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Black Friday tips from USA Today

9:37 AM, Nov 23, 2011   |    comments
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Tigger at the Grandville Best Buy

(USA TODAY) - People have been camped outside of Best Buy stores in Florida and Texas since last week. Can you compete with that? Not likely.

Many shoppers will venture out to stores Thanksgiving night or in the wee hours of the morning Friday because they're convinced they'll beat the odds and score a door-buster. But unless they are one of the hardy few, they aren't likely to get a deal better than what's available online. Even if they do, the temptation to make pricey impulse purchases could be too much to resist.

Best Buy is advertising a 42-inch Sharp TV for $200 on Friday - probably what Florida shoppers are waiting for outside. Unlike most door-busters, founder Brad Wilson says, the Sharp TV is a great price and a quality brand, so it's his top pick for Black Friday deals. But he says quantities will likely be so limited that few shoppers will actually get one.

"For some people, it's worth the opportunity cost to stand in line," he says. Others will come close enough online or later in the day or weekend when stores aren't as crowded.

Still, shoppers should resist the urge to overspend, says Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. "If you stayed up late or got up in the middle of the night and the item of your dreams is gone, the little voice in your head is going to start saying, 'You're already here. Go ahead and shop,' " Cunningham says. "Get in and get out. The longer you stay there, the more caught up you're going to be in the moment."

Other things to keep in mind this weekend:

•Make sure you're not too tired, hungry or, well, tipsy to exercise restraint. Have a list, a budget and a frugal friend to keep you in line. Keep in mind that stores "can't offer deals that lose them money unless they're going to make it back once you're in the store," Wilson says. founder Dan de Grandpre warns that all the accessories and batteries lined up near registers won't be on sale.

•Beware of online sales pressure, too. Websites can't exactly stack things at the register, but they do the cyberequivalent by recommending other products. The fast pace of online sales can also make people as competitive as they are in stores. Amazon "tricks a lot of people into impulse buys" with their limited-quantity "lightning deals," says Patrick Owens, a credit counselor at ClearPoint Counseling Solutions in Richmond, Va.

•Do thorough online searches if you're determined to find the lowest price. Don't forget to factor in shipping and possible returns if you're ordering online. Stores including Costco - where even non-members can shop online - often don't come up high in Google searches and can have great deals on products including cookware and other gifts, de Grandpre says. Besides, he notes, you can return products to stores rather than pay shipping fees.

•Think carefully about blanket shipping deals. You can pay an annual fee to get free shipping throughout the year through Amazon Prime and But free shipping deals, without an annual fee, are common, and locking yourself into one set of retailers might discourage you from price comparisons. De Grandpre says he finds hundreds of deals daily that rival Amazon.



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