A Guide to Black Friday: Where, When and How to Shop for What

Online shopping options, the economy and a taste for instant entertainment have all had an impact on Black Friday. Long lines in front of stores are still common, but not as frequent as they have been in the past. And standing in line is not not the only way to get a great deal.

There are a few of rules to Black Friday shopping. First, be picky. Find the items you want and then go looking for those items on sale. Instead of starting off with "I want a laptop," think, "I want a 15 in screen laptop with XYZ storage and ABC capability." Remember that just because you can buy a big-screen TV for under $100, if you don't really need or want one, it still doesn't make sense to buy it.

Second, put a limit on your shopping time. If you spend 30 hours searching for the perfect $90 vacuum cleaner, was it really worth it?

Third, buy it already. If you know that you want a laptop that usually costs around $700, when you see it going for $450, buy it. Yes, you could keep checking around and yes, you might find it for $425 somewhere else, but the key word there is might. You might also lose the chance to buy it for $450.

And fourth, stay human. Make yourself a promise that you will not trample down old ladies or shove toddlers out of the way just so you can get to a $5 blender.

So, keeping all of that in mind, here's our look at Black Friday shopping, where and when to shop for what. Most of the major stores have their Black Friday ads online. Start there. See what's available online and what's available only at the stores. Sign up for any courtesy memberships stores have (almost all are for free), yes, the store gets some of you personal info (expect to be added to a mailing list), but you get advance notice on ads or additional discounts, so it's worth the trade-off.

A stop at Amazon is necessary for just about everyone looking for entertainment deals. The Black Friday deals are already in effect online. On Tuesday, there's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on Blu-ray for less than $4. Later in the week, pick up the The Hunger Games (2-Disc Blu-ray + Ultra-Violet Digital Copy) for less than $9. No, there aren't many recent block-busters, but with some DVDs going for less than $1, it's a chance to plug those holes in your collection. Most sale prices are good for just a few hours so you'll have to do some planning in order to make sure you're online at the right time.

Best Buy has some great door buster deals, but for really great savings you'll have to go to the store. You can get a 40" Toshiba LCD/1080 p/60Hz/HDTV for just $179.99 (saving some $240), but it's an only-in-the-store price.

At Sear's, you'll do best buying the big-ticket items the store is known for. If you can get to the store at 4 a.m. on Friday, you can get a Kenmore Elite washer and steam dryer usually priced at more than $1,400 each, for just $649 (the prices rises to $699 after 1 p.m. on Friday). Don't feel like getting up at 4 in the freaking morning? Sign up for a free Shop Your Way membership and get special prices on items online through Saturday.

You don't have to wait for Friday to get great prices on Dell products. You can start shopping at discounted prices now at the Black Friday Presale. You can pick up an Inspiron 15R Special Edition laptop (15.6" laptop with performance graphics, 1080p display and Blu-ray player) for $899, a savings of $389.

Walmart.com is also already offering pre-Black Friday specials, and it's no surprise that some items are already out of stock online. Beware of the rumors and social media posts that say the trick to shopping at Walmart is to layaway items. Seems some customer service reps might have told shoppers, yes, you can put an item on layaway at full-price, then get the reduction to the Black Friday price. Other customers were supposedly being told no, that's not good for all items, only some. Bottom line, Walmart isn't stupid. It isn't going to give shoppers the chance to put a mountain of high-priced items on layaway then reduce those prices. Chances are the reductions, if there are any at all, are going to be severely restricted.

Target opens at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, giving everyone a big jump on Black Friday shopping. Best Buy opens at midnight Thursday, Sam's Club opens at 7 a.m. on Friday, and CostCo opens at 9 a.m. Radio Shack, JC Penny's, Bed, Bath & Beyond are all open at 6 a.m. on Friday morning.

For the latest information on Black Friday deals, visit Black Friday Ads.

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