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/ Source: TODAY
By Katie Jackson and Danielle Wolf

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.

In order to set yourself up for success and less stress, especially if you're venturing into the brick-and-mortar battleground, you first need to know the basics of Black Friday.

When is Black Friday 2018?

Black Friday, the largest shopping day of the year, is always the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year, Black Friday 2018 falls on Friday, Nov. 23.

What time does Black Friday start?

Although Black Friday is technically the Friday after Thanksgiving, many of the deals actually start on Thanksgiving Day, which, of course, is on a Thursday. Black Friday hours vary between retailers, but here's what we know so far, according to Black Friday Ads:

  • Best Buy: In-store sales start on Thursday at 5 p.m., with new deals being released Friday and Saturday. On Friday, doors will open at 8 a.m.
  • Kohl's: Shop deals in stores starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday or online at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 19.
  • Macy's: Macy's stores will be open Thursday 5 p.m.-Friday 2 a.m., Friday 6 a.m.-1 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Staples: Sales start bright and early Friday morning, with doors opening at 7a.m.
  • Target: Doors open at 5 p.m. on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) and close at 1 a.m. on Friday. Stores will reopen at 7 a.m. on Black Friday.
  • Walmart: Walmart's doorbusters begin Thursday at 6p.m. while online sales ramp up Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 10 p.m.

Note: some store hours may vary by location, so be sure to check online or call your nearest location before you head out.

Why is the shopping holiday called Black Friday?

Black Friday originally got its name in the mid-1960s. People used the term "Black Friday" to describe the awful traffic that would build up as shoppers headed to stores the day after Thanksgiving.

However, retailers didn't appreciate the negative connotation associated with the name, so they changed the name to reflect the success of retailers on that day. According to their new explanation, Black Friday is the day when retailers finally begin to turn a profit for the year. Accountants traditionally used red ink to show negative amounts and black ink to show positive amounts. Thus, stores are finally out of the red and squarely in the black (making profit) starting on Black Friday.

Now that you know the basics, make sure to follow these tips and tricks so you get the best deals out there. And if you're ready to get shopping, here are all the 2018 Black Friday deals we've found (so far) and the best Amazon Prime services already on sale.

Black Friday 2018 Tips

  • 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, a 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 to 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 it normally does.

  • 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, a savings expert at Flipp. Cherie Lowe, aka the 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 San Antonio's Hotel Contessa. “But some of the best savings during Black Friday through Cyber Monday actually come from hotel and travel industry.” For example, that San Antonio property is offering 50% off suites starting Nov. 23.

And remember, the most important thing is to set yourself up for success and have fun!

TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY does have affiliate relationships. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.