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Black Friday Survival Guide: Top tips to plan your Nov. 23 shopping strategy

There are just three weeks to go before the midnight madness begins on Nov. 23.

We’re talking about Black Friday, and if you want to score the best deals on holiday gifts, you’ll need to use the next few weeks to draw up a battle plan by deciding what to buy and researching where to go to get the most bang for your buck.

“People get caught up in the hype and emotion of Black Friday and get swept away and overbuy during the frenzy and the excitement,” says Jodi Furman, right, a shopping and savings expert in Lake Worth.

“Make a plan and a list and stick to it. Do not make any impulse purchases if it’s not on your list. Not matter how good the price, it’s not a bargain if you don’t need it.”

Furman, who writes the shopping and savings blog, says you can sniff out the best bargains before and after Black Friday with a little planning.

Here’s her top tips on how to score the best deals:

Set a spending limit. Focus on what you need and what you can afford. Furman suggests you figure out how much you can afford to spend, set the budget and stick to it. “The best gift you can give to your family is one of financial stability. If you can’t afford to pay cash for a present right now, perhaps you don’t really need to be buying it.”

Do your homework. Check sales fliers online (many are already posted) and get the Thanksgiving Day newspaper to see what deals are being offered at what times. “Research what you what to buy now. Visit or for a good overview of upcoming sales. These sites have search functions that help you find the best offers on what you want to purchase.”

Let someone else do your homework. Check popular savings sites like and They focus on the best sales at Target and Walmart. “These sites do the legwork for you so you can relax and enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey and not stress about the sales.”

Score free gift cards. Some stores also offer free gift cards with purchase on popular electronics like iPods and video game consoles, she says. “Research those deals. They will be well advertised.”

Find shopping buddies. If you want to get items at more than one store, Furman suggests using the “divide and conquer” method. “If there are two or three of you, divide your lists between each person and one goes to each store to get the bargains for everyone.”

Use technology. Sign up for emails and text messages from your favorite retailers so you’ll automatically be notified of special offers. “Consult shopping blogs and download smartphone apps so you can get more for less. Not just less money, less stress, less time, less effort and less running around.” Furman recommends downloading apps like for iPhone and for Android smartphones. “Use the camera to scan barcodes and check prices online and brick-and-mortar stores to be sure you’re getting the best price. ShopKick also offers cash back and points for shopping at certain retailers.

Get rebates. Get cash back for online purchases by using sites like, and “The sites offer a percentage of your online purchases back in cash.”

Use price matching. For the first time, Target is price matching online competitors Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy and Toys R Us, Furman says. Save sales receipts in case you find a better price at a later date. “Some stores will do a price match and a price adjust so you’ll be able to get what you paid at the current advertised price. You won’t have to return the items and rebuy them. Just bring in your receipt with the ad (if you have it) to get your money back.” Saving receipts serves another purpose, too. “If you do accidentally overbuy, you can return items to keep within your budget.”

If you don’t feel like going out in the middle of the night, you’ll still find great bargains, Fuman says.

“You don’t need to run around to a bunch of different stores in the middle of the night,” Furman says. “There are great sales offered after Black Friday. There is usually another sales surge Dec. 8-10 and then again around Dec. 22-24. Just watch the newspaper ads.”

Three ways to keep up with the latest deals: "Like" our Sentinel Deals page on Facebook; follow Doreen Christensen on Twitter@PrettyGoodIdeas and sign up for Deals text alerts.

Categories: Black Friday (72)

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About the authors
Doreen Christensen has never paid full price for anything. If there is a way to save on something, she will find it and share how you can save, too. Doreen is a senior reporter covering consumer news, health, beauty and features for the online and print editions of the Sun Sentinel. A 32-year veteran of the newspaper, she previously was a senior copy editor on the universal copy desk. Doreen spends her time off hunting bargains, clipping coupons, gardening and traveling.

Justine Griffin covers retail and marine business for the Sun Sentinel. She is a Tampa Bay native who graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2010. After spending a year covering crime in St. Augustine, Fla., she moved to Fort Lauderdale and made the switch to business journalism. When she’s not writing, she’s riding horses and spending time with her whippet puppy, Josie.

Marcia Heroux Pounds is the Sun Sentinel's workplace columnist when she's not shopping for shoes. She also writes about small business, which allows her to visit many of South Florida's unique shops and boutiques.

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