amazon, have already started giving some deep discounts, so don't stress over getting everything on in just one day - there are plenty of deals to be found all week long!

If you want to get your shopping done before Black Friday, check out the TODAY Gift Guide section of our site or test out our interactive gift guide! You simply choose who you are shopping for, what they are like and how much you want to spend, then we generate the gifts for you!

ultimate gift guide cover

Click here to try it out!

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