Now for the Top 10 List:
I live for Black Friday! As a bargain hunter and extremely frugal individual, I actually start my Black Friday planning in July. I'll be sharing exclusive deals with you in the coming day that you won't find anywhere else but today, I want to pass along my Black Friday bible of sorts. These are the rules I live by to ensure success in the store.
1) Make a list, check it twice!
If you really want to save money, make a list of exactly what you need. Use our store stock lists (AVAILABLE THIS MONDAY) or deal rankings next week and figure out the best places to get those things.
Every time you get distracted by a great discount on something you've got no use for, you're wasting valuable shopping time. Sure, you save money, but it's on something you never needed in the first place.
2) Throw out all your old shopping strategies
Yep, everything you've learned: Forget it.
Things are changing... and fast! The sales are already on. Black Friday lasts the whole weekend now and pretty much all the way through to Christmas. Stores that start it on Thursday have deals that will carry over without destroying your Thanksgiving meal.
The Internet has brought us a completely new way to find the best deals on everything we need, instead of hoofing it from store to store while suffering through a turkey hangover. So before you chug a vat of coffee to stay up and shop the midnight Black Friday sales, make sure you know all of your options. Duplicates of all the big deals in-store (with the exception of door busters) appear online and we'll find them for you Black Friday.
3) Ship don't lug!
Before you complete your order, think about where those online gifts you're buying are going to end up. If you're shopping for your parents and heading to their house on Christmas day, ship the presents direct.
Most sites offer inexpensive gift wrapping options, the delivery companies really step up their game this time of year, and bottom line - you won't have to worry about hauling bulky gifts onto the plane.
4) Join Community
If you have a Black Friday question you need answered fast, I have a group of Ways 2 Save confidants to help you around the clock. CLICK HERE (offers.com/waystosave) and join the Ways 2 Save Community. Ask your question in our national deal forum. I'll also be featuring new deals in the days leading up to Black Friday on my Twitter feed. (twitter.com/mattgranite)
5) Get organized
Make sure all of your coupons are lined up and ready to go. Take a look at our deal maps (AVAILABLE TUESDAY), print the stock lists and pay attention to the fact many of the bigger coupons and reductions are found online.
Another hot tip: If you're planning to brave the stores, take some "green" along. When the credit card system goes down and the mall ATM runs out of money, cash will be king!
6) Research the doorbusters
If you're going after the biggest and the best deals - the doorbusters, as they're called - make sure you do your homework.
In most cases, unless you're one of the first 75 people in line, the biggest deals circulating in those flyers won't be in your hands.
You should also find out in advance how each retailer allocates its doorbusters to the line outside the store -- sometimes by ticket, sometimes at random, and sometimes (worst of all) by just letting it be a free-for-all when the store open.
Use our store maps to figure out the best route to the departments you plan to shop.
7) Bring a mobile device!
You might line up for that TV deal only to find it sold-out in-store. Imagine being able to use a 4G iPad or other tablet to access the same deal online. We'll be featuring all of the big deals live on Black Friday. Don't let a store stock problem leave you empty-handed.
8) Dress for success
Sounds crazy, but what you wear will affect your shopping performance. You're going to be on your feet all day, so comfortable shoes are essential - and dress in layers.
If you plan to be standing outside in line at 3 a.m. in late November, I don't care where you are in this great country of ours: It's going to be COLD.
But once you're in the climate-controlled store, you'll want to shed a layer or two - so make sure you have somewhere to stash those clothes while you're busy shopping.
9) Don't be a basket case
You don't want to be pushing or pulling a shopping cart around. You need flexibility and mobility to get from department to department as fast as you can.
Consider bringing along a few big reusable shopping bags.
Oh, and this may seem obvious, but if your first purchase is something big, have a plan for what you're going to do with it (i.e. have someone carry it out to the parking lot or arrange to pick it up later).
The rest of your shopping trip won't be much fun if you're lugging around a bunch of giant items.
10) Take a buddy
Of course, it's fun to shop with friends and family, but we're being practical here: When you shop together, you can split up and each go grab a bargain in a different part of the store. Just make sure you all have cell phones, so you can coordinate.
I hate to say this, but it's also a good idea to have one or two people shopping and one keeping watch over the cart; there are plenty of unscrupulous shoppers who will have no qualms about stealing those deals you worked so hard to get even before you've had a chance to pay for them!
Our exclusive Black Friday Coverage kicks off Monday, Nov. 19.